Phil Might Be Crazy
by AK - August 5, 2013
Monday Morning bedtime Story: “Hey guys, I think Phil might be crazy”
Some of the details might need verification from either Phil or his producer Andy, but here’s what I remember about when Phil came to WIOD…
The hallways were a-buzz about a new guy coming to town, as was typical of those days. Before they even hit the air, the existing part time air staff, one or two of the insecure full-time air staff, and most of the producers, myself included, were always looking for dirt on folks. Some because they were afraid they’d be replaced, others to be the little birds who whispered into Neil’s ear or ready to cart up some choice carts from their first show.
So the buzz was this new guy was coming in, and all we knew, and all we whispered about was one thing. “He does voices.”
Whut? Oh brother. Some corny morning show guy who does impressions of celebrities thinks he’s gonna make it at WIOD doing his schtick of impressions of Johnny Carson and Ronald Reagan? This outta be B-R-U-T-A-L.
So they move Rick and Suds to Mornings, put Randi in afternoon drive after Neil, and this new guy starts doing the night show after SportsTalk610. And I’d catch a few minutes here and there, and it sounded like he was just doing a talkshow, talking to the cretins that would have been bugging Randi if she was still on that time slot. I didn’t hear any Johnny Carson or George Bush “Not prudent” garbage… so.. I didn’t pay a ton of attention… Normally, I wouldn’t have stayed 2 hours past Randi’s show.. But once or twice I did, probably because Randi wanted this or that and I ended up working late. And I’m in a production room, and click on the “WIOD ON AIR” switch to listen for a minute or 2. And Phil’s doing some terrible interview with some lady who might just be the biggest bitch I ever heard. So I pack up my stuff, and head into the control room.
Phil is sitting in the main chair of the studio. He’s taken the phone in that room, and called the hotline in the control room. The producer has put the hotline on the air. And Phil is talking into the mic, then the phone, and then the mic, and then the phone.. Having a conversation with himself. And whenever he talks into the phone, just before he stops talking into it, he presses a cart button, his recorded voice says “Yeah, but wait a sec…wait a second” as he cuts himself off talking live into the phone. Then he talks into the mic again as Phil, asking a question of a bitchy lady. Then he picks up the phone, and with his eyes closed, answers the question as Margaret from Bal Harbor.
As he opens his eyes and goes to talk back on the mic as himself, I catch a faint grin on Phil’s face and the movement of his shoulders as he shudders an inner, silent chuckle and asks Margaret, err, himself to hold on for the break. Margaret agrees, but emphasizes once again that she’s a very busy lady and can’t wait too long.
The biggest goddam grin slowly creeps across my face. Phil caught a glimpse of me in there with that lightbulb beaming over my head in the control room… and I think he winked at me… that big, broad Randal P. McMurphy from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” grin with a wink…like I was now in on the joke.
But I’m not 100% sure… because it may have very well been Margaret who winked.
Apparently, from what I’d heard and read about Phil since is that he used to be your garden variety DEE-Jay.. Spinning records. Then started doing a talk show. Somewhere around Gulf War One, when he had no callers, he called himself as a joke just to illustrate that nobody was on the phone. And he came on as an iraqi who was very upset because Saddam Hussain was getting a bad rap about this whole invading Kuwait and gassing his own people thing. And callers started calling in to argue in absolute disbelief, but believing every word the caller, err, Phil was saying. And thus, Phil Hendrie’s insanely unique brand of talk show was born…
So fast forward to a few weeks after I got in on the joke…. Neil finds a cart in the studio. And plays it. And it’s 10 cuts of Phil cutting off gusts.
“Yeah, but wait a sec…wait a second”…
“Yeah but” …
And it becomes instant gold. And now people are getting in on the joke…and realizing just how unique and talented Phil is. Because after Neil gets his hand on that cart, Phil stops with the talking-over-himself, and gets SO good at switching the voices, that it seems as if they REALLY are talking over each other.
A couple weeks later they move Phil to Afternoons and move Randi back to nights…I’m guessing all along that they’d planned to have Phil in Afternoon Drive, but wanted to see how the audience reacted, how Neil reacted, and if Randi would crash and burn in afternoons…. and now I get so see the nitty-gritty of what went into putting Phil’s show together and how it worked…
Phil would come in with a yellow legal pad. And he and his producer/former news producer Andy Kalb would go out to the picnic bench while Phil smoked Marlboro Reds and they’d talk about the big 5 or so stories of the day. Then they’d come up with fake guests or fake callers that could either be interviewed about the issue or might be upset and want to talk about the issue. By the end of the meeting Phil would have 2 pages filled with ideas. Some days, it would just be something not really related to a big story, it would be just a funny weird idea Phil had… Like the guy who wants to do the naked children’s Easter Egg hunt in his yard. Jesus Phil… you gotta be a lot twisted to think up something as obscene and humorous and sick as that.
Some days, it wasn’t a caller at all. It would be a cooking segment with Jim Mandich and Kim Bokamper (who, in my mind, during the bit, sounded and acted an awful lot like Tennessee Tuxedo and Chumley). Genius. GOLD. Insane.
Other days it was drinking or karaoke with GM Bob Greene.
And on some days, it was neither.. No voices at all… Like play-by-play of YOUUUUR Florida Marlins versus the Helen Keller School for the blind.
And those days… are the days I’m talking about…
I walk into the control room unaware of what Phil had been doing so far on his show, expecting to see Phil vacillating between talking on a telephone and a microphone. But that’s not at all what I saw.
The lights in the studio are down low. Phil is behind the mic. And he’s SCREAMING into it. Spit is flying from his mouth. He’s beet red in the face, staring wildly into the control room where I’m standing.
“Mike Tyson throws a LEFT! And a RIGHT! And ANOTHER RIGHT. UPPERCUT!!! OHHHH MY ANGELA LANSBURY IS DOWN!!!! AND THE COUNT BEGINS… ONE.. TWO!!!”
And I look at Phil. And realize, he’s not staring at me in the control room. He’s staring right at Angela Lansbury struggling to get off the canvas, grabbing the ropes to climb up, as Iron Mike paces in the corner like a caged animal waiting to spring.
And I turn to Andy, and calmly, matter-of-factly inform him that I think Phil might be crazy.
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