Sandbagged, Barfbagged, Nichol-bagged
by AK - August 20, 2013
Tuesday Midday Bedtime Story: Sandbagged, Barfbagged, Nichol-bagged
Larry King was right when he said “The worst talk radio is on WIOD”, but only if he was talking about morning drive on a fateful day in 1996.
Everyone hates best-of tapes… until a guest host fills in… then they love them. SO I pitched Program Director Steve Nichol on doing a mix of both when Rick and Suds went on vacation one week. We’d play Best Of tapes, but before just launching into them, I’d come on, give a little background on the bit, or what the deal was, if needed, then play the segments. And if we got a call I’d take it on the air, maybe take a request, but largely, it was best of tapes.
“I like it” said gravelly voiced, mustachio’d Nichol-bag. And that was the plan. “Only, don’t tell Neil or Rick and Suds”
Uhhh.. “Okay, but I already kinda told Rick and Suds what I was pitching… you know…some best ofs with like me doing the background stuff, maybe take a request”
“Yeah yeah, okay, but don’t make a big deal out of it…It’s just tapes… don’t get Neil and anyone all worked up” he grated with his over-charred vocal chords.
And that was that.
I prepared the tapes, 4 hours worth each day for a full week in preparation. That’s 4 reel to reel tapes each day, one for each hour, times 5. Twenty total hours. All set for the following week.
I was pretty calm about the whole thing. After all, it’s not like I’d never been on the air… Payphone challenges, discussions with Randi and Rick&Suds on a plethora of subjects and issues… and frankly, anyone who sat in the control room, aside from Jorge, did their own show anyways with the callers. Jorge only asked you for the city you were calling from, and put you on hold. “Neil Rogers Show… What City are you calling from?” and if he recognized your voice as a chronic, CLICK… he hung up. Everyone else prepped their callers. Name, city, whatcha wanna talk about… the idea was to get them focused on what they wanted to say so that when they got on the air, they could launch right into it… at least that’s the premise. Nothing worse than hearing that “FVVVVVT” noise as the host says “Kendal, Hello?” and the caller says “Uhhh… ” before hanging up. It’s also a good way to have them practice telling someone what they wanna say before doing it for the world to hear. Or, winding them up so crazy that by the time they get on air they’re an absolute humorous mess. So we were all pretty decent at talking to strangers on the phone. Throw in that every one of us who at one time worked the overnight shift, had the pleasure of screwing with the Larry King Show by slipping in a drop of him laughing, often at an inappropriate time, just to get the timing of such things down. “Hello, ma’am… Tell us about the tragedy of being one of Saddam Hussain’s concubines… Hah-hah, hah-hah. Uh-huh”. But I digress…
Friday after the show, after R&S leave after the show and for a full week’s vacation, Nichol calls me into his office.
“Listen…” he grunts… “No tapes. You just do the show”
If “LOL” had been a phrase then, I would have said it. “Wait, whut? Me?”
“Yeah.. No tapes. The audience hates tapes. They know you. Yer funny. Just go in there and take calls and talk about stuff”
He’s the boss.. What was I gonna say? “Hey thanks, but I’m only 26 years old and I’m not even in the prime demo for this station and I have no business in morning drive on WIOD”? I know, I know..I should have.
So that night, and the next, end even the next after that, I didn’t sleep. And by the time Monday morning at 4am came around, I was a zombie. My head was spinning. I was chomping on tums and chugging Pepto Bismol out of cocktail glasses. I arrived at the station (I drove, even though I lived LITERALLY across the street) and started prepping while the producer Wayne and Laen from The Coast helped me prepare.
And as the clock ticked down to 6:05am, I was dizzy, tired, exhausted and nauseous. And as the Rick and Suds Show open fades, I, in my infinite wisdom, open with Rage Against the Machine screaming as loud as humanly possible “WAAAAAAKKKKKEEEE UPPPPPPPPPP…..WAAAAAAKKKKKKEEEE UPPPPPPP”
People slowly arising from their slumbers must have been jolted from their beds and were clutching the ceilings by fingers and toes like a scared cat. And I was yelling just as loud, with my high-pitched whiny voice… talking 200 miles per hour from the 3 pots of coffee I’d had in the last 4 minutes. Nothing made sense. Calls came in from regular Rick and Suds callers to say “hi” and I just hung up on them in mid sentence while I chewed tums like Pez into the microphone. Sentences ran on and on and on in a singular breath for 7 minutes at a time while I vaulted over 23 different topics. Wayne and Laen kept yelling into my headphones to calm down… and I’d just repeat whatever they said into the microphone. It was a disaster. At one point I retched into the garbage can while a caller asked me to play a bit. And the whole time…for 3 and a half hours… I worried about one thing….
When Neil would normally stroll in, and sit with Rick and Suds while he read the paper.
And in walks Neil. And he puts the paper down. And he looks at me, with the mic in my hand, and my voice in the overhead speakers, and he sits down.
I don’t remember much after that. I remember Neil being very calm, pulling up a microphone, and asking me in that sing-songy way he often addressed me… like I was a little kid.. “How’s it GOIN Ahhhdam?”
But that was about all he offered. I didn’t expect much else. I knew it was a radio abortion… I’m a pretty goddam bright individual with a high IQ.. So it wasn’t a surprise when the shift finally ended, and Neil, who’d been silent during the past half hour got up to sit in his rightful place in the chair I’d been warming. And as the newscast was happening, as Neil was getting his carts and Cds ready, I told him the deal about the original pitch, and how Steve had asked me to just do the show. I couldn’t even listen to Neil that day out of sheer embarrassment for myself… but when I did, he was humorously yet kindly ripping me and ass… but Steve Nichol even more for sandbagging me.
Not surprisingly, later that day after I awoke from my regular afternoon nap I had a voice mail from Steve Nichol. It was 4 words.
“Tomorrow, just play tapes”
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