The WIOD Blimp
by AK - July 26, 2013
In 1992, the Marketing Director of WIOD, my boss when I was an intern and when I was in the Promotions Department (Kurt Steier aka “Evil Twin”) got corporate approval for a HUGE WIOD Blimp. It was gigantic as far as radio station props go; the size of a public bus, had an internal light, and took TWO FULL giant helium tanks to inflate it each time. Back then it cost about $5 Grand… which was a TON of money to spend on anything besides your employees (myself not included of course) or station vehicles.
It was his pride and joy, and nobody was allowed to use it for just any-ole event. It’s inaugural event was for Dolphins Draft Day Party in April of that year. He and I and I think one other person ( Halcyon Salazar probably) spent hours setting up for the event inside and outside.. While it inflated it took out line like a marlin… 100 yards, 200…300.. and got tied down by it’s linguini thick nylon tether. The winds and storm clouds came in, so within about 3 hours, we reeled that sucker in like we were in a Hemingway novel. We folder it up, putting each piece we’d just removed from individual boxes back where it belonged, and packed it all up. It wasn’t used again until June, for the 1992 Miami Regatta Speed Boat Races on Biscayne Bay, sponsored by 610 WIOD.
It was a spectacular June Day.. no breeze, very warm, not a cloud in the sky. And because this was a big station event we were the media partner of, Kurt had promised them, and decided for us, that we’d fly our airship out there.
Normally, one one person from promotions showed up at station event. We drove the vehicle, set up the prizes and game, handed out stuff, dressed up the table pretty with station stickers and pamphlets and other crappola. And I was that guy. It was such an awesome day, that I decided to invite out new part-time news guy who lived down the street from the station to join me.. “Come hang out dude.. I never been to a speed boat race.. it’s supposed to be packed, and it’s an awesome day. We’ll set up this stuff, hang for a while, party, and go see the races.. whattaya say?”
Dan Stewart, the newsguy was all in. “Sure man. Sounds like a good way to kill a Saturday as any other I can think of. Let’s roll”.
So he helps (mostly watches) me load up the big van with stuff, grab our passes and credentials, and we’re off.
We arrive, and I’m large and in charge. I’m telling him to do this and do that, and he’s cool about it, cuz I got him something to do today, for free, and all he’s gotta do is help out. So we set up the tent, and the table, and all the other junk, and we break out the blimp. Lovingly. Delicately. “Gotta be REALLL cool, Dan. This is the Boss’s baby. Costs a fortune. On and on. And we put the goddam thing together, and add the two tanks of helium, and let that fucker fly…
One thing that came with the blimp was the ground stake, which at Joe Robbie Stadium (That’s right… it was and will always STILL be goddam JRS to me) was easily pounded into the ground with a sledgehammer. But here, we were on asphalt. No dice with that. So we have to tie it.
Even though it’s up like 300 yards, there’s still another 30 feet worth of line on the spool, so we got PLENTY of room. Too much even, but I’m not taking any chanced. I climb on top of our rolling radio vehicle, and wrap and tie the line around the roof rail like 9 times, and toss it down to Dan to tie off the spool around the eyehook near the bumper. There. Done. We were the SHIT. People came around just following the blimp down to us and for 2 hours we clowned around with the crowd, introducing each other to people who wander over to the table as News Man Chuck Meyer, or Defo, or Sonny Hirsch or Mike Disney.
The 2 hours ends, and whattaya know… we find out our press passes get us into the beer garden.
Anyone of you guys familiar with Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? I dont mean that crappy Johnny Depp movie.. I mean actually READ it? Yeah, well, I’m Thompson, and Dan is his attorney.
Dan: “Beer garden? FUCK YEAH! We should go”
Me: “I hear Pauly Shore is here partying with the Hooters Girls”
Dan: “As your attorney I advise you that we should go drink massive amounts of beer with Pauly Shore and the Hooters Girls”
Me: “I will heed your advice, my good man. Let’s go”
And off we go. And we’re hangin with Pauly and tapping that keg like it was air and we were trapped underwater. And the Hooters girls are everywhere. And some girl taps me on the shoulder and says “You balloon is gone”
“Yea ok. Thanks for that” and I give Dan a like “What the fuck is this drunken moron talking about?” and go back to talking with Dan, and Pauly and like 6 girls who are just mesmerized by Pauly as if he was the Dali Lama. Then it hits me. OHHHHHHHH FUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCKKKKK and RUN to the van.
Off in the distance of a perfectly clear sky, off to the south i see this:
That about the size of it. Headed to Cuba. What the hell could I possibly do? Nothing at all. The rope was gone too… every inch. So I’m pretty sure it wasn’t cut.. they would have had to cut it in just the right place to have it unravel all the way around what we’d tied it to.. I think what actually happened is that when I asked Dan to tie it around the eyehook, he tied it in a knot around it, not through it. And it slipped, and the pull of the wind on the blimp eventually after 2 plus hours, pulled enough until unwound all the loops and crosses around the vehicle and eventually lifted off with its umbilical.
We packed up and left. I was crushed. And scared for my job. and I didn’t even tell anyone for a while that Dan was there. It was my responsibility, so I was gonna take the fall for it. I called my boss and told him the awful news. He said we’d talk Monday. When I got there, I surprisingly didn’t get fired (I’d left off the Pauly Shore part of the story as well as Dan’s attendance) and got called in to Rick and Suds to tell the story on the air. When they asked me what did I think when I got back to the van and saw it gone, I said.. “Where’s my blimp!” They thought that way a riot… and although it was super embarrassing and scary because i was still employed by god-knows-how, having them joke about it on the air, and then have Marvin recode me saying that phrase a few different ways made me feel better about the incident.
For weeks afterward, we’d get calls from people claiming to have seen the blimp, or found it in their yard, or read that it’s been shot down over Cuba or whatever.
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