This Place is a ZOO!
by AK - December 20, 2014
Saturday Morning Bedtime Story
“This Place is a ZOO!”
One of the weirdest things about talk radio, including most morning shows that don’t play any music, as opposed to any other format, is “the Control Room”. While there is a control board in the studio for the host to control the volume of the various microphones and cds, and computers, punch up callers onto the air, a dump button etc, there is also a control room that often not only had the same controls for the same elements, but ALSO has controls for things like satellite feeds for other programming, controls for non-show elements like the news guy’s booth, the traffic guy’s booth, etc.
And because the guys in the control room needs to be not only able to answer the calls, and monitor every thing happening in all those other places, he’s also the last line of defense of everything going on in the studio. Therefore, there’s often a HUGE, double pane, soundproof, shatterproof glass window looking in on the other room. If the host starts waving his arms to get the Control Room’s attention, they need to see it… and vice versa. We’d wave our arms to get their attention and then use hand signals to communicate.
Holding your fists together and bending them in opposite directions means “Another Break Already”. Waving the vinyl album size pad of paper means “You have a LIVE spot to read now!”. Pointing at your eye means “look at the screen”. Putting your pointer finger to your temple with your thumb raised means the Program Director is on the hotline. But I digress.
And because there’s that HUGE glass window separating the two rooms, anyone who comes into the control room cannot only see everything going on in the studio, but the host can see everyone and everything going on in the control room.
And people would wander in there, myself included when I wasn’t running the board, to watch Uncle Neil. Hell, that’s how I started working at WIOD. I was an intern counting COAST cards just sitting in the control room watching for my first 2 months there. And it was awesome.
So because of that huge glass, it was like the “Neil Rogers” zoo in there. People would wander in to marvel at the animal on the other side of the glass. “Look at him roaring!” they’d marvel. “Ohh, he’s eating!” they’d titter. “Is he flipping us off?” they’d wonder.
People out of the blue listening in their cubicles or in their offices or in the hallways (it was piped into every corner of the building, including the engineering department, accounting, even the restrooms) would hear something about themselves being mentioned on air, or about someone else, or just something they wanted to see in person and wander in to observe. Some wandered in because they had a legitimate reason to go in there, like engineering to fix something, or the trafficking department to write on the programming log, or production to put a few more cart commercials in the racks.. and they’d inevitably stay to watch for a few minutes. And as soon as the beast beyond the glass noticed them, he salivated over the thought of grabbing by the throat verbally and eating them alive.
There’s a great example on video of this in action during the video clip of “Nobody Rips You Better”. Bald, cherub faced, cherub bodied engineer Steve Zeigler in the control room with a screwdriver to fix something, takes a seat on the counter to watch for a few. “Go pull a cord somewhere! Go DO something!” Steve holds the screwdriver to his crotch intimating pulling his cord. “Pull what? In your case a good question”. And Steve just smiles and watches, like a kid peering into the gorilla cage.
“Villa Deli is here with a huge spread of food…” roars the beast. And 15 people wander into the controlroom to watch him feast, hopeful they’ll get some scraps.
“Tom Denniberg had me go out to a client who wants me to sing at his kid’s bar mitzvah” roars the beast… and Tom wanders into the control room to watch and hear the beast gnaw on his ego.
“Boy Gary says we can’t play ‘Trouser Trout’ any more, but I’m gonna play it anyway” growls the beast while Gary stands in the control room, arms crossed, staring at the beast. “Uncross those arms and keep snapping those suspenders there. It’s about the only thing I’ve ever seen you do well”
Not everyone who wandered in there had their carcasses shredded. Sometimes the beast beyond the glass was complimentary.. or the beast was busy talking. But it didn’t matter. They came in and watched anyway.
A few paragraphs back I described being lucky enough to have been allowed the keys to the zoo by Jorge and Neil to sit in there for hours at a time as “awesome”. That’s a weak description, if I’ honest. My first introduction to radio was watching NEIL GODDAM ROGERS do his show every weekday from 10-2 at WIOD. How frickin’ lucky did I get?? I spent 4 years in high school, and 4 years in college, and the education I got from Uncle Neil in those 2 months changed me forever. One day I’m applying for an internship, and the next, I’m Jane Goodall in the African Jungle, memorized at just how human the beast really is.
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