Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL) (Published as Sun-Sentinel) – December 13, 1993
Author/Byline: By PAT CURRY Special to the Sun-Sentinel

I have spent far more time than any human should thinking about this Ron and Ron business. I’ve listened to their radio show. I’ve talked to fans and critics. I have read the letters from readers who think they are obscene, including one from a gentleman who hoped they would be stricken by a dread disease.

And now I’ve been to a live show and seen a very offended-looking German journalist interview a kid with a nipple ring, a bad voice, and a worse band called the Dead German Tourists. From all of this, I have formed this opinion:

Ron and Ron are tasteless, but they are harmless. They are not angels, but they are not Satan. They also are very unprofessional in dealing with the media, but that’s another story.

Ron Diaz and Ron Bennington are two disparate halves that make a politically incorrect whole. Diaz is a long-haired body builder type who spent his teen years in South Florida and has worked in radio for 15 years. Bennington is a stocky, cigar-chewing stand-up comedian from Philadelphia who stumbled into a broadcast career when a comic working his club didn’t show up for a promotional radio gig.

A team for more than five years now, the pair formed their own network and syndicated the show earlier this year. Broadcasting from a Tampa studio, it also airs in Jacksonville, Orlando, Fort Myers, Savannah, S.C., and Greenville, N.C. The Ron and Ron Show, aired weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. on Zeta 4 (WZTA, FM 94.9), is kind of an audio version of a macho Saturday Night Live. Some of the skits are funny, and some don’t cut it. Some bits, like Homeless Star Search, succeed or fail depending on your point of view. It would be impossible, though, to have every bit work when you’re doing improvisational comedy four hours a day, five days a week.

“Even if you don’t like it, you have to respect what they do,” manager Ross Reback said.

That was an opinion shared by a competing station shortly after the show first aired in South Florida in April.

“They ain’t no Howard Stern, but anybody that’s playing on a major radio station in Miami should be treated with danger and respect,” Y-100 (WHYI, FM 100.7) program director Rob Roberts said. “It’s so different from what anybody is doing, there may be a niche or a hole or a huge audience that’s been waiting for somebody to come along and tell body-part jokes.”

Ron and Ron equal ratings

By now, everyone in the industry knows that The Ron and Ron Show is enormously popular. After barely six months, the show captured its time slot in its target audience, men ages 18 to 34, in the Arbitron rating trends.

Zeta program director Neil Mirsky had expected the station’s ratings to drop when the show first aired as the classic rock fans switched to WSHE (FM 103.5), and then gradually build as a new audience tuned in. The drop never happened. Instead, the ratings stayed flat, meaning the listeners they lost were immediately replaced with new ones.

As early as 3 a.m. last Friday morning, the first of an estimated 10,000 people, the vast majority of them white young men, began converging on Hallandale to see the Rons and company. Many saw the crowds and traffic and turned around. Live gigs at larger venues – always free – have drawn as many as 30,000, Reback said.

Here’s what I learned from talking to some of the 1,500 or so fans that arrived early enough to earn a spot inside the Button South: Most of the young men spend most of their time thinking about women, and they like the fact that Bennington and Diaz say exactly what all those young men are thinking when they see an attractive woman. They want her to take off her clothes.

“They’re killer,” said Jason Jameson of Orlando, who is in town playing with his band, Cherry Bomb. “They say what we’re all thinking.”

Jason went on to say that performers like the Rons have narrowed the gap between stars and their fans. To him, the Rons are like the ordinary guys that work construction, shoot pool or drink beer. He liked that. The radio hosts talk about things guys understand, like wrestling, and women, drinking and stuff.

There were several young women in thong bathing suits and such on stage at the live gig. A few gave the audience a hint of bare breast. A few more wore pasties and did indeed “let the puppies breathe,” which was the popular chant of the morning. No one, however, relented to give the boys a “peek at the pelt,” which two young men gently explained is a flash of pubic hair.

Roxanne Pulitzer and Kathy Willets were guests at the show. Roxanne kept her clothes on; Kathy did not.

The crowd also seemed to enjoy watching other people in pain. A game called Spin the Stunner determined which member of the show would receive a shock from a stun gun. Upon selection of the victim came the question: Neck or ‘Nads (as in gonads)?

“It’s all theater of the mind,” he said. “They’ve got [the stun gun) turned all the way down.”

The Rons have faced endless controversy about the content of their show. Critics have said the show plays on degrading stereotypes of women and gays.

“A lot of it is chauvinistic to women, but men have been trying to get women to take off their shirts for years and years,” said Rene Minix of Pembroke Pines. “I love the show. They have passion, like they did back in the ’60s. Nobody has any passion anymore.”

Rene was there with her husband, John, who said he liked the radio show because it’s funny and the Rons “stand up for your rights.”They have three girls, 12, 10 and 5. John got to the Button South at 3 a.m. and paid a bathroom attendant $20 to let his wife in the club. She had to wait to come over until she got the kids off to school, and brought a sign that said, “We Love You Ron and Ron.”

Rene also mentioned that her maiden name was Egbert.

“I’m a full-blooded German, and I’m not offended at all by the Dead German Tourists,” she said. A much-publicized appearance by the band had got the show’s gig canceled at Miami’s Hard Rock Cafe.

Jason Jameson, whose band plays clubs 325 nights a year, said the only thing offensive about the Dead German Tourists is its music.

Within seconds of the first chords, he shook his head.

“They’re a bogus band,” he said, “and they’re getting all this promotion. I wish I was friends with Ron and Ron.”

— Pat Curry is a free-lance writer who writes a column about radio for the Sun-Sentinel.

Caption: PHOTOS 4Staff photos/LOU TOMAN (color) Ron Bennington, left, and Ron Diaz, right, on stage with former Dolphin quarterback Don Strock. (color) Above: Dead German Tourists caused quite a stir. (color) Below: Fans wait for the Rons after the gig. Even Luther Campbell (2 Live Crew) made it to the Button.

Record: 9312130364Copyright: Sun-Sentinel Company 1993