Thursday, October 15, 2015

Radio Daze - Part Three

Once there was a time when Dave-El was a younger man and thought he would make his mark in the world as a guardian of the radio waves, reaching out to listeners in their homes and in their cars and in their places of employment. He would keep them company with a music and a little conversation to pass the hours. 

This is his story.

And once more I have to ask, why the hell am I doing this 3rd person intro each week? Really, I don't get the point of that! 

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In my junior year of college, I got a job working weekends at an AM station called WBIG. It was a station with a long and distinguished history of serving Greensboro NC since the early days of radio. Sometime after my time there, WBIG was off the air, the building bulldozed down and replaced with a Lowe's Home Improvement Center

I cannot be held responsible for that. 

WBIG primarily was a music station with a format called "The Music Of Your Life". This was in the early 1980's and the source of this "Music Of Your Life" was from the 1930's to the early 1950's. We're talking lots of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby and Benny Goodman. Given the age of the target demographic, some of us uncouth young college punks who worked there derisively referred to it as "The Music Of Your Life Support" or "The Music Of Your Afterlife".  

There were a few efforts to "freshen up" the music a bit by tossing a few more mellow tunes from Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and Carole King. One of the oddest tunes in rotation at WBIG from the more "modern" era was a song called "Beth"

By KISS

Yes, that KISS. You know, with the white make up and the mutant tongues and the rock 'n' rolling all night and the partying every day. Yeah, that KISS. Yeah, weird, I know. 

When WBIG wasn't playing The Music Of Your Life (and KISS), the station was also the home of The Larry King Show. If you remember Larry King at all, it's probably from his long running interview program on CNN. Larry with the ever present suspenders and the face made for radio. But before that, Larry made his mark with a late night radio show that could be heard across the country on the Mutual Broadcasting Network which was kind of like I Heart Radio but with news and talking instead of the same 5 songs played over and over.  

Anyway, this is where I came in. Sort of. 

It seems Larry only felt the need to put on a live show Monday through Friday so Saturday night was a Best of Larry King. It was my job to babysit that show. Yes, I was up from midnight to 6 AM with a rerun of a talk radio show. Near the top and bottom of the hour, I got to say something like, "We're coming up on 3 AM at WBIG, Greensboro. Currently it's 32 degrees. News is next."  

As I mentioned, WBIG had been a going concern for many years so there was a real sense of history about the place. I loved to explore around the station where they still had some of the classic equipment from the golden age of radio. And there was an almost haunted quality about the place, like the voices of radio announcers gone by could still be heard. Or that could've just been my sleep deprived mind buzzed on Mountain Dew and powdered donuts.  

It was at WBIG that I went inside a women's bathroom for the first time. I was curious about what one might find in that sacred no man's land. It was late at night. I was alone. Who would know? 

So one night I worked up my courage and stepped inside. Right off the bat, I couldn't help but notice the chair. More specifically, a sofa. A small but still quite nice sofa with a fern on one end and a table at the other. A bathroom with home furnishings? They sure as hell didn't have that in any men's bathrooms I had ever been in. I also noticed the absence of the atypical bathroom smell, the one of Lysol with a hint of urine. Also in this ladies' room was a vending machine, stocked with aspirin, feminine hygiene products and pantyhose. 

I got the hell out of there. 

Part of my job when I wasn't stalking around the station and getting to blurt out the time and temperature every half-hour was to monitor our equipment to make sure we're still on the air. There was not a clear line of sight from the control room to the transmitter. So a TV was set up in the control room hooked up to a camera in the hall keeping an unblinking eye on the transmitter. 

But while the camera was stuck doing its job all the time, the TV in the control room had a working channel changer so I (and everyone else who worked overnights at WBIG if you must know) frequently looked in on various TV stations in the area. There was not a lot in the way of entertainment options in those wee hours as Saturday night turned into Sunday morning. But there was a time when a local station took to airing horror movies. No, not the bloody spectacles of chainsaw wielding maniacs but classic horror films with more atmosphere than gore. Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula's Daughters, stuff like that. One of the more creepier entries was a film of relative recent vintage (early 1970's) called A Bell From Hell. Now this was over 30 years ago, I was sleep deprived and a bit rattled by the ghosts of WBIG and whatever the hell was going on in the ladies' room. But it was a film about a guy with a lot of mental issues who goes to a big old scary house in the middle of nowhere occupied by an old lady and three young nubile women. So you know this is going to be fun. So a lot of stuff happens. (Sorry to be vague but I did have to change the channel to make sure we were still on the air and to tell the time and temperature now and then.) Mostly it ends up with the three women naked (OK, this was on broadcast TV but I swear, you could see butts. Sorry, no boobies) and captive in a basement where I think he's going to operate on them. But he gets called away and then gets killed when a swarm of bees chases him off a cliff. Well, my memory is a bit hazy. Anyway, the naked women in the basement get bored waiting to be killed so they get loose and sneak out of the house. The end. 

I worked at WBIG for about a year. It put some spending money in my pocket which was a good thing as I actually had a girlfriend at the time. She stayed with me at the station at couple of times to keep me company during the overnight hours and yes, we totally had sex in the radio station if you must know. At least, I think we did. Or that may have been a fevered delusion brought on by Mountain Dew and powdered donuts. 

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Next week in another Radio Daze post, my first...and last...real job in radio. 

Meanwhile another post on some damn thing or another will be here tomorrow. Until then, be good to one another. 

Dave-El
I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You.  

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