After working nine months or so as the exclusive board operator-slash-producer for The Stan Major Show, I thought it was time to explore some other options. Stan Anderson, our operations manager, came up with a brilliant idea to give the board operators at SRN a working knowledge of the majority of the shows on the network at the time.
What he did was he took myself and two other board operators and decided to “wheel” us. Or at least that’s my term for it, anyway. I’d work the 6am to noon shift on Mondays and Thursday, the 6pm to midnight shift Tuesdays, and the 12pm to 6pm shift Wednesdays. Now, I still had to do Stan’s shift on Friday night going into Saturday morning, and I think I had a Sunday shift to do as well. But working with Stan once a week would be better than working with him all the time, or so I thought. Stan’s show would continue on, and the crew of board operators we had at the time…well, it really didn’t matter who was producing his show.
It meant working the 6pm to midnight shift with a bit of trepidation, because Radio Free America, the Liberty Lobby flagship program, was on from 9pm to midnight. I had board opped Tom Valentine’s show in a here and there before, but never once a week. It was more like once in a blue moon. I told Stan Anderson of my trepidation, and he put my mind at ease. My concerns were legitimate, though. If I messed up Tom’s show, I’d probably have to prepare some resumes and look for other places to work. But, the plus side was if I did a good job, it would enhance my reputation further.
It turned out Stan Major didn’t last at SRN much longer, and by September of 1992, Stan moved down the street to Sonny Bloch’s Independent Broadcasters Network. How it happened, I don’t remember. I imagine that, much like how Sonny and Chuck Harder were let go, it probably came down to our sea of red ink and Stan’s somewhat noticeable ego.
Other changes also came about by then. SRN moved its studios from Clearwater down to St. Petersburg, a few minutes drive away, not too far from the Home Shopping Network. The new studios were a welcome departure from the Feather Sound building. The bathroom we used was down a hall and a flight of stairs away, making using them at night doing live 24 hour radio an overwhelming challenge. You had to have a strong bladder to be there. I’m just amazed we didn’t urinate on ourselves frequently. At the new St. Pete facility, the bathrooms were right behind the control room.
As a result of the move, WEND was longer in our control. They moved to downtown Brandon, and would eventually change their call letters to WBDN. At the onset of the move, they would carry our programming overnight, but carried IBN by the day. If you wanted to hear our programs during the day, you had to listen to WPSO out of New Port Richey. It also meant that Stan Major didn’t have a Tampa afiliate until WTAN picked him up in early 1993.
Meanwhile, by the end of 1992, SRN was reduced from being live almost all the time to being live on the weekdays a mere 14 hours a day, from 3pm to 5am. The rest of the time we ran tape of the shows that aired earlier in the day or the day before. Sounds easy, right? Well remember, this is in the era that still used reel to reel tape. Say you had a three hour show to rebroadcast. Well, one reel to reel tape lasted two hours. You fit one hour on side, you flip sides, you play the other.
Here’s the rub: a three hour show required two cardboard boxes to contain them in. Even if you marked the hell out of the boxes, there was still a chance that a board operator could mistakenly play, say, a third hour of a show when he or she should have played the first hour, or vice versa. It happened to me about half a dozen times over the years, and I probably wasn’t the only one.
Just as Stan Major was leaving SRN, head honcho Bill Wardino had found another golden boy. Charles Adler brought his conservative Hot Talk format from Canada to the United States, and reinvented how we’d produced our shows. Prior to his arrival, each show had one board operator who also handled calls. For Adler’s show, he not only had a board operator, but a call screener as well. Extra emphasis was now being placed on the technical end of the show, because, as he said at the start of every show: “It’s a great day for some Hot Talk.” No one was going to listen to Hot Talk if it didn’t sound sharp.
One day at the Feather Sound studio as I was doing a noon to 6pm shift, this tall gentleman with dark hair was roaming around, asking me questions, which I was happy to answer, unlike my encounter with June Lockhart the year before. He had some cameramen with him who were going to record his appearance on Hot Talk that day.
And that’s how I met one Anthony Robbins. If you watched one of his infomercials in the 1990’s, you’ll see him talking to Charles Adler for a moment or two, but if you look through the glass, you see my smiling face, along with a fellow board operator.
Chuck also had a mischievous side that I really didn’t care for. Fast forward to late 1992 when we had moved to St. Pete. One day, I went to use the toilet, and the seat to one of the stalls had broken before I had sat down on it. The front half and the back half were separated from each other. Now, my weight has always been above average, and everyone assumed I had done the deed. Only problem was I hadn’t, because I found the seat in that very condition.
Of course, no one asks me if I had done it, and had they asked, they would have known I hadn’t. So the next day I’m doing the 6am to noon shift, which then required me to play the previous day’s edition of Hot Talk. Chuck takes the time to start ragging me ON THE AIR about breaking the seat, saying that I did nothing but eat candies and junk food. Well, I didn’t have a show of my own, so I had no way to rebuttal what had been said in error.
Sometime later, I’m doing a midnight shift. Frank Kinsman’s show had ended by this point, so we replayed Hot Talk overnight. The board operator that worked the shift prior, Ron Michaels, asked me how I was doing.
I told him, “Ron, it’s a great night for some homophobic talk.” Ron, a radio veteran of several decades, absolutely roared at me for several moments.