Aircheck: WFLA, 4/15/1989

It’s aircheck time once again, and once again I’m featuring “The Magnificent” Bob Lassiter, holding court at the Renaissance Festival in Largo in 1989. It was held where the Largo Library stands currently, and where the football stadium for Largo High School once stood many decades ago, known as locals of the area as “Sand Spur Stadium” because of what the grass there contained.

(I hate sand spurs with a passion, but that’s another blog entry.)

This Saturday airing of Lassiter’s show had an infamous incident. A heckler came up to Lassiter’s microphone and screamed into it, leading to the talk show host slugging the fan on the air. The incident appears to occur in the last 20-30 seconds of the nearly hour and a half clip, if you want to skip to it.

The audio is not all that great in spots, with Lassiter being piped into the Tampa studios from the remote location in Largo possibly having something to do with it, or it could be just the way it was recorded.

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Aircheck: WHBO, 12/6/1989

Time for another aircheck from the vault of local radio history. I thought we’d have a little fun while the nervousness and anxiety of the elections and that guy with the funny hair is upon us.

This radio find comes to us from the late fall of 1989 and 1040 AM on the radio dial, which was then WHBO in the Tampa Bay area. It’s also something you don’t see so often any more these days: an AM pop music station. A few still exist here and there across the country, but the good music stations now a days are either on your FM dial or the Internet.

Howard Hewes is the afternoon drive-time “Poobah of Doo Wah” here spinning hits from previous decades. I had the pleasure of working with him over at Sun Radio Network when he used the moniker of Joel Vincent when he tested the waters of talk radio back in the early 1990’s. Like many DJ’s who could tell a good story if he had a 10 seconds or if he had an hour, Joel was a natural in either format. Always treated me well in my radio travels.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you who I voted for in the Florida primaries, and who I would have voted for if I were a Democrat or a Republican.

The Year Of The Cat

Yesterday marked the one-year mark of Harry’s stay here, though I’ve been taking care of him on and off since 2010, and I’ve known “The Prince” since Christmas evening of 2008.

I guess I’ve always seen what’s special about him when others haven’t. Had I not taken him in last year, he probably would have been put down because he doesn’t seem to get along with other cats all that well, as evidenced by the YouTube clip and some of the blogs in the past year.

It all began that Christmas in ’08. After having dinner with my landlord for Yuletide Day, I sat over on a couch and felt a tapping on my arm that was draped over the top of the coach. Harry, then a little over 5 months old, reached up to tap me on the arm with his paw, and needless to say, it was the start of a beautiful friendship.

I’ve had a couple of cats before. Right after high school in 1989 or thereabouts, I took in a cat we named Sparky, a cute little black cat that had strayed away from its owners who eventually got back wherever he was from. When I was an infant, I’m told we had a cat named Finnegan who roamed my old southwest Largo neighborhood a bit too freely. One morning in the 70’s, he took a rest right under a neighbor’s car, and got run over when he didn’t wake up to move in time. It wasn’t a traumatic experience for me or anything, as I was too young to remember it.

All these years later, Harry’s been a good companion for me in my middle age. Glad to have him around, hopefully for many more years ahead.

Pauly The Public Address Announcer

One of the things I got to do after graduating high school was public address announcing for my alma mater of Largo High School. I called football, basketball, and soccer, mainly girls soccer. (Yep, I saw back in the late 1980’s that women’s soccer would be a big thing someday. Plus, one of my neighbors was one of the school’s best soccer players. “Nostrapauly” strikes again!)

I enjoyed football and basketball the most, truth be told. I tried to incorporate my personality into what I was doing, and some people loved it. Others didn’t really like it all that much, and it somehow got me a bit of a reputation.

One winter night in early 1989, one of the basketball officials sought me out. Foolishly, I thought he was going to tell me I was doing a good job at the PA mike. Well, sometimes in life you don’t get the right read of the situation in front of you, and this was going to be one of those times.

“You’re a PA announcer. You’re not doing a radio broadcast.”

What he didn’t explain to me was whether or not he was acting in any type of official capacity, or was he explaining to me what his personal preferences for me were. I guess he was afraid if he made a bad call, I’d stir up the crowd against him, and if he had asked me I would have told him that’s something I’d never do. Perhaps he already had in mind that calls against Largo were going to go a certain way, as opposed to calls for whoever our opponents were?

I had to stop doing the PA for the games abruptly. In 1990, I had a girlfriend who really didn’t like sports, and I also had a father who was in ill health who’d pass away in early 1991. I also had a radio job that had just gone bust at WTAN in October of ’90, and I had about a six week span of unemployment before I started working at Sun Radio Network in early December.

Occasionally as I look back, I feel bad about having left my duties so abruptly, but I couldn’t see myself doing the games all these years later.

My Christmases In Radio

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I had the honor (and I always thought of it as such) to work in radio either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, sometimes both days. I did so five straight years from 1989 to 1993, hit an unemployed stretch in 1994, and was in the biz but had the nights off in 1995.

Christmas of 1989 really sticks out for me, because of the big freeze we had that gave the Tampa Bay area a teeny bit of snow flurries Christmas Eve morning. This aircheck off of WDAE (then at 1250 AM on the dial) mentions the unusual forecast that weekend. I had the midnight to 7am overnight shift at WTAN radio on the night of December 23rd and morning of the 24th, but this night, it presented a problem with freezing rain and sleet in the forecast that night. My shift didn’t start until midnight, but I arrived at 8:30 that night just in case the weather made travel impossible later on.

The guy running the board before me was throwing a decent sized party at the radio station (who had a nubile blonde girlfriend who seems interested in me, though she was spoken for), and without any real prep to do, I heavily imbibed on some Budweiser beer among other beverages. It was only the second time in my life to that point that I had gotten drunk, young teetotaler that I was. As midnight approached, it was time to run the WTAN board, which was only playing a set of cassette tapes in a proper sequence. I always had a digital timer on me, so while the tape played for 45 minutes or so, I slept it off, getting up in time to change sides and play commercials. That morning, I aired J.T. Gardner’s gospel show from 6am-7am, and I don’t think anyone was wise to my inebriation, thankfully.

The next four Christmases I worked at Sun Radio Network in either the Feather Sound studios in Clearwater, or after 1992, at the complex in St. Petersburg not too far from the Home Shopping Network. Instead of talk radio, we played Christmas songs from 6pm Christmas Eve all through Christmas Day off of half a dozen or so reel-to-reel tapes. I’d play the top of the hour news from UPI Radio, later the USA Radio Network, then right after it ended it was Christmas music wall to wall, no commercials. I’d cut away from the music ten seconds prior to the top of the hour, hit the news, cue up the next reel, and do it all over again.

I loved the hell out of it, and looked forward to the Christmas programming every year I ran the board. It was the easiest shifts of the year for me to do, and it was a guaranteed night of no hassles and a lot of fun. Every radio station that doesn’t play music ought to do this every year.

But that’s just my opinion.

Tomorrow, a little treat to help you get into the Christmas Spirit…the post is scheduled for 6pm US Eastern time Christmas Eve.

Tribal Rituals

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I spent most of Friday night not watching the sixth game of the Blue Jays-Royals American League Championship Series, but watching something of a bit more personal interest to me: a football game between Largo and Clearwater on the local cable sports channel, Bright House Sports Network.

The two rival schools have been playing each other since 1932, but hadn’t met in a regular season game on the gridiron, for one reason or another, since 2006. Before I went to Largo from 1985 to 1989, this game was usually played Thanksgiving evening, but was always the last game of the regular season for both schools. That changed in the late 1990’s with districts being realigned either every two or four years.

Largo had a great run on top in the districts they were placed in. From 2005 to 2014, they had made the state playoffs every year (winning nine straight district titles from 2005-2013 on top of that), with the Packers one game away from the state championship in 2007 and 2008, losing each year to the very talented St. Thomas Aquinas High School out of Ft. Lauderdale. Some Aquinas alums you may have heard of: tennis legend Chris Evert, Brian Piccolo (of “Brian’s Song” fame), and some guy named Michael Irvin among a host of former athletes who’ve made it to the top levels of their respective sports.

Clearwater’s football program is on the rise, going 0-10 two years ago, coming into the game 6-1 on the year. A win by the Tornadoes put them in the playoffs, and would likely knock Largo out of the playoffs at the same time. Largo’s defense put up a tough fight, but with the offense completely bewildered by a much faster Clearwater defense, it was just a matter of time before the Tornadoes grounded and pounded the Packers into submission. After leading 3-0 at the half, Clearwater added a couple of touchdowns and claimed victory with a 17-0 win at Packer Stadium.

The final score really didn’t matter to me. I kind of thought Clearwater had the talent to win, and the desire and motivation to end their playoff drought which went back to 2003.

I wondered in the era of social media and the Internet if anyone cared about high school sports anymore, and if the new technologies had sort of given teenagers a “bunker mentality” when it came to school social functions. I was pleased to be wrong: BHSN showed the Largo bleachers early and often, showing a packed house until the outcome of the game was no longer in question.

Who says school spirit is dead?

The End Of The Pubic Era

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The July 1992 issue of Playboy…which at one point in my life I had. That’s Pamela Anderson on the cover.

It was one of those things I thought might happen in the next few years, but didn’t expect to happen this soon. Playboy is dropping full nudity from its magazines, effective with the March 2016 issue.

I’m assuming this means that Hugh Hefner’s magazine will go back to the standards before their June 1970 issue, and that the mag will continue to show boobs and buns, just nothing else. Before 1970, the mag got pressured to show more when competing magazines, Penthouse being the biggest of which, started showing pubic hair and more explicit posing. Then Larry Flynt’s Hustler started up in 1974, taking the “war” to a whole new level with candid shots of women that would make a gynecologist blush.

Then by the late 80’s and early 90’s, less became in the nether regions with the “deforestation” of the pubic era, and more became…well, more on top with the advent and proliferation of breast augmentation.

Personal note: when I turned 18 in September of 1989, I worked at a microfilm company in eastern Clearwater, with my first radio job at WTAN being about another month away. I knew there was a newsstand in downtown Clearwater where you can get all the smut you wanted, plus it was a good “off the beaten path” location for someone living in Largo. Sure enough the Saturday after my 18th, I went to Henry’s Newsstand on Cleveland Street and bought my first Penthouse and my first Hustler. And yes, I did read the articles rather thoroughly, which got me through a few overnight shifts here and there.

The last time I picked up the nudie mags would be sometime around 2000. By that time, the big three nudie mags had become an afterthought. The Internet was just beginning to find ways to produce a better and more cost effective product, something they continue to excel at a decade and a half later.

Like other things and elements in our culture, I view this as just another cyclical change as time moves on. Everything old eventually becomes new again, because our modern culture is full of more imitators than innovators. Hefner, being a guy who I’d tag with the “innovator” level, just went back to get to his future and the future of his magazine. I think it’ll work out for him and for his family once he passes.