It’s All Fun And Games Until The UPI Wire Breaks Down

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I don’t think I’ve ever told this particular story from my radio days – so stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

I don’t remember the exact date this happened – but it’s sometime in early 1992, and I’m working with the late Stan Major overnights at the Sun Radio Network at their old Feather Sound studios in Clearwater, Florida. For most of the night, the only two people in the building are us – which changed when morning newsman Frank Kinsman came in around 4:00 to 4:30 or so.

Our Sun Radio network feed is being simulcasted on WEND, 760 AM out of Brandon, plus various stations across the country large and small. A few times an hour, I hit a set of buttons in front of my console to trigger something called a “35 Hz” tone – which sends automation to the unmanned stations to play a brief, ten-second recording called a “liner” so that local stations can identify themselves or promote something.

If local news broke during the shift, we didn’t have the means to break whatever that news was. One night, an early-spring squall line is coming through central Florida, setting off various weather advisories such as tornado watches. Stan and I are debating: how do we get the information on our local station with no staff? If I did it, no one could run the board – and if Stan did it, no one would be doing his show. We reached the compromise of Stan giving out the local weather information nationally, apologizing for the awkward setup to everyone outside of Florida.

I have a open-air booth where I run the board, answer the phones, record the current show, and have playback standing up in the case of emergencies. Stan is in a soundproof booth with a window so he and I can communicate with hand gestures and through a private intercom. We’re using an old TRS-80 computer to log the calls Stan works through as the show progresses.

On occasion, news breaks through the night – but what if the news stops coming to you? One night, that happened when the print on the UPI machine – one of the two wire sources we used, the other being AP (though it couldn’t be acknowledged). On this one night, I’m hearing the UPI wire machine making strange noises – and I can’t remember whether or not the machine is jammed or it has run out of paper. Here I am, trying to run a nationally syndicated talk show and also playing a printing repairman – and this was back in 1992 when my computer knowledge is next to nil. It’s not an easily fixable problem back then as it would be today in the era of laser printers and the like.

It’s freaking me out, and Stan notices – saying that I looked like someone who needed his mommy. At this point, I’m just trying to stay off the unemployment line – which is where I think I’m heading, Stan Major or no Stan Major to save me.

I call the staff that would come in ahead of me and alert them to the problem – thinking I’ll get my ass chewed on for doing so. The one thing I can’t do was the one thing I needed to do – fix the printer to avoid a news-gathering catastrophe for our AM news show, American Sunrise. If I’m going to be screwed either way, I figure it’s best to be screwed trying to help people out – which was my intent.

The “crisis” gets solved – but I don’t seem to remember a procedure put in place so that something like that couldn’t happen again. A few months later, American Sunrise was cancelled – management must have figured out the futility of having a skeleton crew putting out these kind of possible fires.

Ideas, Politicians, And Party

Hillary Clinton,Bill Clinton

When I worked in network radio in the 90’s, Stan Major would often to talk about the seven sisters of the media, and how those organizations are controlled by liberal ideology. They were, according to him, Time, Newsweek, the Washington Post, the New York Times, ABC, CBS, and NBC. I guess those sisters now have had children now with the advent of MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News over the past few decades.

I’m a believer that the world of politics has three plateaus. Regardless of whether or not you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Socialist, or a believer in some other party or movement I didn’t mention, these plateaus exist.

First you have the most pure process of the three: the idea. Ideas are to politics what the ace is in most card games. They’re bulletproof. An idea can’t be killed no matter what legislation or humanity passes with time. Once an idea’s time has come, it happens. Think of healthcare in America, for example.  It took a long time to implement healthcare here, and when it got passed in 2009, many conservatives say it got rushed in. Now with a Republican president (though I think Trump is more of a De facto Independent), and Congress, the GOP can’t seem to find a single way to replace the healthcare system.

Politicians are the next step down. How do they implement these ideas? How do they maneuver and manipulate? The execution of ideas by politicians determines who the good politicians are, and who the bad ones are. Leaders lead by the vote of the people, and are sometimes repellents to those who vote. Only Hillary Clinton could have lost to Donald Trump a year ago. Put Bernie Sanders in there as the Democratic nominee, and that likely would not have happened.

Then we get to political parties. They are to society what an adult video store is to a city. It’s where ideas get degraded and prostituted. I see a “mob mentality” in both parties. Those who don’t “get with the program” get way too easily ostracized, and which party’s “mob” sticks together often decides who carries the day.

Ideas, politicians, and party. Somewhere in that link of chains, the system is broken. Where the break is, and who’s to blame – well, that’s something that isn’t very clear. Both the pro-Trump and anti-Trump elements of our society can’t really be sure in their heart of hearts if they are on what will be the right side of the history books. That’s why I try to stay impartial, follow my heart to determine what’s right, and even that isn’t easy at times with the various news outlets prostituting either the DNC or the GOP.

As things stand now, the political climate is bound to for more calamity before things improve.

Aircheck: WNWS (Miami), 7/4/1978

In honor of what would have been Stan Major’s 81st birthday this Friday past (September 9th), I thought I’d play his July 4th, 1978 interview with former President Nixon.

After his 1974 resignation, the former President didn’t give many interviews to the media, with the exception of the famous exchanges with British reporter David Frost. But on this Independence Day, Stan was lucky enough to get a hold of him to tell him he’d fare well (or so it was thought at that time) if he re-ran as President. But, under the terms of the 22nd Amendment, since he was elected twice (1968 and 1972), that would make him ineligible to ever run again.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was very fortunate to have worked with Stan briefly at the Sun Radio Network in 1991 and 1992. Political leanings aside, I still say to this day he was an exceptional talent who could have wrote his own ticket there if SRN didn’t let him go. I don’t think it’s a coincidence the network folded a little over three years later.

Aircheck: WINZ (South Florida), 10/10/1987

It’s Uncle Neil’s (Neil Rogers) last show on WINZ in South Florida, as he headed over to WZTA (Zeta 4, 04.9 FM) to do an FM morning drive talk show (on a rock station, no less) two days later on October 12th. He’s playing a lot of his bits on what would wind up being his last ever Saturday talk show.

Later in the show, Neil’s on and off sidekick Glen “The Bird” Hill joins in, as does Stan Major.

Now a days, WINZ is an all sports station in Miami that is the flagship station for the Miami Marlins, and WZTA is now WMGE, an all Spanish pop radio station.

Rest In Peace, Stanley

I’m very saddened to learn tonight that Stan Major, who I’ve mentioned on this blog many times, has recently passed away, according to his son Chris. I figured something might have been up for a while now since his blog hadn’t been updated for over a month, but it could have been computer problems or whatnot.

He was simply the best talent I ever had the pleasure to work with, and sometimes in life you don’t know what you have or have had until it’s long in your rear view mirror. (He had to be, he put up with me. Just a joke, Stan!) He was also the best talent Sun Radio Network ever had, and looking back it is no small wonder that a little over three years after he left SRN, the network folded. But that’s just my opinion.

It should also be mentioned that he also had runs on some of the great Miami talk stations (WINZ and WIOD standing out) along with other major US markets too numerous to mention (including WDAE in Tampa), and as a newsman for NBC over a variety of TV and radio programs. He also served NBC as a war correspondent during the Vietnam War, once getting to interview Bob Hope for the NBC Monitor program.

It was nice to get to connect with him one more time through our respective blogs. He gave my blog a bit of a boost, and I appreciated the gesture that he thought enough of me to do that.

Rest in peace, Stan, and I hope you enjoy meeting all the people up in heaven who’ve “invaded” your dreams as you mentioned in your blog entries.

Cynthia Geary And Mr. Rogers

Cynthia Geary of
Cynthia Geary of “Northern Exposure” and “8 Seconds” fame.

The good people over at the Neil Rogers Show Facebook Group reminded me I was running board the night Stan Major chatted with Cynthia Geary back in 1992 when Geary was a smoking hot commodity in the land of Hollywood.  I had mentioned it before nearly three years ago in this blog, but this might be a good time to revise and extend my remarks, as they often say up on Capitol Hill.

The best nights you can have as a board operator, especially when you’re board operating a show all by yourself, is when you don’t have to worry about callers, either in quantity or quality.  You always have to keep an ear to the show while doing everything that needs to be done, because you never know whether or not you have to hit that “dump” button in case someone says one of those seven dirty words you can’t say on the radio.

A brief explanation if you don’t know what a dump button is: it basically puts the show up on a seven-second delay that builds from zero once you activate it in the normal gaps there are while speaking on a talk show.  If someone says one of those words that makes the FCC cry (George Carlin did a famous monologue as to what those words are, and there are seven of them), you hit the dump button, and it jumps seven seconds ahead to the live portion of the show, and builds up the seven seconds again.  The key to the whole thing is to remove the caller immediately (by “potting down” the caller on a series of sliders, or in the old days, small circular pots) so that he or she can’t use any more dirty words, because once you hit the dump button, the delay needs a few moments to a few minutes to build back up.

After Stan makes contact with the Northern Exposure people, we get this call from Jim in Anchorage, Alaska.  Let’s just say it’s the most memorable call I’ve ever had running the board, kind of like Neil Rogers and his famous “Bridge Tender” call or Bob Lassiter and his “Mr. Airstream” call.

fredrogers

I’m listening to this call and I type into the computer to our old TRS-80 computer to Stan that this guy sounds like Mr. Rogers, and Stan runs with the idea.  Every single solitary word Jim says is cracking Stan up, and I’m the control room I’m nearly rolling on the floor laughing.

While Jim calls, the 813 hotline rings and I hear this sweet, youthful voice. Cynthia Geary, I presume, and I presumed correctly.  I’m usually suspicious when we get celebrity callers because on an overnight talk show it’s easy to get people claiming to be something they are not.  Considering Stan had just given out the hotline, logic prevailed.

Having a lot of calls makes for a busy night.  Having a lot of calls and some quality ones to boot make for a GREAT night.

Amazing that Netflix, considering they have a lot of CBS shows from the past in their lineup, hasn’t put up Northern Exposure yet.  Probably something that will happen in due time.

Witnesses Of An Execution

It’s May 25, 1979.  John Spenkelink is about to be executed at Raiford prison in Florida after capital punishment was re-instituted nationwide in 1976.  Gary Gilmore was the first person killed while incarcerated in Utah in 1977, Spenkelink’s execution was the second such event two years later.

i was seven years old when this happened, and I remember it well for some reason. First was the odd last name kind of stuck with me. Second was that the young woman who gave her account of the execution that Stan Major mentions about 37 minutes into the clip was someone who worked at Channel 8 here in Tampa on WFLA, Kris Rebillot.  Unusual last names usually stuck in this filing cabinet of mine throughout the years.

As I mentioned on social media yesterday, you don’t see this long form of news reporting on the radio anywhere these days outside of NPR or Amy Goodman, and it’s the very same Stan Major who’d I work with nearly 12 years later at the Sun Radio Network, describing the scenes. A good piece of audio.