A Boss And Her Toy

As Sophia on The Golden Girls would say, picture it: Largo, Florida, 1989. After high school, I had gotten a job as a microfilming clerk in a place off of Ulmerton Road in Clearwater near a new series of industrial and commercial offices called the ICOT Center.

My boss was a woman in her early to 30’s who was rather pleasant to work with for someone in me who was a few months shy of 18. I wasn’t the best of clerks there, and I got ridden pretty hard when I made mistakes prepping medical documents for microfilming. (I just a Google search on the company, and as I suspected, they are no longer around. Perhaps one of my victims in the technological boom of the last few decades.)

She was also a wrestling fan, and would often demonstrate for us the way James Hellwig (The Ultimate Warrior) would grab and shake the ring ropes as part of his ring entrance. She also had a fondness for, ahem, female martial aids. One day, she surprised a few of her female co-workers by bringing in a few dildos that resembled the male genitalia.

It was a big culture shock for me, never having seen one of those before. Just as it was a culture shock for me going to middle school (which I began a few days before I turned 11 in 1982) and having to take showers with my male classmates. I had already gone through puberty at that point, one of the few in school in the sixth grade who had any grass on his field, so to speak.

Anyway, I left the job when I got the radio gig at WTAN. The microfilming gig only paid $130 a week, and I thought at the time that I should have been paid more for the grief I’d gotten and the skills acquired. As they say in the Mob, it wasn’t anything personal, it was just business and getting the chance to do something I thought I’d love.

Aircheck: Various Tampa Bay Area Stations, 4/1977

It’s the spring time of 1977, nearly 40 years ago. It’s back when Top 40 radio was still prominently on the AM dial.

This aircheck is of a composite of radio stations, including the first station I ever worked at, WTAN in Clearwater, and how they sounded back then. Also included are stations in the Sarasota and Lakeland areas like WKXY and WONN. 

Tuned Out By Tunein

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I must admit that when I got an E-mail from the people at Tunein a couple of days ago, I began to salivate a little bit.

For those of you who don’t know, Tunein is the service that aggregates radio stations all over the world that broadcast online and has a majority of the broadcasting rights. Want to listen to a radio station in the middle of Switzerland? It’s there for you. It’s better than a owning a shortwave back in the day, plus their premium service offers the ability to listen to audiobooks, plus MLB and NFL games.

I also have Tunein on my IPhone 4 (with an IPhone upgrade on my present to-do list), and therein lies the rub: on some audio books where the chapters are less than 10 minutes, the last few seconds of each chapter tend to cut off if edited a certain way if I listen on the IPhone. Thus, when I saw Tunein giving this survey, it motivated me to give it a try.

One of the questions asked is if I’ve worked in the media in my career, or blog about the media. I answered honestly yes to both (because I was in radio from 1989-1996 and blog about CBS’s Big Brother once a month, but daily during their season), and was quickly forwarded to a page thanking me for my participation without asking me any further questions.

I was bummed that the survey process didn’t allow me to share their problem with them, so I contacted them by E-mail to see if it can be fixed. The consensus seemed to be that because my IPhone is older and uses an older IOS, that was causing the problems I was having with audiobooks in some cases.

But just because I was someone with a past in radio doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give them an unbiased opinion. All the companies I worked for are no longer around, with the exception of WTAN which remains a “mom and pop” timeshare station that anyone can buy an hour on.

Oh, well.

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.

Mission Earth Revisited

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Sunday night, I was poring over Tunein’s audio book catalog, and discovered they had the Mission Earth series in their files. The very same tapes I was in charge of putting on every night when I worked at WTAN back in 1989 and 1990.

Mission Earth was a series of ten books written by Church of Scientology leader L. Ron Hubbard, apparently written not too far removed from his death in early 1986.

I’m amazed how much of these series of books I remember, not having heard them for at least a couple of decades. Some of the staff at WTAN warned me not to listen too intently, as they feared the tapes and the story would brainwash me. Brainwashing or no brainwashing, that wasn’t an option for me. I had to listen to the tapes to get the cues to get the commercials on while I cue up either the next side or the next tape, and keep the station from excessive “dead air” when no sound emits at all.

The series was rather bizarre. The narrator, Soltan Gris from the planet Voltar, is not a hero, but a rather cowardly fool of a villain. The subject, Jethro Heller, is not a villain, but a hero whose survives Soltan’s attempts of sabotage left and right. Hubbard successfully foresees Russia’s demise (in the book, by a meteoric block of ice Heller scooped up from Saturn to correct Earth’s wobbly orbit) and the rise in popularity of auto racing.

The book also has a “Crying Game” element to it as Soltan Gris alternates being pimped out by two New York lesbians and having a Turkish concubine named Utanc who winds up being a male KGB agent. (She obviously didn’t allow Gris to see his/her genitalia in the light of day.) Gris makes such a mess that it winds up back on Voltar, with the government deciding to “exterminate” it (or deceive everyone into thinking this was so) so that everyone could live happily ever after.

I didn’t even get to a crazed PR agent who has mastered the fine art of smear campaigning, a female mob boss, blackmailed and doped up political figures on both planets, and a teenage prostitute of non-legal age who knows all sorts of kinks. Like I said, it gets a little crazy.

The FM Radio Dial in Tampa, 1970

Last week, I had an aircheck from WALT radio from 1967.

This week, I have this find.  Someone with an outdoor antenna in the Tampa Bay area in 1970 caught every station on the FM dial back then.  Mind you, the FM dial was a lot less populated back then as compared to now, so you’ll only hear a few Tampa FM stations.  There’s a WTAN-FM on 95.7, for instance.  Q-105 was a few years away from existence, with WPKM occupying the 104.7 FM frequency.

In fact, the poster left a list of all of the stations caught on the FM receiver back then.  Must have been a good setup, as there are stations from all over Florida on the list, plus three other states: Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana.

Here’s the list:

 89.7 WUSF Tampa, FL
  91.3 WTHS Miami, FL
  91.5 WFSU Tallahassee, FL
  92.3 WDBO Orlando, FL
  92.5 WPAP Panama City, FL
  92.7 WCCF Punta Gorda, FL
  92.9 WGOV Valdosta, GA
  93.3 WFLA Tampa, FL
  93.7 WMOP Ocala, FL
  94.1 WVFM Lakeland, FL
  94.5 WNDB Daytona Beach, FL
  94.9 WLCY Tampa-St. Pete, FL
  95.1 WJAX Jacksonville, FL
  95.5 WTVY Dothan, AL
  95.7 WTAN Clearwater, FL
  95.7 WBYU New Orleans, LA
  96.1 WKTZ Jacksonville, FL
  96.3 WMYQ Miami, FL
  96.5 WHOO Orlando, FL
  96.9 WINK Ft. Myers, FL
  96.9 WRLJ Jacksonville, FL
  97.3 WIOD Miami, FL
  97.9 WQXM Clearwater, FL
  97.9 WMUM Palm Beach, FL
  98.5 WGNE Panama City, FL
  98.5 WWOM New Orleans, LA
  99.1 WQIK Jacksonville, FL
  99.3 WEZY Cocoa, FL
  99.5 WQYK St. Petersburg, FL
100.3 WKIS Orlando, FL
100.7 WDAE Tampa, FL
101.1 WCKS Cocoa Beach, FL
101.5 WGNB St. Petersburg, FL
101.5 WLYF Miami, FL
101.9 WMFJ Daytona Beach, FL
102.3 WTRS Dunnellon, FL
102.7 WRBD Pompano Beach, FL
102.9 WIVY Jacksonville, FL
103.1 WLOQ Winter Park, FL
103.3 WBRD Bradenton, FL
103.5 WSRF Ft. Lauderdale, FL
103.7 WRUF Gainesville, FL
104.1 WGLF Tallahassee, FL
104.7 WPKM Tampa, FL
105.1 WWQS Orlando, FL
105.3 WVSL Slidell, LA
105.5 WGUL New Port Richey, FL
105.5 WGVL Gainesville, FL
105.9 WOOO DeLand, FL
105.9 WAXY Ft. Lauderdale, FL
106.3 WSPB Sarasota, FL
106.7 WLBE Leesburg, FL
106.7 WFTL Ft. Lauderdale, FL
107.3 WWBA St. Petersburg, FL
107.7 WORJ Mount Dora, FL

RIP Dave Wagenvoord

I have learned tonight from multiple sources that Dave Wagenvoord, who owned WTAN AM 1340 in Clearwater where I once worked, passed away this morning, April 21st.

There is a “rest of the story” to Dave I don’t believe I’ve told.

One day, I was doing my board operator duties at Sun Radio Network sometime in 1990’s, a few years after my firing at WTAN, but I forget the year. Naturally, I was a little curious about what they were doing in the SRN offices, how could I not be? But Dave saw my face, and gave me a wave, and I gave him a wave back. I held no grudges over what happened, although my board operator duties kept me from talking to him that afternoon.

Wagenvoord continued to (with a brief hiatus in the early 1990’s) run WTAN until the day he died. The last of the “mom and pop” stations going up against the corporate machines such as CBS and Clear Channel’s that are all over the dial in every market in America.

I know others in the media field may have issues with how Dave and Lola ran the station, but now is not the time for those issues. Hope he rests in peace.