Thursday, December 22, 2005

A touching Christmas story

One of the many reasons I became a writer is that I got tired of being fired as a disc jockey. Today marks the anniversary of the last time I signed off my show with “see you tomorrow” and was never heard from again.

1974, I’m Beaver Cleaver on KSEA, San Diego, playing “The Night Chicago Died” and “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” five times a night and seriously considering blowing my brains out. Yes, I know – why “Beaver Cleaver”? Ken Levine sounded too Jewish. (Reelradio.com has some of my embarrassing airchecks. Check my links section.)

The fall rating book came out, the numbers were not good, and at 3:00 I was told to hurry down to the station for an all-important staff meeting at 4:00. We all assembled and were told the station had decided to change formats to gospel and we were all being let go. “Even me?” I said in mock amazement. “Especially you.” “But I could change my name to Eldridge Cleaver.” “I’m going to need your station key”.

Quick aside: a year earlier at KMEN San Bernardino they wanted to get rid of me by moving me from the evening shift to the all-night show. The cheap bastards were hoping I’d quit so they wouldn’t have to pay severance (maybe $300 at most) and be on the hook for unemployment insurance. I asked the program director to at least do the humane thing and fire my sorry ass. “Nope”, he said, “Starting tonight you’re midnight to six.” So I stopped off at the local record store, picked up an LP, and dutifully reported on time for my shift.

Like KSEA, we were a high energy Top 40 station. (Our program director was in love with WLS whose slogan was “the Rock of Chicago” so we became the much catchier “Rock of the Inland Empire”.) I signed on and started playing the hits. Then at 12:30 segued smartly into FIDDLER ON THE ROOF….in Yiddish. The entire album. I was fired during “Anatefka”.

Back to the KSEA staff meeting -- Our morning man, Natural Neil asked when this format change was taking place. A month? A week? The program director looked at his watch and said “45 minutes”. And with that we were all canned. KSEA was gone…along with the promotion we were running at the time --

“Christmas the way it was meant to be!”

13 comments:

rogercarroll said...

Ken, nice Jewish boys are not DJ's.
Nice Jewish boys are, doctors, lawyers, writers, dentists, movie producers, cpa's, writers and like long legged blue eyes blonde gentile girls.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Worked at a radio rep firm many moons ago and KSEA was a client. We were placing spots one morning and an advertiser called, rescinded his order, and chewed me out for misrepresenting the station's format. Our chief AE called the station and said, "when did the format change?". The answer was "45 minutes ago".

Norm Garr said...

One of the funniest radio stories I've ever read.

NORM

Howard Hoffman said...

Wait, wait. You turned your back on a business that fired an entire staff three days before Christmas? I don't understand that at all...

Robert Hogan said...

Fiddler on the Roof...in Yiddish. That's classic. That has to be in a script some day.

Rob

oidarman said...

A. You were a damn good jock
B. Radio left you, you didn't leave radio
C. Did Howard Kalmenson own KSEA? He liked changing formats more often than his underwear.

Ken Levine said...

Thanks for liking my airwork. The owner of KSEA/KSON was Dan McKinnon I believe.

Lloyd Thaxton said...

I am most likely the only person on radio that fired himself. My first gig in LA (1958) was sub announcer for KMPC. I took over during days off and vacations for Dick Wittinghill. One day the PD called me into his office to listen to one of my air-checks. I sounded so bad that I quit. Radio was just not my bag.

Good move for me. I went back to TV. Can anyone else claim that they fired themselves?

Hey wait! I have my own blog. I'll write this story. Five people in the world have to hear it. Yes Ken, I now have a blog readership of five.

Ken Levine said...

I did a voice over on ALMOST PERFECT and then cut myself out of the show. Does that count as firing yourself?

Jon Badeaux said...

I thought I was the only person fired from KMEN. At the time they said I was the worst disc jockey they'd ever heard. (Then why did you hire me?)

Swear to God... they found me another job. In Eureka, CA. Acutally, a "burb" of Eureka, FORTUNA, CA. That's when I discovered there was something more humiliating than just being fired!

serg hernandez said...

Whatever happened to Dick Wittinghill? I live in Acton, CA and I understand he used to kid Acton alot.In 1971 he staged a mock battle in Acton for publicty

Anonymous said...

When I worked at CNN we had layoffs on 9/13/01, as in two days after 9/11. We assumed it was going to be a meeting about how news coverage was going to change post-9/11, instead we found out one third of our division we being fired because the paperwork had been completed before 9/11.

Hell's Donut House said...

Damn, you almost made it through the whole album. Had you succeeded, you should've segued directly into the soul version of "Jesus Christ Superstar."