Wednesday, August 04, 2010

One of the great scams of all-time

Continuing from yesterday, while furiously writing spec scripts at night with David, I got a day job at the KiiS Broadcasting Workshop – training young people to enter the exciting and stable world of radio.

Today it would probably be called the KiiS Podcast Workshop.

They did have a great gimmick however. The owner went to KiiS radio, a floundering AM station, and offered a partnership. The station would get a cut of the action. The school could use their name, would base their operation in the same location as the station, and this was the genius stroke – the school would operate the radio station from 2-4 every morning (when no one was listening… although no one listened at any hour). The students would actually get to go on the air in Los Angeles. That’s like letting DeVry students run the control tower computers at LAX for two hours a day.

The only trouble was, none of the vaunted faculty members wanted to work from 2-4 in the morning; certainly not for the scraps we were getting paid. So save for the on-duty engineer asleep in the control room, these students were pretty much on the air unsupervised.

We were located in the Playboy Club building on the Sunset Strip. We shared the top floor with a Playboy photo studio. One day I was giving a tour to new prospective coed students. We stepped out of the elevator and there in the lobby were four or five giant 7-foot dildos; props from a recent shoot. They all gasped. But every one of them signed up.

So for eight hours a day I would instruct kids on how to cue up records; a skill today that is as utterly useless as how to clean your clothes on rocks.

All of the teachers were dating the students (except the teacher who was 90). For some reason it got brought to the owner’s attention that I was sleeping with one of the pupils. I was summoned to his office where he was shocked and outraged. I was jeopardizing the integrity of the institution. I was breaking a sacred ethical law. I said, “Are you kidding?! This isn’t Harvard Law. Do you think she’s going to get a job at WGN Chicago because I gave her an “A” in Record Segueing?” To me (and the rest of the esteemed underpaid faculty) this was the only perk of this stupid meaningless job.

So I gave him three choices. He could fire me, raise my salary from $650 a month to what garbage collectors made, or keep me on the same pay scale and just look the other way. He thought for a moment and said, “Just don’t fuck her on the equipment”.

A major component of any trade school is job placement. We had an employment counselor. He actually did a pretty good job of finding entry-level on-air jobs for these students. They were in markets like Elephants Breath, Georgia and Bumfuck, Iowa but still.

And then one day he hit the jackpot.

He received a call from a man saying he represented the Ford Foundation. The following year would be the bi-centennial and Ford wanted to hire a young woman who would go around the country and guest on radio shows talking up the rich history and heritage of America. (CBS television that year aired hourly “Bi-centennial Minutes”, capsulized snippets of U.S. History.) The job would pay $50,000 and all expenses would be covered. Talk about a sweet gig!

The rep came into town and conducted interviews for a week in his hotel room at the nearby Continental Hyatt. Then he disappeared. Turns out he slept with at least five of the applicants. Probably a few others were too embarrassed to admit it. The whole thing was a scam. (I’m sure some of you are horrified; others are cursing that they'll be too old to pull the same thing during the tri-centennial.)

Now that did jeopardize the sacred integrity of the institution. Lawsuits were flying. The station was not pleased. In a stroke of good timing David and I sold a script and I was able to extricate myself from this pillar of academia.

Here’s the sad thing: those girls who slept with the Ford guy, they’re probably the only students the KiiS Broadcasting Workshop ever had who actually learned something useful about the business.

Photos from Gary Thereaux

18 comments:

Dan Serafini said...

Have you heard WGN Radio in Chicago lately? Sure sounds like those grads are indeed on the air there now.

Baylink said...

Is this gonna be a book, too, Ken?

Probably wouldn't sell as well, but the radio industry would sure buy it. :-)

Roger Owen Green said...

Half of my library school profs, and 3/4 of the male profs, were sleeping with the students.

And you thought radio school was the only place with libido.

Michael said...

Ken, the warning about doing something on the equipment .... Is it possible that when you were consulting on Frasier, that showed up in what remains one of the greatest episodes, "The Adventures of Bad Boy and Dirty Girl"?

Gary said...

We are rabbitual re-producers! 1/2of this group, 3/4 of that group, a third of another group. Obviously, some folks have to be pulling more than their share in the bacchanalia.

l.a.guy said...

Great story. Sounds like everyone in involved got fucked one way or another. Some just enjoyed it more than others.

YibbleGuy said...

Ken, when you publish your autobiography, I think you've got a million-dollar title here: "Just Don't Fuck Her On The Equipment."

Jan said...

Can't stop thinking about Les Nessman and Ted Baxter.

Anonymous said...

I attended for a short time. Spent a bunch of money, learned nothing and got a cheap cassette deck out of it. I remember the head guy smoked a pipe and was into the chicks.

b

The Milner Coupe said...

I took that course. I remember the sofa in the lobby shaped like a huge pair of lips. I was constantly disappointed by not running into any Playboy bunnies. The dumbass teachers (sorry if you were one of them)spent so much time making plays for the female students, they hardly taught us anything. I learned more doing the morning drive news at college.

Pat Reeder said...

Don't knock the ability to cue up records, which I could do behind my back with one hand while reading the news. If you didn't do it right, you either had to talk through the awkward pause or you got the dreaded "BWAAAAAHhhh" as the music started before the turntable got up to speed. BTW, you know you're dealing with an old radio guy if he actually knows what "cue burn" is.

emily said...

So you're saying the guy from Ford won't be calling me after all?

Jeffrey Leonard said...

I know what you mean about so called radio broadcast institutions. For a while, I worked for "The Lab" (L.A. Broadcasters). It definitely was more fun flirting with the female students than anything else. I must say though...a couple of them actually made it into the industry. In fact, one of them is still on the air today in Los Angeles.

Ian said...

Just for the record, Ken, I think that Bumfuck, Iowa gets a bad rap. I was born and raised in Bumfuck, and I'm a proud graduate of Bumfuck High, where I was lucky enough to play on the football team (go Marauders!). I don't appreciate your referring to my home town as though it were some turgid backwater. When I look back on my Bumfuck boyhood, it brings nothing but happy memories. In fact, I'd say that Bumfuck made me the man I am today, which is why I'm proud to be called a real Bumfucker.

Stefan Alexxis said...

Your KBW stories are funnier than mine, but things seemed a bit different in my day. I DID learn stuff. Throughout my next several years in radio I discovered that I knew more about production than coworkers who'd been in the business 20 years. But I don't blame the instructors for going for the young ladies. There were a few in my class I still have dreams about!

Gary Theroux said...

I was Operations Director at the KIIS Broadcasting Workshop while Ken was there and can back up everything he stated. It was during that time that Ken and David wrote a spec script for "The Jeffersons" and actually sold it. I got to sit next to Ken during the taping and remember him whispering to me now and then, "I think I recognize one of our lines." (Their work had been heavily rewritten but, knowing Ken, I could pick out his kind of gags.) Following that sale, of course, Ken and David went on to write some of the finest sitcom episodes of all time for "Cheers," "M*A*S*H," "Mary," "Frasier," etc. And I think the only reason Ken never called me to act in any of those episodes was because he forgot how to spell my last name.

kims4him said...

I worked at KIIS Broadcasting Workshop in Hollywood in the late 70s. I was a young girl fresh from Virginia..and apparently oblivious to much of what was going on around me! A guy named TOmmy was in charge. I know that at the end of my time there - creditors were after them big time. Never knew whether or not a paycheck would be good. We would all raise to the bank to cash our checks right away. I hung out with Mr. Anderson's daughter Lisa who was very sweet. I set up a "memory" page on FB where Gary Theroux was kind enough to share old photos. FIgured it would be a great place to reconnect with others that shared time and place.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Remembering-KIIS-Broadcasting-Workshop-in-Hollywood-CA/116525531737399

Pikey22 said...

My name is Johnny Robish and I was a student there and then worked there from late 79 till the place closed. Had some good times there except for trying to get a paycheck when they were going under. It would be fun to hook up with old friends again.