Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Before I was a writer...

So when I got fired from KSEA a week before Christmas (see yesterday's post), that's when I decided to give up radio and pursue writing. 

Like all starving writers, when I was banging out specs trying to break in I had a crummy job. All I cared about were the hours. I had to be free at night to work with my partner, David Isaacs on our scripts. As long as I made enough money to pay the rent and get a burger at Tommy’s I was fine. Which is good because that’s all I made.

The job I landed was teaching broadcasting at the KIIS Broadcasting Workshop. It was actually a very easy job. I taught kids how to give the weather and back-announce Doobie Brothers tunes. (Proud to say one of my students made it all the way to Flagstaff where he did weekend all-nights for two weeks.)

The primary purpose of this school was to make money.  You don't need a school to teach you how to cue up records.  I think we had more salesman than instructors. And their big selling point was the physical school itself. Our facilities took up half the top floor of the Playboy building on Sunset Blvd. We were right in the heart of the strip, baby. Dino’s nightclub was just a few doors down. The Liberace museum was directly across the street. And our facilities were honestly very impressive. Decent enough broadcast studios with a spectacular view of the city on clear days. So for a week each year the panorama was breathtaking.

We shared the top floor with the photo studio Playboy used to shoot their nude models. Several times I rode the elevator with Miss November or one of the Girls from Big Ten. Playboy was very discreet about the studio. You’d get out of the elevator and there was a big splashy sign for our facility and just an unmarked door for theirs.

Every Tuesday at 11:00 our salesmen would bring around a group of ten or so prospective students to tour our digs. We were on alert to look busy and engaged. I arrived at work at 10:00. I stepped out of the elevator and there were all these huge props in the foyer.  Obviously these were for that day’s shoot. I stuck my head in their door and asked if these would still be here in an hour. Yes, they said. They weren’t scheduled to be used until after lunch.

Great!

So just before 11:00 I returned to the foyer and waited for our tour group. Sure enough, the elevator doors open, ten people step out and are met by five giant seven-foot dildos and three 7-foot vaginas that looked like that lips couch set on its side. Shrieks and gasps from the potential students. Talk about a great first impression! I had to duck into the stairwell to laugh for ten minutes.

I can only imagine what the poor salesman said to them just before the doors opened. “I think you’ll be impressed with how first-class and professional our school is. And wait’ll you see our equipment!”

Now that, ladies and gentleman, is a sight gag!

Tomorrow:  Another KIIS Broadcasting Workshop story.  You won't believe this one.

19 comments:

Carol said...

Ken, do you have any plans on doing a sequel to your Me Generation book? Because I would love to read what happened to you in the 70's - your career, when your met your wife, that sort of thing.

I'd read the heck out of that book.

ally said...

ditto Carol.

I'd also love to know the back story on how you and David met.

MikeBo said...

I remember the KIIS Broadcasting School. And of course there was the Columbia School of Broadcasting, Columbia College, my own alma mater the Don Martin School on Cherokee and the Bill Ogden school in Huntington Beach. Back in those days it seemed that the two big growth industries in the US were the space program and broadcasting. Every kid wanted to be the next real Don Steele, Gary Owens or Emperor Hudson. I actually went to one called the School of Radio Technique back in New York, but I got my FCC First Phone through Don Martin. After a while I realized that most of the income for these radio mills back in the 50s and 60s was made possible by the GI Bill. I even got to teach a seminar at the KIIS Workshop once, thanks to an invitation by Duke Norton of KBIG. I wasn't paid a fee. Duke referred to it as an "honorarium."

John said...

If you were on the East Coast, you would have been working for the Columbia School of Broadcasting ("Not affiliated with the Columbia Broadcasting System", as the radio ads used to say, and also not affiliated in any way with Columbia University, as the radio ads never said).

And as far as the comely models go, when I was in high school back in the 70s, the 'discrete' nude modeling place in the neighborhood had a sign in its second floor window at 14th Street and Third Avenue ... one block from where they filmed the 'Travis Bickle visits/assaults the whorehouse to rescue Jody Foster scenes in "Taxi Driver". Not quite the impressiveness of Bunnies on the upper floor of an office building on The Strip, and I'm sure the girls were a tad lower in the looks department, but that was New York in the mid-70s.

Johnny Walker said...

Carol, me too!

Ken, is tomorrow's post going to be how you got fired from this job? :)

Anonymous said...

I would like a book sequel too! Right after I bought The Me Generation on Kindle, I was going to read just a snippet and couldn't put it down. Julie, Burlington, Iowa

Ken Levine said...

I'd be happy to write the '70s sequel but only if I sell enough of the '60s book to warrant it. (How's that for a subtle hint?)

Nancy Plum said...

I got a catalog from Midwestern Broadcasting School in Chicago and thought what a cool job! I'll be a DJ!! Never mind the fact that in 1970 hardly any women were DJs!
I got my third class license and fortunately for me got started at a station that featured all female announcers, WSDM-FM. Of course when I moved to LA I had to start over as a receptionist at KDAY and work my way back on the air but did that in less than 2 years and the rest as they say is history! I was on the air this morning as a matter of fact reading news live on 590 WVLK!

Anonymous said...

Ken, I enjoyed my days at the KIIS Broadcasting workshop. Went over Flagstaff to KPRK Livingston, MT - to KONA, Pasco, WA. Wished I would've listened to Dave Hull a little better about voiceovers! Doug T. Moving cars now. doug@alaskaauto.com

Danny Kaye said...

You told us how you met David, didn't you? Army?

Jack said...

Ken, a number of us over at DVDTalk are going to be having a Cheers viewing club, starting with Season 1 in January (5-6 episodes a week). We'd love it if you would like to join for whatever times!

http://forum.dvdtalk.com/tv-talk-14/

P.S. I bought your book for my iPad!

The Milner Coupe said...

Ken, I am a proud graduate of that school circa 1976-77. Got my engineer's license and everything. Ultimately I decided I couldn't hang in a smoke filled booth talking into a foam windscreen that smelled worse than... well everything on earth.

I remember the lip shaped sofa in the lobby but never got lucky enough to meet the playmates.
I gotta find that certificate one of these days.

Aloha

Anonymous said...

I remember Philip Trout giving the speech of a lifetime in getting my group signed up. It even included a cheap cassette deck to practice on. I sill have it.

BMR

YEKIMI said...

Had a kid that worked for me [during my summer job] that went to a broadcasting school....cost him $14,000! [compared to the $2,000 I had to pay in the late 70s]. He got to intern at a local talk station which has a habit of using these kids and then never hiring them after their internship is up. Four years later and he's still looking for work in radio and, just this past summer, drove 24 hours straight to a broadcasting job fair in Texas. Didn't find any jobs there either! Least in my case I worked in radio for a few years; I tried talking him out of spending that much money for a vanishing job market but he couldn't be dissuaded. Now he says he wished he would have listened to me. Back in the 70s and into the 80s, some of the local big-time DJs worked there just to earn extra cash. One said he only worked there because most of the students came from the wealthier suburbs and "I could score the best weed from them".

YEKIMI said...

By the way, finally found a job....telemarketing! Never thought I would have to take a job where people would say being a pedophile would be a step up on the ladder of respect!

EricWGray said...

I never attended broadcast school... went the teenage intern route instead, but learned the grim reality of the biz early.

Reflecting on yesterday's post about being fired... format changes aside...

In the radio business, back in the days before formal contracts, you NEVER went on vacation. Upon return you might expect to hear "Oh, we don't NEED you anymore."

Like Ken, my career path changed... based on the volatility alone.

Storm said...

For as long as I can recall, I always wished I could have been a DJ (I think I saw "FM" at too young an age or something). In the 70s and 80s, it seemed like an awesome job for a terminal lifelong nightowl; I would've specifically worked graveyard and been SO happy. Unfortunately, due to a botched sinus operation as a kid, I sound like a 10 year old with a headcold; NOT a good sound, so I never pursued it, though I still dreamed about it back when radio was still awesome.

But then, I started reading your blog, and while you DO have many wonderful/funny stories about it, the awful ones about the lame/dark side of the radio biz and what a bitch it was/is to break into it have made me let go of that regret. Seriously, it's something that always bothered me, not going after that dream, and reading from you that it wasn't all I'd thought it was has helped me let go of it. So... thank you, I guess?

Cheers, and happy holidays,

Storm

Anonymous said...

People, buy Ken's book! I want a sequel. It really is a clever and funny book. I can totally relate to learning how to drive and not being able to parallel park. I was also like a cyclops driving the USS Impala. Ha ha. Glad to read about a fellow uncoordinated nerd in high school. The later encounters with chicks who had their noses up in high school and then later pretended they were ex-girlfriends are funny also. Julie, Burlington, Iowa

chuckcd said...

I went to the Columbia School of Broadcasting...
Biggest waste of money I ever spent!