Monday, August 26, 2013

Another humiliating adventure in radio

This is yet another sordid true story from my early radio career – those halcyon days in the ‘70s when I bounced around the country playing top 40 hits as Beaver Cleaver.

Top 40 stations back then courted teenagers. So a number of our promotions centered around high schools.

We jocks would host Friday night dances and pep rallies. Those were fine, but at a couple of stations we put together a basketball team made up of the disc jockeys and we would play local high school faculties. Those were brutal.

First of all, out of seven disc jockeys there was maybe one who could dribble. The most exercise most of these guys ever got was rolling joints and opening pop tops.

Meanwhile, these faculties would put together six or seven decent athletes. It’s bad enough they embarrassed us in front of crowds of two thousand or so, but invariably there was one asshole gym teacher who took it upon himself to be Dennis Rodman. He’d elbow us, clock us the face with a forearm and really prove himself to be a big man by outplaying seven stoned undernourished sad sacks.

But the creepiest promotion I ever did was when I was a jock on KYA in San Francisco in 1974. Dean Goss, one of my fellow jocks on the station I’m sure can confirm this story. He gave me shit about it for months.

Here’s the contest: High school girls were asked to send in postcards and I would take one of them to her spring prom. Can you imagine? What parent would let his 16 year-old daughter go out with a 24 year-old disc jockey? I happened to be a nice guy, but on the scale of depravity, disc jockey is just below sex offender.

A winner was selected. I had to rent a tuxedo and buy a corsage. By the way, I loathed proms when I was in high school. I asked if the station was going to provide a limo or some cool mode of transportation? No. I had to drive her in my beat up Mustang.

Not being that familiar with San Francisco at the time it took me twenty minutes to find her place. It turned out she was very sweet.  Honestly, my heart went out to all the girls who entered this contest. Obviously you don’t resort to this if guys from your class ask you to the prom. So it was all the Janis Ian “At Seventeen” unpopular girls who vied for this “honor.”

The prom itself could not have been more awkward. I knew no one of course, and all the kids eyed me like I was some pervert. The teacher/chaperones really viewed me with contempt. I’m sure there was a gym teacher who wanted to clothesline me.  WKRP IN CINCINNATI missed a bet not doing this episode.   My date was very shy and I think more uncomfortable in this environment than I was. Had she been enjoying herself I would have stuck it out, but after a half hour I asked if she wanted to ditch this place and get something to eat? She was so relieved.

I took her to dinner at the Hungry Tiger (a nice lobster place – you can’t show up at Denny’s in formal attire) and probably had her home before ten. I mean, what do you talk about? “So, how is Algebra this year?” “Who’s your favorite Osmond brother?”

It was the only time a date said to me, “This was really a bad idea” and I didn’t take it personally.

The station was mad because I didn’t come back with a prom photo. The whole point was to put that on the cover of their weekly survey they distributed to record stores. What good was the promotion if they couldn’t promote it? The promo director was so mad he wouldn’t reimburse me for the dinner.

The truth is I did have the prom photo. But my date had been through enough. I could at least spare her this.

I can only hope her yearbook showed the same discretion.

That was my last prom. It could have been worse, I suppose. They could have asked me to hand out candy at a middle school from the station van.

29 comments:

Roger Owen Green said...

Yup, a heavy dose of icky! (No offense, Ken.)

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Your stories are beginning to convince me that to be a comedy writer you have to have the right kind of *life*.

My school didn't even *have* a prom.

wg

Mac said...

There's a joke in there about the current investigation into 1970's UK disc jockeys, but I won't lower the tone of the blog with it.

Will Fitzgerald said...

This puts some of the wackier sitcom plots I've seen in perspective.

McAlvie said...

Those were the days, when a teenager's life revolved around whatever was the "in" pop station, and you knew more about the lives of radio personalities than you did movie stars.

Speaking of adventures in radio, Ken, I heard this weekend that Vin Scully is coming back to announce for the Dodgers next year.

Tor Hershman said...

HA! You call dat humillatin'!

I was just banned by UCB, Upright [tight] Citizen Brigade, with me blog 'n YouTube Channel considered TOO much for those thar Thems.

Who be dë censors...now?

Coocoo kachoooooooooooo

Oh, I wouldn't have posted here except...oh well.....as if you care beyond a _____'s ____.

Sumthin two dew - as soon as Mrs. H. returns I'm a gonna paint a roof & perhaps go woof woof.

Joe Rice said...

Wow Tor...that entry deserves a big old dose of "huh??"

Just because that pill has a line down the center doesn't mean that you're only supposed to take half your medication.

Dan Ball said...

At least you didn't do a date auction, Ken.

I think proms are just an all-around bad idea. I didn't go to either of mine and I don't regret a thing. It's a dog show, plain and simple.

Simon said...

Hey, Ken, a Friday question. When you worked on Cheers and Dharma & Greg, did Kirstie Alley or Jenna Elfman try to recruit you or any of the cast and crew into their creepy brainwashing cult? You know what I'm referring to. The cult of ... watching reality TV. I hear they're big fans of the genre.

What did you think I was referring to?

orenmendez said...

Hi, sorry for this shameless self promoting, but I honestly thought you might enjoy this sketch about some of today's most known TV writers, trying to create the next big hit show:
The Writers Cabin

Unknown said...

Actually WKRP did an episode that was like that.
However it was to a concert and the people were "legal".
Venus got a hottie, Fever got a dude.

Anonymous said...

Friday Question: Have you ever had to deal with 2 co-stars who didn't like each other? I remember the Moonlighting producer said Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd hated each other with a passion and it got so bad they refused to touch each other during scenes. She said she almost had a nervous breakdown by the end of the show.

Max said...

There's a story out of a more innocent age. These days you'd get arrested for going out with a 16-year-old.

Brule Eagan said...

Very gallant of you, Ken, to withhold that prom photo for the girl's sake. To twist a baseball phrase, you "took one for the teen".

Anonymous said...

Well Jen, when I was at KROY they did a promotion where a listener, a girl hopefully would win a date night with me. The prize was really dinner and a movie chauffeured in a Rolls Royce. I was 19 and I think the winner may have been 17. Fortunately once we had our winner I was told, oh she can bring someone and so can you. What a relief. I had nightmares leading up to it as I was a wallflower in high school and still on the shy side. But it was actually a nice night. But hey, it could've been horrible, so I lucked out! By the way, she brought her little brother and I did something that was a bit risky, I brought one of our phone girls from the music research department. They always say, don't fish off the company dock, but she was sweet and it all worked out.

Bryan Simmons

Anonymous said...

Oops, misspelled when as jen, how embarrassing!

BS

Mike McCann said...

Hey, you're lucky you drove a Mustang, a "hip" kinda car. In my Top 40 days, I drove a Plymouth Duster. At least it wasn't a four-door sedan.

willieb said...

At my first DJ job in western Maryland, a cute blonde high schooler who used to show up at the back door to hang out and talk to the DJs asked me if I'd come and do a "show and tell" in front of her class. I agreed.(Did I mention she was cute?) The teacher was trying to get the kids interested in college and asked me what kind of education one needed to be a DJ. Although I had a BA in Communications, I decided to be brutally honest and told the class all you needed was something to say and the ability to say it. The teacher glared at me, and I think she ratted out the blonde to her parents, because she stopped hanging around the station. (Or maybe she decided she wanted to hang out with some college-educated boys....)

Picasso said...

Too funny. and you are right I dated a dj. Well he didn't really count he was a rocker that worked at a family christian radio station. The things we did there would peel the paint. oh the poor christians. just starting my own blog and am enjoying the writing of all the other bloggers out there. Thanks

RCP said...

Reading about your humiliating experiences always makes me feel better about myself. Keep em comin.

Seriously - you're such a good-hearted guy, Ken - the prom story was touching.

Vanessa said...

Did you get the young lady to pose for you in an abbreviated nightgown? You seem best able to appreciate women that way.

fred nerk said...

And the moronic comment of the week award goes to... Vanessa

Carol said...

I just have to say that I am TOTALLY watching the WKRP episode RIGHT NOW that has to do with the 'win a date with a DJ contest'.

Coincidence is the humour of the universe.

Victor Velasco said...

The Mighty KYA Oneders! (or, as ex-Oakland resident Tom Hanks called them the oh-need-ers) there was a station in Santa Rosa, that had a coloring contest around the same time; it was open to kids from 7 to 15 and the winner was a very pregnant 14 year old girl. so, things could be worse

Marty Fufkin said...

Ken, with all your great stories from radio in the 70s, I'm surprised you didn't write for WKRP. I suppose you were too busy with MASH. But I wonder if you ever pitched them a story or two?

Storm said...

I had a 24 year old boyfriend when I was 16. (shrug). I looked 21, so no one said anything. Ah, the 80's, how I miss you.

Cheers, thanks a lot,

Storm

Johnny Walker said...

Wow, what a tale. Those were different times...! Very nice that you withheld the photo.

Bob Summers said...

Ken,

I bet she looks back now and laughs. Have you ever tried to find her on social media? I would love to hear her "side" of things. This would be one of those awkward then, funny now things.

chuckcd said...

Or someone could have dumped gallons of blood on your head...