Here's another tale from my misbegotten radio career. It's also a re-post from six years ago.
I’m a relief engineer at KABC and their sister station KLOS-FM.
That meant I played the records on KLOS and played the commercials on
KABC. My shift on Sunday nights was to play the public service
shows. As preposterous as it sounds now, radio and television stations
once were expected to actually serve
the community. A certain amount of their programming had to be
devoted to public affairs. So of course stations would bury these
shows in the middle of the night or early and late Sundays when no one
One Sunday night I see we have a new program
scheduled. IMPACTO. It’s a talk show geared to the Hispanic
community. I’m thrilled. It was live. Normally I played half hour
tapes on how to fill out Social Security forms.
The host is Joe
Ortiz. He’s relatively new to radio; primarily a community advocate. I
ask, “What’s the game plan?” He says he’ll take calls and if there’s a
lull I’m to just play a record. What kind of record? He says it
makes no difference, just grab something KLOS normally plays. Sounds
easy enough to me.
So he starts taking calls. And every other one starts off like this: “Hey man, I’m tired of this fucking shit…”
Whoa! Every two seconds I’m diving for the kill button (we were on
an eight second delay). I tell Joe on a break to remind his callers
they’re not allowed to swear on the radio. He gets pissed at me.
That’s censorship. No it’s not, I tell him. It’s the FCC. We could
lose our license. He ignores me.
So for weeks I’m hitting the
kill button so often you’d think I was tapping out Morse Code.
Needless to say, our relationship was frosty.
time to time there are lulls and he calls for a record. He says,
“We’ll be back right after a little music” and I play Crosby, Stills,
& Nash or whomever. KLOS was your classic rock station even before
we knew the stuff was classic.
So one night the swearers aren’t
calling. He signals for a record. I grab one from the rack and cue
it up. He announces on the air, “We’re going to take a break but here
is a record that expresses the perception of the Hispanic community.” I
let the record fly. It’s “Dead Skunk In the Middle of the Road”.
goes nuts. I show great restraint by not falling to the floor in
laughter. I say, “It’s on the playlist. Who the hell told you to
introduce it like that?”
Joe files an official union grievance on me. I have to go before a
board of the Chief Engineer and union representatives. I’m charged
with being a racist. Once they hear my side of the story they fall on
the floor laughing. The grievance is dropped and I’m completely
pardoned. Better yet I’m taken off that shift.
For years I had
no idea whatever happened to Joe Ortiz. He hasn’t befriended me on
Facebook. I understand he's no longer in
broadcasting. But ironically, his last on-air gig was hosting a talk
show on a Christian station. I wonder how “Hey man, I’m tired of this fucking shit…” would go over there.