Saturday, February 28, 2015

You can't say that on the radio

Here's another tale from my misbegotten radio career.  It's also a re-post from six years ago.

1972. 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 was listening.

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.

From 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”.

Joe 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?”

So 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.

10 comments:

Oat Willie said...

Yesterday afternoonI heard a caller on C-Span yesterday say "shitload" and then got on my knees to pray that this unholy blasphemy would not destroy Our Republic. Then I popped in another Asian Cream Pies video.

jcs said...

Well, Joe was obviously a very inconsiderate guy, but censorship it was. Joe, however, should have taken his fight to the FCC, not you - the lowest man on the totem pole.

Mike Botula said...

Joe was lucky that you knew how to use a kill switch. Everybody in radio at that time feared the FCC in the same way that McCarthy-ites feared "Communism." I recall when even the instrumental version of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" was banned. You got the last laugh on that one, Ken. Joe Ortiz...last heard from on...CHRISTIAN Radio. (God's Will).

Anonymous said...

Joe Ortiz should do a special one day, maybe at a University radio station, just an idea. But most too busy --DONE with their odd music, but it would a great treat indeed. Joe Ortiz had lot interesting to say.

S.L.H. said...

Well well well, looks like a certain someone has their own Blogspot too http://itseemstomebyjoeortiz.blogspot.com/?m=1

CRL said...

I'm glad no one said 'Booger'.....

ally said...

Happy Anniversary of the MASH finale!

Anonymous said...

And oddly enough "Dead Skunk" was by an early days cast member of M*A*S*H*, Loudon Wainwright III.

Kerman said...

Looks like Joe has dead-skunked his blog...no post since 11/25/14. There is a Joe Ortiz Fan Site on Facebook however. It seems to be current. I skimmed the most recent entries but so no mention of Ken or the skunk.

H Johnson said...

I've read that story here before and it still makes me laugh. Makes me long for the days when you could still hear "Dead Skunk" on the radio.

Kids don't know what they're missing.

Aloha