Here's a Halloween story from my sordid disc jockey past.
1971 and I was doing weeekends at KERN in Bakersfield. I was five at the time. (All TV writers older than twenty who hope to work lie about their age.) The station was this shack out in the middle of nowhere. And since Bakersfield itself is in the middle of nowhere, the station was really REALLY in the middle of nowhere.
It was my second week. I was holding down the coveted Saturday 6-midnight shift. At about 10:00 the doorbell rang. Who would be coming to call at this hour? Maybe the Jehovah's Witnesses work late in this town. I put a record on and like an idiot went to the front lobby and opened the door.
There was a full gang of Hell Angels – probably thirty of the scariest leather clad, chain wielding, tattoo sporting (before it was fashionable), chopper riding, engine revving, ass kicking (and in my mind, Jew hating) dudes you’ve ever seen. And their girlfriends who could beat the shit out of me.
So I was Jello in a windstorm. Picture Ralph Kramden as the “Chef of the Future”. “Hummina hummina hummina” The leader (at least I thought he was the leader. I didn’t ask for ID.), growled, “You the fucking guy on the radio?”
“HUMMINA hummina hummina.”
I was thinking, “What offensive thing did I say that is going to get me killed?” And “This will be a good indication of how many people are actually listening to KERN. Let’s see how long it takes for someone to discover my body."
Mr. Leader of the Pack said, “Do you have Sweet Cream Ladies?” (A late 60s moderate hit by the Box Tops)
A request? That’s why they’re there? To make a song request?
Somewhat relieved I mumble “Sure.”
He signaled to the others and they roared off to terrorize someone else. I locked the door, checked my underwear, and went to the record library PRAYING that we had a copy in there.
There is a God! They had it.
I ran back to the studio and cued it up. It was my next record. I completely broke format but who gives a shit! I could be dead by the time the format said to play an oldie.
A half hour later the doorbell rang again. What to do? They knew I was in there. And they all smoked so they all have matches. Any one of them could set the building on fire. I could just see them dismantling the tower and welding it into more bikes.
I reluctantly opened the door. There they were again. The leader handed me a beer and said, “Thanks, man.” They drive off.
Usually I don’t drink beer while on the air but not that night. Anything to settle my jangled nerves.
The next week, same thing. At about 10:00 they were at the front door to request Sweet Cream Ladies. A half hour later they returned with a beer as thanks for playing it.
The following week I just played the song at 10:00 and at 10:30 receive my reward.
Thus began a ritual that lasted almost a year. And it really proved to be a Godsend on Halloween.
Houses get T.P.ed, and cars get egged and vandalized on Halloween in Bakersfield. It’s a proud tradition. And my car was alone in a lot next to the shack in a dark empty field. I figured I’d get off of work and there would be nothing left but a drive shaft and maybe one hub cap. Instead, the car was completely untouched. Guess word got around that I was BFF with the local Hells Angels.
As I drove away I noticed that every house on the adjacent residential block had been egged and trashed and every car attacked. Except mine. Mine was pristine.
Sorry to say me and the gang haven’t stayed in touch. Especially during network note meetings.
Happy Halloween everyone.
UPDATE: Here's the song. You all owe me beers.