Among the many things missing in radio today are pranks. Back when there were live local broadcasters and actual competition between stations (one company didn’t own them all), a by-product was one-ups-manship. I was involved in one stunt during my first job.
I was a sports intern at KMPC in Los Angeles. They were the big full-service station in town. Their disc jockeys were national celebrities like Gary Owens, Wink Martindale, and Jim Lange. They carried the Rams, Angels, and UCLA Bruins. And they had helicopters and mobile units. I think their local news department was larger than CNN’s is now. The studios were essentially in the White House.
It was the summer of 1970. I worked Monday through Friday from 6 AM – 3 PM. (Yes, the hours were long but they were paying me minimum wage.) I wrote sports reports, made coffee, and emptied ashtrays.
I was right. This bit went out on the air live, my singing KMPC’s jingle included.
So I go the rest of the morning feeling pretty good about myself. Word gets around the station and a few salesmen and other employees stop in the newsroom to congratulate me.
At around noon, Stan Spero, the General Manager comes in. He asks if I was the one who pulled that stunt on KGIL? Yes, I say proudly. He tells me there’s someone who wants to speak to me. Now Stan Warwick, the General Manager of KGIL enters the room. What the fuck is he doing there? Warwick is clearly pissed. He begins grilling me. “Did I think it was funny to embarrass his station?” “Is this how I conduct myself as a professional?” Needless to say, I’m sweating buckets. I look to my GM for support. He’s just glaring at me. Fun is fun but apparently I had crossed a line.
Just at the point I was ready to hang myself with a teletype ribbon they both break up laughing. I had been punked. Orchestrated of course, by Dick Whittington. The two general managers were friends and had planned on getting together for lunch that day anyway. Both appreciated a good radio prank and appreciated even more getting back at the prankster.
Dick Whittington is one of my favorite people in the world. But I hope he’s sleeping with one eye open. Because it’s my turn.