Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dave Diamond

A few weeks ago I participated in the Sit ‘n Spin monthly storytelling program. It was my first time. As I was preparing, I tried to think back to speakers I’ve heard do this sort of thing and who was the best at it? Why not learn from the best? My mind drifted back to 1990 and the KHJ Boss Radio 25th reunion at a hotel in Century City. One by one the disc jockeys gave little or long tributes (usually to themselves), and then a D.J. who had only been at the station a very short time got up to the podium and spun a tale of how he got hired. It was masterful. So funny, so descriptive, and was delivered with pitch-perfect timing. He stole the show that night. That’s the storyteller I was trying to emulate.

That was Dave Diamond.

Dave passed away last week. He was a special person and dear friend.

Disc jockeys in the ‘60s tended to be generic. They also followed rigid formats. “Time and temp” guys we called them. Dave Diamond was anything but.

Having been fired from KHJ he wound up at KBLA in Burbank. This station had a worse signal than a baby monitor. While there he pushed the envelope musically, playing long album cuts back in the days when Top 40 stations played less than 40 songs.

And he realized that radio was the medium of imagination. He could create whole worlds. Which he did. Just as Jack Benny delighted listeners in the '30s and '40s with his trips down to his private vault where he kept his money, guarded by alligators and whatnot, Dave Diamond welcomed you to the Diamond Mine. Through poetic psychedelic imagery and sheer bullshit he created this whole mythical Wonderland. And you didn’t have to take LSD to experience it!

Dave perfected his act in 1968 when he joined KFRC, San Francisco to do evenings. Not only was he imaginative and funny, he was also exciting. He kept the adrenaline pumping. One of my favorite Dave Diamond lines: “I am so glad I am not up against myself tonight the way I am COOKING!”

And playing the hits was only one of his many talents. He was a nightclub owner, concert promoter, record producer, and TV personality. The two achievement I was most impressed with back in those days: he discovered Jim Morrison & the Doors, and he won a date with Yvonne Craig on THE DATING GAME.

In later years he became a novelist. Dave has written some fantastic noir thrillers and western epics. And his poetry has won awards and been featured in numerous prestigious collections.

He taught creative writing at Black Hills State University in South Dakota, and until his recent health issues forced him to retire he was making plans for me to come up there and guest lecture. Considering how captivating he was that one time at the KHJ reunion, I can only imagine how amazing his student lectures were.

My favorite Dave Diamond story is this: I was recently at a high school reunion and spoke to a girl who once worked for him. She was 16 at the time, very pretty, and met Diamond at some event. He was looking for a personal assistant and hired her. You think you know where this is going but you don’t. Dave never propositioned her, and like I said – she was very hot. He treated her with the upmost respect, wrote her letters of recommendation, helped her get later work, and remained a trusted friend and advisor. Trust me, a disc jockey in the mid 1960’s – this was unheard of. But that’s the kind of straight up guy Dave Diamond was. And this was a side of him I would never have known had she not told me.

Dave Diamond was a master storyteller who enriched the lives of everyone who ever heard him, saw him, or read him. Thanks for the inspiration Dave, which continues to this day.

Here’s an example of the Diamond Mine from the Diamond Mind.

And here's Dave's appearance on THE DATING GAME. Coincidentally, Bachelor #3 later guested on an episode of THE TONY RANDALL SHOW David Isaacs and I wrote.


Katherine said...

So…how DID he get hired - and evidently fired - from KHJ?

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

"Fur-lined volcano," is my favorite image from him in the Diamond Mine example. Whatta guy. I really didn't appreciate his work when I was a 17 year-old radio kid hanging around KBLA. I'm sorry he died.

Paul Duca said...

Wonder if Chuck Barris had to kill someone in Ireland...

Jeffrey Mark said...

What a shock! I'm very sad to hear the news. I was 12 when I first heard Dave on the airwaves of KFRC in San Francisco where I grew up in the '60s. He was my favorite jock on the air and I listened to him every day. His "Diamond Mine" bits were very cool. He would take the listener to different depths of the mine over the course of his show...he would say, level number one, level number two and so on in the Diamond Mine. I had a chance to talk with him some years ago when he was doing the overnights at KFI. He will be sadly missed.

Victor Velasco said...

This is very sad news. I listened to KFRC all the time; he was one of the greats; even the sounder for dropping another level in the Diamond mine was something I looked forward to. RIP, Dave

RCP said...

I can't say I was familiar with Dave Diamond, but what a nice tribute.

What exactly was the role of The Dating Game chaperone? Did she (given the era, I'm assuming it was a mature woman chaperoning Yvonne) sit behind them on the plane to Ireland? Dine at the next table within earshot? Clear her throat if a kiss went on too long? Or maybe play the diplomat if a couple didn't hit it off?

Dan in Palm Springs said...

One of the "610 Men" who made KFRC the powerhouse that it was. You didn't want to tune out because you might miss something. A great personality, and sadly, as we are seeing more and more as the vets of the golden age of Top 40 radio leave us, his talents only live on through the hours and hours of taped air checks. RIP Dave, and thanks for the evening of entertainment while I should have been doing homework.

Tom Betss said...

I remember cruising the SF Valley on Wednesday and we'get home around 11 p.m. we'd always list to Dave and the Diamond Mine. He played music you just couldn'y listen to during the day and many of us still didn't have FM radios. His Psychodelic music ad stories created whole new worlds without have to use drugs or pills. One of my favorite DJ's I guess he Broke on Through to the other side. RIP Dave and thanks fro the memories.

Eric in Arizona said...

Dave taught Communications at Mornigside College in the 90's. I had several classes with him and many times he and his students met for pizza at a local spot. He was certainly one of the most interesting people I've ever met. He was smart and outrageously funny and quick as a whip, while at the same time being dead serious and professional when it cam to his work.

Thank you Dave for all you taught me about academics and life. RIP.

Paul Duca said...

An article on MeTV references you and this story