A little background.
Over the previous summer, my first General Manager at KSTP, Scott Meier, had left. He eventually wound in New York, where he started WFAN, the first station in the wave of all-sportstalk stations that have swept the nation. For this, he may still be held accountable.
But I digress.
We went without a GM for the better part of four months. Stuck out in Maplewood on Highway 61, far from corporate, we might as well have not existed. The checks showed up every two weeks, and we pretty much did what we did best; produce and host talk shows.
We got the best ratings the station had had as a talk station, from a 2.2 share when I’d started 13 months earlier to a 4.0 in our latest book. We were like a radio Lord of the Flies, stuck in our claustrophobic little bunker in the ‘burbs, like we were putting something over on The Man.
It couldn’t last, naturally.
In mid-October, Hubbard Broadasting sent us a new GM and Program Director, Pervy LeDouchebag [*]. Mr. LeDouchebag had a long pedigree in radio – as an alcoholic with a long history of legendary blackouts.
To make a long ordeal short, Pervy made his presence felt. On the first day on the job, while talking with the sales manager, he saw one of our news reporters – a very attractive strawberry blonde who was also a very orthodox ultrafeminist, and fairly yelled “Jeezus Christ, look at the t__s on that one!”. A few moments later, while giving dictation to our receptionist, he apparently made rather forward proposal. In his first day, he started on his way toward two of the (it was later related) seven sexual harassment suits that eventually helped get him shown to the door.
But that was the future.
Pervy was also a very “hands-on” program director. One day in late November, we used “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry for a bumper. Mr. LeDouchebag ran into the control room, face purple with rage. “Get that *****mn song off the air! It says “Play that Fu****g Music…”
The problem was not that he was a crappy manager. Most general managers in radio are awful (and no, my current GM John Hunt at the Patriot isn’t one of them).
So it was Monday, January 12, 1987. The “Mitch Berg Show” had been going great. I felt it was time for things to move to the next level. I walked into Mr. LeDouchebag’s office.
“Mr. LeDouchebag”, I started, “my show’s been going well. I’m wondering – since there’s nothing going on on Sunday mornings, I was wondering if I could take that 2 to 4 AM slot, too…?”
LeDouchebag looked at me, his dead, soulless eyes peering through the leathery mask of his face. “It all depends on what Don wants. Your job is to make Don sound good. Clear it with him!”.
No problem, I thought as I walked into the talk studio for the production meeting.
“Don?”, I asked, “Remember how we’ve been talking about me taking Sunday mornings? Pervy says it’s up to you. What to you say”.
Dave, my co-producer, shook his head and chuckled. Don laughed too – one of the laughs you heard less often from him back then, his sarcastic titter. “I don’t think that’s going to be an issue”.
Dave smiled awkwardly at Don. “Ummmmm…”, he started, “Don’s leaving.
I think I did a spit-take.
“I’m going to WMAQ. I gave my notice today.” Dave shook his head, resignedly.
“I just can’t stand working with LeDouchebag”, he said, laughing. “It’s too good a deal to pass up”.
The production meeting was strained. I’d never worked with a lame duck before; it was strange.
The show started at three, and Don made the announcement. The control room, usually buzzing with energy, seemed drained.
We all had a bad feeling about things.
[*] Not his real name. I changed the name, because I’d rather pull fewer punches about his record. Whoever he was.