I didn’t need an alarm to wake up the morning after the first “Mitch Berg Show”.
I drove out to the station a little early, to bask in a little of the reflected glory of my morning’s work.
I walked in. Janice, the receptionist – a recent college grad who was not a Jersey Girl, but could have been – was reading a magazine behind the desk.
Not a word.
I turned and walked over to General Manager Scott Meier’s office. He was reading the paper.
“Hey, Scott. Catch the show last night?”
“Uh, sorry, Mitch. Wasn’t up at 2AM. How’d it go?”
Guh. “Really, really well!”
“Great!” And it was back to the paper.
I walked through the door to my little desk.
Sportscaster Bruce Gordon walked by. “Heeeeey, Mitch – how was the big debut?”
“Great! Didja catch it?”
Bruce chuckled. “It was 2AM!”.
I finished a few bookings for Vogel, and walked into the studio to run the board for the Michael Jackson show, then off to meet with Don.
“So, Mr. BAAAAAAAAAGH!”, Don bellowed (in a John Houseman voice, a la Paper Chase), “I got up at Two A M to listen to your debut last night!”
“Yes! And…” he said, still in the Houseman character, “it wasn’t bad!”
“But if you say ‘in my opinion‘ one more time, I am going to strangle you!” I rolled my eyes. Before the show, Don had told me that if I were saying anything potentially actionable, to prefix it with “in my opinion” to set it up properly. I had said it before everything but the weather forecast, if I remember the tape correctly.
Dave Elvin spoke up. “Yeah, that got a little…repetitive. But it sounded good. I listened to the first ten minutes or so…”
And then it was on to other business. Don was sick of the show’s theme song – the standard, generic, ABC Talk Radio generic theme that had started my show that morning. We needed a new one.
“How about we just have the audience send ’em in?” said Dave.
Vogel chortled. “Oh, my God”, he giggled, “This is going to be fun”.
We planned the rest of the show, and were done by two – a whole hour early. “Mistah BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!”, Don yelled at the end. back in the Houseman character, “I am HUNGRY. And in celebration of that fact and your first show, here’s $20. Go to White Castle and get me…”
I drove down to the White Bear Avenue White Castle and brought back sliders, scabs and cokes for Don, Dave, Gordo, MacDougall and I. I may have been a talk show host, but I was still the most junior guy in the room by a couple of years.
The show started an hour later. I was screening calls.
I was at the point, by this time, when Dave Elvin and I alternated on the control board. But Dave was always vastly better at it – I was always a lousy boardop. And screening was a lot of fun.
There were – and are – four types of callers in talk radio:
- Boring callers. “Hi, Don, what’s up? Yeah, like, I agree”. Oh. You do. Thanks. Next!. The ideal was to try to screen out the dull, repetitive callers.
- Great callers – the kinds of callers that would make you guffaw, or rock you on your heels with their point, and had it in them to set the show on fire, or at least add some energy to the proceedings.
- Insane callers – Some insane callers were pure death for a show. We were plagued with a couple of older-sounding, deranged-sounding people who called all the time (literally, every single day) yelling “We are not of this world! We are of the infinite world!. Occasionally, screeners put them through to air – which was a bit jarring, and lousy radio. On the other hand, we had one fella – apparently deranged by years of lousy Twins teams. Listening to Frank Quilici, who had a habit of saing “Well, Doggonnit…” when he spoke, had gotten to the poor fella. He’s call, slip past the screener by telling a likely story, and slip onto the air. He’d start his conversation normally, and then, while the host was responding, bellow “DOGGONIT!” in a raspy, nasal yelp, and hang up. Don Vogel and Geoff Charles loved the guy; Mike Edwards hated him; Joe Soucheray was responsible, apparently, for him.
- Average callers – we’d let them on in order, more or less (ladies first – more for ratings than out of manners); we let ’em on so that people wouldn’t feel intimidated to call.
There was one caller, a guy who rang in about once a week or so. We called him the “Phantom Caller” – he’d ring in with these extremely funny, tightly-written little thirty-second bits – he’d call, do the bit, and hang up before Don could get in a word edgewise. Don didn’t even have to tell me “Get him on, every time he calls” – but he did, just to be safe. He was the greatest caller of them all – but there were a bunch of them that were on my internal shortlist; if I was the doorman at an ethereal Studio 54, they were the beautiful people who went straight to the head of the line in front of everyone.
Except for people who wanted to rave about this morning’s “Mitch Berg Show”, of course.