Reflections of 30 years in radio and living here

Hi there,

Thirty years ago in November of 1988, I left the comfort of  Holmdel, New Jersey which at the time was ranked in the top 20 of communities in the entire country where people wanted to live.  Good employment opportunities with several big name companies having headquarters there, parks, family friendly, yadda yadda yadda.  You get the idea.  I came here to start my radio career  for WIPS and WXTY in Ticonderoga.  You know why?  That’s how you did it back then.  Unless family members owned the radio stations or you were a Mozart like prodigy getting a full time on air job in Monmouth and Ocean counties was next to impossible.  You had to go to some small town radio station where you could develop your on air skills and personality, make mistakes and not have to worry about being fired when you made them.  That first couple of years were what starting on the ground floor in a career is supposed to be.  Brutal!  My take home pay after taxes was $350.00 every two weeks.  Working 6 to 7 days a week was the norm and at times still is today.  Holidays? You worked them all.  Radio doesn’t take days off.  It didn’t help that at the time of my arrival the beloved NY State Legislature came out with a report the size of a New York City boroughs’ phone book called, “The Adirondacks in the 21st Century.”   Having to deal with the Adirondack Park Agency is tough enough for anyone living it in, but what were they thinking in Albany?  Not the most brilliant idea ever came up with by state government.  I saw protests, organizations threatening succession and wanting to join Vermont, the local office of the Plattsburgh paper have flaming arrows shot into their door on more than one occasion. Kind of like now in this country. (Insert laugh track here)  Having not switched over my Chevy Cavaliers’ plates to NY from NJ right away didn’t go over well on more than one occasion. Not a great time to be a transplant from one of the places where the locals were placing the blame for the problems. What kept me from quitting and going back to running the board at an AM station in Howell part time was my co-workers.  Most of us were in our early 20’s and we had a good thing going on.  We did some great radio then, because we thought it was good radio.  We didn’t understand why it worked and was good radio, we just did it.  When I set out on this journey 30 years ago, my original goal from a professional stand point was to be in a top 20 major market splitting time between on-air and management side in 7 to 10 years.  Personally, I thought I would have had a girlfriend in college, still dating after graduation and both of us starting careers and by the time we hit 25 or 26 either break up and move on or buy the ring and then live happily ever after.  Neither of those things happened.  So what have I learned these past three decades?  Radio is hard.  Even harder today. Nothing like I thought it would be when I graduated college.   For all the good things that technology has brought, the downside has leveled the scale.  Automation, satellite programming that matches your stations format and the obsession with voice-tracking which is a unfortunate necessary evil has made it even harder for the college or media school grad to get that first break like I did.  Most radio stations don’t have night time or overnight talent anymore.  It’s harder to make people laugh.  I remember doing a bit with the morning show one Friday morning in that first two years where I made fun of myself and my lack of athletic talent.  Within 2 minutes, a listener calls up goes off on some crazed obscenity laced diatribe and brands me a racist for what I said and demanded I be fired and an on air apology.  Next morning I’m on air and the first time I open up the microphone, as soon as I shut it off that same person called and goes off on me again, asking why wasn’t I fired.  I told him it was my first offense and was let off with a stern warning. Not good enough for him though.  Vindication for me came 2 months later when a movie starring Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes came out with the same title of what I said on the air that day.   People are more easily offended and social media sites have made it easier to vent that anger.  You walk on eggshells, hot coals, and broken glass every time that mic light switches on. One more radio thing.  I would love to go back to Monmouth and Ocean Counties and fill in on one of the radio stations there for a day or two just to see if anyone remembers me.  Crazy dream, I know.  There have also been many great things these past thirty years of living here.  Leading off is having met some amazing people whom I’m lucky to have as friends, some which are no longer with us. There is not enough space in this entry to mention all of you by name.  You know how I feel about you.  I just don’t get to say it enough to you in person.  There are some things that I still haven’t done in the 30 years that I need to get around to doing.  I haven’t walked through either the Chapman Historical Museum or Hyde Collection.  Haven’t eaten a meal at Massie’s Restaurant in South Glens Falls.  Three golf courses I should have played by now but haven’t: Schroon Lake, Battenkill in Greenwich, and Bend of the River in Lake Luzerne.  30 years ago if you had told me that I would have gotten up on stage and done amateur stand up comedy, I would have laughed at you.  Eye contact is still and has always been an issue with me.  Sports play by play.  I didn’t think I could do it.  I just wanted to be a irreverent, satirical morning or afternoon drive air talent with management aspirations.  Not only have I thrived doing it, but at one point ESPN had me on a list of potential talents to do college football or basketball games.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  One more thing, if I decide to celebrate these thirty years I’ll head to one of the first places Dan Miner introduced me to when I moved up here.  The Dog Shack in Hudson Falls.  The other place would have been Lou’s Pizza which was where the NBT bank is now across the from Civic Center/Cool Insuring Arena.  Best square slice of pizza anywhere.

Leccese out.

 

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