Silly Thing #3

Mirth on Memory Lane

by Kerry Peace (PD, DJ 1979-1981)

Kerry
The author in his natural habitat.

Friends, I had some memorable experiences in my WIDB days, triumphs and tragedies alike.  The day Slaga handed over the keys to the Program Directorship embodies the former, while the night John Lennon was killed is over-qualified for the latter.

But it’s the silly things I remember best. They just seemed to be in the air at WIDB, ready to ignite at a moment’s notice.  Some return in a flash as indelible images (“JOEY RAMONE ATE THIS BREAD!!!”) and some inspire a more substantial reminiscence.  Below is one of a handful of my favorite silly WIDB episodes.  Fair warning: I don’t swear to recalling events exactly as they happened, etc, disclaimer, fog of war, blah-blah, woof-woof…

SILLY THING #3: TRAPPED LIKE CARELESS RATS

Springtime, 1981.  Its Easter break, but we’ve got a staff, so we’re on the air.  Wright One is deserted and locked up tight except for the WIDB studios.

Driving to the station one day, I notice dark sky approaching.  Heading east on Grand Avenue, I catch something moving out of the corner of my right eye.  I turn to look, and the wind is blowing a 55-gallon steel barrel sideways across the field north of Schneider Tower almost as fast as my car is moving. Once at the station, I regale Randy Lynch, John Grayson and Cyril Radwin with my sighting and we all agree that some serious weather is on the way.  Then a decision is made to go up the inside stairway of Wright One to the building foyer so we can, you know, “Get a good look.”

So let’s review quickly, shall we?  We have the Program Director (Mr. Peace), Music Director (Mr. Lynch), the Chief Engineer (Mr. Grayson) and the News Director (Mr. Radwin), all veteran department heads, all seniors about 60 days from entering the real world, marching up the stairs to a 6’ x 8’ glass enclosure to watch a violent storm blow through.  In Tornado Alley.  During tornado season.  Genius convention.

grayson                                      randy

           Chief Genius Grayson                                               Genius Director Lynch

We get up to the foyer and there’s a great view of the gloomy greenish-grey scene, trees waving and bending, cats and dogs lining up to fall from the sky.  We point out this particularly volatile gust of wind and that ominous streak of lightning.  Chances are good I let fly with a few cries of “Auntie Em! Auntie Em!”  All great fun.  When various bits of plant life begin blowing into the windows with no small amount of force, reason arrives and we figure it’s time to head back down to the relative safety of the basement.  Someone turns to open the door leading downstairs and…it’s locked.  It had locked behind us when we entered the foyer.

Just a smidge of panic sets in as all three doors (the one downstairs, the one into the dorm and the one leading outside) are tried over and over to no effect.  We were quite trapped.  I don’t think anyone seriously feared for their lives, but the desire to leave the glass box did take on a more desperate tone.  Vandalism began to look like our only savior and in short time we discovered that the big picture window in the foyer was not glass, but plexi-glass.  Some pushing and banging ensued and before long it was dislodged from its frame.  We squeezed out of the foyer, scurried around to the station entrance and ran inside, laughing at our adventure and no doubt feeling relieved that no one would ever find out how stupidly careless we had been.

Silly Thing #2

Mirth on Memory Lane

by Kerry Peace (PD, DJ 1979-1981)

Kerry
The author in his natural habitat.

Friends, I had some memorable experiences in my WIDB days, triumphs and tragedies alike.  The day Slaga handed over the keys to the Program Directorship embodies the former, while the night John Lennon was killed is over-qualified for the latter.

But it’s the silly things I remember best. They just seemed to be in the air at WIDB, ready to ignite at a moment’s notice.  Some return in a flash as indelible images (“JOEY RAMONE ATE THIS BREAD!!!”) and some inspire a more substantial reminiscence.  Below is one of a handful of my favorite silly WIDB episodes.  Fair warning: I don’t swear to recalling events exactly as they happened, etc, disclaimer, fog of war, blah-blah, woof-woof…

SILLY THING #2: THE BRIGGSMAN COMETH

 briggs-kerry-dago
L-R “Uncle Briggs” Gordon, Kerry Peace, Don D’agostino.

Not sure how much mere words can add to the picture above. Briggs Gordon worked at WSIL-TV from the mid ‘70s into the ‘80s.  He did sports and, of infinitely more interest to silly college students, hosted an afternoon children’s show, The Funny Company, as the fictitious old-timer “Uncle Briggs.”  Many of us watched him religiously, cheering the appearance of Banana Man or Sally Safety, and reveling in the airing of Three Stooges shorts and Deputy Dawg cartoons.  I remember experiencing profound cosmic joy (and more than a tingle of silly) upon opening an issue of Rolling Stone one day to see a full-page color picture of Bob Dylan putting on Briggs’ infamous “cartoon eyes.”

Imagine then, the surprise, delight and outright head-scratching at the station one night, when Gordon showed up out of nowhere in full “Uncle Briggs” get-up.  He wasn’t there long, didn’t have much to say and turned down an offer to go on-air.  Just passin’ through, I suppose.  He did pose for a picture though, and as you can see by the grins plastered on the faces of Don D’Agostino and myself, it was akin to being photographed with a Pope.  A very, very silly Pope.  Sadly, Briggs Gordon died way too young in 1987.  “Yessir, we’re goin’ to Sesser!”

cartooneyes
R.I.P. Briggs Gordon

Silly Thing #1

Mirth on Memory Lane

by Kerry Peace (PD, DJ 1979-1981)

Kerry
The author in his natural habitat.

Friends, I had some memorable experiences in my WIDB days, triumphs and tragedies alike.  The day Slaga handed over the keys to the Program Directorship embodies the former, while the night John Lennon was killed is over-qualified for the latter.

But it’s the silly things I remember best. They just seemed to be in the air at WIDB, ready to ignite at a moment’s notice.  Some return in a flash as indelible images (“JOEY RAMONE ATE THIS BREAD!!!”) and some inspire a more substantial reminiscence.  Below is one of a handful of my favorite silly WIDB episodes.  Fair warning: I don’t swear to recalling events exactly as they happened, etc, disclaimer, fog of war, blah-blah, woof-woof…

SILLY THING #1: MESSIN’ WIT’ YO’ MIND

Its summer semester 1980 and Wright One is having air conditioning installed, so the studio has taken up temporary residence in the Student Center. Just the on-air studio, mind you; sales, administration, engineering and, most importantly for this story, production, remain In Da Basement.

Around eight o’clock at night, a small gaggle of ‘IDBers are hanging out at Wright One.  Memory doesn’t serve everyone who was there, but Chief Engineer Kent Lewin was definitely among them.  Kent was a rock of seriousness and smarts at WIDB; all business, all the time and the absolute foundation upon which the rest of us merrily went about our station business.

I’m also thinking Production Director Tim Cawley was present, for two reasons: Firstly, the man is natural born silly. When first I met Timmo, at a WIDB recruiting event in 1979, he wore a plastic helmet adorned with WIDB sticker and rotating red light, and a t-shirt that said “RADIO WHORE.” Secondly, he was perhaps the only other person at the station besides Kent familiar with the fundamentals of electronic mischief that were about to unfold.  The more I think about it, because Kent = seriousness and Timmo = silliness, the latter almost had to have instigated the proceedings.

kent                                                   TCawley 

    Seriously Kent Lewin                                                      Tim Cawley, Radio Whore           

Anyhoo…Kent was there actually working while the rest of us milled about, talking and listening to ‘IDB DJ Roy Millonzi do an airshift from the Student Center. Suddenly, for no other reason than we could, a decision was made to mess with young Roy’s head.

Because the on-air studio headphone mix fed over to Wright One, then back to the Student Center, before reaching the DJ’s ears, it was ripe for manipulation.  Kent had a mischievous gleam in his eyes as he routed the studio’s headphone mix through one of our state-of-the-art TEAC tape decks before sending it back to the studio (no doubt patching it into B).  The decks were handily equipped with the ability to adjust speed and pitch on the fly and the next time Roy cracked open the mic, Kent began twirling the pitch-control knob hither and yon, causing the sounds fed into the studio headphones, and only the sounds fed into the studio headphones, to alternately speeduprealfast or s-l-o-w, w-a-y, d-o-w-n.

roy-studio_onair
Roy Millonzi: not prepared for the silly

Despite being one of the station’s ace DJs, Roy was no match for what was coming out of the headphones.  Halfway through his first sentence, he paused for a moment, the last syllable reverberating into an Alvin The Chipmunk register.  He started up again, but fell silent for several seconds as his voice dissolved in muddy frequencies spilling down a drain.  At last he made a tentative attempt to say just one word and Kent sent it spiraling crazily back to his ears. Roy dumped out of the stop-set and went back to music.

Seconds later, the engineering phone line lit up, Kent answering calmly on speaker.  Roy was apoplectic. “Kent…I don’t know what’s going on…the sound…the headphones…speeding up and slowing down!”  While we doubled over in stifled laughter, Kent replied with the verbal equivalent of a poker face, conveying concern, but telling Roy he had no clue as to what could possibly be causing such a thing. When the call was finished, we exploded in howls and tears.

Maybe it was because we felt bad for taking delight in a fellow DJ’s confusion, or maybe the silly just dissipated, but by the time he attempted his next stop-set, the pitch-control was left untouched. I don’t know that the trick was ever tried on anyone else that summer or if Roy was ever let in on the joke, but it was hands-down some Class A Silly from the annals of WIDB.