Friday, June 06, 2008

WKRP in Cincinnati

I flipped on the TV tonight and WKRP in Cincinnati is on. I loved this show. It's probably one of the reasons I went into radio. And, after I worked in radio I learned that WKRP was a beautiful example of what it was like to work in broadcasting. Dr. Johnny Fever is found across the country, as are Venus Flytrap, Herb Tarlek and Les Nessman. You just hope, hope, hope there's an Andy Travis where you work.

I worked at one place where it was on the log to call the morning guy to wake him up for his shift. One morning at 5:38, I placed the call, and John (his real name - maybe Johnny Fever was patterned after him), who had been to a Rolling Stones concert the night before and probably indulged in - well - indulged, fell asleep holding the phone. So, picture me sitting in the studio, screaming into the receiver, hoping I would get his attention. This was before the days of cell phones, so that was my only option.

Well, John's first break was at 6:08 because we were doing national news until then from the network. At 6:07 he would arrive on his bicycle (license lost due to indulging at other times). This morning when 6:08 rolled around I did the break, hoping he would show up soon. At 6:25 the program director called, wanting to know why I - the least experienced person on staff was doing the highest listenership timeslot. I explained and he got up, drove over to John's house and pounded on the door until his wife answered. Then the program director drove John to work. It was my first time doing Morning Drive. Fortunately, nothing horrible happened.

John arrived unshaven, unkempt and unruffled. He reeked of... well, I don't even know what he reeked of... but it wasn't pleasant. He did his usual morning routine of sucking down coffee, when his mouth wasn't wrapped around a cigarette. And, turned on the mic, and sounded fabulous. I wonder where he is these days. That was a long time ago.

When I flipped on the TV tonight, it was one of my favorite episodes - you know the one - "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly." And it was followed with my most favorite one of all time - "Ferryman, Ferryman he's the man with a plot, he's the man with a plan." Nice little jog down memory lane.

I also remember going with a friend to see Gary Sandy, who played WKRP program director Andy Travis, at an appearance in Lexington, Kentucky, when the show was at its height. I don't remember the specifics, but I remember the kiss.

We were in a throng of people in a large auditorium and he was saying hello and shaking hands with people and when he got to me I was shaking his hand and he leaned in toward me and gave me a little peck on the lips. He looked at me and at my friend and said, "My goodness, there are sure some pretty women in Kentucky."

I'm guessing he repeated that whenever he was, with the appropriate substitutions, and that he either kissed every 32nd woman, and/or we looked like the only ones that were over 18. Regardless, I didn't take it to be anything too personal. Good thing, because Mr. Sandy continued to make his way through the crowd, shaking hands as he went - and I was never again to see him. But, it is a nice memory. My friend was mighty jealous of the kiss, although, frankly, it barely qualified as such.

I'm sure that sort of thing would not happen today. Rather a pity. Someone could be writing on their equivalent of a blog - whatever that will be then - and talking about their unexpected kiss.
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