Thursday, December 09, 2010

How Did I Get Here?

When I was a kid, St. Louis was the big city. It is where my cousins have lived their entire lives. My mother and father honeymooned here at Sportman's park. There was shooting that night in the ballpark. Yikes.When we would drive here from Ava or East Moline, my mother would invariably miss the exit on the "freeway" and then panic would ensue. Especially if my grandmother was in the car with us. "We're going to get killed on this highway, sis." That's when I would lean over into the front seat and casually explain to go to the next exit, turn left, then left again, and we'd be heading the opposite way. One time that happened and when my mom got to the next exit, then followed my instructions on getting back on the highway, she would turn left instead of right, not thinking that we were coming from the...opposite...way. My love affair with KSHE began in 1973 on one of my first road trips alone. I stayed with my cousins and they had a station that played "Cowgirl in the Sand" by Neil Young. Touchdown! I started getting serious about my love for radio at 16. My sister in law at the time introduced me to someone who taught at The Academy of Radio and Television in Bettendorf Iowa. I walked in with her, got an audition, passed it and then realized after two months I couldn't afford it on my meager restaurant salary. 3 years after that I was enrolled and on a fast track to getting in the business six months later at KFMH in Muscatine Iowa, a station that had no playlist. Fast forward to me taking the afternoon job at KSHE in 1985. Now, I'm in the newspaper business and still residing in Kirkwood (11 miles southwest of downtown). I have thought many times that life evens itself out. I have been truly blessed with a career that lasted 33 years and not one day was spent working. And I have lived in a city that used to fill me with awe when I was a kid. I am also sad that many of my relatives have departed this Earth early in my life. I lost my dad at 21, my mother at 32 and my dear brother at 37. God has provided me a great life but, I haven't had many of the previous generation around long enough to enjoy it. That's OK. I think that's the way it sometimes works out, and looking back on all of this wonderful (and sometimes tragic) roller coaster of a ride, I still the hell did I get here?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Where were you?

I was having a conversation today at work with someone who was not even alive when John Lennon was murdered. Apparently, he was listening to the radio this morning and was curious about the significance of Lennon's murder. I tried to explain to him that in my generation, the two "where were you" moments happened on November 22nd 1963 and on December 8th, 1980. I would throw 9/11 in there (as it was HIS where were you moment) but that happened so much later in my life. Maybe I was used to shocking news but even though 9/11 was a horrific act carried out by cowards, it didn't effect me like the two previous incidents.
John Bonham of Led Zeppelin died in September of 1980 right when the band was getting ready to go out on tour. In early December, Robert Plant announced that the band was done. No more Led Zep. I was doing the 6pm-10pm shift at KY 102 at that time. Since Led Zep was done, we activated our own tribute by playing Led Zeppelin's complete catalog from A-Z.
I had just finished my shift. It was pretty unmemorable. I think a caller bitched about the Zeppelin tribute and we had a nice discussion. It was very cold out that night. I know that because I was driving my 72 VW bug with a marginal (non existent) heater. I lived not far from the station on Belleview in Kansas City which was one of the main thoroughfares in the city. I got home in about ten minutes and waiting for me there was someone who I had fallen madly in love with very quickly. Bree has been the subject of a couple of previous posts. She has turned out to be one of my true loves in the very short time we spent together. We were inseparable at this time. Since I worked the night shift, I ate at very odd times. Bree had called earlier and wondered what I wanted to eat for dinner, I told her and she prepared a feast with a big steak and a baked potato to be ready at about 10:15. I got home, kissed her, took off my coat and went outside because the dog we had got together was getting ready to do his doody. We got the dog a couple of days before and I held a "dog naming" contest on the air. ("Feedback" was the winner and the name so suited the dog.) While I was standing outside waiting for the mutt to do his duty, someone horrible must've happened because when I went back into the house, Bree was crying. What the heck? There was a football game on between the Dolphins and the Patriots and I didn't think she was into football all that much."What's wrong?" I asked. Through the sobs and tears she blurted out "John Lennon's been shot." "WHAT?" I said. And it was just about that time that Howard Cosell announced to the world..."an unspeakable tragedy has just been confirmed by abc news...". I don't think I heard what he said next. The first thing I did was call the KY hotline. It was answered by the Beatle expert at the station, Jon Hart. "I just heard" he said and he wondered if we should continue the Led Zeppelin countdown. "Do what you think is right." Not waiting on anybody, he ditched the programming and we played Beatles/Lennon music for days. It was the correct call. The next night was the most difficult show I've ever done. I couldn't stop crying. I was pro, dammit, but this was different. I grew up with the Beatles, they have composed the soundtrack of my life. I almost felt like John was my big brother and now my "big brother" was dead. Not just dead but gunned down, cold blooded in front of the place he called home in front of his wife by a "fan". A fan? How could this despicable piece of shit be a fan? The facts were coming to light at a staggering pace. Remember, this was 1980, no internet, no instant news. While doing my show the following night, I received a phone call from the pastor at the All Souls Unitarian church not far from the plaza. "Would you be interested in saying a few words in John's memory tomorrow? We are having a candle light vigil at the church. It would be like delivering a eulogy." He said. Not quite really knowing what I was getting into, I agreed. I didn't own a suit and had very few nice clothes. (Hey, I was a "DJ", what did you expect?) So Bree and I ravaged through my closet and I came up with what is pictured here. I don't think anyone really cared what I was dressed in. I had all my notes on index cards about what I wanted to say. When we arrived at the church, it was a standing room only crowd, it was so crowded in there, I could hardly breathe. On a side note, when we walked in, everyone turned around to see us. I say see us, but in reality it was her that everyone wanted to see. She was like that, a "head turner" as my mom called her. As we walked up to the podium, Bree turned to me and said..."do you really need those notes? You should go up there and speak from the heart and I think you'll be surprised at how well you will do." I told her she was nuts and she just smiled and kissed me on the cheek. I threw away the notes and did 40 minutes from the heart. It may have been one of my best speeches ever. I know it sounds strange and it felt strange too. I was filled with things to say and they kept popping into my head, point after point. It wasn't me talking. I finished the speech to a standing ovation and Bree looking up at me with an incredible sparkle in her eye. I met Yoko many years later and told her the story. "John was with you," she said. When she said that, I felt an incredible rush and just about kissed her. I met Yoko in her hotel room at the Chesterfield Doubletree Inn in 1987. She was travelling around the country displaying John's artwork and the person who ran the gallery knew of my affection for the Beatles because I did a segment on KSHE everyday at 4pm called "The Afternoon Beatles". That's where I would play some tunes and actualities from them. She was a fan and gave me first rites to Yoko. I found her to be an incredibly sweet, charming and completely devoid of the "bitch' label that was attached to her. "John fell out of love with the Beatles and in love with me. Why is that so hard for people to understand?" Why indeed? She sent me a Christmas card every year at the station until I left in 1998. I wonder if she is still sending the cards? Bree was killed in a car accident in 1995 as she moved to California and married her first love not long after we split 1981. We still have a mutual friend who has her kids as Facebook friends. They are beautiful.

You still fill up my senses.
And I still miss you.

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