Quite often I think about how in this day and age of nasty, spiteful broadcasters who go out of their way to make their audiernce feel bad about themselves for no reason I can fondly think back to The Good Ol' 1980's and wish things hadn't gone as bad as it right now. It was in that era that I really started looking for alternative broadcasting that didn't border on the aggressive hard sell of the station to the listeners. There was WFUV for awhile, WNYU and then WBAI on occasion. But one station really stuck out in my mind that made my darkness moments seem a lot clearer - WCWP 88.1 FM. A college station out of Long Island University in Greenvale, New York.
I first tuned in to the station one night simply by accident out of boredom circa the tail end of 1979 and into 1980. A radio comedy show was on the air called Post Serial that really started it for me. Tim Ernandes and Mike Maimone along with a lot of other wacky zanies made me laugh harder than I could ever imagine. I credit them for giving me something to enjoy more than anyone else. They along with others allowed me the free will to believe I could do great things if I wanted to and let me be myself.
There was lots of interesting programming back then in the later years including Midnight Progressive to Shakedown Street with Mike Hendryx to The Game Show with Roy Currlin. I believe it was the vast array of ecletic variety that kept me coming back for more. And I usually did. Below are some highlights I remember from those years as a loyal listener in no particular order.
Beatletraxs with Tony Traguardo and Kathy Van Tassell - This show became part of my regular radio diet for many years with two of the smartest, intellectual, goofiest jocks I ever had the pleasure to talk with and getting on those Beatles requests. A terrific team to rival that of any duo working today. And when Tony did his solo version of the show in addition to another show knows as One More Saturday Night. He went out of his way to be very cordial and nice to me and that has stuck with me for a very long time.Then a few months later he just up and dissapeared without explanation and I was very angry at him at the time. Later I was able to get in contact with him through another almnus and Tony pretty much explained his departure to me. We've been friends ever since.
Dan Cox's Radio Show on The Rock and Roll Weekend - Though I wasn't a big fan of Heavy Metal as some of the weekenders were. I appreciated that Dan was there to keep the tunes pumping. If it's anything that Dan was it was for his uncompromising honesty on the air. I recall that there was a promo for a night club that had an Over 18 limit and he bluntly told the audience that if he ever caught anyone underaged going there he would tear their tonsils out. After all, this club served Hard Liquor and with young teens always trying to prove how grown up they were in the picture. that's a deadly combination in itself. Then there was the night on a Post Serial show where I wanted to do a bit in The Talent Segment and he lashed out without realizing who I really was. This of course was due to the fact that at the time I was starting to gain a small appreciative fan base of my own and all the other listeners were jealous of my good fortune and rightfully so. I really couldn't blame them.
I was originally going to let the mattter slide but when I told my then adoptive soul sister Marybeth Lynch (God bless her soul) she was pretty miffed that a broadcaster would come down on a listener like Dan did and she told me to write and complain to Management about it which I did. Swiftly the misunderstanding was rectified with a call from Dan who apologized for the slip up. This little lesson from Mary made me realize that as a listener of their station and other stations to follow that I had to excerise my right as a participator more often.
The Comedy Fix with Steve Morris and Chris Frohne : These two together more fun than a barrel of monkeys with their musical tastes and funny humor. There was a funny segment of bits they did called Just A Thought which had a father and son sitting over by The Breakfast nook (Milk?) where Dad (Steve) tried to teach the little kid (Chris) some kind of life lesson. (Daddy. Why are my ears so big and my eyes so far apart?) The kid would then do something rude and obnoxious and they'd fall over laughing.
Although there were times when the shows weren't up to par. I more or less pointed it out to them under no uncertain terms. It wasn't to give them a hard time about the program but it was more out of concern for their well being. After all if you're not at your 100% best it begins to show in your activities. I certainly didn't expect perfection from them but a little dose of the truth every now and then helps to strengthen what is already there. Steve was the easier of the two to get along with because he was laid back whereas Chris was something of a stuffed shirt. He was friendly enough but I could tell there was an aura of aloofness within him. Regardless when the shows were good, they were better than good. They were excellent.
The Homecoming Weekends - It was a calvelcade of excitement hearing all the people who were on the air before at CW Post Campus. These were fun and enjoyable for me as I was witnessing The History of WCWP through their eyes and voices. There were broadcasters who were comfortable with their current positions, and others who made every effort to rub in how successful they were and then there were the jaded individuals who felt that the broadcasting business had dealt them a raw deal. Among the more prominent people who come to mind include Bruce Leonard who has a bundle of nervous energy surrounding him. Quick with a joke fast and furious he could pass for Gary Stevens' descendent any day. Still he's a very nice guy beneath that veneer of insanity.
I feel for the underdogs who have to go through the rigamorole that the industry gives them. Kevin Jeffreys comes to mind when I think of some of those reunion stints. Sounding like he came out of The School of Hard Knocks he had a sort of deep rooted wisdom about him albeit a very warped version of it. He told "Slice Of Life" stories that are stranger than fiction. And I can attest to that from my own stories as well. Undoubtably the most human among the people I call loyal friend and next of kin.
Late into The 90's I ended my affair with WCWP not because I didn't listen to it enough but because the new adminstration at LIU had become very stingy to a great degree. The other reason was a lot of the later deejays didn't exhibit the potential to rise to the challenge of being on the air and interacting with an audience that by this time had become more disillusioned by Radio than before.. It had become very distant and the spark that kept it alive was being diminished by people who didn't know what they were doing or just really didn't care either way what happened.
Still I can look back on those days as very good ones and I'll never forget any of it. To me a radio station has to do more than just spin those tunes. It has be on the level of great art and have personalities that believe in what they are doing and not just to do it for a buck. It is the last measure of devotion when guys like Tony Traguardo and Mike Hendryx can put aside their own problems to help somebody else. When the brunt of the death of another AM station became too much to bear for me, It was Mike who came to my rescue and was there for me. Years later that same devotion was returned back when I helped him through a crisis more personal than my own.
So here's to WCWP 88.1FM and the jocks who made it what it stood for. I am privileged to still know those who thought of me as one of them. That's the highest compliment that a station can give to a listener bar none. And it is to Bill Mozer, former program director for the station that made it possible.
Good news! Mike Schanzer got in touch with me recently. Had forgotten where you had been for the past six months. Glad you reminded me. Write soon, brother.