Saturday 01 Oct 2016

Radio Daze
Wendy Vega

If you don’t count folding underwear at Woolworth’s, my first job was at WABC-AM radio. My dad was a Mad Man. Somehow got me in as an engineer at WABC-AM.


Twenty-years old, running the board for "Cousin Brucie," at WABC-AM.

It was the Best job evah! I was twenty-one years old, running the board for “Cousin Brucie.” Having been a WMCA-AM “Good Guys” listener during my formative years, I wasn’t that familiar with “Brucie.”

Alas, we did not get along. He’s “Uncle Mikey” in my novel, “Snatches.” “Brucie” was a radio superstar.

I also worked with Dan Ingram. I played those “Dan Ingram!” sounders. Dan captivated me, especially by the stuff he said off mic. Dan and I got along well, especially during “MacArthur Park.”

“MacArthur Park,” for readers under 55 years of age, was a seven-minute and twenty-one second recording; the length was unheard of in 1968. The song was spoken-sang by actor Richard Harris. Jim Webb wrote “MacArthur Park” as a cantata, originally offered and declined by “The Association.” The song lyric is loaded with tricky metaphors most listeners don’t get or over get.

I also worked at WABC-FM, which turned into WPLJ. That was a super cool station.


At WPLJ-FM, I ran the board for Zacherle.

I ran the board for Zacherle and married a jock I will call “J.” J was underage. We flew to Raleigh and married at the courthouse. Our witnesses came from the ladies’ room, which is never a good sign.

Marrying J meant there was nepotism, one of his relatives also worked at WPLJ-FM. I moved to WNEW-AM, another legendary New York City station. Shortly after moving, J was canned and Pat St John stepped into his slot.

I wish I’d never married J. He later jumped or fell in front of a Metro North train in Bronxville. I was out of his life by then, thank gawd.

WNEW-AM was cool, too. I fell in love with Julius LaRosa. He was married.

I worked with Ted Brown. We did not get along. Brown wanted me to be his audience and laugh at his shtick; he wasn’t funny.

Brown claimed I reminded him of his ex-wife. I guess she didn’t think he was funny, either.


At WNEW-AM, I became good friends with William B Williams.

At WNEW-AM, I became good friends with the legend of radio legends, William B. Williams, known as Willy B. We hung out at the Friars club and he’d sit with me in Grand Central, if I missed the last train to Larchmont. Sometimes we sat there until 5 am, just talking. Willy B was old enough to be my dad, so we never went there. I miss Willy. New York City misses Willy B.

I also worked at WNEW-FM, with Jonathan Schwartz. One Saturday he stole my sandwich from the company fridge. It was from the Stage Deli. It was tuna. It was special. I was pissed.

I said to Schwartz, “Your father is a famous composer and you’re rich. Why’d you steal my lunch?” He apologized, but it was never the same. That sandwich cost ten bucks! He’s 77 now, so I forgive him. Scott Muni was nice.

I finally got a staff job at 1010 WINS-AM, an all-news station. It was fun. I love news, especially when it’s actually news.

Sometimes, television stations say news is breaking when it was broken long ago; CNN, for example. Like on a birthday anniversary of the assassinated President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK), someone in the newsroom said, “Whatever happened to him?” I mean, he’s dead. Get a clue!

WINS-AM was full of cute announcers and we’d drink at the Three Farthings, at midnight, when our shifts were over. I dated one news anchor for nearly three years. I also dated a producer, at the same time that I dated the anchor. Hey, it was the disco era. Don’t judge. Donna Summer had a hit with, “Love to Love You Baby.”

Automation finally caught up to me, as it has done the whole time I’ve been in the radio; blah to you, Ignite Software. The DJs began combining shows. This sucked. I got a buyout from WINS-AM and moved to Los Angeles, where I got into television news.


In LA, I underachieved.

LA was okay, although I felt I was underachieving. My mother seconded that statement, loudly. “Why can’t you write for the New Yorker,” she said. I thought, “Oy.”

I fell into audio, as a kid, while dating a famous recording engineer. He ended up mixing “Double Fantasy” and the Oscars.™ I ended up unemployed.

It’s been a good run. I put a microphone on seven mayors and touched Mike Bloomberg’s butt on three separate occasions. That’s where the wireless microphone goes. Such thrills I had, few will understand.

I put microphones on movie stars and athletes, “Regis and Kelly.” I climbed the LA Lakers once to mike them.


In retrospect, I prefer underachieving to cat sitting.

Do I wish I were still working in news? Yes. As much underachieving as I did, it’s so much more rewarding than cat sitting for twenty buck a visit. No breaking news there, though last week one pet parent told me that if her seventeen year old cat passes on my watch this weekend, it’s okay. Well, it’s not okay with me! What do I do, stick him in the freezer until she gets back? “Oy,” I thought.

My favourite job was the first one. Nothing beats folding underwear at Woolworth's. Still, there will never be another “Dan Ingram.” The first cut, I guess, is the deepest.

 

Wendy Vega ran the board for radio legends "Cousin Brucie" and Dan Ingram, at WABC-AM, and Zacherle at WPLJ-FM, all in New York City. At WNEW-AM, Jonathan Schwartz stole her lunch and she became great friends with the legend of radio legends, William B Williams. Then Vega moved to news, first WINS-AM 1010, in New York City, later television stations in Los Angeles. Today, she is a former television news editor replaced by a machine. She's a writer living near the train station in Larchmont, New York. Joan Rivers came from Larchmont, NY. Maybe the same fate will befall Vega as befell Rivers. Watch this space.

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