Tuesday 06 Dec 2016

DJs and Dirty Secrets
Matt Seinberg

I have two shoulders, there's no waiting, I told a co-worker this week. I noticed that he looked a little down and hoped to help. "What's the matter," I asked. Then words poured out of his mouth, so fast, I thought Niagara Falls suddenly moved to Long Island.

The problem was his girlfriend. Now that's big surprise. My friend, John, is a widower, one of the nicest people I know at work. John is also a little crazy and readily admits it. If anyone went through what he did, a little craziness necessary to survive.

His girlfriend, Anne, is pressuring him to move their relationship to the "next level." John hates pressure and does not thrive under it like some us. He treats Anne very well, emotionally, brief trips and gifts. Heck, I told him I'd go out with him just for the trips and gifts.

My advice was to jump and run. Get as far away from Anne as he can. Get back out into the dating world. Find a nice woman who'll appreciate him for who he is, not for what he has.

How did I become so wise? Any DJ can tell you about the phone calls received at the station can run the gamut from the normal to the utterly insane, from the friendly fan to the crazy stalker. We've all had them. Back in the 1970s, when I called radio stations to make requests and talk to the jocks, I was a fan that wanted to talk to them about radio.

Was I stalker? Nah, I was only relentless in my pursuit of musical and broadcast knowledge. Some DJs were very friendly and willing to talk anytime; others just didn't want to be bothered. That's fine and I didn't bother them again. Some, of those I called, I am still friends with, 30 years later.

Then I got the phone calls when I was on the air and I mentioned a couple of calls previously. Here's one that I will never forget. I was hosting "Studio 108," on WEBE-FM in Bridgeport, CT., one Saturday night. A woman calls to make a request. "Studio 108" is a disco music show. I enjoyed doing the show. The music did bore me. I liked the idea enough to want to host this show and have fun.

Now, remember that most music these days is preprogrammed, so calling a radio station to make a request is futile. All those years ago, when I hosted "Studio 108," the woman caller requested "Brick House," saying she was built like one. I had to hold my laughter! Whom was she kidding? She was either skinny as rail, Wicked Witch of The East ugly or a 400-pound monster. No matter what, I didn't want to take the chance and find out. Besides, my wife wouldn't approve.

I said her song would air in the next hour. She asked that I dedicate it to Barbara. Okay, no problem, I could do that. The show flies by, I play and dedicate the song.

Wouldn't you know it, as soon as it's over, she calls, again? I recognize the number from the caller ID. Holy crap, do I let it ring or pick it up and hope for the best? The last thing I need is for a listener, even a crazy one to complain to the PD that I was rude.

I take a deep breath, and answer the phone. Barbara is thanking me profusely for playing the song and saying her name on the air. Man, she really must have no life if something so little makes her so happy. Now she asks me where I live and without thinking, I say Long Island. I made a huge mistake.

Barbara wants to talk personal. I politely decline, telling her I have to get back on the air. I quickly hang up, hoping and praying she doesn't call again. I am now afraid to pick up the phone. I keep checking the caller ID.

As the phone rings through the night, normal people are calling to say hello, tell me they are enjoying the show or making requests. By this time, I'm in the groove of the show, having a blast. My style has always been to make fun of things in the news, people and the music. Disco is very easy to mock.

The phone rings again. I don't look at the caller ID. This is another mistake.

It's Barbara, again. This time she offers to come to the station and personally guide me back to New York. How lucky am I.

I pull out the big gun. I politely thank her, but tell her that my wife would not appreciate her giving me this personal attention. Click. That was the happy sound of her hanging up.

Why didn't I think of that before? Wives and kids always make the crazies go away.

I'll tell you why, because we all love and crave attention. I don't care about your line of work, if you deny you crave attention, I think you're lying. Why do you think people want to get into radio, television and other performing arts: because they crave attention. We are also looking for the approval of others for a job well done.

For anyone in sales, there are weekly or monthly goals to meet. In radio and television, the ratings mean everything. That's how advertising rates are set. Advertisers gear the commercials we hear and see to a certain age and gender groups. Getting the largest number of people to listen to, or watch what you want them to at any given time.

Bartenders are great pop psychologists. They work for are tips. Buy a drink, get a buzz, tell a stranger one of your nasty, dirty little secrets that you would never tell anyone else and pray, to whatever god you believe in, the next day that they don't remember you. Make it easy on yourself. Don't go to that bar for a while.

Why pay some quack with a PhD $200+ an hour to analyze you and blame everything on your parents, when your friendly neighborhood bartender or local DJ can do the same thing? The bartender will expect a tip and the DJ will hope you have a Portable People Meter that will register his or her show and help their ratings.

Damn, I really am cynical and love it. Now if I can work snarly in there as well when giving advice I may actually enjoy it. Either that or I should quit my job and hang out a shingle as a "Master Advice Giver." Cash only, no checks, no charge, no health insurance. Is $50 for 50 minutes a fair rate?

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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