Saturday 01 Oct 2016

Why DJ?
Matt Seinberg

When I was young and foolish, I decided I wanted to work in radio. I had several reasons, I thought, such as creative or artistic expression. As I look back now, not one of my reasons driving my desire to work radio was much good.

Radio seemed a good way to make a living. Who wouldn't want to work only four hours a day, I thought. Earn a living playing music. I thought of all the personal appearances, where I'd meet girls and earn a performance fee, from the event promoter.

That's a big reason for wanting to work radio. I wanted to meet girls. I wanted to meet hot girls.

What 20-ish man doesn't want to meet girls? All of us did and once we met girls, we wanted to have fun. Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, as a lifestyle, appealed to me; live hard, die young and leave a handsome corpse like, say, Jim Morrison. I was only looking for the sex and rock and roll, but fame and fortune were welcome, too.

I heard DJs received concert tickets, trips to Las Vegas and other cool stuff. I love sway; I am a swagman. Big Ron O'Brien, the DJ, of legendary proportions, told me what swag meant, but I forgot even though I wanted it.

Swag includes tee shirts, hats, key chains, stickers of all types and other assorted goods branded with the logo of a band. Think of the "Aerosmith" flying wings. The wardrobe, of a great many DJs, consists entirely of swag from stations they worked.

Swag, I was sure, was a "babe magnet." I love swag, why wouldn't girls love sway. What a great combination, I thought, swag and girls: what a way to run up a high score, without tilting.

Another reason I wanted to work radio was delusional. I heard DJs made big money. I definitely needed money to underwrite dates. I wanted to take the hot girls, I met at events, where I gathered sway, to top clubs and leave heavy tips.

Some jobs allow expense accounts; most radio stations have a request line. Listeners call to request you play their favourite song. Done right, it's a station-funded dating service.

Here's a word of warning. If the voice on the phone sounds so sexy the handset is about to melt or she really wants to talk you up and meet right after your shift ends, hang up.

Believe me: the voice does not match anything else. Desperate usually comes to mind. Cheating on a hubby who works nights also comes to mind.

I'll give you two examples from my days at WGLI-AM in Babylon, New York. One woman was so undesirable I couldn't wait to get her out of the station. The other I hoped would stay, forever.

I hosted two weekend night shifts, at WGLI-AM. Both were 7 pm to midnight shifts. I shut down the transmitter before I left. I rolled up the sidewalks as I left.

Half way through my shift, the sun went down. That meant the transmitting power, of the station, also dropped, to 500 kilowatts. The light bulbs flicked for the rest of my shift.

WGLI-AM mostly serviced Babylon, West Babylon, North Babylon, Deer Park, Lindenhurst, Bayshore and Copiague. These are nice, small towns, in Suffolk County, on Long Island. The nighttime wattage barely covered the service area.

Still, when I gave out the number for the request line, the phones lines lighted up, immediately. Mostly, the callers were teenage girls, say, 14 to 17 years of age. I was 21 or so and ecstatic when a woman, my age, called.

One night I want oops. Let's call the mistake "Terry." She sounded great on the phone.

I ignored my own advice, figuring what the heck. I invited her to the station for a visit. Late Saturday evening, I was along in the station, with my lunch: who would know, I thought.

Terry calls me at the station. "I'm leaving my house, now. I'll see you a few minutes."

I'm thinking there's WGLI-AM is going to rock and roll, tonight. This is where all the action in Babylon, New York, is tonight. The word studio takes on a new meaning tonight.

Ironically, "I'm So Excited," by the Pointer Sisters has tracked through from the previous cut. I'm at the front door, anxious to meet Terry. She wheels in the station parking lot.

Alas, she wasn't what she claimed, on the phone. Men like pretty eyes and face; she didn't have what men like. As well, I think the double-plus size jump suit she was wearing was a tad or ten too tight.

I wished she had a hot car. Men can gush over hot cars for weeks. I could surely gush until my shift ended and nature sent us in different directions.

My issue was how to send her on her way, nicely, gently and quickly. My concern was she might slug me, if she gets angry. What if she doesn't want to leave, will she go into a rage?

Whew, the stars were in my corner that night. After about hour into the visit by Terry, my PD called. "Can you check to see if I left my day timer in my office?" I checked and it was there, was I relieved.

I told Terry she had to go. My boss was on his way to pick up something from his office. If he caught me, with anyone in the station, let alone, the studio, my job was toast, on the spot.

She had no problem, with the emergency exit. She pecked me on the cheek and wobbled off in her car. My life and job saved in one swoop.

The second young woman was Carol, from Bayshore, New York. She sounded very sweet on the phone. She wasn't pushy.

I arrived, at the station, one Saturday, and I have mail. It had a return address, which made me laugh, "The Matt Craig Fan Club." The return address was Carol in Bayshore.

I ripped it open. There was a sweet letter, from Carol, and a photograph of her.

Carol was a strawberry-blonde, with green eyes. I love green eyes. She included her home phone number.

I figured I'd call her, but first I had to settle into the studio. She beat me to it. Carol called the request line after I introduced my first record.

In 1979, there was no caller ID. I always took a chance when I answered the phone. You never knew who was on the other end.

Carol asked if I got her surprise letter. "I did," I said. Before she could say anything, I said, "I want to meet you, now." She said, "Yes."

Carol arrives, at the station, about one hour later. The chemistry is immediate. We talk. We laugh. We kiss. It was electric and magical.

Carol and I start dating. I meet her parents. I like her parents, right away. They like me too, always a good sign.

Then life gets in the way. I graduate college and soon leave WGLI-AM. Carol and I stopped dating. There was no particular reason that we stopped dating, it just happened. I often wonder what went wrong.

Four years later, I'm out of radio, working in retail and between girl friends. I write a letter to Carol. I include my home phone number.

About two weeks later, Carol calls me. We play catch up. I tell her I'd like to see her again. There's silence, on the phone, absolute silence, which is never a good sign.

I hear her sigh. "I'm engaged," Carol says. Again dead silence; this time, I say nothing. My head is spinning. My heart stops. I'm ready to pass out.

Carol says my name, several times. She asks if I'm okay. I squeak out that I'm all right, but I feel like crying. This was a girl I liked, big time, and somehow let her get away. How stupid am I?

I wished Carol luck on her upcoming marriage. I apologized for whatever happened four years ago. We said goodbye.

Life sucks sometimes, doesn't it? I miss being on the air, answering the request line and having fun. I can't complain though. I have a great family that appreciates everything I do; well, most everything.

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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