Musicradio WABC Disc Jockey Frank Kingston Smith Remembers
What follows are stories and inside "stuff" that Frank Kingston Smith has sent to me about Musicradio WABC. Some of these are really funny and Frank tells the stories very well!
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The funny bus story:
The entire WABC staff had been at a dinner and reception before the special preview for the show "A Little Night Music". We then were all driven to the theater in a specially painted city bus. It had MUSICRADIO 77 WABC all over it. Every sign and on the bus itself. Turns out we had something like six buses specially painted as rolling ads.
The following week we started getting threatening phone calls at the promotions office and at Rick's office. "Your bus cut me off..." "Your bus went right by me at my stop.." "Your bus driver yelled at me, told me to make up my mind or get off.." Duh. After a couple of weeks of that, we had the buses repainted....
I read a live Castro Convertible spot one day and mentioned "the rotten little kid jumping up and down on the sofa." Turns out the rotten little kid was Bernadette Castro in a shot that was 15 years old. She bitched to her Daddy who laid into our G.M., the salesman on the account. He brought it up and said, "Do it again! They're talking about it!"
Another time, late Saturday night/Sunday morn, I was fumbling through a live CT School of Broadcasting spot, reading lines like "get into the exciting world of broadcasting" and like that. My two engineers and I were in gales of laughter on the air, talking about sitting in a darkened studio in the middle of Manhattan with only the hookers to keep us company. The spot went four minutes. The G.M. called me at home on Monday to tell me, "I got a call from the owner at CT School of Broadcasting.... Frank, I dunno what you said, but he LOVED it! He renewed for a full year, and said I should thank you for it."
My memory for names is slipping, but here's my favorite three news-reader (staff announcers who read the news on WABC) stories. Dick Mason, Bob Lloyd (2 stories) and Charlie McCauley:
1. Saturday nights, we had no news from 5:53:30 until 10 PM. The news readers - not newsmen, but staff announcers rotated into the local news booth to make it sound like we had a huge news department - were not paid to think. They were paid to read whatever they had in front of them. This mid-summer Saturday night, I was working 6 P to mid while Cuzz (Bruce Morrow) was away. At 9:57 PM Dick Mason, for many years the voice of Monday Night Football, came in to read his one minute of headlines. At the end of the minute, he'd read the current weather observation. The one in the booth was left over from 5:53:30. So, Dick read: "Right now, sunny and 87 degrees in Manhattan...." I opened my mike and said: "DICK! What time is it?" [Best announcing voice]: "9:57 in New York." "DICK! SUNNY and 87 degrees?" [Absolute straight face]: "Well, that's what it sez...."
2. On this particular Saturday night/Sunday morning I had worked a split shift. Ingram's show 2 to 6 PM, then my own 10 P to 3 A. Come 1:30 AM I was dead tired. To compound things, the engineer/board op was on "ting-a-ling" time (he had wored a shift, GONE HOME, and was called BACK in to work another shift - BIG bucks) and the news reader was Bob Lloyd, known as the sleepwalker. Bob was eternally tired. He'd sit in the newsroom and nap for 20 minutes between 5-minute newscasts every 30 minutes overnight. At the 1:25 AM newscast, Bob drifted in and eased into the chair in the booth off to my right. I should note that I always knocked the lights down to two 'tensor' lamps late at night. Anyhow, I dozed off during Bob's lead story, and at 1:29, before the weather, Bob signaled for the :30 PSA. The engineer, who was working with his head down in his folded arms, punched the button... and dozed off. Bob, put his head back... and dozed off. At 2:10 the maintenance engineer strolled in to say the transmitter guys wondered why there was no signal. Duh. We were off the air for 40 minutes.
3. Another Bob Lloyd story. Working local TV booth during local news hours (WABC-TV, Channel 7) Bob only had to turn the page in the copy book, and when the director said "Announce", Bob had to read the page in front of him. Some of these pages were 50th generation Xeroxes, so they weren't real clear. Occasionally a little piece of dust would creep in and be copies 20 or 30 times. But Channel 7 was always Channel 7. You'd think so. Midway through the local news at 6:30, spots and an ID. Director sez: "Announce" and Bob says: "WABC-TV, Channel TWO, New York." "Bob?" "Yes?" "Where do we work?" "ABC..." "Locally?" "WABC..." "TV?" "Yes..." "What channel is that, Bob?" "Well, I thought it was Seven..." "Bob, why did you say, 'TWO'?" "Well," removing the page to show the director the copy through the glass, "it LOOKED like a Two..."
4. Middle of the night, and a (crazy) old friend, a Bunny from the old New York Playboy
Club, called me about 1 AM asking if she could come up to visit. I told the aging security
guard that she was a undercover NYC detective, so he let her up to the 8th floor. Robin
(let's call her that) was also a dancer who tended to wear "see-through" things,
but neglected to wear underwear.
Charlie was going through a tough time and was working both at ABC and at WRFM as a staff announcer. Robin perched herself on the Chuck Leonard highchair (the stool) adjacent to the newsbooth window. When Charlie started reading the news, she started doing limbering up exercises, stretching her legs straight up, all the while looking at Charlie through the glass. Charlie looked up at her, did a mild double take and continued reading. As we broke for the PSA, Robin unbuttoned her blouse and as the PSA ended, turned toward Charlie and leaned against the glass. The last thing anyone heard was:
"AAAAAaaaaaaagggghhhhhhhhhh....." as Charlie fell off his chair. I read the weather and the close and we continued as if nothing had happened.
One Sunday afternoon, one of our engineers [used to call him the Drone, because if there were ANY women around, he'd hover nearby, trying to be attractive] was finishing a little woodworking project on his own time, while on break. He needed something to lean on, so he put the project on top of this BIG crate and proceeded to drill and hammer at it. The BIG crate was the German-built reverb system, the size of a monster dollhouse, full of chambers and spring-mounted chains. The resultant air signal made it sound like the station was under attack.
The WPLJ studios were back to back on the 8th floor at 1330 with WABC. We took up more room, actually. If the WABC studios were on your left (the core of the building) you would walk past the sales offices and the traffic department, turn left and pass engineering and master control, enter the locker room and turn left, then pass through a door into the WPLJ area. Ingram used to refer to this as "The Zone". One day, one of the guys at PLJ was making love to the microphone, with all the breath he could create, Ingram just opened the door into the studio. Still in the breathy PLJ voice, the jock said, "Ooooh, Hiiii Dannnnn." Ingram never paused. He said, "Hi. Hey! What's that sweet smell in here???!!!" and left.
Here's another story, about HOA:
Herb was noted for arriving to do mornings "mostly" dressed. One morning he had neglected to shave and brought the ol' Remington up to the studio. During a newscast (6:30 AM, I believe) he looked for an AC outlet to plug the shaver in. He found one, but it had two plugs in it already. Figuring it wouldn't take long, he pulled one plug and plugged in the shaver. After finishing, he forgot to plug the other plug back in.
About 15 minutes later, a sleepy voice at the transmitter called to ask what the problem was. (?) Seems that Herb had pulled the plug that kept the line (bridging) amplifiers up. Listening to the studio output rather than to the air signal (not unusal with the heavy processing; feedback was always a problem with "hot" speakers if the limiters pulled the air signal up) he had no idea that the feed to the transmitter at Lodi had been interrupted. With 18 spots an hour, that cost about two grand.
Did you realize that the melody line from the jingle, Seventy-Seven.. Double-U A-B-C
was taken from the song "I'll Take Manahattan"; "I'll turn Manhattan...
into an isle of joy." When the original program director was looking for a melody, he
wanted something that would be intimately connected to New York. And that would then
connect the station to the city. I'd say he
Of the Jack Davis cartoons:
Ingram called Jack Davis to ask if he would paint Little Annie Fanny leaning over his shoulder. "No" came the reply....
Cuzzin (Bruce Morrow) had just got his curly Taylor Topper when they took the photos for Davis to do his work. His (purchased) hair had been straight prior to this.
Chuck (Leonard) said he thought he looked like Little Michael Jackson.
Jay (Reynolds) said his picture looked like Dracula with the fangs.
And some quickies:
One afternoon, Dan'l went on the air to discover that all that was being sent to Lodi was the reverb signal. No primary. All you could hear was him saying: "If you think I'm going to talk through this, you're nuts...."
I left work one morning after covering for Harry Harrison, to find the building at 1330 being picketed. It was a band of organized gypsies protesting our playing of Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves."
Somewhere in my collection of stuff I have a b&w photo of the staff taken opening night of "A Little Night Music". We owned the theatre. Show won all the Tonys that year.
Somewhere I have photos of a number of us riding the elephants to the circus at the LI Coleseum. Bruce swore his elephant wanted to kill his ass.
Also some snaps of guys at work. I know I have one of Chuck sitting on his highchair; he was the only guy to use the stool.
I also got phone calls pretty regularly from South America and Australia. Wow! What a station!
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