Fake Callers on Talk Radio? Say it Ain’t So!

No way.  It can’t be.  Radio stations resorting to actually faking callers to gin up topics and make the programming (dare I say) entertaining?  Never would have thought of that one.

First Time Caller

Sports talk radio in Philadelphia is in bunker mode because “Dwayne from Swedesboro,” a regular “caller” to WPEN-FM’s Mike Missanelli show was actually station producer Pat Egan.  “Adding to the controversy,” as described in one radio blog, is the fact Pat is white and character “Dwayne” is African-American.

The aftermath of all this?  WPEN-FM has suspended three people including its program director and a competitor fired its afternoon host.  I never heard the bit and don’t know if it went over the line, it may have, but jeez.

You mean, back in the day, “Hink & Dink” on WLW were inappropriate?

Hink and Dink

Dare I pull the curtain back a little?

In recent times, Cincinnati heard the likes of Kabaccha Abba, the leader of the modern day “Black Fist,” a group (it was him and his girlfriend) left over from the civil rights days and fashioned after the radical 1960’s Black Panthers.  A black man, Kabaccha actually was a community loud mouth. If I remember correctly he drove a lime green Chevy Vega with “Black Fist” spelled out on its hood with those cheap letters you’d stick on a mailbox.  The character he created was meant to creep out anyone in white suburbia.  The boogie man lived among us.  Boo!

Sadly, Kabaccha was shot on the steps of Cincinnati’s City Hall one warm and sunny afternoon and later died.

There was “Randy the Gas Siphoner,” who appeared when gas prices became painfully high.  He was a true sociopath who would prowl parking lots, like at malls or the long-term lots at the airport, and drain the gas from cars.  He’d call in to the station and tell people where he was and what he was doing and dared people to catch him, proud he hadn’t paid for a tank of gas in years.  You want a 40-something male pissed off, go messing with his pick-up in Kentucky!

Each Halloween, a naive, do-gooder consumed by white guilt would rent a passenger van and load it up with black inner city kids and take them to the white suburbs (always in a station hot zip code) and set them free to trick or treat in a neighborhood where the candy was “better.”  On the hottest of summer days the same guy would do the same, except he’d take the underprivileged children to a private swim club in those same white suburbs.  People calling from those neighborhoods, while trying to be accommodating and kind, would eventually say something about “those people.”

There was Richard from Indian Hill.  Indian Hill is the wealthiest zip code in the state of Ohio. Richard would subtly brag about how rich he was, his vacations, private jet, his great “diamond” seats at Reds’ games and mock those who shopped at Walmart.  A classic representation of the 1%, done before anyone even knew what the 1% was.

Nick from Loveland, was an over the top effeminate gay male and uber liberal who held numerous and worthless college degrees, didn’t work and was up to his eye balls in debt.  On hot summer days he’d call in to the station while watching is partner “Thad” cut the grass shirtless, sweat glistening off his ripped and tanned body as he’d described it.  You want homophobia?  Have a gay male describe his lust for his partner on a midwestern talk radio station.  Nick once asked me to be his “maid of honor” at their wedding. It was a great topic, because we didn’t know what to call the honored position.  Nick was against anything conservative, an environmentalist and outspoken about global warming.  Of course he had no problem taking cruises he couldn’t afford on big ships that drank diesel fuel by the barrel.

Others, like Buckeye Super Fan was there to offend the rabid fans of Ohio State football.  This guy was an obnoxious, name dropping, stereotypically boorish OSU fan, always cheering on the team, except he was an imbecile.  He’d never get into a fraternity, let alone “A Ohio State University.”

Each of these “callers” were polar opposites of 700WLW’s target audience.  After all, people like these couldn’t possibly live in the same city and communities, right?

A few years ago, Premiere Networks figuring they could make a few bucks with fake callers began marketing a service called “Premiere On Call,” which for a fee would have professional callers call into talk shows.  The idea was scrapped after political blogs got hold of the story much to the embarrassment of the conservative talk hosts associated with the network.  

Theater of the mind and entertainment, two things sorely missing in talk radio today.  Is it so bad for listeners to have a little fun, provocative or not?

I was once quoted as saying, “700WLW is a parody of a talk station.”  While later I didn’t think that quote looked so good in print, at times that’s what it was.  Creating street talk, knowing the vast majority of the audience were in on the joke and were laughing at the legit callers upset at the character “callers.”

Former Cincinnati Enquirer media columnist John Kiessewetter also asked me if all the callers were real. My response, “There is a basis of reality in all callers on the station.”

This is about entertainment!

 

  47 comments for “Fake Callers on Talk Radio? Say it Ain’t So!

  1. August 29, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    I could have swore there use to be one of these phonies that would call into WLW every Saturday. He claimed to be from Loveland or Indian Hill. A homosexual character straight out of a Phil Hendrie radio show.

    • August 30, 2016 at 7:00 pm

      Nick from Loveland. Not related to Richard from Indian Hill. 🙂

  2. Carter Burger
    August 29, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    If only radio were that entertaining these days.

  3. August 29, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    I’m kinda surprised you didn’t bring up “Dick from Dayton.” 😉

  4. August 30, 2016 at 12:04 am

    I’m glad I was one of those who was in on the joke on WLW. You forgot to mention Phil Hendrie and his stable of “callers!” Oh, and never vote “for ” a school levy!

    • August 30, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      Dennis, You’re right. Phil Hendrie’s whole show was made up of fake callers. A real parody of talk radio. Have a great week. Darryl

  5. August 30, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Radio has become over-run with wall-street lawyers dictating BS and boring rules. I listened to an Atlanta top 40 station this weekend who has a fairly neat text message promotion. Be listening for your chance to win (something like) Justin Bieber tickets – text 404825 (made that up). Then I hear 10-15 seconds of some Bull Shit disclaimer over the ramp of a very good song. It sounded like I was listening to Wells Fargo Banking radio. Here sign all these disclosures, wait three weeks and then we might do business with you. NO THANKS! Who thinks that’s necessary in radio? Certain things that are of timely nature and highly creative in this industry take days or weeks to get six people to approve and by then it’s a tired idea. To be fair, I was in real estate for 18 years (22 years in radio – simultaneously) and that business has gotten 20X worse too. We are losing our ability to have fun, be creative and do anything in this country (especially in ENTERTAINMENT RADIO) without having a team of lawyers sign off on it. The WPEN deal was likely funny, but in the age of ‘everyone’s offended’ Obama, what do you expect? God forbid black people and white people have a little fun at each other’s expense. Snobs!

  6. dan
    August 30, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Wish YOU were still on “LW”!!!

    • August 30, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      Dan, Thank you for the kind thoughts. Truth be known, the favorite part of my week was Saturday mornings. Thank you for listening over the years. It is very much appreciated. Darryl

      • Melissa
        October 8, 2016 at 12:35 pm

        At this very moment I am listening to WLW Saturday morning radio, getting ready to change to another station. I tried giving Gary Jeff Walker another chance but his show is just terrible. He lets some of his callers ramble on far too long, especially the female callers. Lynette is the worst but he also has other regular callers that he allows to cluelessly ramble. His show is at best, old and tired, and why he is still on the air is beyond me. If he is screens his own callers he is doing a poor job of it. And the Krista 2.0 thing is pretty stale.

        How I miss Darryl’s show! I am frequently driving on Saturday morning so I appreciate something entertaining or informative to listen to, but now the Mike Allen show is the only time my radio is on WLW on Saturday.

        Someone traveling through Cincinnati for the first time when Gary Jeff’s show featuring Lynette or another one of his regular callers was on would get a warped view of the Cincinnati area. Probably think it was built on a nuclear waste dump or something similar.

  7. Leon from Newport
    August 30, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    Long live Raymond.

  8. Hans von Balkovsky
    August 30, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    So things have even deteriorated since Eric Deters was fired rather than merely suspended and since WLW removed the The Big Juan billboards? Must mean Trump is right with all that Harbinger of Doom unless you vote for me talk.

  9. August 30, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    Pete Franklin’s old “Sportsline 1100” show on WWWE 1100 back in the 70s and 80s had its fair share of regular callers (notable in that 3WE wasn’t all-talk until 1985). The most notable caller was one that Pete derisively nicknamed “Mr. Know it All” but he left enough of a lasting impression that an upstart classic rock station actually hired him to be their morning sportscaster.

    “Mr. Know it All” is longtime WTAM 1100 talk host Mike Trivisonno.

  10. Melissa
    August 31, 2016 at 3:01 am

    What about Miss C and Ron from Norwood? Surely they aren’t fake caller! And I HOPE that Gary Jeff’s frequent caller Lynette is fake. I change the station if he ever takes her call.

    I really loved your Saturday morning show, Darryl. It was appointment radio at my house. Miss you!

    I am a long time WLW listener, started listening as a teenager in 1982. The good old days with Mike McConnell, Willie, Gary Burbank and crew. How I miss Sports or Consequences, Andy Furman, Trumpy, Doc and the rest of the crew!

    It is good to have Mike back but would rather see him in his old time slot. Mike and Willie are the best things about WLW these days. I like Sloanie also. Mike Allen does a nice job on Saturday morning, big improvement over Lisa Wells.

    I am happy that Marc Amazon is no longer on the air. I found him to be annoying and tiresome. The only one I refuse to listen to is Sterling. He absolutely makes my head hurt with his diarrhea-of-the-mouth, ADHD manner, which I assume is put on. He seems fake, and for sure is totally uninteresting.

    I can only hope that Willie doesn’t retire until he is at least Jim Scott’s age. I am fearful that he will be replaced with either Amazon or Sterling. The Bulldog would be a much better choice.

    • August 31, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      Melissa, thank you for the kind thoughts. And thank you for the appointment listening over the years. Be well. Darryl

    • Dennis fisher
      September 18, 2016 at 11:06 am

      You remind me of…..me!

  11. Ethan
    August 31, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Antwan from the Bronx!

  12. August 31, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    I always assumed Miss C was fake, a total plant to up the number of real callers….

    The talent and creativity of Gary Burbank and his crew is sorely missed, truly never to be replaced…at this point, the salad days of AM radio are gone, likely never coming back.
    I’m certainly no fan of talk radio these days and rarely tune in to my old FM favorites.
    Remember when stations were not owned by Clear Channel? Ah, memories.
    I miss WSAI-FM and WEBN battling it out to be “The” rock and roll station.
    Yes, I’m very very old.
    🙂

    • September 1, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      Jeez. I can’t even relate to the WSAI and WEBN battles. 🙂

      • September 2, 2016 at 12:43 am

        Hahaha!

        There is a pic in one of my high school yearbooks of a few of us flying our respective favorite stations T-shirt, which is the reference I have to show people that yes, there was a WSAI-FM, and it rocked, mightily!!

    • Melissa
      September 1, 2016 at 3:52 pm

      The talent of Gary Burbank is what brought me to WLW in the first place. My brother and I listened to Gary on CKLW as young kids, when mom wasn’t around because she thought it was inappropriate for children, but dad was a fan. We were pretty crushed when he left but then dad told us he was back on a different station. We tuned our radios to WLW and that has always been my station ever since.

      Gary was the best and no one else comes close, and probably never will.

      • September 2, 2016 at 12:40 am

        I have to agree…

        When I was in high school, I rode to and from school witb my dad who was a teacher at my school (yes, horrifying!!)..we fought over radio stations constantly, only agreeing on afternoons with Gary Burbank..

  13. Alan Furst
    September 1, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Imagine a talk station focused on fun and entertainment. There you go talking crazy again.

    • September 1, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Crazy talk I know!

    • Al
      September 1, 2016 at 10:28 pm

      Listen to The Kimmer on NewsRadio 106.7 in Atlanta for truly entertaining and fun talk radio. Aside from the regular callers, who by the way are real, Jim Gossett and his Newsmaker Line calls are hilarious. You never know who’s going to call in on the Newsmaker Line. It could be any of the last 5 Presidents, celebrities such as Rodney Dangerfield, David Letterman, Hank Hill, and even the Pope! Plus, there’s Holy Crap It’s Sports with Pete Davis, for another perspective on the world of sports. That’s Kim “The Kimmer” Peterson (yes, it’s a guy), weekdays Noon to 3 on NewsRadio 106.7 in Atlanta. http://www.newsradio1067.com

  14. Dusty in Indiana
    September 2, 2016 at 2:13 am

    Raymond was THE MAN at WLW in the 1980s. One of the magazines even did a story on him how he fooled everyone. “Raymond Rules” even had Reds GM Bob Quinn laughing. Raymond is the Gold Standard of radio callers, may he R.I.P. Heard he passed away last year.

  15. Len
    September 2, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    The only fake caller that had me confused was Nick from Loveland. He was so over the top that he had to be a put on. On the other hand, he was the only one that appeared on McConnell’s shows including the nationally syndicated Saturday show. Mike never seemed like part of the clowning around that was prevalent on the other shows. I knew it was a joke after one Darryl “Kickin’ The Dog” Parks was busted using a stock internet photo as Nick from Loveland.

    Darryl, can you tell us if Nick and Richard from Indian Hill were voiced by the same person? People tell me I’m wrong but listening to the two I would some how hear an inflection or common use of certain words that convinced me they were the same guy.

    To Fundalmentalnihilist, like you I remember the FM rock battles. If your thinking of circa late ’70’s, I believe the battle was WKRQ v WEBN

    • Andy
      October 4, 2016 at 1:06 am

      Nick, Richard and Rod are all Tracy Jones. I was able to pick it out years ago. Listen closely, it’s totaly Tracy.

      • October 4, 2016 at 4:34 pm

        Len, you’d be wrong. I hope all is well. Darryl

      • Melissa
        October 5, 2016 at 12:57 am

        What about Miss C? And Lynette? Who is voicing these fake female callers?

  16. September 11, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Kenny from Norwood was one I remember on Willie’s show from the 1990s. The dead giveaway was “Kenny’s” laugh was out of the character voice. I pretty much figured there was no way that “Nick” was anywhere near real. I miss the kind of radio Gary Burbank and his crew did, probably never to be done again.

  17. Melissa
    September 13, 2016 at 3:24 am

    I stopped listening to Gary Jeff when he took Lynette’s calls. Worse use ever of an Obamaphone. Can’t understand how she got by the screeners on a weekly basis.

  18. September 29, 2016 at 3:52 am

    I remember Randy the gasoline siphoner. He was a hoot. I knew he was a fake, but he was still funny. I remember him siphoning gasoline at a church.

  19. September 29, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    I loved the “Randy the Gas Siphoner” bit. The best part was people calling in who thought it was serious.

  20. September 29, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    I loved the “Randy the Gas Siphoner” bit. The best part was people calling in who thought it was serious.

  21. September 29, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    I loved the Randy the Gas Siphoner bit. The funniest part was all the angry callers calling in afterwards.

    I don’t see what the fuss is. Top-40 radio in the old days always used to have fake callers calling in for comedy. Dave Ryan (KDWB) continues (continued?) to call in as Hiram on WNCI long after he left for Minneapolis.

  22. Sean Scallon
    October 2, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Here’s where I insert the cry of “Dammit! It was real to me!” into our conversation.

    You know, when I saw the Brett Hart documentary, I may have surmised that a good chunk of professional wrestling was fake. But until I didn’t realize how scripted everything was, down to the last detail. Then it occurred to me, you could be a 500-pound blob eating nothing but potato chips and only exercise reaching for the remote and yet you could be a professional wrestling champion if that’s what the writers and promoters wanted to see happen. What was the point of training, working out, keeping in shape, and doing all those moves? Sure back in the day it made for a great show but athleticism and wrestling skill wasn’t the focus anymore, it was entertainment. And if seeing a 500-pound blob win a belt he couldn’t possibly put around his waist was what was “entertaining” then that what was going to happen, 24-inch pythons and rock-hard abs be damned. Sure enough, a man named Vince Russo decided to test my theory and put not a 500-pound blob but scrawny little David Arquette, David Arquette! as WCW champion. That belt had been worn by Ric Flair, by Hulk Hogan, by Kevin Nash and Brett Hart, and now…David Arquette! Needless to say what was considered “entertainment” insulted the intelligence of too many people and WCW is no more.

    I bring this example up because in my opinion, what you consider “entertainment” is really failed radio. Any show needing fake callers or bits to generate audience heat or reaction, sounds like a desperate situation. Especially when those fake callers are simply racial or gender or political stereotypes reducto-ad-absurdum. It speaks to a deep cynicism about one’s audience to indulge in this. Maybe it’s a good thing such persons are fake there are many pro wrestlers back in the day who could tell stories about having knives and guns pulled on them in airports and bars for a heel turn. Some people don’t know its fake. Some people aren’t in on the joke. It’s just like with Trump campaign. Some of his supporters really do believe you can make Mexico pay for the wall on its own border. Some people aren’t that sophisticated nor should they have to be to listen to a talk show.

    It also stops being “entertainment” when a radio hosts decides that he or she has the power of his audience to take things beyond the station whether they are tricking them or not. It stops being “entertainment” when certain hosts believe that they have politicians at their beck and call they way Bill Cunningham used to lead around David Mann. Here in Wisconsin where I live, there are five talk show hosts in the southern part of the state who think they control the state’s Republican Party. That they are the ones who control the activists, who gets to be nominated, and who gets top billing when it comes to interviews. Indeed, they have built careers (like Scott Walker) and torn down politicians who wouldn’t toady to them, some of them very good conservatives. You wouldn’t believe how terrified GOP pols are of these hosts (although to be fair, neither Mark Belling or Charlie Sykes were radio people. Sykes was policy analyst and bureaucrat, Belling a journalist, before getting into radio in the early 1990s.) They’re not in this for the “entertainment”. Jason Lewis in the Twin Cities operates in the same manner. He uses the oldest bit in radio, the host “leaving” the show during the middle of a broadcast to parley it to a campaign for Congress which is what he’s wanted to do for a while. The funny thing was if he had announced his retirement, he would have been feted for long and productive career on air. Oh, but that’s “boring” radio! as he put it. Whatever!

    I know what you’re going so say. We’re not NPR. Fine then, don’t act like it. Tell the sports guys to stick with sports and tell the “zoo crew” morning show to stick with boob jobs. If they want to talk serious, then they need to talk serious, not play on audience emotions for ratings. It seems to me, if you make a list of your good callers, the ones who ask good questions or can put two sentences together and yes, are entertaining, and tell them they’ll get preferential treatment the next time they call in, like getting patched into the host right away, while bad callers get put on a blacklist (3-hour hold for example), then you can have a good show without resorting to cheap theatrical tricks.

    By the way I’m curious, Stan Banta, remember him? Real or fake?

  23. Hans Jeschke
    October 3, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Was Donna real? Used to call McConnell’s show all the time. Always seemed a bit ‘off’. Then just stopped calling.

    • October 4, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      Hans, I don’t remember Donna. May have been before my time. I hope you’re doing well. Darryl

    • Melissa
      October 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

      Remember Nan, who used to call Mike’s show? At least once a week, for many years? I always thought she had a crush on Mike.

      • Hans Jeschke
        October 5, 2016 at 2:31 pm

        I remember her too. Had a bout with cancer, but I think she beat it. Miss hearing Mike doing his 9-12 show too. Love when he fills in for Sloanie.

  24. Melissa
    November 12, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I can’t wait until Gary Jeff’s favorite caller Lynette loses her ObamaPhone and can’t make her weekly rambling, senseless phone calls.

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