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.
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?
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!