See You in Hell

When a radio station gets new management, smart people update their resumes and aircheck tapes. It’s the nature of the business. But at one place, the new general manager seemed different. He treated the on-air staff with great respect (he once said to me, “Jim, you’re the best commercial production guy I’ve ever had”), and we all loved him.

But he proved not to be quite so great after all, because he hired the one man in broadcasting I wouldn’t save from drowning if he were in a puddle at my feet.

Just as a new general manager of a sports team wants a coach of his own choosing, our new GM wanted his guy as program director, and so the sitting PD was moved back to being a mere jock, and a new guy was brought in. He had worked in our town before he left for the majors, a guy with lots of great ideas (we were told), and we figured that if the GM—who was, remember, a very popular guy—was bringing him in, it would be OK.

His last gig had been somewhere in Maryland. The Mrs. was working for an ad agency at the time, and she knew people in Maryland. So she made a couple of calls, but discovered that people were strangely reluctant to talk about him. When she told them he was going to be her husband’s new boss, they said things like “Oh.” Long pause. And they would say no more.

On his first day in town, the guy talked a good game, but as the weeks unfolded, we realized it was just talk. He managed by bluster—if you can’t bedazzle ’em with brilliance, baffle ’em with bull. He tweaked the format in ways that made no sense, and the station sounded terrible. He fired the ex-PD almost immediately. He hired jocks he had known during his earlier years in town, one an alcoholic burnout case and the other a hack who had been fired everywhere for being terrible. And once they were in the building, the rest of us were on our way out, although when it didn’t happen right away, we relaxed a bit.

One Saturday afternoon, I was scheduled for back-to-back shifts with the only female jock on the staff, whom we will call Carla because that is not her name. Carla was on 10 to 2 and I was on 2 to 6. At 5:30, the guy was in his office. I ended my last break by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a pleasure,” because there was only one reason he’d be there. I got the usual speech, you’ve done good work for us but we’re going in another direction, although I knew it was crap. I learned the next day that Carla had gotten fired at about the same time—on her answering machine. He could have fired both of us at 2:00, but then he would have had to work my shift, and he wouldn’t.

I was supposed to meet The Mrs. at an ad agency party after I got off the air. When I got there, one of the station’s former sales reps, a friend then and to this day, was waiting for me outside. Turns out he’d known Carla and I were going to get it that day. A lot of people on the staff had known it. Our asshole boss apparently bragged to them about what he was going to do before he did it.

It got worse. We found out that he’d been planning to fire Carla from the day he arrived a couple of months before. (“I don’t want no bitches working for me,” he was supposed to have said.) He’d hit on some of the female members of the sales staff in astoundingly clumsy ways. So he was a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen, in addition to stuffing the on-air staff with barely competent cronies and firing the rest of us. And torching a decent radio station for his own private reasons.

I’ve met a lot of people during my years in radio, but I’ve only ever hated one of them. I’ve been told he’s dead now. Good.

9 thoughts on “See You in Hell

  1. I know this guy. So do a lot of us. Oh, I don’t know his name, but I know him. I’ve had him for a boss. So have a lot of us. All too often, he was the best salesman at some station, so, to keep him from straying, and to give him a pay raise not otherwise justified, the owner made him the GM. Then, he thought he knew something about programming a radio station. Sometimes this person was “the best jock” who the GM promoted to PD. Same reasons: to keep him around, and give him a pay raise not otherwise justified. Then, after ascending to the PD slot, he thought he knew something about managing talent.

    Yah, a lot of us know this guy.

  2. Scott Paton

    Stunned by the synchronicity, JB. Your tale perfectly mirrors my most recent carrer stop. I was just given the gate last week by the most deplorable human being I’ve ever met. Claimed that I didn’t get his approach to marketing writing, despite the fact that he put his byline on nearly 60 pieces of my work over the past several months. Misogyny and racism abounded in the office and I was clearly viewed as a potential whistle-blower or witness in the event of legal proceedings.

    I’ve got a small knot in my stomach about the lost income and being an unemployed 50-something again. But the sense of liberation more than compensates. Sadly, the fact that I could watch a truck bearing down on him and might not do anything about it diminishes the person I otherwise am. I hate him the most for the hatred he has instilled in me.

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