How I Got to Madison Avenue. And beyond.

As with life, this blog is developing and changing. It began with a lot of stories that occurred on my career path from Albany to Madison Avenue and back.

There were some similarities to the AMC series "Mad Men," and then I went even farther back in time with a somewhat fictionalized version of growing up in Troy's Little Italy.

And now, a new development. As my free lance advertising and marketing career winds down, I'm becoming more interested in the theatre arts that my father and his 3 brothers helped instill in me as I grew up.

As a result, I've volunteered to help promote the Theatre Institute at Sage, and now, to continue a long-interrupted desire to be behind the proscenium, I've joined the newly formed Troy Civic Theatre, and was actually fortunate enough to appear in their first production.

So, I hope you'll enjoy the new stories that will develop from this latest turn.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Rock 'n' Roll Years, Part Two

In the 3rd season of "Mad Men," one of the owners of the agency comments on David Ogilvy's new (in 1963) book, "Confessions of an Adman," saying it's the book every adman writes, only Ogilvy's got published.

That may be true -- there are enough stories to go around on Madison Avenue, and we all enjoy telling them.

But I think "Ad Missions" is different, or I wouldn't be writing it. It's a personal journey to Mad. Ave., and it took several attempts and twenty years.

Hope you're enjoying them as much as I am remembering and sharing them. In this posting, more stories from my radio days, and a brush with New York City.

I'm John Lennon Of The Beatles

Penance comes in many forms.

Yes, I was John Lennon, in a particular way, for a year, starting in 1964.

My first job was as the Continuity Director at a 50,000 rock & roll radio station in Albany, NY. Continuity Director was an old radio title, back in the days when radio programs and commercials flowed into one another -- segue is the word for it, from the Latin, meaning to follow. Non sequitur is the opposite - something that doesn't follow-- changing the subject completely.

In the old days of radio, it was the Continuity Director's job to tie everything together -- coming out of an organ recital into the news, from the news to a commercial, and back again. Somehow, the writer would make a connection.

What I really was was the station's writer. I wrote little blurbs for each disc jockey's programs, so that the other jocks could cross-plug them. I helped write lyrics for the station's identification jingles, came up with contest ideas and wrote commercials for clients who didn't have advertising agencies. I started there in 1959, when I nineteen, and just three years out of high school. So I was writing for the people I listened to as a young teenager. I learned on the job, and by the beginning of 1964 I wanted to move from writing for radio to writing advertising for all media.

Before that happened, the Beatles happened. It was incredible. WPTR, the Good Guys station, became the Good Guys/Beatles Station for Albany and the Northeast. I was writing Beatles promos, Beatles contests, Beatles concert listings.

They made their first trip to the USA in 1964, and our Program Director, Jim Ramsburg, arranged to go to a Beatles press conference in New York. He called the station right after the conference, said that he had recorded all four Beatles saying our call letters, and that I was to write a promo for a contest and get it on the air before he got back.

If a listener who was called could predict which Beatle would say he was a WPTR Good Guy, that listener would win a Beatles promotional item -- album, wig, tickets, Beatle Book, whatever. I wrote it, we produced it and put it on the air that day.

A few days later, Ramsburg returned with his tape of the Beatles. It was his closely-guarded treasure -- he brought the tape into the station's recording studio, where, as we were to dub it, making safety copies, just three people were allowed to hear it: The Program Director, the Recording Engineer, and The Continuity Director.

We heard Paul's voice, saying: “I'm Paul McCartney of the Beatles, and I'm a WPTR Good Guy, too.”

Then we heard George's voice, saying, “I'm George Harrison of the Beatles, and I'm a WPTR Good Guy, too.”

Then we heard Ringo's voice, saying, “I'm Ringo Starr of the Beatles, and I'm a WPTR Good Guy, too.”

Then we heard… ...silence.

We didn't hear John. Ramsburg had either erased it, or never recorded it, I still don't know which.

We were in deep you know what. The promo was on the air, announcing that we had all four Beatles saying WPTR! The station's license renewal from the FCC was already being held up, due to some other irregularities. We couldn't -- or wouldn't -- let this be the cause of another problem.

The solution was, for one of us in that room to imitate John Lennon.

It couldn't have been the Program Director – his voice was well known, because he hosted a three hour show five days a week.

It also couldn't have been the Recording Engineer, he was already imitating someone on the air. His was the voice of a car dealer, “Art Neet of Armory Garage”, in a weekly series of commercials.

Of the three of us, only one voice had never been heard on the air: mine.

Can you imitate their accents”, Ramsburg asked.

I'll try.” I went into the announcer's booth. The engineer, Jimmy Cruise, played the three Beatles' voices for me. To my ear, they sounded like a couple of Bob & Ray characters. One was Uncle Eugene, a character in a soap opera satire called “The Life and Loves of Linda Lovely, Girl Intern,” played by Bob Elliot, father to Chris and grandfather to Abby.

Eugene had a disease called Fleabus, which made him “walk around like you're sitting down, and made your head as soft as a grape.” His voice came directly from his throat, like Bob & Ray's newsman, Wally Balew, and like Lily Tomlin's little girl character, Edith Ann, years later on Laugh-In.

Of course, the Beatles had Liverpudlian accents, which I had never heard before, so I tried to combine the Fleabus voice with the strange accent, as I said, “I'm John Lennon of the Beatles, and I'm a PTR Good Guy, also.”

I said “also” because it sounded more British to me. We mixed my John Lennon with the background sounds from the press conference, put all four Beatles on a tape cartridge many times in random order, put them on the air without telling anyone, not even the General Manager of the station, about the deception.

But for the next dozen years, I couldn't get anywhere near a microphone without breaking out in a cold sweat of Roman Catholic guilt, full of fear of damnation and just plain embarrassment. I had what is commonly known as “mike fright.”

Of course, I've told this story to people who listened to WPTR in those days. And almost everyone of them have told me that the John Lennon statement was their favorite, because it sounded “so British.”

Twelve years later, I found myself in a job where I had to be in front of a microphone. I read and read and recorded and recorded, in a continual cold sweat, until I could do it without flinching. The job was for a part of the very institution that instilled that sense of guilt and fear in me -- the Roman Catholic Church!

The Beatle Book

And How It Led to a Beetle.

I was 24 years old when the Beatle phenomenon struck, and received my first lesson in merchandising.

The rock 'n' roll radio station I worked for became The Beatles Station practically overnight. Our 50,000 watts of power beamed northeast, so we had listeners throughout New England, and even in Northeastern Canada.

One of our distant listeners had been to England, and sent us a copy of a London-printed full-color magazine about the Beatles. My Program Director saw it and his eyes lit up.

He asked me to call the publisher, whose name was listed, and ask if anyone owned the US rights to the magazine. I did as he instructed, and talked to a very surprised publisher. The rights hadn't been sold, and if we were interested, he said to cable an offer. After that, it was out of my hands.

The Program Director got the backing he needed, cabled an offer which was accepted, and the color plates were sent from London. We started promoting the WPTR Beatle Book like crazy, and crazy was how people reacted. At something like $1.25, the orders poured in.

My job was to stamp the station's call letters on each magazine before it was mailed out. Meanwhile, the Program Director sent offers to rock radio stations around the country, and wholesaled the books in each market. He made a small fortune.

Soon after, I left the station and started working at an ad agency. One day, out of the blue, the Program Director called and suggested we meet for lunch. He said he had a surprise for me. And what a surprise -- he handed me a check for one thousand dollars!

One thousand dollars for making a phone call. I knew right away what I would do with that money. I used it as the down payment on a brand new, shiny red 1964 Volkswagen Beetle! It was quite a down payment, because that year, a new VW cost just about eighteen hundred dollars.

Fraim & Fortune

Selling Something That Never Existed

We were young and brash. All three of us. Two disk jockeys -- Don Fortunato and Ed Neilson -- and a copywriter -- me. We worked at a rock 'n' roll radio station in Albany, NY, and we were funny, or at least we thought we were. So we created a radio show that never existed.

Don went by the name of Don Fortune, and trying to be clever, we changed Ed's name to Ed Fraim. I was the off-air writer. We wrote some material, scripted what sounded like what is called in the radio business an air check -- a sample of a show taped off the air, and sent out copies to radio stations. To our surprise, we were hired -- all three of us -- to do the morning drive time show -- one of the most important slots in radio -- in the New York/New Jersey Metro area.

(I had the additional duty of working as the station's copywriter, dealing with clients like the New Jersey Branch of Macy's, called Bamberger's.) True; it was a radio station in Newark, New Jersey, but there we were, competing with the likes of Klavan & Finch on WNEW.

Well, it didn't last long, even though we had a small but loyal band of listeners, mostly in Brooklyn. We were out, at least two of us, as the station shifted format from silly to country and western. I was offered my old job back in Albany, and I gladly took it, in spite of the kind offers from co-workers who said they could get me interviews with ad agencies in Manhattan. I wasn't ready for that, and I think I knew it.

But a few months working in Newark and living in suburban New Jersey convinced me that a career in radio was not going to be my life. In order to move up in the world of radio, you had to move around, and that wasn't for me. I made up my mind that I would work in advertising, and started studying that market.

Identity Theft on a Grand Scale

When They Called it “Pirate Radio,” They Meant It.

I was rehired at WPTR, when Perry Samuels, the recently installed station manager at WPTR realized that there was a need for an on-staff copywriter in Albany. His experience in larger markets led him to believe that all advertising copy came from ad agencies or clients' own “in-house” creative staff. Not so upstate. It wasn't even true during my brief stint as Fraim & Fortune's writer in Newark, where half my time had been spent writing for “direct” clients.

The rehire gave me the opportunity to bring my young and growing family back to where we started, and breathing room to start my search for employment in a local ad agency.

Of course, Samuels didn't know I was the voice of John Lennon, or he probably would have booted me right out the door again. He did berate me for writing some off-color weather promos that our Program Director got recording stars Ian and Sylvia (“Love is Strange”), to record for us, but that was minor, compared to the problem that one of his disc jockeys caused.

The “identity theft” happened shortly after I left the radio station and began working for a small, one-man agency, but even though I wasn't involved in it, it's worth retelling here.

First, you should know that WPTR had great station identification jingles – it had started in the late fifties, when General Manager Duncan Mounsey used his show business connections to have piano duo Ferrante & Teicher write and record a custom package of music, using the “W” to stand for “Wonderful,” as in “Wonderful PTR.” Each deejay got his own personal theme song, too.

After that, Station Manager Don Kelly and his Program Director, Jim Ramsburg, signed on with PAMS in Dallas, a company that specialized in radio station ID's, to produce several series of outstanding, fully orchestrated and beautifully sung packages. Don, Jim and I would re-write the suggested lyrics to tailor them to our area, in one case changing “The station with the happy difference” to “Good neighbor to the Great Northeast.” It scanned closely enough. (Our rival across the Hudson River, WTRY, discovered that we had bought the package, and started using “happy difference” in their promos before our jingles aired, thinking they were stealing our thunder, but of course were blind-sided and deflated when they heard our replaced lyrics.)

Like the others before it, the PAMS package that was produced for WPTR in the mid-sixties featured a jingle for each of the deejays. Well, it's too late to make a long story short, but one of the deejays who left the station in 1966 took copies of the entire package, and brought them with him to his next job, which was on a ship off the coast of England operating an offshore, 24 hour rock 'n' roll station – pirate radio.

The station manager loved the jingle package, shamelessly changed the names of all his deejays to the same names as the WPTR deejays, and used our jingles until the British outlawed the rogue stations in November of '66.

The “pirate Boomer” returned to the states and kept using the name until he died in a motorcycle accident a year later, and so, for just about a year, the world had two Boom Boom Branningans to listen to. As if one wasn't enough.

Next: A Boy in a One Man Ad Agency

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Rock 'n' Roll Years, Part One

Before I take you back to March, 1959, a brief comment on a recent 2010 occurrence: A newly re-connected friend from my Madison Avenue days, Marti Malovany (isn't that a poetic name!) reminded me that a new series of dolls is now on the market -- four figures from the AMC series, "Mad Men." Selling for the ridiculous price of $75.00. Each.
I know the show is popular, and accurate, but will people who watch the show really buy these dolls? And what will they do with them? I call them dolls because I won't call them "action figures." Considering all the drinking and messing around the characters do, to be action figures, their elbows would have to bend, and they would have to be anatomically correct.
Anyway, that's our modern culture lesson for today.
And now, back to our hero's first real job, and some of the stories that helped him -- or hindered him -- on his journey to Madison Avenue.

Back When Record Album Covers Could Floor You.

A story for M. C. Escher fans.

We all know that things aren't always what they seem; at a 50,000 watt rock 'n' roll radio station in Albany, I learned it from my double cousin Anthony, who had the job of continuity director before me. The station had just moved into the building, and the program director, disc jockeys, my cousin -- everyone but the station's chief engineer was in the general manager's (GM) office.

Spread out on his newly installed rug, each one only a foot or so apart from the next one, were dozens of album covers, all the way from the office door to the impressive executive desk. Back in the late fifties and early sixties, album cover art was wonderful. Graphic artists had a square foot of space to fill, and they did it with imagination, using photographs, paintings, typography and color in marvelous profusion.

The chief engineer, hustling over from the station's transmitter, stood in the doorway. The GM told him to come in. To him, and everyone else in the room, the object of the meeting was obvious. But the chief engineer saw it all differently. Thinking the album covers were there to keep footprints off the new carpet, he carefully stepped on every one of those beautifully designed covers on his way to the GM's desk. Everyone was so stunned, they were gasping, but couldn't speak.

By the time everyone had recovered, it was too late to tell the poor man that the staff was assembled to choose which album covers to put on the walls of the radio station.

Boom Boom Brannigan – The First Shock Jock?

How to almost lose a client with one lousy joke.

When, as a 19-year-old know-nothing, I talked myself into a job at Albany's 50,000 watt Top Forty radio station in March of 1959, I didn't know I would be starting in the same month as a loud-mouthed, brash, wise-cracking deejay named Boom Boom Brannigan.

And as much as you might want to think that that was his real name, it wasn't. The station had created the name to rhyme with Paul Flanagan, who was the top-rated jock in the market, and then started a search for someone to fit the bill.

The Boomer lived up to his pseudonym, yelling out lines like “Grab your transistor, sister,” and reading some of the corniest jokes ever written, from his personal library of books as old as “Captain Billy's Whiz Bang.”

I remember writing a cross-plug for the other jocks to read:

Listen to Boom Boom Brannigan every weekday from 10 to 3. Boomer knows all and tells all: he knows all the old jokes, and he's still telling them!”

But one of those jokes, involving an old liquid household cleaning product that's pure naptha, and fatal if swallowed, got him and the station in deep trouble with a major advertiser, the local Pepsi-Cola bottler.

One day, after Joanie Sommers sang “It's Pepsi, for those who think young,” Boom Boom switched on his mike and announced the news that “Folks, they've combined Pepsi with Energine – now it not only hits the spot, it removes it.”

Funny, huh? No? Well, the client was listening, of course, and he didn't think it was funny either. He threatened to take all his money away and double up on our competitor's station.

It took a lot of persuasion, a lot of free spots, or “makegoods,” plus a rare on-air apology from the Boomer to convince the client to stay with us.

And the station solemnly promised that whenever a Pepsi spot ran on Boomer's show, it would be followed by a record without comment.

When “Boom Boom” Came to Troy.

How the Northeast's brashest deejay invaded enemy territory

My hometown of Troy, NY, was once famous for its industrial prowess. It's still the home of a few outstanding educational institutions, but many of its fine old retail buildings were still standing proudly in the early 1960's.

That's when Boom Boom Brannigan and the rest of the WPTR “Good Guy” disk jockeys came to Troy and broadcast their shows from a custom-built Golden Studio on the Victorian Mezzanine of Frear’s Bazaar, which had been one of the city’s premiere department stores for nearly a century.

I remember it well, because I was WPTR’s Continuity Director at the time, and was in on the planning and execution. Back then, there were two area radio giants competing for the lion’s share of the local listening audience – Troy’s WTRY, with studios and offices in the Proctor’s building; and Albany’s WPTR, whose Golden Studio was on the second floor of a former trolley substation on Central Avenue.

Both were “Top 40" stations, programming the popular music of the day, which meant rock n’ roll and ballads with backbeats, spun by “personalities,” along with local news and contests aimed at a young audience with discretionary income. The rivalry was great, and spurred each station to try to top the other. As Marty Ross, the WPTR Program Director told me, the worst thing you could be – from a sales perspective – was the number 2 rock n’ roll station in a market.

One of the brightest radio stars of the time, Troy native Paul Flanagan, first made his mark on WTRY, and was lured over to WPTR with more money and the promise of reaching a wider audience. At 50,000 watts, the Albany station was ten times stronger. I don’t think the management of WTRY ever got over that loss. For years, in the fifties and well into the sixties, it was attack and counter-attack. The more outlandish the promotion aimed at stealing listeners from the other, the better.

There were missing call letter promotions, capitalizing on the fact that the two stations shared three of the same letters. (WTRY was actually named for Troy; WPTR was named for its parent company, Patroon Broadcasting.) During most station identification announcements, the “Y” of one or the “P” of the other would be left out. The intention was to create confusion about which radio station was which, but I always thought listeners were too smart to actually be confused. WTRY was at 980, in the middle of the AM dial, and at 1540, WPTR advertised itself as “First on the right side of your dial.” So the ploy was probably more of an annoyance, but that’s all it took to keep escalating the conflict.

The stations also rivaled each other in attracting the young recording stars of the time to “live” shows. (I use quotes because lip-synching to their own records was necessary for some of the performers, even back then.) WTRY would present its rock n’ roll stars at the Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Field house. WPTR’s General Manager, Duncan Mounsey, had been stage manager at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, and used his connections to bring the likes of Sam Cooke, Connie Francis and Frankie Avalon to the “Tower of Power,” held at Hawkins Stadium that once stood between Troy and Albany, in Menands.

The high point (or low, depending on your attitude) of the war was WPTR’s “Trojan Horse” Plan. To inaugurate the satellite studio in Frear’s, it wouldn’t do to just announce the plan in a multi-media ad campaign. This was show business, and there had to be a show.

The construction company that built the mezzanine studio -- by sheer coincidence, my brothers-in-law at the time -- was also instructed to build a huge, hollow Trojan horse that would be part of a ballyhooed parade that would cross the Hudson from Albany County, travel noisily past the WTRY studios, and end up outside Frear’s.

Crowds of radio listeners were urged to line the parade route, and, of course, most gathered at the site of the parade’s conclusion, where they were promised a big surprise. Sure enough, when the horse was wheeled to its destination in front of Frear’s, a hatch opened, and out came the WPTR “Good Guys” in tuxedos - Boom Boom, Paul Flanagan and the rest, forcing their smiles and happy to be gulping all the fresh air they’d been denied while inside the horse’s belly on the long slow procession.

For months thereafter, my job was to make sure that all the commercials, public service announcements and promotional spots were duplicated, as the deejays split their time – and their shows – between the two studios. Whenever I slept late, I would go first to the satellite studio and claim I had genuine work to do.

Whether the Troy studio gimmick actually resulted in higher ratings is questionable, but it certainly drew Trojans to Frear's, where they could put faces to the voices of some of their favorite radio personalities who were entertaining their listeners from behind the glass on that beautiful mezzanine.

Playing B-Ball With The Harlem Globetrotters

How The Radio One-ders Won by Losing.

In the early sixties, WPTR began a promotion that was a “win-win-win.” The top forty station formed a basketball team, called the “Radio One-ders,” and offered to play high school faculties.

The school would put together a team of teachers and administrators, and both the radio station and the school would promote the game, with proceeds of ticket sales going to the school for a worthy cause.

The station won, because we received free publicity from posters and word of mouth at the schools, eventually boosting our ratings.

The school won, because they sold tickets based on the fact that radio personalities would be at their school, and so raised money they wouldn't have otherwise had.

And the faculty won, because the WPTR team was what you might call the “bizzaro Globetrotters” – we always lost, making the teachers and administrators the heroes of the evening.

Of course, our team wasn't all radio personalities. There were only five or six of them, and one of them was always on the air, of course. So, newsmen, engineers, salesmen and a 20-something continuity director – me – all suited up in our gold and black uniforms, and showed up to play what was usually a ragtag bunch of male teachers who were even less coordinated than us.

We had our gag plays, borrowed liberally from the Globetrotters, and the school team was in on the fact that they would win, regardless of their expertise on the court, or lack of it. Some of the schools' teams were so bad, it took lot of effort to insure the outcome. We brought our own referee, a public relations guy, who helped by calling fouls on us and ignoring those of our opponents.

One school added to the excitement of the game night by recruiting its female teachers to form a cheerleading squad. They were pretty young teachers, and pretty creative, too. They had a ploy to help their team win – by “kidnapping” a key WPTR player and keeping him with them on the sidelines.

The player they kidnapped was me! It may have been because I was fairly tall and thin, or the youngest member of the team, but it certainly wasn't because I was the best player. I was never interested in competitive sports, so never very good at them, but I was an avid bike rider, so maybe it was my legs that attracted the cheerleading squad.

Whatever the reason, I thoroughly enjoyed sitting out most of the game in the company of these half dozen lovely women, and I don't know where other men's cheerleader fantasies come from, but I can pinpoint the beginning of mine from that game night.

Eventually my team needed me to help us lose, so they ransomed me and I was back, double-dribbling, missing shots and passing the ball to the opposition.

About a year into our team's existence, the Harlem Globetrotters came to the nearby town of Saratoga Springs, and our sales manager came up with a deal for their promoter to get more air time for them and some publicity for our station. He got them to agree to play the WPTR Radio One-ders for five minutes at halftime. Naturally, we promoted it on the air, which we hoped would boost ticket sales.

I'm sure you can imagine what that five minutes on the court was like – I don't think any of us ever got close to the basketball, let alone the basket. The Globetrotters had a wonderful time, using all their incredible ball-handling skills to make us look totally ridiculous. Of course, it was all in good fun and we got exactly what we expected, and maybe some sympathy from the public.

Our reward that evening was to join the team – including the mild-mannered star of the team in the sixties, Meadowlark Lemon – for a wonderful Italian meal after the game, down the road at a restaurant with the unlikely name of Ecobelli's Tam-O-Shanter.

Next week -- Part two of my radio days.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Getting Started

It was the winter of 1959 in Ithaca, New York. It wouldn't have mattered what town the college was in; I felt grayer and colder and blanker than the dirty white that swirled around me as I grumbled down the hill to the class I should have loved. It was supposed to teach you how to write, produce and direct for radio and television, but everything I was being taught had been surpassed by what I could see and hear any day on the television in the dorm lounge and the radio in my dorm room.

Not that it was really a dorm, not yet. Just before the semester began, the college bought and started to refurbish a former hospital halfway up the hill from the classrooms in town. It still had the hospital smell -- of Lysol that couldn't mask the sickness in the air. This is where the townspeople used to come to get well, or to die. It wasn't making me feel any better, that was for sure.

It was only a few months ago when I arrived here, after a bus ride that right at the start promised to seem even longer than its scheduled four hours, when the driver yelled at my cigar-smoking father. Dad was a hard working factory man, employed for the 25 years since the depression, and now he was using his hard-earned money to help his only son get the first college education in the family. Second try, too, because his namesake had already been asked to leave the local men's college after two years, because my grades were a disgrace.

Why in the world did I think I could master chemistry and German, the scientific language of the 1950's? I didn't know how to study, and if I had, I wouldn't have wanted to learn to be a chemical engineer. It just sounded good.

Now I was here, in this hilly cold town in central New York, because somebody told me they had a good Radio/TV school. I had a cousin who was writing for a radio station and it seemed glamorous and fun. But what was I learning in this town? This town where people -- the ones who sold them things -- were the only ones who tolerated the students. Even the teachers seemed to resent them.

Why was I here? My own teacher told me that my class project -- a TV production featuring my roommate lip-synching to a swinging Sinatra recording, and a cigarette commercial that was supposed to have a burning cigarette in the ashtray but I forgot to have my crew light it -- was “insipid.”

I looked up the meaning of insipid and promptly tried to forget it. I never would. I didn't know it, but this would be one day when I would be glad I went to class, instead of devoting myself to my unofficial major, darts, or my minor in eight ball.

I was about to learn my first two important life lessons: 1. how to get a job in the business when you had no experience, and 2. how to get experience in the business when you had no job. It came from a visiting lecturer from NBC radio in New York. He was a flashy salesman, with an eye patch, and his name was Matthew “Joe” Culligan. He ran the weekend radio service called Monitor, and it was state of the art for the late 50's, with news reports and feature stories from all over the world. And Culligan had it piped in to the classroom for his lecture. Very impressive.

But what was most impressive was his practical advice. He had a way for the students to get a job when they didn't have experience, and at the least, to get some experience that could lead to a job. It was so simple, it was brilliant.

Go the radio or TV station you want to work at,” he said, “and offer to work for two weeks, for nothing.” His reasoning was that no one can turn down something for nothing. It gets you in the door. They get enough time to assess your capabilities, you get enough time to learn the ropes. If they like what they see, they might hire you. And if they don't, you've had two weeks of experience that you can put on your resume.

So I left the Radio/TV school at the end of that semester, and tried what I had learned. I knew there was an opening at WPTR, a 50,000 watt rock & roll radio station I'd been listening to when I was in high school. I made them the offer they couldn't refuse, and they took me up on it, offering me $25 a week to cover expenses. I had just turned nineteen, I was beginning my career. And the stories started.