Friend of mine used to work with radio legend Wolfman Jack.
He can be seen in the movie American Graffiti and was the announcer on a TV show called Midnight Special which for a time featured Australian singer Helen Reddy as regular guest host.
I’ve been told they were America’s Sweethearts in front of the camera but the backstage relationship was quite different, however that’s another story.
President Nixon decided it would be a good idea to enlist this then icon of youth in his War Against Drugs, accordingly the Wolfman was recruited to contribute some public service announcements espousing this fine cause.
The way my friend tells it, Wolfman – who had previously been described to me as “Cocaine City” – read the script as supplied except for when he paused to do a couple of bumps.
So it went: pause, sniff, snort, deep intake of breath then: “Whoa. Maaaan that’s good stuff!”
Another pause, followed by: “Edit that out will ya”.
Some years ago the manager of the station at which I was then employed wanted to hire the well known broadcaster Ron Casey.
I wasn’t keen, but the manager had a background in sales as many managers do these days and he was of the opinion Ron would be a saleable commodity to advertisers.
However, given our man’s history of saying things likely to put a radio station’s licence in jeopardy, the aforementioned manager had a plan – appoint a real time editor.
The theory was that when Mr. Casey was judged to have “gone too far”, this individual would hit the dump button on the seven second delay and thus save the radio station from having to provide a “please explain” for breaching acceptable standards.
My view is if you’re going to hand the transmitter to someone for three hours a day on a regular basis that person alone should be responsible for what they let go to air, so I was less than enthusiastic about this arrangement.
In fact I have worked in studios where someone on the other side of the glass has access to a dump button and warned those persons that I will wear the consequences of whatever I broadcast and on no account should they try to second guess my intentions and suddenly become Chief Censor.
But that’s just me.
Now Ron Casey could be an engaging radio entertainer, but some of the things he said would be just hugely, gratuitously stupid.
Example: caller commenting on something said by his common law wife “Yeah Ron, as I was saying to my de facto – ”
Ron (interrupting): “What did you say?”
Caller: “I was saying to my de facto.”
Ron: “Oh. I thought you said ‘de fucked oh’.”
This was excised from the air waves as being unsuitable for broadcast at two in the afternoon, but it was one comment among many which were just plain strange apart from anything else.
Ron didn’t bother too much with program planning.
He operated on the principle that if the show wasn’t going anywhere he’d think of something then and there to get the phones ringing.
His favourite fall back was enthusiastic criticism of people of indigenous background.
One Saturday afternoon apparently there had been no control room censor on duty and Ron had gone “too far”.
I had been enjoying a perfectly pleasant lunch with friends in the Sydney sunshine, but was now required to make a judgement on this latest transgression from audio played to me down the phone.
Part of what I heard was Ron, back on the let’s get those callers calling by complaining about the original inhabitants and their descendants theme, talking to David Marr.
Marr: “You’ve got all the hate Ron, but I’ve got all the facts”.
Casey: “I’m running a talk back radio show. I haven’t got time for facts”.
Yes, I laughed – but that should not be taken as a sign of approval.
So anyway we sacked Ron, who subsequently appeared on the ABC’s Media Watch where he claimed the owner of the station liked him – a lot – but the station manager and Mike Jeffreys hated him and that was why he was unemployed.
This was not correct but the ABC didn’t bother to call me to check.
From my personal experience the Media Watch team, like the late Ron Casey, have a program to put out and don’t always have time for facts.
Certainly not facts that don’t fit their agenda.