Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Thoughts for July 4th – Freedom, FAN, Fun, But No Funky

Hello Folks and welcome to our annual July 4th column.. to see last year’s column.. check out the archives...

Being the son of an immigrant… my dad came over from Europe in 1948 after The Holocaust … July 4th is really Thanksgiving to me... and deserves major celebrations! So today we address some of the Freedoms we get… the Freedom of Speech which allows us to have open newspapers and radio allowing us to speak freely.

TALK RADIO – I don’t agree with a lot of the hosts.,. but in America goofballs like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh and possibly Ann Coulter are welcome to speak about their views on government… even when they clumsily defend Our Evil President’s disgraceful actions involving his partner in crime Scooter Libby. Inflammatory speech however is not part of the freedoms allowed in freedom of speech so I’m not too sure someone like Coulter should be allowed to flap her yapper especially with her horrible comments about the 9-11 widows and Presidential contender John Edwards.

Talk radio makes a lot of money for some people.. but the richest talk station is WFAN which appeals to that much desired male demographic informally referred to as guys who spend money. This past week WFAN celebrated its 20th anniversary with an incredible reunion highlighted by one hour shifts by hosts who hadn’t been heard on the station in many many moons. One interesting tidbit was passed along during a rather dry hour by Spencer Ross who talked about radio research conducted by the all news stations many years ago where participants indicated they did not want to listen to reports about… sports! Yet now, WFAN is the most profitable station in the country.. thanks mostly to non sports host Don Imus who brought in millions and millions of bucks.

In case you missed the reunion weekend, it was nice to hear the former hosts again… such as Ed Coleman and Dave Sims.. Sims is now the Mariners radio announcer while Coleman works the Met broadcasts. Russ Salzberg did a pro Imus rant.. and former overnight hosts Joe Beningo and Steve Somers did a live remote which included a salute to the former callers including the late legendary Doris Bauer from Rego Park who despite a chronic cough had some delightful insights that she often shared with the hosts. One late summer night during a too long drive home from the Jersey shore, my non sports fan buddy Mike listened to a Doris call to Jody MacDonald and exclaimed how amazed he was that a woman would know that much about sports!

Here were some of the highlights from the weekend…

Bill Mazer – Rumor has it he is in his late 80s and by his shaky voice you could tell that he has aged quite a bit... but once he got going you could see that the Amazing One is still as sharp as a tack talking about stuff from many years ago as it were yesterday and still able to talk about sports current events too. I thought he had “retired”, but apparently he still does a daily airshift at a Westchester station. He opened the show by speaking of his grandfather and great-grandfather who lived past 100 – and neither really retired. But his dad who did retire.. actually died in his late 60s.. hence Bill’s work ethic!

I always got a kick out of how he ended each broadcast.. either radio or on Channel 5 by saying “Thank You It’s Been a Pleasure”. I always wanted to order a call girl for him just to see if he would say that to her too.. (how Kushner-esque, but I wouldn’t videotape it!),. Ultimately, at the end of his hour the 80-something Mazer did not say “Thank You It’s been a pleasure”.. but instead wrapped up his hour on the 20th anniversary special with a shout out to the program director informing him he planned to be back for the 50th anniversary. As they say in Yiddish.. “biss a hundred and tzvantzik” (May he live to be 120)

Spencer Ross – Spencer dropped a side comment about his dislike for Pete Franklin the late rabble rousing afternoon drive host pre- Mike and the Mad Dog. Moments later leading out of a commercial, the producer surprised him and replayed a lengthy diatribe by Franklin where he bellowed about a feud with other staffers including Ross. Once he was back on the air, Ross went nuts totally dissing Franklin and I could swear used the word a-hole! Ross musta really had a lot of pent up hatred for ol Pete.. Incidentally, I did 2 radio internships.. the 2nd was in the Fall of ’88 at WFAN when Pete was working there. He really wasn’t friendly to anyone and used to come into the newsroom during commercial breaks and regardless if anyone was watching the newsroom TVs would turn each one of them off and announce.. “If you wanna watch TV.. go work at a TV station”. And he did this all the time.. Incidentally, my first internship was at WMCA when Chris Russo was an unknown weekend host, and back then I used to tell him that one day he would take Pete Franklin’s job and be the afternoon drive host on WFAN!!

Jim Lampley – the last host on the reunion, he was the first ever host on WFAN and yours truly was his third caller that fateful day. Lampley did his show from The West Coast and made it a point to inform listeners that he drove more than 100 miles to get to the studio. Lampley had some interesting moments including a call from a former co-worker who seemed to have a chip on his shoulder because Lampley didn’t help him during the early days when he attempted to launch a broadcasting career. It was quite bizarre. But the biggest news I learned during Lampley’s show.. long time radio caller Bruce From Flushing… who has been calling in shows since they came out with keypads and redial…is now married! (He is an observant Jew and didn’t call in during the Sabbath for Day 1 of the reunion and its all Jewish lineup!)

NEWSPAPERS AND OTHER RELATED MEDIA – The Star Ledger to me is the best paper.. I read a ton of papers online… but the Star Ledger is part of my daily FDA required reading and I have been a regular reader since I was a little pisher. Every day starts out with the comics, which is why today I want to discuss Two Things I Would Do If I was Running The Star Ledger.

1. Drop Funky Winkerbean from the comics until its new format starts later in the Fall. Just in case you haven’t heard.,.. For Better or For Worse, one of just a few comics where the characters age naturally will freeze in time this fall… Funky which was frozen in time in the earlier days when it was funny, had its characters start to age after the original cast of Funky and Les graduated from high school.

This fall, the Funky characters will age 10 years…and according to published reports Lisa the cancer stricken wife of Les is going to die. This really bugs me. Even though she is a fictional character, cartoonist Tom Batiuk has tortured her with untold suffering that has no place on the funny pages. Word on the street is her death may come in an unexpected manner… she is on the cusp of discovering that the son she gave up for adoption is a local yokel kid.. Maybe the boy will save her life with some rare blood type transfusion, only to have the strip pick up 10 years later and she died in the interim? Highly unlikely since Tuesday’s strip had the poor husband hear that his wife only had months left. How horrible to put this where little kids learn to read!…..The strip is just out of line… and if it were up to me, I would drop it till the story gets resolved. Kids who read the paper don’t have to be exposed to this,…. They should be watching Dennis menace or the Lockhorns lock horns... or Andy Capp's wife develop an odd admiring fascination with the Melanie McGuire Story, or The Little Family Circus kids say cute things even though they are all in their 50s now.

2. Change the website. The Ledger doesn’t have a regular site, but shares it with other Jersey papers as part of

I was recently made aware of some absurd cheap shots being launched towards a few people I know on a local town bulletin board. In my best Dennis Miller rant imitation, if we want to make the internet better… why doesn’t shut down those God damn bulletin boards that allow people to make nasty personal comments while hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. It’s really heroic that these moronic losers can just say what they want without posting their real name.. Knowing full well that these gutless weasels don’t possess the balls to make these comments to these people right to their faces. Read the Constitution folks - Freedom of speech doesn’t allow people to make blasphemous comments about public figures just because you have some silly little personal issue with them.... The Star Ledger, otherwise a fantastic source of journalism has sunk to a new low by allowing this forum fiasco - they would never publish a letter in the paper without a name… (They will withhold identities upon request), and they would never allow their newspaper to carry the garbage that pollutes their website. The daughter of retiring NJ State Senator Bob Littell was recently rebuffed by a judge in her attempt to unmask one of these cowards after one of them made a disparaging comment about her young child on that bulletin board.

If were more responsible they would shut down their forums and only allow postings IF THE PERSON USES THEIR REAL NAME… These gutless weasels wouldn’t say a peep if they had to attach their name to their comments…and all these cowards who make absurd comments about respected people in the community can just disappear into the woodwork and go back to looking at porn or learning better ways to hold the broom while they are on the job, or whatever it is that these pathetic losers do.

Remember… freedom of speech has to be understood to be appreciated. It doesn’t give ARod’s wife the right to wear a vulgar t shirt while parents of young kids cringe out of fear that their kid will see it… but freedom`as intended by our founding fathers is one heckuva beautiful thing…

Now time for The Clip of The Week - Last week I mentioned Neil Diamond's awesome Kol Nidre in The Jazz Singer. Today in honor of July 4th, here he is performing America!

Have a wonderful 4th of July!


An avid listener of WPMP said...

"long time radio caller Bruce From Flushing… is an observant Jew and didn’t call in during the Sabbath for Day 1 of the reunion and its all Jewish lineup!"

Amusingly, this reminds me of the famous anecdote when Jack Spector was on the air one Yom Kippur, and a woman phoned him up and asked, "What are you doing working on Yom Kippur?" and Jack responded, "I'm not live - I'm on tape!"

Nate said...

Amusing, but it always bugs me when a Jewish broadcaster does a live show on Yom Kippur. The level of someone else's observance is really not my concern, but it's a little unfair when someone requests a day off to observe a Jewish holiday and the boss says.. "But such and such is Jewish and he's working".

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and the goyim get a break on December 25th, when WCBS-AM in NYC becomes "all-Jews radio")

Speaking of days off, when did the concept of "taking a mental health day" manage to enter the lexicon of the workforce? Years ago, you just lived with stress and went to work; I can't recall a single time my parents needed a mental health break and had to take a day off when I was growing up. Then again, stress can catch up with you (let's avoid making any wisecracks about matching kippot and phallic balloons!)

Neil said...

This fall, the Funky characters will age 10 years…and according to published reports Lisa the cancer stricken wife of Les is going to die...

Kids who read the paper don’t have to be exposed to this

I respectfully disagree with you. I think we shelter kids far too much from the real world. They'll be scared to see Lisa die, but this is a good way for them to learn to deal with death. If parents don't agree... well, they don't have to let their kids read the funnies.

Comics are only recently being taken seriously, with creators like Marjane Satrapi, Neil Gaiman, and Will Eisner being recognized for having created lasting literature. Ghettoizing an entire art form as being fit only for "kid stuff" is only keeping comics on the level of idiocy like Beetle Baily, Cathy, Harag the Horrible, and the like.

Nate said...

Getting to Anonymous comments first.. I think our parents did take a "mental health day"..they just didnt use that term.. perhaps they played hooky from work but were very secretive about it so they would not be a bad influence on the kids.

As for Neil, I don't want to disagree with the musical genius who did such a great job with The Ballad of Melanie McGuire - look for the video in the next week! By the way if you go to his blog you will see that he also has acted in some movie shorts .. Kudos for the short movie where you play a drunk guy passed out on a couch at a party while another guy needs some "alone time" for some hoochy mcsoochy with a hot babe - great acting job!!

But as for Funky Winkerbean, that storyline is ok for older kids, but there are little 6 and 7 and 8 year old kids who are reading this and I think that that is the age where they should be sheltered. And why should parents deprive kids of reading the other comics because of the Funky storyline?

I also think it's very tough for little kids who have seen this firsthand with a family member or a friend's family member. This is not the forum for them to relive this. Maybe the Ledger should just bring back Cleats or Hi and Lois.

One blogger who hasnt lost sight of the absurdity of this situation has started a daily analysis of searching for the humor in the "funnies". It is not only a spoof of this strip, but also similar to other bloggers who poke fun at the daily strips... The url is

Neil said...

Nate, still don't agree with you, but I was poking around on the net about FW... take a look at this.

Nate said...

Hey nothing wrong with disagreeing... my wife is a Yankee fan and some of my friends are gulp Republicans.

I saw that parody strip recently and it addresses the absurdity of the strip. Cartoonist Tom Batiuk won his cancer battle and I hope he lives as many years as Bill Mazer.. and I wish him well with his new Lisa book coming out after she gets killed off this fall....but, I think the link you provided tells exactly what the strip has turned into. If I want to see characters die... I'll watch 24 or Lost. hey Im still upset about Edgar.