Friday, May 12, 2017

The ghost who helped me say goodbye

“Pan had begun to live in his memories, an unhealthy symptom in anyone, suggesting as it does that life has peaked" 

 ~Tom Robbins

A few years ago I had a dream about an old boss who I had not thought about in many years. Richard Reed hired me to work at KOMP when I first moved to the states in the mid 90s. He took a lot of heat for it too because there were a number of jocks in the cluster on other stations hoping to get on KOMP and I essentially took their place. He also knew I was struggling and let me work on a sister station. I was only part time and the extra hours kept me from having to eat sleep for dinner.

My first night on the air was running the board for a multi jock simulcast from the strip for the implosion of The Dunes. I remember one of the jocks groaned when he heard I was running the board. He didn't know I was in the room when he asked "does that bitch even know what the fuck she is doing?"

It turns out I did and I rocked it as much as a board op could lol and over the next year I grew enough to be offered morning sidekick position with Mike O'Brien on The Point. It wasn't really a fit for me because I was a rock girl and my first love would always be KOMP. The overnight position was soon available and I begged for it which was shocking to anyone in radio at the time.  "you want to do OVERNIGHTS when you are doing mornings?" they gasped. The answer was yes. Because I wanted to rock and I wanted my own show.

I got the gig and it was a blast. I don't think the overnight shift even exists anymore because of voice tracking which is one of the worst things that ever happened to radio second only to the Telecommunications Act. Both were terrible blows to the creative side of the industry.

My stint in overnights was shortlived though because 103.5 The Edge came calling with a mid day offer and that was when my career really blossomed. 1996 to 1998 were the absolute greatest years of my professional radio career because I worked for people who believed and nurtured my talent. The freedom and creativity our crew had just boggles my mind. We were blessed to be so free.

That freedom and joy was palpable on the air and the ratings and the buzz on the street were legend. I did personal appearances everywhere especially Drink and I also hosted The Hollywood Swing Parties at the Hard Rock Hotel. Every radio station desperately wanted and fought for the chance to get that contract but it was my spec commercial and passion that eventually sealed the deal and those parties are my greatest memory of Vegas.

Sadly The Edge's days were numbered because of the horrendous telecommunications act Bill Clinton signed which decimated radio. We were a lively mom and pop station and our owner George Tobin could not compete with the craven and debauched corporate behemoths who came stomping in like Godzilla Meets Bambi and pounded the creative guts out everything we had worked for.

I will never forget the day they changed our format. I was numb on my way home and an obnoxious competing station who used to pay their listeners to antagonize me at personal appearances, was on the air. Their jock was laughing, drinking champagne and playing Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead toasting our demise. That still hurts.

The loss of The Edge was when my new journey began and when a surprising letter turned up in my mailbox. It was from Richard Reed who I had not seen or spoken to since my days at KOMP. It was a letter of recommendation he had written to help me on the next leg of my career. I read it stunned and it left me in tears. I had never read anything so passionate, so beautiful, so charming and so gracious.

It helped me get work at my next station in Philly and then on to Los Angeles. I had not thought about that letter or Richard in awhile until  two years ago when I had a dream so visceral and alive that I awoke with a gasp and the clear sensation that Richard was in the room. His presence was palpable. All I remembered from the dream were the two words he kept repeating"the letter, the letter, the letter"

I immediately got up and went to find it. It was tucked away in a box of precious memories and still as beautiful and powerful as the first time I read it. I got online to see if Richard still worked at KOMP, he didn't. So I googled his name to see if I could find him perhaps reconnect and tell him about how much I appreciated his treasured gesture.

That was when I found his obituary. He had died of an aneurysm in Rio just a few days before my dream, I sent a private message to the site hosting his memorial thanking him for the countless ways he had helped me in the early days in Vegas. I framed his letter and I read it every few weeks to remind myself that there was once someone out there who believed in me so passionately that he would take the time to write it down and share it with the world.

I never thought I would leave radio, it has been such an integral part of my life for so long that it is hard to imagine my life without it. But as I was filling out yet another job application tonight I realized it is time to let go.

Thank you Richard.  I think you would be proud of me. I had a long and  extraordinary ride in radio and as I say goodbye to my career and to you I want you to know how grateful I am you gave me a chance. You were my champion and I will remember you forever.