Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The bells were ringing...



Early this morning, I heard Tom Wisker fall asleep on the air. It was the second time I happened to be tuned in when he did that. Having often expressed my feeling that WBAI has become something beyond a retirement home for broadcasters who cling to it as the final stop, I think Mr. Wisker—who sounds like a very nice person when he is with it—needs a boost, perhaps a change of environment. or at least an indication that he is appreciated. Yes, that may be all he needs, just a wee bit of the attention lavished on so many of the station's lesser talents. The same goes for most of the WBAI voices that have been exiled to Cyberia are. 

What happened this morning—during a fund drive, no less—should not have happened. One WBAI outsider cling-on, Pamela Somers, had a very different take. This, she seems to believe, is what it's all about. Read on and you will see her rather extraordinary and, typically, disingenuous assessment. She was responding to a comment I posted on the BlueBoard. What follows her remarks is the actual unedited segment, taken from WBAI's archive.

"Funny that you should mention Tom Wisker, because when I went to bed late last night I had the pleasure of listening to Tom's entire show. I was first lured in by the enticing music. He always plays stuff that is music to my ears. Someone named Nina Gordon? He said that he really liked her too, and she'd be all  that we'd be hearing that night. So I snuggled in for the long haul and kept listening. 

But then -- as the show continued, I realized that I was listening to a BAI treasure. It was wonderful just to hear Tom ramble. It wasn't incoherent, it was funny! It was what Overnight is supposed to be -- it was BAI at its best. I didn't hear Tom snoring last night, and I listened all the way through to Libido Talk. But I remember the night that he fall did asleep, when the Blue Board got all agog. And I seem to remember you saying how terrible it was that he was snoring in the control room, and me thinking how funny it was. Another great BAI moment. I'm not a fan of the technical war talk, but aside from that I love Tom Wisker!" 

Now listen to a host Pamela Somers regards as a "BAI treasure," showing "what Overnight is supposed to be," and demonstrating "BAI at its best." 




I have sympathy for Mr. Wisker, who probably does not get paid for his work at WBAI (he has been there 34 years) and surely could use  at least occasional recognition for it.

15 comments:

  1. ....Mr BoJangles...dance

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  2. Medication side-effects, viral pneumonia with contant low-grade fever, and exhaustion. With major depression just for laughs. All addressed and dealt with. --TW

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    1. Thank you for allaying my concern, Tom. I was listening Wednesday morning and happy to hear you sound so robust and together. Now I look forward to hearing about that aircraft carrier next week! Stay well.

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  3. Tom, hang in their my friend. Listening to you snore is more entertaining and edifying than listening the barrage of lies on WABC.

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  4. Tom/Chris--I was on my way home from the airport last night (an hour-long drive from JFK to NW Jersey) and I was searching for something different on the car radio...and boy, I found it. It was WBAI, and Tom Wisker...and Tom was mighty tired. I was a DJ in college, and we're taught to avoid dead air whenever possible. And there it was, at many times, in all its glory. I wanted to call in but Tom mumbled the phone number and I couldn't figure it out. I just wanted to make sure he was ALL RIGHT, for corn sakes. I'd never heard anything like that before on the radio. And frankly, I was riveted. I don't know how else to put it. I'm sad to hear of all Tom's recent troubles (and I went to the WBAI archive to listen to Tom when he was on his game) but either way, strange as it may seem, Tom Wisker last night made me a fan of Tom Wisker on WBAI. It was practically performance art. Weary performance art but art nonetheless. (And Chris, speaking of a different kind of riveting, your jazz blog is one of the best things I've read on the Web, period. The Lil Hardin stuff is absolutely incredible.)

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    1. Hi Rob,
      Thank you for your comments re Tom's show and my jazz blog. I have not heard anything about Tom's present condition, but Max Schmid is a good guy and am sure that he did what was needed to help Tom.

      I have copied your comment to the BlueBoard, where I this morning entered a post regarding Tom, and I will make sure that Tom sees it. I hope it's alright with you.

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  5. Chris, I'm happy to have you do what you feel is best with the comment, and certainly happy to hear it'll be passed on to Tom. As I said, I wavered between concern and amusement while listening to him, though that was before I understood whatever he's been going through. That said, WBAI went from being a station I had little exposure to, to one that's now tabbed on my car radio, and that has everything to do with that hour listening to Tom ramble and attempt to keep the ship steady. I heard quite a range of programming on the station today and I'm not complaining. Again, thanks Chris. I hope one day we can communicate about music; I know I'd be richer for the experience. Be well.

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  6. ...aaaaaaand now apparently Tom wasn't even on last night. I went to listen in the archives--no go. And it makes me wonder.

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    1. Rob, I am told that Tom has been "suspended" and that he is battling alcohol addiction. I don't know whether that is the cause of his dire (homeless) situation, or if it's the other way around. Either way, it is very sad and I hope that he is in good hands and able to overcome this. As a boy, I spent close to three years—age 10 to 13—in a household where one of the adult partners was an alcoholic. This left me with very unpleasant, lasting memories, but the lady eventually overcame her problem, and was a very different person when I again met her in mu adult years. So, I know, first-hand, that there is hope, and I think Tom needs to know that people care. I have never met him, but his WBAI colleagues (and there are decent people among them) should do whatever they can.

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  7. It is, indeed, a terrible disease, and causes a circle of pain. I'm sorry to hear you had that experience, but yet cheered to hear that you were open enough to find the good in this person when she'd recovered. People going through something like this need all the support and encouragement--and understanding--they can get, and that certainly goes for Tom. I sent him a Facebook message when I heard him the first time. I wish there was a way to reach out and, like you, I'm hoping he gets what he needs from those close to him. And thanks very much for whatever update you were able to find. The whole situation sounds incredibly sad, more so given that he's been working at that place for 36 some-odd years. If you hear of any way to reach out to him directly, please pass it on, and thanks again.

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    1. Thanks Rob, I will post any update I might receive, and try to find a way by which Tom can receive well wishes. I know that this is a very personal matter, but Tom was always amazingly candid on the air, so I am assuming that he does not mind this.

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  8. Where is Tom wisker nowadays? I hope he's doing well. I miss the show.

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    1. I can't give you a definite answer, but, last I heard, he was back working at the Strand. I, too, hope he is doing well and I am inclined to believe that being away from WBAI at this time may well be good for his health.

      Perhaps Tom himself can give us an update.

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    2. This is totally amazing, an amazing snapshot of a moment in time and space well worth preserving. Who knows how through the years how many fortunate audience members wound up on morpheus's receiving end on a work/school night thanks to Tom's obsessive, hypnotic meanderings?

      I love the phone incessantly ringing and the music cutting in at the end. I wonder if that was edited-in or if someone finally just snuck into the control room in order to move things along? Anyway, I'm certainly not trying to make light of any of this - I just stopped by here in an attempt to see whatever happened with Tom, given the alarming circumstances he'd been willing to mention one the air.

      I always. always loved Tom's show and even managed turn my daughter Naomi, an incorrigible nightbird, onto the show when she was younger. As all three of my kids are known to haunt The Strand on occasion, I'll try assigning them the task of seeing if they can dig something up on Tom. My affection goes out in his direction in the meantime. Thanks for maintaining this space, Chris, or whoever's in charge here.

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    3. Thank you, David.

      Nothing was edited in, this is an unadulterated aircheck.

      Although the circumstances of Tom's departure were sad, I think—given the current atmosphere at and outlook for WBAI—the timing was fortuitous. I hope he is doing well.

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