Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy ending?


Back in 1963 or 4, our News Director, Robert Potts, and I did WBAI's morning, "Music and News with Albertson and Potts". I took a cab to work every day (they were affordable then), and one summer day, the driver's radio was tuned in to WMCA, a very popular station that was running a contest wherein entrants were required to submit a photo showing the station's call letters on any part of their body by way of a sun tan. The first prize was an automobile awarded for the clearest photo. This inspired us to improvise a scenario in which WBAI listeners exposed their bodies to the sun atop our East 39th Street brownstone, using stencils to acquire the desired effect.

As Bob and I let our imagination run amok describing the scene, we incorporated a a little editorial to point out how discriminatory this contest was to people of dark skin—they would never win that car. Taking that a step further, Bob and I gave out the WMCA phone number, urging our listeners to call that station with a complaint. 

We also received calls, including one from a black lady who somewhat angrily informed me that dark complexioned people also get sun tans. When I asked her if she would consider competing against me, she thought about that for about 3 seconds and admitted that I had made a valid point. 

Later that morning, WMCA's PR office called me and said they were being inundated with angry calls, so what the hell were we doing? I explained, but the lady was still angry when she hung up. Later that day, her boss, R. Peter Straus, called to apologize and ask that we drop the matter. He admitted that I was right and that the unfair basis for their contest had not occurred to them.
Then he thanked me and said that WMCA wished to contribute to WBAI.
He was obviously trying to make the best of the situation, but I didn't mind being used like that—we had essentially won the game. The attached photo was taken a few days later, on a day when WMCA ran a fairly large ad in the NY Times with a coupon urging people to donate money to us. 

By the way, in the late '80s, Mr. Straus married Monica Lewinsky's mother.

21 comments:

  1. Very interesting story, indeed. WMCA was a top ten format station then, correct? I didn't know the Straus/Lewinsky mother connection. I remember station IDs through the years of their being a talk station as always saying "Straus Communications, New York."

    SDL

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    1. I think Straus also headed up the Voice of America at one point.

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    2. R. Peter Straus and WBAI had another connection. Straus gave an up and coming nutritionist his first broadcasting gig, a one GARY NULL.

      KGT

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    3. I know Null was on WMCA, but did his WMCA gig preceded his having his show on WBAI? I wonder if he was hired to compete with Charlton Fredericks on WOR AM?

      SDL

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  2. I came back from the Navy in 1978 and Gary was on WMCA. He joined WBAI in January, 1980, despite the fact that he lies about the exact year and falsely says, "I have been associated with WBAI for the past 38 years. He exaggerates? SHOCKING.

    KGT

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    1. Well, since Null says every radio show he does was/is the most popular show on radio, I bet if you asked him about WMCA, he would tell you he had more listeners than Barry Farber, Barry Grey and Bob Grant all put together.

      SDL

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    2. Null is listed in the Folio of August 1979 https://archive.org/stream/wbaifolioaug79wbairich/wbaifolioaug79wbairich_djvu.txt

      ~ ‘indigopirate’

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  3. Gloria Brown ... Using black women , not to talk about working women's day ,or all women regardless of color , but as a backdoor way of talking about how blacks are being oppressed by the white man . This woman really has no shame .

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    1. None of the race-motivated haters do. Haskins returned to the morning show today, having ben vacationing in Europe (how many pledges did that cost?), and reintroduced his confused mix of racism and uninformed incoherence.

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  4. There is a new show: Randy Credico- Sat. 7-8 a.m.- "If U'r Up This Early U'r Crazy".
    Usually I despise him, but I saw his "60 Turns Around The Sun" and changed my tune about him, provisionally, so I'll check it out and suggest others should. He is the successor to great Bernie Fleshkin. If he's on with John McDonagh or Mr. & Mrs. Janice Coleman, FUGGEDABAUDIT.

    KGT

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    1. I find Credico to be exceedingly unfunny, but I must admit that his Saturday show—where he left his "humor" at the door—also made me see him in a new light.

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  5. There are some shows on Pacifica like Letters and Politics that explore topics not covered much elsewhere but they hardly cover current news. It might help build an audience if they covered the news of the day especially local stories. Even partisan coverage would be better than no coverage. I would think Reimers would push the hosts
    a little especially now that there is no real news dept. I remember hearing about how there was a demonstration that went right by KPFA but not one word about it on their air. Where do you go from here? You don't want to be like NPR. You don't want to take underwriting. You can't get CPB funding. You apparently can't syndicate and no one wants to touch the program grid. What options are left?

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    1. If they don't end up behind bars, the best thing these dabblers can do is to find another business, one they can grasp.

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  6. most of the shows on bai would be better served with a megaphone and a soapbox, in marcus garvey park.

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  7. JUC has a petition on change.org calling for an end to the Indy boycott. They currently have 64 supporters. Comments include:
    John Riley: It's one thing to miss a meeting, but a sustained boycott is untenable. It constitutes dereliction of duty. If you can't bear to come and fulfill your duty to support the instituion, do those that elected you the favor of resigning.

    Michael Novick KPFK:I continue to support WBAI financially because I visit family back in the NY/NJ area. Get it together and stop "rule or ruin" tactics.
    Russell Dale: Let's take back WBAI for the communities of NYC.

    Lisa Davis:I'm signing because it is despicable and ruthless the way the so-called
    Independents are acting. They make a farce of EVERYTHING, including the word independent. They clearly are not that! WBAI is so strapped for money and it is clear by some of the ruthless decisions that they have made that they don't care at all about the station! They really need to just GET OF THE BOARD!

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    1. I have seen that petition and wondered if the JUCs will stop at nothing to have their way with Pacifica. It is clear that many of the comments—some of which you have selected to repeat here—come from people who know only the background as distorted by the group that issued this form.

      Your choice of sample commentaries is suspect. We are dealing with duplicitous people here.

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    2. Relax Chris. I only chose comments from people I thought your readers would recognize and because I wanted to keep the post short. I happen to agree with you about JUC. I wanted to let people know because I'm convinced they're going to try something. Lynne Stewart's letter to the PNB specifically mentioned the recall option. The bylaws say the PNB can do it or less likely you could have a local recall election. I don't know what's going on regarding legal actions but it would be better if both sides could just grow up and actually try working something out

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    3. Thanks, Anon, I am comforted to hear that my paranoia got the best of me :)

      The way things are now, something almost has to surface soon. Keep an eye on Cerene.

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    4. It's just funny how the idea of giving the listeners representation at the stations devolved into party politics.

      SDL

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    5. Robert's Rules may work elsewhere, but they sure messed up Pacifica... that, of course, is Pacifica's own fault.. the much touted "free form" radio concept was never meant to translate into "no form"—but it has. I still maintain that the seeds for this dismantling were sown by Millspaugh, Post, Josephson and go-along Fass.

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  8. And who will (and how) pay for a listener recall election? With somewhere between a half million and a million due to Empire State (which set o' books wouldya like to see?) and WPFW havinf a monthly deficit of $40-$50K, and Houston and LA treading water, how can KPFA support this? Answer: they can't. (inside humor: KPFB can't help either).

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