Today, May 9, 2023 marks 40 continuous years for me being on the air at WIKZ. The station has had three different names over that time: WIKZ-95, Z-95 and MIX95.1. I have worked out of four different on-air studios, but all in the same building. There have been four owners: The Booth Family, Dame Broadcasting, Main Line Broadcasting and current owner, Alpha Media. I’ve witnessed the evolution from records and tape cartridges that required a DJ to be present 24/7, to today, where radio programming is contained on a computer where a human presence is optional and becoming more and more scarce.
I have worked three different time slots: 7PM -midnight (for only four months when I first started), 2-7 PM for two years and for nearly 38 years, morning drive, with the past nearly 37 years co-hosting with my wife, Lisa. I guarantee I would not be celebrating 40 years at WIKZ today without her. Morning radio is hard work (it’s fun, but make no mistake, it is work). Doing mornings by myself, at the time I did not possess the self-discipline necessary to produce a successful morning show day in and day out like Lisa does. She is also a master at sharing personal stories and life moments.
It is a wonder I ended up doing morning radio at all! Prior to being asked by my boss to take over mornings back in late 1985, I NEVER had any aspirations for mornings. I was a night owl who was far more comfortable going to bed at 4AM then getting up at that time.
Over the years, we’ve given away thousands of dollars in cash and prizes through our many games and quizzes. We always had a ball with April Fool’s day. One year,we talked about a “pet tax” that required people to pay a tax based on the pet’s weight. That really got folks upset! We promoted the “motor smoker” law that only allowed you to smoke in your car if you were alone. If that’s not a real law, it probably should be. And one year, we had people fake call us and tell us they saw Michael J. Foxx at Howard Johnson’s. We never stated WHICH Hojos it was.
The most rewarding and memorable things are the human elements. In 1997, a five year old boy named Shawn Guyer had lost all of his limbs due to an infection. I had read in the newspaper (remember them?) that he was in need of a handicap accessible van. Lisa and I were both touched deeply by this, so we arranged to interview his mom Penny on our show to ask for that van. What happened next was the greatest thing in broadcasting I had ever witnessed. Over $120,000 was raised for Shawn in about two week’s time. The generosity of our listeners was astounding!
The most moving and memorable thing for me was 9/11. That morning after getting off the air at 9AM, our regular time, I was walking down the hallway where the TV was tuned to The Today Show, when I spied a plane hanging out of a skyscraper. To me, it looked like a computer reenactment of a crash, when another plane flew into the World Trade Center! Lisa and I went back on the air, passing along the news as it broke. Soon news director Lisa Kline joined us. This was before texting and social media, so many of our listeners stayed riveted to their radios to get the breaking news on the terrorist attack. The part that hit me the hardest emotionally was reporting that a plane had gone down in Shanksville. Somerset County is where my grandparents and great uncles had grown up and it hit me hard. I learned that day a radio station could be far more than a jukebox!
May 9th is not only my work anniversary, but also my late father’s birthday. I often joked with him that I gave him the best birthday gift ever in 1983: I got a job and moved out! Some years later,I got to sit at the same table as my father’s best friend at his surprise 80th birthday party. He confided in me that years ago my dad had once told him he was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make a steady living in radio, what with the reputed low pay and instability. Funny, he and my mom never told me that. They were both always supportive of my career choice. By the way, my dad ONLY made it 25 years as a teacher, LOL!