Thursday, July 16, 2009

There was music radio once, and laughter...

This image was stolen from Charles Laquidara's blog.
One of the reasons that I enjoy spouting off from the quarterdeck like this is merely that I get to see my words published.
At one time, I wrote for a crappy magazine in Boston that readers could pick up on the cigarette machine and, after thumbing through a few beer- or coffee-stained pages, one might ascertain where the Del Fuegos would be performing that Thursday, if you got past the hand-drawn propaganda for bars you wouldn't go to on a dare. Miniscule, one-paragraph, obscenity-filled reviews (by "AABill," "Boy Howdy," or "Peggy Lee"-- I may have actually been "Greg Kihn" once) shared the pages with ads for used bicycle parts shops, "escorts," and 900 numbers.
Back in those days, busybody promotions people sent product -- free -- to just such magazines, the Twentieth Century's analog tree-destroying desk-cluttering T-station polluting handheld version of "popular culture" blogs, and we "reviewed" everything sent to us. If the item were particularly prized, someone would put the book, cassette, VHS tape into their Swiss Army bag and no one would ever see it again or ever enjoy a review other than overhearing: "Yeah, that was pretty good. Pass the pretzels."
We published whenever the publisher's Dad handed over enough money to pay the print shop. Who was -- I think -- him.
The city's actual (not "real," which was another paper thing) newspapermagazine was the Boston Phoenix, and they owned the radio station that played R.E.M. and Sonic Youth, back when they called that "college rock" and not "alternative." Which meant that they were "edgy." Before "edgy" meant "expensively retro-clothed socially-dissociative personality-disordered." That was WFNX, the station you listened to in order to stay "with it" so that you could at least join conversation at clubs. The other station, you listened either out of habit or for comfort. (Although, no one ever talked all "sensitive" like that in the Reagan Eighties. Back then, "Political Correctness" was still just a silly way to talk about job titles, not a coverup for racism.)
The staid old rock'n'roll station was WBCN -- The Rock of Boston. Which is at this moment being mourned, even by the Associated Press.
I sent resum├ęs (that's what we called "CVs" back then) and demos to both stations with little luck. Cover letters went unread, I'm sure, and follow-up calls went unanswered. As we all know, that's standard operating procedure in this century. See how presciently far ahead of the game these guys were?
I so wanted to be a part of that forward-thinking crowd. I thought that I had the chops to work for the outstanding Oedipus and with the legendary Charles Laquidara. Or, at least, near Duane Ingalls Glasscock.
But I had a half-hearted dedication to doing the movie "reviews" for What's Up or What's New or What's That or Whatever the hell it was called that month, after the cease and desist orders had been served.
On one such occasion, I had my choice of seats in a near-empty megaplex theater in Everett and waited for what I had been told was a "media prescreening" -- billed as the "Boston premiere" of Return to Oz.
It was actually just the first night that the movie was playing in the Boston area. I wasn't expecting a red carpet and Jean Marsh escorting eleven year-old Fairuza Balk. But I also hadn't expected the ticket booth attendant to not know where this alleged "media prescreening" would be held. The cardboard "pass" should have been my first clue. The suspicious stare and poised finger on a booth intercom button should have been the other.
An older family guy herded a couple of kids into the seats starboard, and I couldn't help but be aware that the young boy was wearing a cape. I figured: Wizard of Oz remake, kids would love it, and kids sometimes wear superhero costumes. With capes. The father arranged their outerwear hurriedly and said something to them and I instantly recognized him as Charles Laquidara, the morning man from WBCN.
I introduced myself, carefully enunciating every letter but hoping that I didn't break into my "big announcer voice" out of desperate employment desire. He was friendly and started to chat, but the lights dimmed. They were entertaining companions for a movie that really wasn't made for kids that age. And that's how I get to say that I went to the movies with Charles Laquidara.
Although, that didn't get me a job at 'BCN.
(I swear that I've told this story before, but I can no longer find the post where I previously related this heart-warming story.)
For those of us born when the wireless was relevent, radio is an important cultural touchstone. I was in an airport in North Carolina once and said "mishugas." The next thing I knew, I was being backslappingly led into the lounge by three guys with Red Sox caps chortling about Charles Laquidara's Bi-i-ig Mattress and Carlos the robotic disc jockey. Of all things.
I'm glad that I got to enjoy that era.
And I will remember WBCN as a significant part of it.

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