Howard’s End ... Or Not
By Paul Caputo and Jeffrey Carl
“Wacky” Drive-Time Newspaper Personalities
Hi. We are Jeff and Paul. You’re listening to WARP 101.8, “The Sounds of Crap!”
If you listen to the radio, or are just not dead, then you know that radio station 106.5 “Wheel of Formats” WVGO recently brought wildly popular and also tall morning radio personality Howard “Wheel of ‘Penis’ Jokes” Stern to Richmond. The move ranked just above the At-Large Mayor Issue and just below the Whether-Cream-of-Wheat-and-Grits-are-the-Same-Thing Controversy on the Official News Media Controversy-O-Meter.
In response, a group called The Citizens for Better Broadcasting (“CBB”) (Or possibly “CFBB,” or “TCFBB,” or “TCBY” or maybe just “Kim”) declared war on WVGO and set about getting Stern removed from Richmond airwaves. How? By lobbying businesses to stop advertising on Stern’s show, or else. Or else all three people in the organization were not buying lunch at Dominic’s of New York. WVGO retaliated by airing the phone number of the CBB and asking listeners to call and lobby the CBB to go bite themselves. Then the CBB stopped answering the phone.
So whence the controversy? Howard Stern, most famous of the “Shock Jocks,” does a radio show from (True Fact!) New York City, which is listened to, according to Stern, by more than 300 trillion people daily, several of whom have IQs. Here is an actual transcript (Blatant Lie!) of Howard and his co-host Robin Quivers:
This seems bad until you consider the other morning personalities, like John Boy and Billy, on 96.5 WLEE:
JOHN BOY: YEEEEEEE HAW!
JOHN BOY: AWRAHT!
JOHN BOY: Well, if mah family tree don’t fork, we got us a caller on the TELLY-PHONE!
BILLY: Yer on the air!
CALLER: YEEEEEEE HAW!
JOHN BOY: NASCAR!
So what makes a few people, namely the CBB, risk their lives (or whatever) just to get one morning radio deejay off the air? We don’t know. Probably something.
We decided to investigate. We divvied up the work, approaching the story using the classic “Pincers Movement”: Jeff would contact the CBB and Paul would contact WVGO. Then we would both contact Ukrop’s and ask to have “Hugh Jass” paged over the P.A. system.
Jeff called the CBB and got an answering machine that said, to paraphrase cheerfully, “This is the Citizens for Better Broadcasting and you can rot in Hell.” Jeff left a message explaining that we are serious columnists for a serious newspaper. We just hoped they had never read the State. Anyway, Jeff called back later and got the same message. Then he called again and got a recorded message saying that the line was “being checked for trouble.”
Meanwhile, Paul violated the International Newspaper Columnist Code (“Don’t do any work”) and interviewed WVGO program director Bill “Cheerful On-Air Personality with a Different Name” Glasser about the Howard Stern controversy. Glasser explained that the CBB was “harrassing” Richmond businesses that advertise during Stern’s show by calling them and threatening a boycott. However, none of the Richmond businesses was forced to disconnect its phones and put signs on its doors saying “Go Away! Lots of Plague Here!” Which is poignant, because that’s exactly what the CBB did.
Why? Try this: Move to Germany and establish an organization dedicated to banning David Hasselhoff. Keep in mind that all Germans are fanatical lunatics who would sell their own mothers to get a “Knight Rider” T-shirt. Now advertise your home phone number on the nightly “David Hasselhoff Worship Hour” in Düsseldorf and put a big sign on your house that says “Please Riot Here.”
This is around about how it must have felt to be a CBB staffer. Either of them.
Jeff called the CBB again and got a message saying that the number had been changed. In fact, it had been changed into Japanese so nobody could call it.
Paul got bored and interviewed social commentator and Channel 12 reporter Vince Maddox about the issue.
“No way,” Maddox said (True Fact!). “Unh-uh. I don’t want to be in that newspaper. You’ll misquote me. You’ll have me saying something stupid.”
His fears proved to be justified.
Meanwhile, Jeff, getting desperate, was going house-to-house in the Richmond Metro Area, knocking on doors at random and asking, “Are you the CBB?”
At long last, Paul received the phone message we had been waiting for. “Mr. Caputo,” it said. “This is the University of Richmond calling to remind you that you have not officially graduated until you pay your campus parking tickets.”
Also, a woman from the CBB called. She said that she “appreciated our interest” but that the media “continues to slant the story toward the big money.” She said — to paraphrase — that she wouldn’t wrap dead fish with a rag like The Richmond State and that we were going to have to do our story without a comment from the CBB. Oh, and by the way, she hoped we would be fair and objective.
There are certain things you just don’t do if you want fair coverage from the media. Refusing to talk to reporters is about eight of them.
Actually, we thought it was great. We figured that since they wouldn’t deny it, we could assume the CBB’s real purpose was to start a fast-food restaurant that specialized in Clubbed-Baby-Seal Burgers.
The sad thing is that we were actually prepared to like the CBB, since they are private citizens attempting to affect censorship, rather than getting the government to do it. That’s the sort of free-enterprise spirit that we, being mean people anyway, admire. But if you can’t be bothered to explain yourself, be prepared for others to do it for you, and to mention Clubbed Baby Seal Burgers while they’re doing it.
But, all petty spitefulness aside, the CBB maintains that it is trying to bring a standard of common decency to Richmond radio. This is fine in theory, but is actually quite stupid.
Many modern radios include a wonderful device, called the “Off Switch,” which allows you to turn them off if you don’t like what you’re hearing. Other, deluxe-model radios sometimes even allow you to change stations, too.
If the CBB were truly interested in decency, it would have formed years ago, attempting to outlaw fat men who wear bikini briefs as swim-suits, girls who don’t shave their legs and the senior citizens’ home in Chesterfield called (True Fact!) “The Happy Woodpecker.”
We truly were disappointed that the CBB would not talk with us. We understand that Stern’s show is “slightly offensive” (a term derived from the latin Offens, meaning “this guy” and Ive, meaning “who is a total jerkface”), but so is just about anything on television except for tests of the Emergency Broadcasting System.
It all comes down to this: People who get outraged about something like Howard Stern should get a sense of humor, or at least lease one with attractive financing. Neither of us agrees with much that Stern has to say, but we still think he’s funny. Mind you, he’s not witty like “Mad Dog,” but he is good for a chuckle. This is more than the CBB can say.
And if the CBB wants our phone numbers, they are 355-3981 and 672-8529. But please be fair.