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Radio Days
 
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Jm
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« on: May 02, 2008, 02:47:21 PM »

Friday, I told the radio station that I was retiring although it may be as late as next Spring depending on buying a house in Oregon and selling here in Arnoldland.

It's a little scary. It's been almost 49 years and that's a long cord to cut.

It began in the 40's and I can still see the lighted dial of my bedside Emerson as the world poured in through that little tinny speaker. It wasn't just the great old radio dramas, it was ALL the different kinds of music from big band to country to pop to gospel. For me, growing up in the hills of North Carolina was the best education in the world for what my future was. Play-by-play baseball radio, I am convinced, was sometimes better than the game itself because of your own imagination.

I've been a lucky guy always knowing what I wanted to do and being able to do it. I started in my hometown of Asheville during high school in the Fall of 1955 and it couldn't have been a better time. There was still a little of the old time radio left but the industry was quickly moving toward music. I got to play old 78's by The Carter Family, the Mills Brothers, the Chuck wagon gang, Peggy Lee, Eddy Arnold, Stan Kenton, Hank Snow and on it goes. This was combined with "One Man's family" and Arthur Godfrey. The 45's came along with Billy Haley, the Platters, the Everly Brothers. But what I remember most were the yellow Sun Records with Elvis and then Johnny Cash. Being able to play both of those was like being just a little part of history.

In 1960, a guy was hired as a consultant by the radio station and he in turn brought me to California. I drove the 3,000 miles with a mixture of fear and awe. Memories of driving over the Mississippi out of Memphis and driving through Texas in the snow run through my head. In New Mexico, it was a kick hearing a station introducing a record in pure Navajo and then all you heard was "Fats Domino".

I hit L.A. at 7 in the morning and for a guy with hay still in his hair, it was something. Jim Backus was on KLAC and my aunt and uncle lived in Arcadia and took me to dinner at The Brown Derby and by Dino's on The Strip which I had seen on TEE-VEE!

I was a rock jock in Sacramento until I was drafted in November of 19561 and fortune and/or God were once again kind as the 6th U.S. Army had just built a radio facility at the Presidio of San Francisco and needed people in broadcasting. I just happened to be at the end of Basic(A proud accomplishment for one of life's most sedentary beings) in Fort Ord and that's how I got into San Francisco radio by being able to work part time. 1962 was a magic year with the Giants playing the Yankees in the World Series, Tony Bennett recorded "I Left My heart In San Francisco", and I was living in one of the greatest cities in the world. I'll finish this later. It was a pretty exciting time being on the radio when the Beatles hit and also meeting my wife was was taking dedications while I was on the air in 1963.

I appreciate your letting me share this.
Ron


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« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2008, 02:49:48 PM »

You never think about how things happen while they do but in retrospect, they can be pretty powerful. Such was the end of 1963 when Kennedy was killed, a single came in from Swan Records, and I met The lovely Lana Ray.

We all remember the Kennedy Assassination and where we were and I was about to get out of the Army and actually had to spend an extra day in the service for I was supposed to get out on November 25th and that was The National Day Of Mourning. We had suspended all rock music but we still had to go to work and sit there as the engineers played somber music. What I'm about to tell you is something that will be forever burned into my brain: I am going to work and coming off the Bay Bridge into Oakland and going across the dial and listening to what other stations were doing and i hit KLIV in San Jose and they are playing......"WIPEOUT" by The Surfaris. I could not believe it.

About that same time, a song called "From me To You" was released on a smaller record label by a a group weirdly named The Beatles. This was before February when Beatlemania hit and Capitol released "I want To Hold Your Hand". I selected "From me To You" as my personal pick(that's jock talk, you know) just because I loved their harmony.

Everybody should live in San Francisco once so I took an apartment with a sweeping view of the Bay and Bay Bridge from Twin peaks when I got out of the Army. It was $175 a month FURNISHED with a fireplace. And I bought my very first really good stereo system. Multiplex FM stereo was just coming into it's own and one of it's pioneers was James Gabbert who broadcast wonderful stereo concerts. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, the separation of channels in the 60's and 70's is better than today's recordings. Anyway, it was a time but it was a short time.

I met Lana at KEWB while she was going to school at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill in the East Bay. I worked 8 to Midnight in those days and our first date was on New Year's Eve 1963-64. Because all of our dates were after Midnight, her mother was convinced that being a disc jockey, I was taking Lana to Opium Dens in North Beach. Her mother was a little wacko on husband #5 and she used to follow us in this white-finned Buick and every time I see Jaws or hear the theme, I always think of her.

Very funny story: Lana lived in Walnut Creek and I lived in SF and they are 25 miles apart and the temperature can be 60 in San Francisco and 100 in W.C. Occasionally Lana and I would go out and she would stay overnight. On this occasion, she had dressed in a beautiful VERY WARM cashmere suit and when we got back to her apartment, the temperature was about 95 and her mother was waiting for us. Lana, with sweat pouring off her, said: "Oh, Ron and I just got back from the market.(No bags, of course).

At another time, Lana had stayed overnight and her mother called the Oakland cops AND my boss and told them I had murdered Lana and she was probably stuffed in my closet in San Francisco.

We had decided to elope on July 7, 1964. When I got off the air on the 5th, the Program Director, in essence, said: "I heard your last show..and it was.

Fired almost the night before the wedding and what a phone call that was to make.

More to come from Radio Ron
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« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2008, 02:57:14 PM »

 So it's July, 1964, and I get fired 2 nights before our wedding. Doing the naturally mature thing, I got very drunk with a friend and called poor Lana at 4 in the morning with this wonderful news. That was Thursday night/Friday morning and since we had decided to elope, we went ahead to Reno on Saturday, something I would not recommend to the romantically inclined. The "services" included a "rent-a-preacher" and a Procter and Gamble gift pack. The "Honeymoon Suite" at the "Elegant Groper" had this extra "thing" in the bathroom. I thought it was a perk for people who traveled with tall dogs; turned out to be a Bidet.

It sure was a scary start to a marriage and Lana became pregnant right away. I managed to get Summer relief at KYA in San Francisco and at the same time auditioned for KNBR there, a powerhouse $50,000 watt station owned by NBC and nothing happened. Eventually, the part time work ran out and I was forced to go back and take my old job as Program Director in Sacramento. This was in October and with the way the world works, KNBR called in January of '65 and offered me a job. I did not want to leave the job I had just taken but the money was so much more and the opportunity was so much better. Management was gracious enough to allow me to resign with no bitterness. So back we went to the Bay Area where our hearts were, anyway.

This seems to be a good place to tell you that in my almost 50 years, the higher I went in the industry, the more mis-managed it was. Going to work for NBC was such a thrill and yet a major disappointment. One of the reasons for this in those days(and true with the radio networks, especially) was the fact that all the executives that couldn't cut it in television were left in radio. NBC Radio was run by the News Division but since the ratings were so bad, they hired consultants(a consultant, by the way, is a guy that can tell you 50 ways to get laid but can't himself)who programmed rock but we were obligated to carry all their news stuff...which meant David Brinkley and Arlene Frances doing all these think pieces once an hour for 5 minutes and then back into "Satisfaction" by The Stones.

When I was first hired by KNBR,I worked 9 to Midnight and was on my way to work one night when I ran onto this "consultant". We were on the edge of The Tenderloin in San Francisco where all the prostitutes are and he was there with a hooker. Said he was doing "market research". You bet.

Michelle was born in March of 65 and we bought our first house and eventually this ******* left and things were really good for a couple of years. My new boss was a good guy and a great programmer and took advantage of all the celebrities coming thru S.F. so I got to interview people like Mel Torme, George Shearing, Dan Dailey, The McGuire Sisters, Stan Freberg; and as well, Mark Lane who wrote "Rush To Judgment" about the Kennedy Assassination.

There were some thrills along the way. One afternoon in 1966, I was playing "You, You, You" by the Ames Brothers and mentioned I loved growing up to their music. A couple of hours later, I received a phone call from ED Ames at the Fairmont Hotel. He had been driving up from L.A. and had been listening and called to thank me for the kind words and invited Lana and me to see his show. He was really hot then with the song, "My Cup Runneth Over" along with playing Mingo in "Daniel Boone".

1966-67 were pretty good years until mid 67 when they hired a new Program Director whose idea of a workday was to come in at 9, go to lunch at 11:30, drink until 2, come back shut his office door and nap until 4, get up, put out a couple of memos and at 5, go back to the bar across the street. We once went to his house for dinner and on his patio, he sat between two huge plastic garbage cans. In one was iced down beer cans and the other was for the empties. He was in constant motion as he drank, looking like a spastic juggler.

Professionally, he was a racist. He would not let us play "Ode To Billy Joe" because he thought Bobbie Gentry was black. The Capitol promo guy had to send a picture of her before he would put the number one song in the country on the radio.

I was there for "The Summer Of Love" but since we were a pretty conservative radio station(an understatement), we were pretty much uninvolved. Later on, I was more sympathetic to the anti-war side but felt many in the mid 60's came to San Francisco just to party.

Lana and I decided to have our second child and since I was free-lance with no real job security, I met with them in 1967 to see if they were satisfied with my work, explaining that we were going to have another baby and were going to buy a more expensive house

"Not only do we love your work, we're going to make you a staff employee", they said. There were more benefits and after six months probation(I had already been there for over 2 years so I thought that didn't matter), I would have all the security in the world.

So we bought the dream house for $50,000, a LOT of money in 1967. It sat on the side of a hill with walls of Philippine mahogany  and floors with radiant heating and a view of the Moraga Valley along with a pool.

Stephen Sean was born on January 6, 1968.

I was fired on February 20; 5 months and 29 days into the probation period.

Stay tuned...and thanks again.

Ron
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« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2008, 02:58:54 PM »

 We had to leave and lease our new dream house while taking a job at half the salary at KCRA in Sacramento. 1968 was a horrible year and being a middle of the road disc jockey(God, I hate that term, it sounds like somebody with a truss) when Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were killed was memorable but difficult. I do remember playing "Peace" by Bill Medley and "Massachusetts" by the Beegees, respectively.

This was one of the lowest times for Lana and me. All four of us got the Flu and I had not been at the radio station long enough to qualify for the health plan. And we were stone broke. A neighbor by the name of Ray Mohlman just flat out paid for all our prescriptions.

It's a strange world. Ray was a bigamist and also got arrested by the FBI for using the California State Printing Office(where he worked)for illegal activities. Never did find out what but he sure was great to us.

Sacramento is hot in the Summer and we had no air conditioning. The General Manager invited us over to dinner and he was an OK guy. He was an ex-marine and after a couple of bourbon belts, he would put on patriotic music as loud as he could get it and sing along. During dinner, he turned to The Lovely Lana Ray and asked:

"Well, how do you like Sacramento?"

Never shy with the truth as she sees it, Lana replies:

"Other then having a 6 month old baby screaming while it's a 100 degrees with no air conditioning, I love it."

There were several people there and you could have heard a drunk drop. The next day, one of the sales guys showed up with 2 window air conditioners. In retrospect, I should have had her negotiate for me all these years.

1968 finally passed and in early 1969, Ron Reynolds, a very good friend who over the years has become my brother, became Program Director of KNEW in Oakland and hired me. We couldn't get there fast enough. I used to say:

"Sacramento is the only place where Smokey The Bear says....GO AHEAD!"

KNEW was in the middle of a format change from Talk to Music and since they weren't ready yet, offered Lana and me a free trip TO.....the Roy Rogers Ranch and Inn in Victorville, Ca.(They just tore it down) Friends...this was an adventure. There was nobody there and the halls were like a Hitchcock movie.

The museum was kinda wild. I grew up with Roy and some if it was interesting but..........but..........but.........but.........you go around the corner and there rearing up and totally stuffed was TRIGGER(he wasn't a Jewish horse, either) along with Bullet. It was surreal.

I know you think I am making this up but I swear to you on a stack of Box Sets, it's all true.

So we go into the Roy Rogers Coffee Shop and we're sitting there having lunch when Roy actually BURSTS in the room in FULL makeup and actually SAYS: "Hi, folks, I just came in to to rustle up some grub".

Well, the only voice I ever could do was Gabby Hayes(who also died in 1968) and I fly right back with:

"Hey, R-o-o-o-y, how are ye' and all the other buck-ar-o-o-o-s?"

Lana is under the table and he stares at me like I am a true alien.

It was a time.

It was also my first time on a horse and I know my athletic prowess and co-ordination legends have reached epic proportions. Lana was laughing so hard, she almost fell off HER horse.

But 1969-1971 were wonderful years. We were back in our dream house. The kids were young and beautiful. The job was great and the future seemed unlimited as a man walked on the Moon.

In early Fall of 1969, the Mercury promotion man came to KNEW and handed me an album and said "You have got to hear this"

It altered my life forever.

Thanks from Radio Ron
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« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2008, 03:01:51 PM »

We moved back to the Bay Area in March of 1969 and things through 1971 were wonderful and I went to work for KNEW and the Program Director was my boss and best friend. We were at Jack London Square on the Oakland Estuary with a view of the water. It was truly a wonderful time. We were the Oakland Raiders flagship station and occasionally I got to do my show from the Oakland Coliseum before the games. Those were magic days during the Raiders prime watching Daryl Lamonica, George Blanda, and a little later, Ken Stabler. From the booth, it was great fun watching the seats fill and looking down on the sideleins where many times James Garner flew up for the games for he was a rabid Raider fan.

We were "middle-of-the-road" AM radio now known as Adult Contemporary. It was a great time for music because it seemed that people had enough of the late 60's acid rock. Those were the last days of the Beatles with the White Album and Abbey Road as well as "Let It Be"(By the way, "The Beatles Naked" sucks. The reason Apple and George Martin brought in Phil Spector because the tracks were weak in those final bickering days). The hot artists then were people like Harry Nilsson, Harry Chapin, Simon and Garfunkel; Elton John was just beginning and although some critics put down The Carpenters as too "white bread", they had an incredible run and Karen's voice was unreal. There was David Gates and Bread, Carly Simon, John Denver, and Neil Diamond in his prime. Glen Campbell, Jose Feliciano, Joan baez, Judy Collins, and on and on.

I've told this before but it bears touching again because it was such a profound moment in my professional and and later in my personal life. It was raining the night I brought that Mercury vinyl home. Our dream house was wood and glass with walls of Philippine mahogany  and floors with radiant heating. The den was a nook upstairs looking down on the dining and living rooms. It's where I had the stereo with wires to speakers downstairs and a huge theater speaker I found which sat outside on the balcony above the pool. It was on a hill with vacant property on each side so I played things LOUD. I did turn off the outside speaker so it didn't boom into the valley below. I put this new fellow, Mickey Newbury, on the turntable and as I walked downstairs, the first moments of a life-long transformation began. We had indirect lighting above and outdoor lights reflecting off white gravel and trees. I still have trouble describing what that night did to me. It's somewhere between uplifting and breath-taking. It's true to say that it was the most emotionally moving music experience of my life. "Looks Like Rain has NEVER failed to fill me when I need fulfillment. It's always been a mixture of awe and tears and smiles. It's beauty and artistry that few can do.

I did get to play "San Francisco Mable Joy", "American Trilogy", and "Cortelia Clark" on the air in those years.

Life with it's quirks was kind to me again and Metromedia chose to put my good friend back on the radio and hire a new Program Director which turned out to be......Bill Stewart, the guy who brought me out from North Carolina. Bill was a brilliant guy but a chronic alcoholic and sadly, I learned a lot from him. It had not taken over my life but I was on my way.

He was a Sinatra fan and we did 91 hours of Sinatra in April of 1971 which was how I came to interview Frank Sinatra. It's a long story which you will find elsewhere in the archives.

Things started going bad in 1972 as the moneychangers in New York thought we were not making enough money. A thing called FM Stereo was finally making it's mark in San Francisco, slower getting here because of the hills. Those owners finally wised up and put in repeaters in those areas. Bill got fired and the new General Manager was an oldies freak and what you're about to read are almost unbelievable examples of greed, selfishness, and unethical managing.

First of all, the GM hires this new guy simply because of his oldies record collection. John had a sweet wife and twins with Downs Syndrome and a bigger a****** never lived. About this same time KNEW pioneered the country's first sex talk show called "California Girls" and John would pick up the phone and arrange to take some of these young girls to Point Richmond to "show them how a transmitter works". He was a carrier, that's for sure. (A little engineering humor there)

John had some engineering abilities and one thing he did was to wire all the intercoms to the Soundscriber which was a very slow recorder with all these different channels for on the air and two-way logs. We were a split operation with engineers for DJ's and Newsmen so there were was a lot of chatter between all and John was recording it all on a separate channel. When we found out, we had a meeting and demanded that management get rid of him and the tapes. Since they were the official FCC logs, they sat in a Bank Of America vault in San Francisco for 7 years. John denied he did all this but we all knew he did it. The GM did not fire him..probably becasue he was too busy having an affair with his secretary.

There is some justice. John is currently serving a term for Embezzlement somewhere in Washington State.

Since the Spring of 1969, I had been afternoon drive there working 2 to 6pm. It is now the Summer of 72 and I am on vacation sitting out out by the pool on a warm July morning. I am listening to the radio station when I hear:

"Be sure and join Tom Campbell when he joins KNEW next Monday. Tom will be on the air 2 to 6 in the afternoon. I was stunned. I immediately called Ken, the GM, to see what was going on. Turned out that TOM had brought an annual $50,000(a lot of money then) account with him and he wanted afternoon drive..and got it. There was no phone call to me and I certainly didn't hear it through the grapevine.

I was moved 6 to 10pm and it was a very brutal and abrupt example of the way the world of broadcasting can be and frequently is. Tom was a crook who would get on the air with false prices and was once indicted by the S.F. District Attorney. He lasted 2 years. Sex talk came and went like many who called. Oldies never last simply because of what they are. The ratings fell, Tom kept bringing advertising money in but it wasn't enough, and they started laying off people and I ended up doing the all night shift in early 1974. It was an awful time. The last 2 years were among the worst of my career and I hired this consultant part-time by the name of Jack Daniels.

If I thought things were bad then, a move back to Sacramento would completely unravel my life.

Thanks,
Ron
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« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2008, 03:04:01 PM »

In the Summer of 1974, KNEW decided to go Country and I didn't; perhaps not a great decision but I was so disenchanted I wanted out and also got a job offer for the same money to work mornings at KFBK in Sacramento beginning on July 1.

For the first(and last) time on the air, I drank while doing my final show from Midnight to 6, just me and ole' Jack. I had a terrific time playing "Taps" behind all of Tom Campbell's commercials as well as explosions, crashes, boos, and hisses. John, The Wife Cheater, was a jingle freak and we had 64 versions of the KNEW sound logo. We had 8 cart(similar to the old 8 tracks) decks so I loaded those suckers and played every damn one of them back to back. It was neat as during the night several people I had worked with over the years dropped in. I later learned that management had rolled tape on the whole 6 hours in case I lost them their license. I sure would have loved to have heard those.

So off to a new beginning but by this time, it was our 3rd time in Sacramento and Lana was not amused. My hope with my first 5 day week ever(most places wanted you to work six for rating continuity), was that we would be closer as a family. I was not a very good father and with the all night hours and my unhappiness, the drinking became ever so slowly worse.

At the time KFBK was owned by The Sacramento Bee and McCLatchy Broadcasting and they had been in the dark ages in their programming. They were a 50,000 watt powerhouse and were to Sacramento what WCCO is to Minneapolis, what WCFL was to Chicago, was WWL was to New Orleans, etc. Those stations had modernized to a degree but KFBK had not and was ruled with an iron velvet hammer by Eleanor McClatchy who had wonderful but extremely idealistic goals on what she thought was right for that part of California. It was rumored that the Barbara Stanwyck role in "the Big Valley" was based on her. When I went to work there, she was 80.

The station had no ratings and was losing money while the newspaper continued to make a fortune. Finally, they hired a guy from Westinghouse to run all of their radio and tv stations, 8 in all, plus an operations director from ABC to carry out his wishes. They were sharp and the first few months were great but the owners had no concept of what it was all about in 1974. The newspaper had a food section featuring a woman who called herself "Katherine Kitchen" and I was doing lines like:

"Well, folks, you won't believe what I saw last night. I saw Katherine Kitchen coming out of a Motel 6 with Colonel Sanders".

You would have thought I had said the "f" word. Memos were flying but my new bosses said to do what I do which was mostly having fun but much of it was satire which they thought was a fabric.

For the first 6 months, I was commuting twice a week to and from the Bay Area(about an hour and 15 minute drive). Lana, for the second time, was saddled with the house responsibility and we were selling our dream house at my insistence. She was extremely unhappy about leaving but didn't want to lease again. She was loyal but our relationship was changing. Two things happened the day before Thanksgiving:

Lana called and said that we had a buyer for the house and we were to sign the papers that Friday.

I had lunch in Sacramento before I left for home with Jack Fentress, the Operations Director who said:

"Ron, Jim King and I cannot work with these people and we're leaving the first of the year".

I got into my yellow 1972 Pinto to go give thanks and sell my house.

I only did one.

How crazy is California?

We closed Escrow in February of 1975 and sold for $80,000. About 6 months ago, Lana and I saw an open house for it and the listing was $900,000.

I hide the slash marks beneath my watch..

Thanks,
Ron
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« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2008, 03:06:28 PM »

Well, I promise there will not be 28 of these and I appreciate your patience so far.

We sell the dream house and move to Fair Oaks, about 30 minutes east of Sacramento, in February of 1975. The people who hired me left and for six months, it stayed music and it was OK and we did have a better family. Michelle actually got into 4H for a while and i learned very quickly about the extremely efficient digestive system of rabbits.

In the Summer of 1975, KFBK announced we were going all news with NBC Radio's "News And Information Service"(NIS). I never really cared for doing news mainly because you are surrounded by so much negativity. But a job is a job even though I knew NIS was doomed to fail. For them to make any money meant they had to be in major markets and the only radio stations available in most cases were FM since most cities already had well established AM news stations with huge ratings. That summer was interesting even before we went news with the continuation of Watergate and the resignation of Nixon.

We had purchased a new home and we had a collie and poodle. Millie was the poodle and was Lana's before we met. We spent a fortune on fencing and trying things to keep the dogs from getting out since we lived on a slight hill but they always got out. Labor Day Weekends were to be bad and the one in 1975 was a painful pivotal point in our marriage and lives. I did my last music show and came home about Noon and had to return downtown to tap dance at the meeting of the NIS format which started the next day. The moment was forever seared by the 105 heat and the sight of a small inanimate furry lump on the far side of the street. I knew it was Millie and I had to go in and tell Lana that she got out and had been run over. It probably is the second worst day in my life. The marriage was in trouble anyway and I knew this was the thread that would probaby break it. I did tell her and the disgust was almost unbearable as Lana said:

"You ARE going to get her off the street?"

So I went out and lovingly and sadly picked her up, took her to an adjacent olive orchard, and buried her in the welcome mat from the dream house. I then went back downtown and put on my news face and told them how thrilled I was to be working in their format.

A little technical note for the radio and recording guys but the rest will find it amusing, I hope. In the control room of KFBK, our most important tool was a No. 2 pencil. We had Sparta cart decks where, again, we played all commercials and music. Sparta was local which is why we had so damn many of them and they were P.O.S. When you put the tapes in, they would never properly seat against the head, so we put the pencil under the carts in order to physically lift them so we could get highs. The problem was when they re-cued, the pencil popped out at eye level. Fortunately I wear glasses.

For those of you who have lived together when it's really all over, you know what I mean when I say that's a special hell. We tried to fake it for a year. Lana went out and got a job. NIS was a challenge and I enjoyed making the local and national flow together and there were some major things like the Ford assassination attempts both in SF and Sacramento. I had a press pass to cover the President for a later visit and it came in handy as I was pulled over for what would have been drunken driving. The cop saw that and took me home to my apartment(Roach Arms).

Lana is very moral and was seeing someone; rather than have an affair, she wanted a divorce and that was our Bi-Centennial Celebration in November of 1976 and we split. There wasn't enough alcohol in the world to ease that pain. I always tell everybody I was glad I was drunk much of the time.

Until the settlement and the sale of the house, neither of us had any money. I was still driving the 72 Pinto and by this time, the door handles had fallen off and about 125,000 miles had passed. I know you have all been where I'm about to take you.

Lana and the kids are back in the Bay Area and Escrow is about to close and this Pinto is barely running, I am about as depressed as you can be without being suicidal. I am on my way to do a final vacuuming of the house and the car dies at Fair Oaks Blvd and Sunrise Ave right in the middle of the intersection at the height of afternoon commute. SOMETHING SNAPPED! I just didn't care. There I sat in an old fading yellow Pinto with no door handles on the way to clean a house I didn't own anymore; with no wife and kids, and virtually no money. So I lit my 40th Pall Mall of the day and said:....well, you know what I said. People were honking, yelling, and screaming, and getting out and beating on the window("Hell, break it! Please!!!!) I really didn't care. They could call the cops.....whatEVER! This went on for about 20 minutes(a pretty long time for that) and finally, I got out and pushed it to a service station, got it going as darkness fell. I went to the house and if you're making a list of lonely sounds, add a vacuum cleaner whining and echoing in an empty house.

There's another place I never want to visit again and many here have been there; late Sunday, putting your kids on a bus in a station full of shattered and scattered people and their dreams and sending your children to their real home.

In addition to drinking(not all the time but many evenings escaping to that Ancient Age), my other therapy was work. I did 5:30AM to Noon anchoring the morning news on KFBK, I did all the voice work for Channel 40 in Sacramento, did full time marketing and advertising for a waterbed company there as well, plus worked weekends at KNBR in San Francisco. On occasion, I would work til Midnight on KNBR, drive the hour and a half to Sacramento, sleep in the lobby and go on the air at 5:30.

I did this all of 1977 and most of 1978.

Lana and I were never mean and never used the kids and always supported each other as parents.

I sometimes came to the Bay Area to pick up the kids because now I really hated Sacramento.

We started seeing each other again.

I was in "Dating Hell and she wasn't having much better luck. She went out with a chiropractor(many lines there, ladies and gentlemen) who practically stalked her as well as a Middle Eastern guy who seemed very nice until he said he wanted to show her something in his trunk(she never told me if he was twisting his mustache) and when he opened it, it was full of guns. She told me the ones I was dating were all sluts....not entirely true...wel-l-l-l.

So by the middle of 1978, things were looking better but it was in this same time period our daughter discovered drugs.

My answer was to get us all back together.

Not easy.

Thanks,
Ron
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« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2008, 03:09:04 PM »

It was Christmas of 1977 that we started seeing each other almost every weekend since I was still working Saturday and Sunday in San Francisco.

Michelle was just on the edge if 15 and Danville, California, where Lana lived in a condo was also a very affluent area and that's where the drugs began. Sean was about to turn 10. All the work I was doing and seeing all of them on the weekend was certainly better than the previous year of misery.

It's the Spring of 1978 and I had purchased 3 copies of "Rusty Tracks", 1 LP each for each of us and an 8 track(ker-CHUNK!)for the car. Lana and I decided to spend a weekend on the Sonoma Coast near Bodega Bay and Jenner-by-the-sea. It was interesting how we were rediscovering each other. Before we left, I remember us sitting in front of Lana's stereo and crying to "Shennendoah"; crying for what we had lost and all the sadness and growing up we were going through. There are two CD's that will always take me to that weekend: "Rumours" by Fleetwood Mac and "Tracks". We both talked about the dating scene and she loved the line: "Players only know you when you're playing" and Mickey's "Tell Him Boys". It was a wonderful time as we drove above the Pacific. God held us in his hand that foggy night on Highway 1 which we drove toward Fort Ross with the speakers up and our hearts open. But we were also pretty ripped. But it was the beginning of the beginning.

Not too long after that, Lana spent the weekend with me in Sacramento and the delightfully posh "Roach Arms". I may have mentioned before what a delightful person Lana's mother was. When Lana got back to Danville that Sunday night, she discovered all the furniture she had given us when we first got married was GONE! She could not stand the fact that we might be getting back together.

We decided to live together and I knew she was serious since she hated Sacramento but all four of us plus a dog crammed into that crummy one bedroom until I found a condo to buy. That was in June and in October, I finally quit doing mornings at KFBK and was getting all the relief at KNBR. I was still pre-recording all of Channel 40's breaks and the waterbed marketing job turned out to be very successful because I pushed the therapeutic and warmth side when everybody else was trying to promote the sexual allure. I always said if you can't cut it in back of a 56 Chevy, a waterbed won't help.

Yes, this was a good time but I was fueled by adrenalin, ambition, and alcohol. Michelle was almost out of control and the only piece of serious advice I can give any parent is....the soft touch doesn't work. They don't need an understanding friend, they need a firm parent, hopefully both. If the counselor we had ever took an enema, he would weigh about 25 lbs. He said: "Don't intrude on her privacy, don't check her room, and don't put too many limits". This is absolute BS. It's a horrible lesson learned way too late. She constantly ran away and we were in counseling on and off for almost 3 years. I couldn't handle my own addition much less hers.

But I kept saying if we can get back to the Bay Area and be really together, it would all work. It almost did. I was working many weekdays and every weekend in San Francisco and finally on March 15, 1979, ten years to the day he hired me at KNEW, Ron Reynolds who had become Program Director of KNBR hired me full time. But that was the terrible time of 18 percent inflation and we did not sell the condo and move back until September and we've been here in Walnut Creek ever since.

I got a DUI in 1979 while also hitting 3 parked cars. I was cuffed in the back of an SFPD car. "Streets Of San Francisco" was still running and I came very close to saying that I knew Karl Malden and Michael Douglas personally but managed to restrain myself. Alcoholics don't learn from punitive experiences unless they're really ready to stop. I wasn't, even though it cost around $6,000 to clear everything up.

For awhile, it was bliss. I still drank but less. But always remember that you can run but you cannot hide. For awhile, Michelle was OK but that was not to last.

But first, some "good times". That was the logo of the radio station and for 3 years, my professional life and most of my personal life were great. The job was fun and it was probably the most consistently rewarding time as a disc jockey. My friend Ron and the GM believed in hiring the right people, motivating them, and letting them DO IT! Wow, what a novel concept.

Two things happened on December 20th of 1980. Lana's grandmother died in Palm Springs and Lana's mother had her fast frozen and shipped her up here so she could ruin everybody's Christmas. Did I tell you she was married 5 times and on Father's Day, Lana used to send the card to Occupant.

But even that news could not destroy December 20th for that's the day we re-married. Michelle was Matron of Honor and Sean was Best Man and we only had about 30 friends and the reception was at home. I remember saying at the Toast: "Well, since you went through the divorce, you might as well be here when we try again".

It was one of the best days of my life and we're still going strong 23 years later.

Let me tell you, we have needed all that love for,oh,so many reasons.

Thanks,
Ron
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« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2008, 03:15:41 PM »

So the 80's began with the Lyons all back together but only partially mended. After almost 4 years of uncertainty, the future did seem so much brighter.

The first half of that decade was the last, great, gasp of personality radio with a nice mix of Alabama, The Little River Band, Streisand, Abba, John Swewart, Fleetwood Mac, Dan Fogelburg, Willie...at least that was what we were playing at KNBR in San Francisco. We didn't have great ratings but we had loyal ADULT 25-54 demographics and what numbers we didn't have were made by the revenue we made by carrying the broadcasts of the SF Giants.

I got to go to Alaska twice and Hawaii twice on station promotions. The best story was when I took a group of listeners to Anchorage to see Willie in 1984. We were all on the same plane and flew into a blizzard and the look on the Alaska Airlines PR guy's face as we started to land was grim. As drunk as I was, I still asked what was going on. He said something "wasn't right" and we slid a bit as we touched down. Later at a party, the pilot was pissed saying that the tower should never let us in and all the flights after that were sent back to Seattle.

I haven't been back in 20 years and I imagine it's changed but it was truly the last frontier with a McDonalds on one corner and a trapper's cabin with a reindeer in the front yard on another. The Sheraton where we stayed had a genuine Jade staircase and the hotel was right between an authentic pioneer cometary and a strip bar where the waitresses were naked and on trapezes and that's how they brought you your drinks. They would swing over to your table.

We got there Thursday and the show was Saturday night at the Armory. All this was in clebration of the end of the hard Winter where historically, trappers brought there furs in to trade. It's the Mardi Gras of the Great North. I had asked Willie for an interview and he said he would call and by Saturday afternoon I had not heard from him and assumed he was rehearsing and it was off. It was snowing like hell and I took the listeners to a bar I had discovered on our first trip in 1982. It was "Darwin's Theory". Darwin was a cool guy who had literally made a fortune by importing those little small wood stoves into that part of Alaska. His hobby was the bar and THE drink was a "Polar Bear" which consisted of 1/4 "Everclear"(about as close to pure alcohol as you get get and live. It used to be outlawed everywhere except Alaska and Nevada) and 3/4 Vanilla Ice Cream. So we were drinking those for 3 hours as the blizzard continued.

Finally, I get back to the room at 4 to rest and sober down a bit and there's a message from Willie to do the interview at 5. Immediately, the phone rings and he wants to know where I am and I said it's only 4. He was in another time zone and I was lucky to be even conversing in the same language. He said come on up and up I went to the Penthouse past the Hells Angel. He was smoking stuff and I dared not join him or I would have summoning ancient Eskimo spirits in tongues. Fortunately I had pre-written the questions so at least his half was coherent. He was very gracious and I still have the tapes and the special I made when we got back.

After the concert which was so right when you really consider Willie Nelson in an Alaskan setting, we all sat around the hotel bar and I was very flattered how he went out of his way to make me feel like a part of his group and then listeners as well.

The bad news was we had an early flight and I was in charge of getting 5 couples back home. Hangover doesn't even come close. It was the first time I was really scared by the AMOUNT I drank. I got up at 7 just to get breakfast which looked more like a weapon. But after a rasher of bacon and a six pack of coke, I was very close to human. It would be two more years before the truth simply could not be avoided.
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« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2008, 03:19:26 PM »

It is a cold, gray, and wet day in Northern California and perhaps the perfect setting for the rest of the 80's and the most tragic times of our life. This also may be a little longer than the others.

Radio was changing into the mid 80's. FM Stereo was late hitting the Bay Area because of all the hills so AM had an extended stay for music but that was rapidly disappearing with repeaters being built on various peaks. Also CD's were on the market and radio in general was losing audience. We still had fun and I was lucky to co-host a trivia show where we had some great guests like The Beach Boys, The Smothers Brothers, Gordon Lightfoot, etc.

As the business changed, the drinking worsened. My daughter was in and out of control. We are all in counseling and things were bad, all heightened in negative intensity by the booze. On February 18, 1986, I was fired by my best friend and brother, Ron Reynolds; not for the drinking, I was told, but for budget cutbacks.

It was a horrible time. Lana went back to work and whatever denial I had left was erased by all the unfilled time. Finally, in April, I got a part time job at KCBS and with that and the waterbed marketing job, we got by.

Here's the day I decided to quit. I don't know the exact date but it was sometime in May and three things happened. First, I was in Sacramento at a business lunch and we all laughed as the waterbed store owner went to the rest room for the "nth" time to do another line of coke. It hit me with tremendous impact that I was the biggest hypocrite in the world with my hidden bottles and secret drinking. The second thing was when I got home, my son had found one of my empties in an extra mailbox and when he asked me if it was mine, I looked him straight in the eye and without batting an eyelash said:

"Of course not, I would never do that"

That night Lana said she didn't know how long she could keep this up and she had quit in 1982. I am not going into all the darkness that addiction can take you to but there are many here who know of what I speak.

I am one of the lucky ones. For me, it was over. There are those who never get there and I thank God for where I bottomed out. I made an appointment with The Phoenix Program and was lucky enough to find an outpatient program so I could still work. Insurance is weird in this country. If I had checked into a 30 day confined program which was about 40 grand, it would have been paid but it wouldn't kick out the 10 grand cost of a 3 month outpatient one.

Since Lana was working and we needed the money and because I WANTED to, I drove myself to the hospital for Re-Hab and was in for 4 days for withdrawal. Perhaps, the most wonderful thing was Michelle, who was 21 then, visited and we forgave each other. I truly was no different from her.

I learned to love naps and HOT FUDGE SUNDIES. Ny blood pressure dropped 30 points but the elimination of DECEPTION was the greatest gift. It took 5 years to learn how much addiction changes you and 10 years to be totally aware of how fortunate you truly are. And to totally realize how much you are "not there". I did not sober up until the week of my son's High School Graduation

Michelle and I became better friends and yet she continued living her own life much like a street person and ended up living with a guy my age which as hard as it to admit, meant she was probably still looking for me.

It is now Labor Day Weekend of 1987 and I still have no fulltime job and I am doing weekend news at KNEW where I worked in the early and mid 70's as a jock. Lana is still working and when we get up on Sunday morning, there is a message on the machine with a male voice saying; "Hello, hello. Is anyone there?". It sounds to me like a dispatch center of some sort and when I get to work, I start calling all the law enforcement centers and hospitals in our county and they all say no one called our house.

Later on that morning, The Lafayette Police Department called me back and said they had to check with Michelle to see if it was OK to call me. The policeman said there had been a suicide and that my daughter was there when it happened but had been cleared and would I like to talk to her?

As she came on the line, I popped a cassette in the machine to record it. Mostly so Lana would be able to hear what really happened with no lapses but also because I was a basket case. We were both crying as she described how Keith had locked her out of the house and then put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. I still have that cassette but have not been able to listen to it since.

Lana and I went over to that house with the police that afternoon and it's every bit as grisly as you think. We had been over there before but I had never seen anything like this. There were 3 plastic garbage cans; two of them filled with empty Budweiser cans and the other with Jack Daniels bottles.

Michelle moved back in with us and we tried to get some heavy counseling help but it was very difficult. I did not see what she saw only the aftermath. She continued to hang out with druggies but seemed..."OK".

Here's a better story. I always had trouble turning it over. It it now April of 1988. I am down to one Saturday shift and we are nearing financial catastrophe. Lana who has been such a tremendous supporter and working retail and also worried sick about Michelle comes to me and says she just can't work anymore. She is just worn out. I told her to quit.

I immediately begin to panic inside. We are going to lose the house. We are going to lose all we have.

I got up the next morning and in essence said: "Well, I'm doing the best I can. If they take the house, they take it". I swear to you within hours the phone rang and it was KCBS offering me a full time job and I have been there ever since.

I again apologize for the length of this and for your patience but this would be less than accurate if I omitted some things.

I need to tell you about Michelle who used to bring strays home. Only they weren't animals, they were people. Linda was a slightly retarded child who spent a lot of time at our house. When Michelle was 17, she supported herself by taking care of a SEVERELY retarded man named Dwayne who was 37. She would bring him to the house and take him for walks and was absolutely wonderful with him. One Christmas she brought most of her friends to Christmas Dinner and they were all either high or needy or both. They dressed up in their best and they all wanted to call home but many had no one to call. I remember thinking that Christmas really is for ALL. I described Michelle in those days as being somewhere between watching The Discovery Channel and hanging out in bars. She loved animals and those less fortunate than she.

Once, Michelle came to San Francisco to have lunch with me on a rainy day and we went to a place on The Embarcadero called "The Peer Inn". We sat next to the water and the windows were made such that the glass curved into the side of the building and the rain looked for all the world like tears. It was probably the closest conversation we ever had.

She said: "Dad, I know you want me to change but I don't think I ever will but I love you and Mom and Sean with all my heart." These were up and down times with us having to ask her to leave because she was so disruptive

December 15, 1988 broke some records in the Bay Area that year. It was an ominous day with winds at a hundred miles an hour. There was a small KCBS Christmas lunch which was bizarre with group singing "Grandma got Run Over By A Reindeer". The whole day was gray and off kilter.

As I rode the BART train into Lafayette at 9:30, there was no power or streetlights. It's about a 10 minute drive to our house and seeing the police car parked there was not a big surprise.

As I opened the gate and went up the walk, the front door opened and Lana was backlit in the doorway about to utter words never to be recalled:

"Michelle was killed and run over tonight"

And life was never the same.
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« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2008, 03:21:37 PM »

There is a numbness in grief that protects you for awhile. Those who have been through it, like most here, know it's gets worse when things return to some sense of normalcy. But a death at Christmas is especially draining. We had a lot of support from friends and family but you move through time as if it's out of control. You are too devastated to react to the cruelties of----as Jessia Mitford wrote; "The American Way Of Death". In a fog, Lana and I went to a florist to order a casket spray. Like automatons, we wrote a check for $200.00(1988)dollars and when it was delivered the next day for the service, it was pathetic and bedraggled and made the day even sadder in it's uncaring design. We had all discussed at one time or another that we would prefer to be cremated. I wanted to rent a casket for the memorial service and the funeral home said..."Sure, it's only $400"

When I protested, they said: "Well, we can sell you one for the cremation for $200.00".

Which is what we did just to get it "done". Lana was truly inconsolable and one of the truly terrible parts of this tragedy was that we did not see her to tell her goodbye. She was dragged several hundred feet and many, including the Coroner, advised against seeing her. I know it was the right decision based on what I was told but it continues to haunt Lana.

There is a radio story in this. Michelle was killed on a Thursday and on Saturday, KCBS calls and says there is a policeman who was with her when she died and I immediately called him. At the time, he was a Moraga cop on his way home and he had stopped at a convenience store on his way home and heard the noise of the accident and was the first on the scene. He was a former paramedic and wanted me to know that she was unconscious and died in no pain. His name is Ted Todd and today is an Inspector for the Contra Costa County District Attorney. Here is one of the things he said to me in that dark December:

"Ron, I certainly would have called you anyway. But 2 years ago at Christmas, my father died and your Christmas Eve show with your kids helped me get through it"

I did that for about 5 years. When you open that microphone, you truly never know who's out there and how you affect them. It's a terrible business in many ways, but rewarding in what comes back sometimes. This is one of the greatest and warmest examples of that.

The morning after Michelle's death around 3, Lana saw her briefly and when we opened our bedroom blinds shortly after dawn, there was an imprint on our dusty window of a bird in full flight with wings totally spread. We have pictures of it.

In two weeks, I returned to work, all the relatives had gone back home, the phone stopped ringing, the cards ceased coming, and life resumed. I was smoking 4 packs a day and little by little, Lana unraveled; never losing touch with reality but deeply afraid for me or Sean to go anywhere. She spent some time in the hospital and slowly came back but it altered who she was forever. In the fall of 1989, I had to take her to Emergency twice with blinding, incapacitating migraines. We had one doofus Neurologist who was so full of himself, he only made things worse. We finally got a guy who saw the root of the problem and found the proper medication and they went away.

1989 was also the year of the Loma Prieta Earthquake which I will save for later.

It is now December 15, 1989, exactly a year later and I take the day off. I wasn't especially looking for a sign since I don't believe God works from the Gregorian Calendar...and nothing did.

It's the next day and I am out shopping and as I am leaving the parking lot of a mall in Concord, this seagull lands in front of me. It's 25 miles inland, not unheard of but not all that often, either.

This gull is glowing. It is iridescent. There is no question. I smiled and thought..."Well, that's Michelle. A day late and a dollar short".

I could not wait to get home and share this with Lana. I open the door and before I could say anything, Lana rushes up to me and says:

"Oh, Ron, I'm so sorry. Your mother died about a half hour ago".
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« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2008, 03:24:09 PM »

Death in the family has far reaching effects. Our son, Sean, was robbed of part of his innocence and the feeling of new freedom that comes with the rite of turning 21. His birthday is January 6th and she was killed on December 15th. He was mostly a good kid but suffered to some degree by all the attention Michelle got during his teen years. Negative attention, for sure, but lots of it.

He had graduated High School in 1986 and in '88 was at loose ends with meaningless jobs and a stab at Junior College. He asked me to set up an interview with a traffic reporting company. I urged him to run guns, sell dope, be a con artist; for God's sake, don't go into this business. Well, it's 16 years later and as of this Monday He becomes Operations Director for Premiere Traffic in San Francisco(a different company than mine). He's married with 2 step children and a daughter who turns 3 in May.

But 1989 was a rough year in many ways. Sean moved out to be on his own but the death of his sister continued to haunt him. There was another gut-wrenching Labor Day weekend. We have never had guns in the house. He was living in Castro Valley and calls on Sunday night and says he is really scared and is fixating on a gun the landlord has in his bedroom. He wasn't really thinking about suicide but needed to GET AWAY from there. You learn a lot about life from death and this was nine months later. Lana is in bed with one of those vicious migraines and I'm afraid to leave her. Sean tells me he can drive and he heads home and it's about a half hour drive. Fortunately, my best friends's wife is a therapist and I quickly take him over there. The next morning I take Lana to the hospital where we finally found a doctor who knew what he was doing and she began to get better and Sean moved back for awhile.

It's now October 17, 1989, the day of the 7.1 Loma Prieta Earthquake. It's Game 3 of the Bay Bridge World Series between The Giants and the A's. I am doing traffic reports from the KCBS Mobile Van which is parked right next to the Player's Entrance on the south side. It is a weird, warm, and humid Tuesday. It's 5:06 and I am getting ready to do my next report. The Oakland A's players' wives have just arrived. I am at the back of this van facing the rear left side window where the mini-control board is... looking directly at the front of the bus that just off loaded the wives.

The quake hits. The engineer and I look at each other as the violent shaking begins. It happened so fast there really was no time to get that scared but I am looking at this bus which is being shaken like it's a Tonka toy. People were running away from Candlestick screaming and waving their hands. It lasted 20 seconds, killed 67 people, injured 3700, and cost ten billion dollars.

After a couple of lapses, the generator kicks in and KCBS, in many ways becomes the Bay Area's lifeline. We had one airplane left in the air and the reporter was John Atkinson with whom I still work with. John is a part of history. Imagine this: At the beginning, you really don't know the extent of the quake or damage and first you hear:

"The Nimitz Freeway has buckled in the Cypress Structure and there are cars under there"(That part of the Nimitz was two-tiered with an upper and lower deck and most of the 62 deaths occurred there).

5 minutes later John is back on the air:

"Part of the Bay Bridge is gone and you can see the water beneath it." (No cars went into the water but some were stuck on the pavement angled towards the Bay.)

Candlestick Park is 8 miles south of San Francisco and the 2 freeways are 101 and 280. Our home in Walnut Creek is 25 miles from there and you can't get there from where I was without using a bridge or going all the way down to San Jose. My son and I were working for the same company in those days and he was across the Bay in Hayward where all the traffic information was centralized. He got through to tell me he was OK but neither one of us could reach Lana in Walnut Creek. I didn't have a cell phone in those days but there was one in the van but every cell around that ballpark was in use and there was no way to get out. Finally, a friend of mine with a cell phone near our home called and had talked to Lana. She was fine and there seemed to be little damage there.

The Bay Bridge, of course, was closed and so was the San Mateo Bridge as a precaution. The Golden Gate Bridge had been quickly checked in the fading daylight and seemed OK.

KCBS told me to come back to the station to help there since the focus was now on the aftermath, especially the Marina Fire and the damage and closure to the bridges and freeways as well as the 12,000 people who were displaced and the 900 homes that were destroyed.

So I leave Candlestick Park to take 280 downtown since 101 was closed. Well, so was the 280 North ramp downtown and the only thing to do was to take 280 West towards Daly City. I didn't have much choice but to take 19th Avenue (also Highway 1) through San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge and it was literally gridlocked with no power or traffic lights. I left at 6:30PM and arrived home at 11:30Pm.

It was so gridlocked I decided to cut through Golden Gate Park which was very dark and spooky and I remember saying: "Michelle, stay with me here".

I needed to find a phone booth to let Lana know where I was and what was going on. I arrived at the Cliff House where I knew there were 2 phone booths. I got there around 9:30 along with two big bikers. they turned out to be there for the same reason. Fortunately, I had a phone card which worked when regular dialing didn't. Lana urged me to find a place in town but I wanted to GO HOME.

I arrived at Vista Point on the north side of the Golden Gate where there was one phone booth and several news people. We all took our turn reporting this: "Most of the greatest city in the world is dark and without power tonight but standing here on the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge, part of her is on fire too which is reflecting off the water, as many homes in the Marina caught on fire when the gas mains ruptured and the flames quickly spread to houses built years ago".

A couple of footnotes: Joe Dimaggio was seen running into his home and leaving with a large green garbage bag...which had $600,000 cash in it.

People watching TV in the rest of the U.S. thought the entire city of San Francisco was on fire the way it was covered. Dan Rather was there at his dramatic best. He was at the Marina in a trench coat needing a shave projecting the weariness and stress of tragedy with the fire, sirens, and emergency crews behind him. He was talking about the many who "will have no place to sleep tonight except with the Red Cross and friends." He left you with the impression he would lie down right there with them.

Just around the corner was this CBS mobile home complete with showers, kitchen, and bedroom.

For a long time after that, we called him "Gunga Dan".

So after I left the Golden Gate Bridge, I drove home through Marin and across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge listening to San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos call a State of Emergency. There was very little traffic.

I walked into the house and put my arms around Lana and she had never felt so good and warm....and considering the events of the last year, it was doubly so.
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« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2008, 03:25:50 PM »

Up until the Fall of 1990, KCBS was partially a talk station at night and on the weekends. I must share with you my first day on the air in April of 1986. You have to remember that I was a DJ my entire career where you're always looking for a one-liner.

This is my first Sunday and it will be 2 more months before I quit drinking. I have a monumental hangover. KCBS is on the 32nd floor above all the flowers Hank planted. I can see my car way down there across the street with that blessed bottle of bourbon underneath the front seat.

This studio is on the South side and during mid-afternoon, the sun comes through the floor to ceiling windows and adds even more heat to sweats that are hard to describe unless you've been there. I am co-hosting the first show which is "Animal Update" hosted by a very nice man from the San Francisco SPCA named Rich Avanzino whom I called "Azanvino" the entire program. I almost lost it when an old lady called and asked:

"Rich, my cat's been urinating on the dining room table for the last 17 years. What should I do?"

(Hungover Ron...in his head only) "Hell, lady, after 17 years, I'd kill it!"

Well, I get through THOSE two hours and it's now time for "Health News" where people call in with medical questions. The co-host is Dr. Michael Lenoir who sounds exactly like Harry Belafonte. I don't mispronounce his name because I grew up not too far from Lenoir, North Carolina where my uncle was in the furniture business. Dr. Lenoir is a cool and likable guy except he's a huge sports fan and is watching the NBA Playoffs through the window. As we all know, the NBA Playoffs are longer than time measures as we know it.

Here comes another question you are going to love from a VERY old lady:

"Tell me, Doctor Lenoir. How come my stool is shaped like a pencil?!"

Dr. Lenoir looks at me but I am not there. I am on the floor silently laughing my pencil case off and seriously thinking of crawling to the elevator and never returning.

Well, I survived that day and managed to stay there a year before I was lied to by another one of America's corporate carpetbaggers.

You can pick up this story 2 years later when I got that magic phone call and returned to KCBS full time which I will leave sometime this Spring.

Before we went all news in the Fall of 1990, there were some interesting people who came through during the talk shows. Gary Cole came by to do some research for "Midnight Caller" which ran for a couple of years on NBC....Mickey Rooney who outwardly is one of the most "up" people I have ever met....Peter Coyote who lives in the Bay Area and was insatiable in his curiosity about radio news and talk...George Peppard about a year before he died, chain smoking...Don Ameche in the hall...Brent Musburger, serious but nice...Walter Cronkite as kind as he appears...Leonard Maltin who had just become a father...Bob Scheiffer who beneath that warm Texas exterior is a velvet hammer of a reporter...Matt Damon passed by briefly going to the FM station next door...Margot Kidder before she ended up in that L.A. backyard..nice lady who was head of a women's group.

So I became a traffic anchor. Not quite as much fun as playing music or co-hosting talk shows but a whole lot calmer and there were some good years to come.

Thanks again
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« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2008, 03:28:25 PM »

Yesterday, I went to management at KCBS and said my last day would be April 2nd. I did not give formal notice which I will do in two weeks just in case one of the escrows blows up. I don't expect this to happen and we hope to be in the new Oregon house one week later on April 9th.

It's been almost 49 years. It was October of 1955 as I began my Senior year in High School and started my radio career. My first time on the air(professionally)was coming out of the first record, getting myself in a corner and saying:

"Well, enough of this crap(a big no-no in the 50's), let's have some music." and went into "See You Later, Alligator" by Bill Haley and the Comets.

Well, enough of this crap called broadcasting in 2004. Let's see if you I can do some real magic on my own and also seek that serenity that supposed to come with later years.

But before I go, I will share some traffic and weather stories. 1997-98 was the year of El Nino and it rained all the time in the San Francisco Bay Area that winter. Those massive fronts blew in constantly off those abnormally warm waters of the Pacific. I work with three computers set in a half-circle in a mostly dark room. One is a collection of all traffic info from another operation across town. The middle, and most important, is the CAD, computer assisted dispatch of all radio traffic from the California Highway Patrol showing all accidents and stalls in the 9 Bay Area counties. The last one on the right is used mostly for the Internet collecting weather especially radar and satellite.

During this unbelievable Winter, I would watch the solid red radar images indicating torrential rain moving in; and as the rains came and moved over the freeways, you could see the accidents pop in the CAD right in line with the red. The CHP handles all 911 cell calls and during this period people were on HOLD for 30 minutes or more. This must be especially comforting when you're upside down in your SUV with gasoline running down your front seat.

The CHP starts tallying accidents at Midnight and by 10AM we usually have about 600 incidents. One morning during El Nino, we had 2500 reports. It was surreal. I was so busy trying to keep up, it was hard to realize that these were ACTUAL PEOPLE flying off freeways and driving on water, not pavement.

Things were so chaotic, I was asked to testify in a case where a man was trying to get his job back when he was fired for being 2 hours late to work. Some could not believe that traffic was literally gridlocked and didn't move for almost an hour. Even in normal times, I still get calls from employers wanting to know if the Bay Bridge was really "that bad" because so and so was late.

The other part of my job is cutting commercials and promos. Ask Jimmy, Jonmark, Joe, Doug, or anyone involved in audio and they will tell you that putting together a one minute spot can take hours if you care. Well, here we are in the finest technological age ever and what does commercial radio do today? We take commercials sent by agencies and flakes(many times the same) that are 63 or 64 seconds and we take the pauses out to make them a minute. A lot of these are "sexual enhancement" spots. I don't object to sex or enhancement, just the poor and leering way they're presented. Some say: "Guys! Want to get her hot??!!!!.

Well, I say......just close the damn window and turn up the furnace.

But we do so many of them, I considered putting a sign in the production studio window: "Viagra Falls"

Are things as they should be? Well, all I can tell you that meeting Mickey Newbury and having the privilege of doing his audio biography came at a time when my creativity was seriously impaired by the state of a business that I used to love. It(and he)rejuvenated my life in so many different ways.

An accident?

I don't think so.

As always, thanks.

Ron
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« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2008, 03:35:05 PM »

Thanks to Jonmark for posting a little radio history; a little self indulgent,maybe, but they were different times. Yesterday was quite amazing and trying to keep the ego in check, it was so gratifying to hear from so many people I seemed to touch since 1962. I have always said that radio is the most intimate of the media because it's so one on one. The Bay Area has always been different and much more perceptive. Trends were made here not copied hence the majority of Mickey's records sales. Weird in a way. Folk was hot, country was not.

But whether you loved the old radio dramas or as Bree Stone wrote me, you had a transistor to your ear listening to your dreams begin, radio was wonderful, especially for the immediacy. Man, when you got your driver's license and got the car and ran the radio LOUD, could life can any better?

Now that it's done and we are REALLY leaving, the eyes see things differently. In addition to this house, there are 3 other places close by where we lived. I drive by these today and I say to myelf ....Hey, I used to know those people and they were pretty nice but they're different now. I think I like them a lot better. They've grown up some, had some bad times. Still those people laughed a lot and the kids played hard. One's gone but one's still here and he's on that same road trying to learn everyday what it's all about and why sometimes it's so hard. The Piper is everywhere.

So there was adulation yesterday, appreciated and surprising. And tonight I was roasted, blasted, and battered by people who love me and Lana; some moments of glee and brutal humor that only stem from sharing that same foxhole.

Synchronicity? Warm goodbyes from people I talked to for years but will never meet, an evening of great merriment and affection, and seeing "An American Treasure" in the CD store.

I am a fortunate man with a lot of friends including many here.

I always am thankful for the privilege of sharing here...and I hate to lose that hour tonight.

Ron

---------------------------------------------

Radio Days - Gold Beach

Well, the owner of the small FM station here in Gold Beach, Oregon asked me to do the morning show this week which I began today at 6AM. It's been 18 years since I played music on the radio and even though I still hate getting up at 4:45(a little better than before), it's fun as long as it's not going to be all the time.

KGBR doesn't have the same freedom as CFRO and Doug but it's pretty loose and I get to play a couple an hour of my own choosing. Today, one was "Choosing Up Sides" by Jonmark. So I'll have a chance to get some of Mickey and Doug on the air by the end of the week.

It's really small town radio with "Pet Patrol" and "Swap Shop". It's a disappearing part of the American Scene and it's nice to be a little part of that before it all disappears.

Ron
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