The Terminator

1/16/1998

The recent rash of terminations in our business has created a lot of buzz…most of it concerning stories of great “firings” in the past.  Radio thrives on controversy.  Some of the “horrific” events that happened in the past are now the stuff of legends and myths.  Many who were embarrassed in the moment are now proud to be a part of an amusing “anecdote.”

Others aren’t so proud.

Early in my career, I was called into “Mike” the PD’s office and reamed for behaving poorly.  He told me he would give me an example of what would happen to me if I  didn’t straighten up. “Sit on the couch, do not move and don’t say a word,” Mike told me.

He then proceeded to call Bobby, my friend and fellow jock, into his office.  Now Bobby was a large fellow.  Mike, not so large.  Mike fired Bobby.  Bobby didn’t take it too well.  He pulled Mike across the desk and proceeded to beat the hell out of him.  I sat on the couch, not moving, not saying a word.  Bobby finally walked out, leaving the PD bleeding on the floor.

“I’ve learned my lesson,” I said.  “Can I leave now?”

Funny story.  It wasn’t as funny when I got fired the next week.  This time MIke had two others in his office.  He shouldn’t have worried.  I wasn’t as big or as bold as Bobby.  I left meekly, then went outside and slashed Mike’s tires.

Heard about the jock who quit legendary WLS Chicago for another gig?  After his last shift, he nailed a pair of his boots to the PD’s door with a note saying, “Try to fill these.”

One of the most innovative terminations came at a station that had a remote broadcasting vehicle.  The staff was driving through the streets of the city, doing a live broadcast.  A jock was sent into a 7-11 to get some beer.  When he returned, the van was gone.  The jock went back inside and heard his replacement being introduced on the air.

Most terminations aren’t fun.  Nobody wants to get fired and few people relish ending another’s employment.  There was one case, however, when I was pleased to be the “hatchet man.”  I was working at a station where the PD was the morning talent.  I didn’t like him.  Hell, the entire staff hated this guy.  The manager called me into his office one day and said,  “You’re my new PD, but I don’t want anyone to know it until next Wednesday when the ratings end.  That’s when you can fire Chris (the current PD).”

The following Wednesday, just before his last break, I went into the studio and took a Polaroid picture of Chris.  I then told him to see me after his shift in “my” office.  (This should have given him a clue.  I didn’t have an office.)  When Chris entered his/my office a few minutes later, I handed him a picture of his last day on the air.

As a joke (kind of), I also put a heat lamp bulb on the hot line and threatened to fire the jock with the deepest tan at the end of the month. I was outfoxed as all the jocks wore sunscreen!

There was a jock and former boxing champion named K.O., who was famous for beating people up.  Everyone was afraid of K.O. and rightfully so.  K.O. would fight at the drop of a hat.  The Station Manger and PD decided to fire K.O., but neither wanted to do it.  The PD came up with a great idea:  Why not call K.O. at home and leave the termination on his answering machine?  The manager agreed and the PD left the message.

When K.O. got home and heard the message, he was hot.  After giving it some thought, he figured the PD and the Manager were afraid of him, hence the message on the machine.  So he went to the station the next day as if nothing happened.  He was going on the air when the PD asked him why he was at the station.

“Prepping my show.”  K.O. said.  “Why?”

The PD frowned, then asked, “Did you get a message on your machine?”

K.O. shook his head.  “I go a message from a guy I didn’t like and went out and beat the crap out of him.  I was so pissed, I erased the others.  Was it anything important?”

The PD swallowed.  “No.”

Neither the PD or Manager said anything further.  K.O. worked at the station for another year before resigning.

Of course. this Editorial wouldn’t be complete without my story of the toy soldiers.  This story has grown to epic proportions over the years and at the risk of breaking a bubble or two, let me tell you how it really came down.

I was hired to program KCBQ San Diego, a heritage station that had fallen on hard times.  The Station Manger wanted me to replace the entire staff so we could start from scratch.  I asked him to fire the people before I arrived and replace them with temporary fill-ins since I didn’t know any of those on the air and had no history with them.

When I got there, he had chickened out.  Since the entire staff had to go and it was not my decision, I wanted the people to know it wasn’t personal.  I wanted them to know it was a corporate decision.

I came up with what I thought was a brilliant plan.  I bought toy soldiers and placed them on my desk.  As each person came into my office,  I explained my dilemma and told them it was like the army, where an entire platoon was being replaced.

Hey, it seemed like a great idea at the time!

As years have gone by, the story became:  I knocked over the soldiers (I may have bumped one by accident);  I shot some of the plastic men with a water pistol (I was using a water pistol, since my water pic was broken); or that I threw them across the room (that could have happened).  In reality, I would never be so callous.  Now you know the real story.

Have you got any good ones?

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