Friday, May 11, 2012

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Way Down

I worked at a Top 40 radio station right out of college in sales. I spent most of my time chasing down dance club owners for cash to run commercials for their “Nights Out” with the station. They would give me $600 or so, and in exchange one of our DJs would talk about how “ladies night at Club Whatever is the HOTTEST party this Thursday night! All ladies drink free courtesy of DaVinda’s Tanning!”. Then that Thursday night the station DJ would stand around the club for a couple hours, hand out some shitty prizes, and leave with $250 cash for the effort. Meanwhile, I would have to drive to the club seven times to find the unreliable coke addict owner for the cash, go over the commercial 17 times with him, and show up at the club to make sure the jock got paid. I’d make $72 in cash. Before taxes. It wasn’t easy to make big money selling Top 40 radio.

One of the perks of the job was you got to meet celebrities in one of two stages of their careers. “On their way up” was the most common, as the management teams had their clients on the road doing merciless press and radio appearances to flog whatever CD or show they had for sale. For example, I used to walk Jerry Seinfeld up to the studio all the time when he was still a club comedian. Lenny Kravitz and his band made the entire station smell like weed and that weird mold smell that comes off of hippies. I met a zillion bands that are great trivia questions now. Til Tuesday, The Divinyls, Extreme, The Covergirls, Tone Loc, Vanilla Ice, The Bullet Boys, The Rembrandts, and Gerardo immediately come to mind.   

  My personal favorites were the “On the Way Down” visits. You would get recording artists and performers that were too big to deal with local radio for the last few years, and in some cases had been total dicks in previous promotions with the station.  Guys that wouldn't do a meet 'n greet with fans a couple years ago suddenly appeared hat in hand to do a live acoustic show for listeners.  Well, if you would add their new single that hadn't been getting much traction nationally that is...  These visits were always unpredictable.  One time John Mellencamp had one of his people come back and tell the salespeople “Mr. Mellencamp said you can walk up front and meet him now.” They didn’t call him the Little Bastard for nothing. The best part was when my sales manager at the time said, “Tell Mr. Mellencamp he can walk back here and meet us if he wants to.” Welcome to the long downhill slide John. (Although he is now squiring around Hollywood with the woman formerly resembling Meg Ryan, so he got the last laugh. I guess he did anyway.)

One afternoon I walked into the lunchroom to get something to drink from the vending machine. A middle aged guy with small glasses, receding hair, and pressed jeans was messing around with the machine. He looked familiar to me. Really familiar. Then it hit me. “Hey… Aren’t you the guitar player from Loverboy?” He said “yeah” sheepishly and kept trying to get the machine to respond to his attempts to free a Diet Coke.

“I gotta tell you, I grew up in Erie PA. I heard the singles off those two records so many times, I hated you guys! Those were on the radio every fifteen seconds!” I realized two seconds after saying this, it was maybe not the way to introduce myself to this poor guy looking for a soda. I was actually excited to see Loverboy's guitar player.  Hell, I had seen those terrible videos thousands of times.  This was way better than meeting Information Society.  There was no going back now though.  I really bungled it.

He shrugged and said “Sorry” in a way that made me feel like he was really sorry to have bothered me by telling me that everyone was "Working For The Weekend" every two hours for two years.  He was just a guy looking for a soda.  I had a hard time coming to grips that this guy that had leaped around in red leather pants on MTV in my teenage years was now a guy that looked like he could give me sound tax advice in my work lunchroom. 

As it's odd to discover Loverboy’s guitar player (Paul Dean for the record) in your work lunchroom by himself looking for something to drink, I asked him what he was doing there. Hell, Loverboy hadn’t had a record out that had made a national dent in a half decade. “Mike is doing an interview. We’re playing a rib cookoff or something.” Oh.  I see.  There really wasn't any common ground here.  We looked at each other uncomfortably.  I gave him a quarter. He put it in the machine and got a Diet Coke. He opened the can, took a sip, and said thanks.  The encounter awkwardly ended.

I walked back to my desk to try and track down the owner of a shitty dance club by the Airport called Club Rio.  He owed me $650.  

It was a weird job.


At May 11, 2012 at 1:32:00 PM EDT , Blogger Walter Zoomie said...

Nice how you jab these motherfuckers who had stellar careers at one point, got more pussy than you EVER thought of getting, and sold more records than you ever will in 300,000 lifetimes.

Yeah...time marches on, but you seem jealous and bitter that your career hasn't skyrocketed.

All this coming from me...a guy who can't sing or play a lick, but enjoys your music.

Take it for what it's worth.


At May 11, 2012 at 2:44:00 PM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

Oh, I'm not jealous in the least about how much commercial success Loverboy had. More power to them. Music isn't a contest. It's an art.

I've always felt like we are like jazz guys. By the nature of what we do, it's always a limited audience. How many people like country AND rockabilly AND punk AND garage AND surf? What are you gonna do? We don't play music to "get pussy" or sell 300,000 records. We do it because it is what we like to do. I feel like we have as much in common with Loverboy or John Mellencamp as we do with J. Lo, The Wiggles, or Dr. Phil. We live on different planets, and that's OK.

What I always found interesting was working in a place where I was selling these awful ad packages to dance clubs, and out of nowhere someone you knew from Mass Media Wonderland would appear like an average human being. Prior to seeing that dude from Loverboy, I had always thought of them as a product like Ivory Soap or Kellogg's Rice Krispies. To see them as actual human beings was really odd.

I was trying to just tell a story about coming in contact with "celebrity". It was an awkward situation I put myself in. I forgot he was just some guy trying to do the best he could, and I just thought of him as the source of a series of songs that would send me scrambling to change the radio station. He had ceased to be real. He was a character in a video. What would you do if you came home and Skreech from Saved By The Bell was making toast in your kitchen? It's weird, right?

P.S. I met Joey Ramone at the station once in the late 90s. He kinda smelled like urine. He was really nice though.

P.P.S. You're not related to Mike Reno, are you?

At May 15, 2012 at 11:46:00 PM EDT , Blogger AZ said...

You guys are the more talented ones when all is said and done. Even with that you coughed up a quarter. Salt of the Earth yens be.


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