Your Dad Didn't Love You, Now What
November 18, 2014
I believe that if fathers would simply love their children, that there'd be less stand-up comedians in the world, less strippers and less people in radio.
Like many, in spite of my father's wishes, I jumped head first into a radio career. "You're a dreamer, you'll never make it!" my father said, meaning it to sting my senses back to reality, so I'd change my major to a business degree or something that could allow me to find my way in so many other things.
My dad was not a tender man, and he had a serpent's tongue, and when it would strike, it hit deep to your soul. Unfortunately and fortunately, beyond his last name and the hair that grows in my ears, my father passed this sharped tongue trait down to me.
After eight years in radio, I had very little success. Sure, I had a short spurt of opportunity on air in Providence that proved successful, ratings wise, but I couldn't parlay that into anything else, anywhere, even though the promise of a great career always seemed, like a dangling carrot, to be inches away.
Drinking Is Not A Skill To Put On A Resume
While in Providence, Dave Richards noticed my marketing and promotions abilities and gave me the Promotions Director job. It was a smart move, as it WAS the way my brain worked, to assess the market, the station, and find MULTIPLE ways to be creative with branding opportunities too often missed by most.
I was quite the drinker in those days in the late 80's, early 90's and I wasn't quick to say NO to opportunities to drugs and other things that get offered to us in some of these circles, so while creative, my not-so clear thinking wasn't of great use to Dave, so I moved on, same role, to KIX 106 (now Hot 106), Providence, where I was impressing PD John Garry to great lengths, both on air, and in the promotions chair, gaining us opportunities that we all thought were closed due to an amazing competitor, 92 PRO-FM.
The oldest 4th of July parade in our nation is in Bristol, RI, established in 1785, and PRO-FM was in that parade every year since the beginning.. or at least, it felt that way. And we, being new, were not even thought of.
But I picked up the phone, and stated my case with the parade folks and in spite of the parade being two-months away, 8 months passed their parade deadline, they let us in. John Garry was thrilled, and so was I.
Waving A White Flag At The Wrong Time
The night before the parade, I partied hard. The next morning when I woke up, it was actually no longer morning, but about lunch time, and I had missed the parade. I had this sinking feeling that my father was right about me. Maybe I was, as he said, "Nothing but a dreamer."
In my time unemployed, I moved back home to Illinois, with my tail between my legs. As a zygote we all had one, mine never fully broke off.
I started looking into junior college courses to go back to school, thinking, "Finally, my dad will be proud of me."
Dad shocked me with his response. I was now eight years into a career and had no fruit to show for my time in, but his words were not about being a dreamer, but now the opposite.
"Robert, you can't quit now, you're too invested!"
Father Knows Best
I loved radio and NEVER really wanted to walk away, but I just had been beaten, by his words and my own inabilities to juggle the bottle, the skills and the workload.
My next job was doing nights at 102-7 WEQX in Manchester, VT, where I began a bit where I'd call my father on "special days," like the Friday before Father's Day, and it went like this.
"Father's Day is this Sunday and there's no one more proud of my radio career than my dad, so if you'd be so kind, I'd like to dial him up and wish him a quick happy Father's Day." In the background the phone was dialing to a ring...
"Hello," he'd answer with a gruffness setting the stage that this was not a kind man.
"Hi Dad!" I'd exclaim, as if I was still a 6-year old with his arms held out, excitedly hoping that his father would pick him up, hug him and swing him around the room.
Instead, dad would respond with, "Who is this?" in such a tone that it was quite obvious that he didn't know me.
As I began to refresh his memory, telling him it was his son Rob, the call would go even further into the dark with a father's rant about how I was a no-good for nothing, dreamer, that would never amount to nothing, and how the only time I called home was when I needed money, and how I was probably hoping my mom would answer the phone, because she's a softy who gives into my money problems, and might actually fall prey and wire me some funds, BUT NOT ME ROBERT...
And then Dad would realize it was the Friday before Father's Day and he'd become more enraged, "Do you even know that Father's Day is this Sunday? Did you think about how you could MAYBE honor your dad, instead of sucking him dry of his hard-earned money?"
All the while, during his rant, I'm trying to get in a word to set him straight to let him know I was calling to honor him, but before I can tell him, he gives me a couple more choice words, and while I pleaded for him to NOT hang up on me, he always would.
As the hang up became a dial tone, full of defeat, I'd finish talking to my dad, even though he was no longer there, listening.
"No, no, no, dad, don't hang up! (pause for effect over tone) I just called......to wish you a Happy Father's Day.....and tell you that I.........(voice cracks) LOVE ..... you! (tone continues...into next song)
You Can't Quit Now
Five months after beginning at WEQX, the late great A. Brooks Brown, the owner, offered me the PD post; while at the same time BJ Harris at 93-3 WFLZ, the Power Pig in Tampa had received my demo with the bit about my dad on it.
BJ only had part time opportunities, but he offered me the job. My father thought I should take the PD job. Instead, I packed up the Ford Festiva and headed to the Sunshine State.
Eighteen months later, that carrot dangled again, and I had climbed to the position as Marketing Director, with a verbal promise to be the person to replace Bubba The Love Sponge once he accidentally lost us our license, but I knew that wasn't going to happen. As big as the image of the Power Pig was...Bubba was even bigger, and at twenty-eight, now 10 years into radio, I had to begin making wiser choices.
Disney World was offering me a job to work on their team that excites radio to utilize the parks for promotional purposes, and for the FIRST TIME in my life, the money was actually respectable. But then, WNTQ in Syracuse called.
Free Mickey Ears Would Have Been Cool, Though
Their PD, Dave Edwards had heard my demo and there was something specific on the demo that made him call. It was the "dad bit," that had carried on, in my time on 93-3 WFLZ. He laughed out loud just talking about the bit, but the offer he made was $20,000 less than Disney was paying.
Dad couldn't believe when I packed up the Festiva and headed to Syracuse for nights at 93Q.
It was in Syracuse where my career actually took root, produced fruit, and took off, and that was only two years after dad's words that I was too invested and couldn't quit now.
As my career took me to Greenville, New Orleans and Los Angeles, my father couldn't have been prouder. In the last seven years of his life, my dad and I became close, in fact, great friends. I was with him on his last day alive.
And by the way, He LOVED the dad bit.