Bobby kept coming to me asking for a raise. Claimed that he had not had a raise in three years and could no longer live on $93.00 a week.
I asked M.D. IV a few times and kept getting turned down. M.D. felt $93.00 was a fair salary and that was that. Finally, in desperation, Bobby asked if he could "go see Mr. Smith." I of course agreed, was in fact relieved. Although I warned Bobby: "You're not going to have any better luck than I did."
Much to my surprise, Bobby came back from the meeting elated and full of confidence. "It went great!" he said. " I explained to Mr. Smith how I hadn't had a raise in three years and why I needed more money. He was very understanding. He asked me to go make a list of all my expenses and bring it back for us to go over. He said he would help me put together a budget, and if it turned out I really needed more money he would give me a raise!"
For the next few days Bobby worked diligently to gather all his bills and other expenses. Finally, with an air of excitement and expectation, he went to see M.D.
About 10 minutes later Bobby was back in my office, devastated and ready to quit. "What happened?," I asked. "What happened! What happened was that Mr. Smith looked at my list. The first item was my car payment, $122.00 a moth. 'Here's the problem,' he said. 'You can't afford a $122.00 a month car payment on what you make. You need to sell that car.'
Bobby sold his car.
I was thrilled to get to do the Santa Show for one reason and one reason only: $15.00 a week talent fee. That was a lot of money to me at the time and well worth putting on the smelly suit and yellowing beard that had obviously seen better days.
My first week on the show I found out exactly why the suit was in such bad shape. We were going along as normal. In my deepest voice I said "Tell me Miss Merry Christmas. Who's our next little girl?" as I looked down at a terrified four year old who obviously wanted to be anywhere but there. Half pulling, half pushing the child on my lap, Miss Merry Christmas said "This is Judy."
"What would you like for Christmas Judy?" I asked as kindly as possible. Judy did not answer. Instead, she looked up at me with horror, squeezed her lips together and turned red. Suddenly my entire left leg became warm. I jumped back as Judy tumbled off my lap, but too late. Just another chapter in the suit.
Another time, my wife Maria brought our two year old son, Pepper, to be on the show. Pepper took one look at me, became frightened and ran out of the studio. Little did he know that scary Santa was his father.
DIALING FOR DOLLARS
M.D. decided our afternoon ratings would be enhanced if we started doing Dialing for Dollars. We got a picture of a set someplace and Dave Troutman went to work building it. The wheel was an old bicycle wheel I found at a neighbor's house. Dave took the tire off, put a cover on top and bolted it to an easel. Worked great.
Because the Dialing segments did not pay a talent fee, there was no permanent host. I seemed to do it most of the time, but it could easily be Mike, Carl or anyone else who happened to be around and had a coat that day. Occasionally we would all be tied up and I would have to grab Dean Abla to do it, or even the weather guy.
As I recall, we cut a phone book up and put the names and numbers in a bin. The host would call a number and if the person was watching and could answer the question they would win a prize. Cutting up that phone book was so much trouble that we wouldn't bother to cut up the new books when they came out every year. Occasionally someone would win, which was always a shock.
Coffee Break was an amazing show. Hosted by Johnny Evans and Mary Beaton, it ran every weekday morning at 9 a.m. The show was directed by any number of people, depending on who happened to be available. One of the things I would have to do every morning was find a director and a camera crew. The crew usually consisted of Dave Troutman and Bobby Gleason, both of whom I would have to force into the studio because they hated running camera.
Mary would always arrive early, greet the guests, and write down all the important information. Johnny, on the other hand, never left his office until he heard the opening music. He would then slowly saunter into the studio, sit down next to Mary, and put his microphone on just as the camera went hot. Without fail, every day, five days a week, Johnny would start the show by saying: "Tell me Mary, who are our guests today." Johnny always used those words because he had no idea who the guests were or what questions he was supposed to ask. Sweet Mary would always tell the audience (and Johnny) all about the guests.
One continual problem with the show was that the set was raised and open under the desk. Anytime a woman with a short skirt sat down and Bob Turner or Dave Troutman happened to be running camera #1, we would get an embarrassing close up. I would start yelling over the intercom to fix the shot until the camera slowly got back in place.
We also had a problem with Johnny trying to pinch Mary. She usually squirmed out of the way, but was not always fast enough.
And of course the show always ended the same way. Johnny would get up, take his mic off and leave as soon as the music started, even though he was still on camera. End of another episode of great television.
THE FIRST HONDA COMMERCIAL
Sometime around 1973 one of the local car dealers added the new Honda Civic car to it's product line. I was assigned to produce the commercial so Bob Turner and I threw the film equipment into his old (very old) beat up Pontiac. The Pontiac was distinctive because it had four different size used tires on it - all that Bob could afford. Bob and I drove up in front of the dealership, went inside and said we were there from WAAY to pick up a Honda car. We were given keys and went out back where when found this cute little orange car. As we drove around and left the lot, I noticed a group of salespeople gathered around Bob's car. It was dieseling, pouring black smoke out the back, and shaking all over. A few hours later, when we returned, a very hostile car salesman showed us where they had towed Bob's car to.
As I recall, Bob was out driving one day when the car died in the middle of a busy street and would not start. In typical Bob Turner fashion, he got out and walked away. Never saw the car again.
THE COMPANY PARTY
My #1 all time WAAY story happened at the company picnic. We were all invited down to the "big house" on a Saturday afternoon. Mr. Smith III had soft drinks, beer, hamburgers and hot dogs. After the party had been going on for several hours Mr. Smith asked everyone to gather round so he could show us a dog trick. He said he was going to throw a can of beer in the pool and his dog would retrieve it. Mr. Smith threw the can and motioned to the dog. Nothing happened. The dog just sat there. Mr. Smith tried everything. No reaction from the dog. Suddenly people started whispering to each other. We were all convinced the dog would not go in the pool because the employees had been in it.
But that's not the main part of the story. Much later in the day Joe Garerri, who had had way too much beer to drink, came up to me and said "I've got to tell you something. You won't believe it!"
"A few minutes ago I was desperate to go to the bathroom. There was a long line at the pool house so I went into the main house. A long line there too. I was about to bust. Had to do something, so I went upstairs and found a bathroom. I think it had to belong to Mr. and Mrs. Smith. You'll never believe what they had in their bathroom right next to the toilet -- a water fountain!" (ed- this was the bidet)
Just read the posting about 1981 and winning. I don't know if I ever told you this, but my first impression of WAAY was that the facility wasn't much to look at, but the product was the best I'd ever seen. Now, having run four television stations of my own, I'd like you to know that at each one I've told people about the winning attitude and great product we had at WAAY in the 1970's. I love to bring up the fact that you couldn't tell anything about the on-air product from touring the facility.
Over the years I've spent a lot of money on buildings and equipment (over 5 million in the 2 1/2 years I've been back in North Carolina). Each time we make a big expenditure I remind people that there is no magic bullet. Sat trucks and helicopters do not make a winning station. Product, marketing and branding all matter, but in the end the desire to do a superior job and WIN always makes the difference.