Ever since I was a teenager, I have always been interested in electronics, radio in particular. I found the concept of music and voice traveling through the airwaves as being almost mystical. I loved building radio equipment, audio mixer boards and sound systems. I even aspired to study electrical engineering. Sadly, my math aptitude was totally lacking, so that plan was abandoned. As an alternative, I thought, “why not study the non-engineering aspect of radio?” With that in mind, I decided to major in Communication Arts and eventually become a radio personality. When I mentioned my switch in major from English to Communication Arts to my parents, my father asked if I was studying “fixing telephones.” This was not an altogether inane question because “Communication Arts” wasn’t a popular major at the time. It was a soft major, with no science or math requirements. There were many speech, journalism and film courses supplemented by a plethora of wine and cheese parties. I even met Bob Keeshan, aka “Captain Kangaroo” at one of these events where he was the keynote speaker. I had arrived!
Ultimately, I came realize that my radio career was not going to go far if I never saw the inside of a radio station. My college was just starting to plan a campus radio station but had no funding.
So, I got a bit creative and I became a disc jockey at Manhattan College radio station WRCM, pretending to be a student there when in fact I was a student at Iona College. I took a Sunday afternoon shift which no one else wanted and started on my journey. After a while, I thought that I had this gig mastered, so I prepared an audition tape showcasing my talents. A young lady who I knew at the time told me that she had a contact at Albany, NY radio station WTRY. This was a real radio station which was in a top two hundred market. So off went my audition tape and my dreams of a career in radio. Was I to be the next Dan Ingram, Cousin Brucie or Don Imus?
Within a week I received a letter from the Program Director of WTRY. My heart was pounding as I opened it. My big break had arrived!
Or had it?
The letter was not a form letter and you could tell that this gentleman took the time to listen to my tape. The figurative slap in the face was soon to be delivered. He went on to say that I would be best served by sticking to a behind the scenes role such as sales or production. On air was not going to happen unless I hired a voice coach to improve my diction and vocal timbre. My voice was high pitched, my delivery was stilted, I had no personality and my Bronx accent was annoying.
At first, the seven stages of grief came flooding in but I eventually realized that he was right and that he did me a huge favor. The dream was over. In retrospect, the nomadic lifestyle of someone starting out in this business would not have been to my liking, nor would the lack of job security. Thank you sir for being honest!