The Dick Summer (re) Connection- Chapter 14

You know the sound a juicy hamburger makes, when you bite into it… slowly… right next to a microphone turned up to stun ? If you don’t you missed “Summertime, live from the ‘Skyline Studio’ on WIBC in Indianapolis.” “Skyline Studio” was a bit of a stretch. It was just a small studio built on top of a one story drive-in restaurant called “Merrill’s Hi Decker.” But it was like a rock and roll stairway to heaven up there.

Funny what sticks in your head after a lot of years. I started every commercial for the restaurant by slowly biting into a juicy hamburger. Years later, the great Scott Shannon, who is now the legendary Morning Mouth and P.D. at WPLJ in New York, sent me a note saying my hamburgers drove him nuts every night while he was a kid growing up in Indy.

Talk about a fun job…for a very young guy. The only way into the studio was a fire escape ladder leading up to the roof, and then through the trap door in the floor of the studio. I’ve been told the “Skyline Studio” was the inspiration for Wolfman Jack’s studio in the movie American Graffiti. I don’t know which came first and it really doesn’t matter.

There was no “format” on “Summertime.” I played whatever seemed to fit what was going on. And plenty went on. Every night right after the 10 PM news, we played “Make It Or Break It.” I took the hand microphone down into the parking lot, and the Tech (whose name was Will Fix believe it or not) played a brand new record. We took an instant horn honk vote. If more people honked for “Make It” we played that record every hour for the next week. If more people honked for “Break It,” Will literally broke the record over the microphone in the studio. Needless to say, we broke lots of records.

Every Saturday night we did a live broadcast featuring a different local band which set up right out on the parking lot. Any time recording artists came to town, we did interviews on the same parking lot, so the people at the restaurant could come over and ask questions of their own. Guess you couldn’t do that these days.

The manager of the restaurant was a young guy who was very much into guns. One night as I was doing “Make It Or Break It” he decided that he REALLY didn’t like the record I was playing, so he pulled out his hand gun and shot me. Seriously. I watched him, standing probably 20 feet away, reach into his belt, pull his gun, aim, and squeeze the trigger. The blast was huge, and I thought I was dead. It was a blank. He hit the ground laughing. So the next night I wedged a pound of Limburger cheese right on the engine block of his car. He got the first laugh, but mine lasted longer.

One of the things Scott Shannon says he remembers best was the story feature. Every midnight I read a short story…usually something by Edgar Allen Poe. It wasn’t a big production…just a guy reading a story for maybe ten minutes at midnight. When I ran low on very short stories by regular authors I started writing some of my own stuff. As I said, there was no “Format.”

Indy was a wonderful experience for this Brooklyn N.Y. guy. The “Skyline Studio” was right across the street from the Indiana State Fair Grounds. And it was during the Indiana State Fair that I had my first close up face to face encounter with a pig of the non-male chauvinist kind. I’ll tell you about that, and about “working” at Indy’s WISH-TV (a few years before David Letterman)another time.

But right now, it’s time for a confession. As all guys know, we cannot trust our fingers. They get us into trouble all the time. Women who are in the least bit familiar with guys will attest to the truth of that statement. My fingers lied in the last blog, about buying the car with the big chrome fins, the fuzzy dice and the big Belchfire 8 engine. All the details are in the podprogram which you can hear simply by clicking HERE or over on the left side of the page where it says click here for the podprogram. Please forgive me. Those who know me recognize that I am only a kid cleverly disguised as a genuine grown up. Kids have hardly any control of their fingers at all.

The truth is that we bought a perfectly reasonable fairly late model used car. But just as I was about to tell you this truth, the tiny “adult” guy who sits up in the back of my brain trying to control the silly putty bouncing between my ears, had to take a potty break. And as soon as my fingers noticed he was gone, they started hitting the keys that described the kind of car they always wanted to play with. And that was it. And it had white leather seats. And it was a convertible…and my girl Wonder Wench was sitting in it… wearing a bikini…because we were on the way to the beach. I hope you understand, and can forgive me. And my fingers.

It is truly hard being an aging young person. Hide and seek, ringalevio, kick the can, double dutch, punch ball, stick ball, box ball, stoop ball, doctor-lawyer-indian chief thoughts keep popping up in my head while I’m trying to be serious doing my day job. Pay checks are poor substitutes for wax lips, candy drops on rolls of paper and chocolate cigarettes. Kid-hood had stresses like “are you going to be the LAST guy picked to play on the stickball team?” (Guys will understand.) Adult-hood has stresses that involve having to override your body’s basic desire to choke the living crap out of some idiot who desperately deserves it…and would probably never even be the last person ever picked for any stickball team.

The most wonderful part of the kind of radio I did was as long as I was on the air, it was never too late to have a happy childhood. I don’t ever want to get too old or too angry to do goofy stuff. That’s why I always listen carefully to what my Rice Krispies tell me when I pour milk over them at breakfast. And I’m still trying to explain to my lady Wonder Wench that I had to change the message on our answering machine to reflect the fact that everybody returns messages on cell phones while they’re driving these days. So our answering machine message now says, “We have cell phones too, so we’re here right now, but please leave a message at the beep, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we go out.”

Radio seems awfully grown up now. Talk shows are angry, computers spit out carefully researched music lists, and there’s no time to broadcast local kid bands live from a drive-in while the guy on the air munches his juicy hamburger. So I’m very grateful to have this blog and PODPROGRAM re-connection with you. Please mention it to any kids you know who are also cleverly disguised as adults. As one of the stories in “Lovin Touch” says, maybe we can help each other get over growing up.


One Response to “The Dick Summer (re) Connection- Chapter 14”

  1. Jim Doran says:

    Mention of biting into a juicy hamburger during your show elicits memories of the “Good Old Days” when you actually felt that your local DJ was a friend, as well as an entertainer. Case in Point: Arnie “WOO WOO” Ginsberg, who spun platters for WMEX (a local Boston area station)from 1958 to 1965.Arnie made commercials come alive with his distinct personality. He made the “Adventure Car Hop” a “must do” destination for scads of teenagers who responded to the following jingle:

    Oh Adventure Car Hop is the place to go, for food that’s always right,
    Adventure food is always just so, you’ll relish every bite,
    It’s out on Route One in Saugus, come dressed just as you are,
    Adventure, where the service is tops, and you never gets out of your car!

    “Hi there, this is Arnie Ginsberg telling you that Adventure Car Hop presents for the first time anywhere the GINSBURGER! That’s right, the Ginsburger is now being served at Adventure Car Hop. I designed it, I planned it, I tested it, but you’re going to eat it. And what a delicious mouthful it is. And adventure Car Hop is serving the Ginsburger on a record which you get to keep for your very own. If you say Woo-Woo Ginsberg with your order, you get another Ginsburger free of charge. So how can you miss, stop by the Adventure Car Hop, Route One in Saugus!”

    Unless we can relate to the “inner child” in all of us, we are doomed to live in a world devoid of color and laughter. The prominence of cell phones gives me a great opportunity for fun. In a crowded situation I put my right hand up to my ear and begin having an imaginary conversation, saying the most outrageous things. (“Fred, your mother is 65 years old, how the hell did she get pregnant again”? Elevators are always great for this, providing a captive audience. I will describe some dreadful contageous disease that I have just been diagnosed with to my imanginary friend. When the elevator doors open, people scramble to be the first to get the hell out, leaving me chucking endlessly.
    Guys like you Dick, and Arnie lent an air of fun to our ordinary hum drum lives, providing color to our otherwise black and white existence.
    You are sorely missed.

    Jim Doran