Monday, December 31, 2012

WWWX and the Fucker: An Ode to a Classic Lost Gag Tape

“WWWX gives Gary, Indiana what it fucking deserves.”

If that doesn’t ring a bell, you’re just… well probably just about everybody.

It was a bit from a gag-reel that circulated around radio stations in the early eighties. A lot of tapes like this went around. Some were on-air mishaps captured for posterity. Some were un-aired outtakes from pre-recorded shows that the radio personality had hoped would be destroyed. Many, though, were gag tapes of bogus radio shows or commercials put together for fun by guys in the business. Being able to hear these as a kid was one of the benefits of having a family member in broadcasting.

Held together with scotch tape, it still makes me laugh 30 years later.
Shortly after the legendary Boston radio station WRKO switched from music to a talk radio format, my dad took on a weekend slot hosting a law oriented call-in show. Since his slot was on Saturday afternoons, I often would go to the station with him. One of my favorite childhood memories was being able to run around an empty radio station (most of the staff had the weekends off), playing in unused studios pretending to host my own show Sometimes I would just hanging out in the offices surrounded by photos of RKO luminaries of the day such as David Brudnoy, Jerry Williams and Gene Burns.

Then there were the tapes that dad would bring home. There was the WRKO holiday tape featuring a mock broadcast with the on-air talent poking fun at their own personas with risqué commercials thrown in. One memorable segment featured the cantankerous Jerry Williams hosting a call-in show devoted to romantic advice, telling a listener in an uncharacteristically soothing voice to “drop that jerk and move on… Thanks for calling.” (This bit would have been hysterical to people who remember Jerry Williams) Another standout bit had a film noir-ish narrator telling of a late night encounter and (unprotected) sex with a woman who, as it turned out, was married to a man who was being released from prison that very day. “By then, I’d sobered up enough to get a good look at her,” the narrator tells us before the punch-line reveals the bit to be an advertisement: “Was I having a Maalox moment.”

Other tapes that dad brought home included the notorious “Casey Kasem’s Bad Day,” (that was how it was labeled on my tape, but I have seen it with other titles) a profanity-laced tirade captured during a taping of American Top 40 (before hearing that tape, it never occurred to me that radio shows could be pre-recorded). It’s easy to find now on YouTube, but to hear it back in the 80s, you had to know someone who knew someone.

My favorite, though, was the WWWX tape. The introduction alone made me laugh my ass off when the sonorous “voice-of-God” announcer proclaimed that “WWWX gives Gary, Indiana what it fucking deserves.” After this, the entire bit was the frothing, psychotic disc jockey, known only as “the Fucker,” unleashing torrents of obscenity between songs by the likes of Raspberries, Alice Cooper, and the Stones.

I never did find out the source of that tape. As far as I know, there has never been a WWWX in Gary, Indiana. I think I heard, at some point, that the tape was made as a joke (and obviously unaired) by some guys at a station in nearby Chicago. From there it circulated from radio station to radio station, as these tapes did, being heard by radio guys who would play it for friends, never really going public.

But then, none of these tapes were really meant to be heard by the public. “Casey Kasem’s Bad Day” was the exception to the rule. This probably had to do with the fact that there was more public interest in hearing the beloved radio personality losing his shit than hearing some unknown smart-assed jock ranting and offering promotional giveaways such as a “two gallon can of warm semen that Johnny Dildo left in here a few minutes ago.” (Between these tapes and the George Carlin records he gave me, how could my dad have been surprised that I would have ended up with the filthiest mouth of any kid in the fifth grade?)

Then again, nobody really cares about Casey Kasem anymore either, and his bad day has become as played out as the Jerky Boys. WWWX and the fucker, however, has remained blissfully obscure, too unknown even for cult status. Nothing more than a secret handshake for aging radio guys, an in-joke which is fading from memory as quickly as radio itself is.

But it made me roar as a kid, even when I didn’t know what half of it meant. This type of material has never disappeared. I hardly need to remind anyone that parodies of radio shows, TV shows, and movies are ubiquitous on sites like YouTube, and most people with a computer have the ability to make these, and with decent production values to boot. Give me an hour and I could make something as puerile and nasty as WWWX and have it up on the web. Or course, it would probably get buried in the avalanche of DIY humor and no one would hear it. But back then, grown men (and I do mean “men” as it is mostly overgrown boys who would find this stupid shit funny), who were true professionals, would use state of the art broadcasting and recording equipment to make dick jokes. And then other grown men, also trusted professionals in that field, would play it for their friends and giggle. And that is even funnier to me than the tapes themselves.

1 comment:

_user_ . . said...

Wait a minnit - what happened to Cunnie S Lingus and the rest of the crew? The slasher, and all that... hey, man get outta my chair! (I really did that to one guy I was relieving one time, getting ready for a rockin' friday night... )

Thanks for the memory!