Mr. Rick, my boss at the radio station in
, promised me more hours in the spring of 1967 after I told him I was going to get married. But more hours at $1.60 wasn't quite enough. To support a wife and attend Southeastern Louisiana College, I needed 15 cents more. Covington, Louisiana
And so it came to pass that two weeks before my June wedding date, I went in and asked for a raise. I don’t know if it was what I said or the way I said it, or if Mr. Rick was just having a bad day, but he changed my life forever when I told him I needed that raise. He slid a Jim Reeves album back into its cover, replaced it on the top shelf, turned to me and said, “You’re fired. Just get on out of here. Go work someplace else.”
Being fired just for asking for a raise was ironic, considering all the firing offenses I had gotten away with since becoming a deejay at the age of 15.
He didn’t fire me, for instance, the time I let Bobby Bradley run the control board in the main studio while I read the news with Sherry at my side in the other studio (the one the preachers used.) There were two mics in Studio B and Bobby had accidentally turned on Mic #2. I thought I was on Mic 1. Therefore, in the middle of a story about the war in Vietnam when I turned off Mic 1 and coughed, Bobby waved his arms to signal that I was still on the air—Mic 2 was live. But I didn’t know what he meant. I read a few more lines, cut off Mic 1—and, again, not realizing that Mic 2 was picking up every sound—I sneezed. (The Yu cologne with which I doused myself often had that effect.) Sherry, who was sitting as close to me as anyone could sit without being Siamese twins, looked puzzled.
“They can’t hear me,” I explained. “See when I push this button right here, it cuts off the mic."
Bobby went crazy in the other studio, making faces, slashing his fingers across his throat and waving his arms.
I read some more of the story, “General Westmoreland said…” whatever-whatever… and cut off Mic 1 again.
“See, now we’re off the air again. All they hear is silence, so they just think I’m pausing for emphasis. They have no idea what’s really going on.”
Sherry watched Bobby having a conniption at the main control board. “Are you sure?”
“Sure I’m sure,” I said. “Kiss me.”
By this time, only a few weeks before our wedding day, I didn’t have to ask her twice. I don’t know what a long deep kiss sounds like on the radio, but WARB’s audience heard one that day. Poor Bobby Bradley squeezed his head between his hands and grimaced—I could see him through the soundproof window. But I thought he was just trying to crack me up.
I turned on the irrelevant Mic 1 again and read another story, then turned it off to smooch some more.
“I love you, Sherry.”
"I love you more, Randy.”
“I love you, Sherry.”
"I love you more, Randy.”
Bobby flung down his headphones, lurched out of his chair and tapped on the window that separated the studios. Veins were popping out on his face as he pointed to Mic 2 and screamed something that I couldn’t hear through the soundproof glass.
I looked down at Mic #1 that I’d been turning on and off. I looked over at Mic #2 in front of Sherry. Bobby was pointing to Mic 2. Understanding dawned: I pointed to Mic 2 and mouthed “Is this one on?” Bobby nodded vigorously.
My heart sank. I rolled my chair a few feet away from Sherry and tried to read the rest of the newscast in the most serious voice I could muster, but she rolled her chair closer and tickled me and nuzzled my neck. She tried to cut off Mic 1 and talk to me, but I slapped her hand and continued reading World News. Sherry doesn't give up easily, so she kept trying to reach the mic button and I kept shaking my head "no" for the rest of the newscast.
That night, my father-in-law-to-be said, “I heard your news this afternoon.”
I froze. He didn’t say another word, but I’ll never forget the look he gave me.
Mr. Rick never mentioned it, so maybe he didn’t hear it, and maybe nobody ever told him about it. I don’t really know, because—except for one occasion—we never spoke again after he fired me for asking for a raise.
That one occasion was two years later (1969) when Hurricane Camille tore up the
Gulf Coast and I called him from the 19th Floor of the Prudential Building in Jacksonville, , where I was News Director for the city’s #1 station, WVOJ. I asked him to give me a report on the storm and he gave me a nice second-hand report that I used on my news. Calling on him to be my storm reporter was my way of showing him that I was doing all right—News Director at a major market station; a very satisfying version of that far-in-the-future scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts goes back into the store where the sales girls had dissed her and says, "Big mistake. BIG mistake" and flaunts her new clothes. But I wasn't just flaunting—I was also letting Mr. Rick know that there were no hard feelings... that it might have been crappy to (almost) implode my whole world two weeks before my wedding over a request for a 15 cent raise, but, hey, dude, look at me now ! It's all good! Florida
It hadn’t interfered with the wedding—Sherry and I got married on the selected date with no job, no savings, no cash in our pockets except for $50 Mama Maude had sent me. We had a car (and a car payment) and I had a dad who had been burning up the phone lines calling stations in
Louisiana, Mississippi and to get me a job. (He may have had visions of an unemployed son and a 7th child—Sherry—moving into the Shepherd’s Fold parsonage.) Georgia
My dad’s a heckuva salesman: against all odds, he talked the CBS affiliate in Atlanta (WBIE) into giving me an audition. Four days after the wedding, New Orleans honeymoon complete, I went to that audition and was hired on the spot to be their News Director. I was 18... and soon Dr. Martin Luther King’s people were calling my people and… well, you already know that story.
I'll never know the man I would have become if I'd spent my entire life in Covington—as I had assumed that I would do. Once Mr. Rick sent me packing, I was forced to become someone entirely different from who I thought I was going to be.