Mike Marino – Pissed Off, Billy Joel, and The 5,000 Dollar Computer Heart Attack!

This is a compost pile of radio refuse that has filled the landfill landscape of my trek across the continent of radio from California to Maine and every FM bordello in between. In no particular order this is more of a shotgun approach than that of a marksman.

General Managers of radio stations are fun to fuck with because, number one, they’re easy targets and you come out unscathed if you have the ratings. They know better than to bite the hand that feeds them… revenue.

I discovered a long time ago they are called “General” Managers because they lack “specific” knowledge of what radio is…a few exceptions to the rule of course.

Arthur Carlson – 10 Time Recipient of the General Manager of the Year Award

The strangest interview for a radio job occured on the East Coast. I was contacted by the GM who wanted to hire me, Classic Rock/Oldies and he did. When I went upstairs afterwards to meet the Program Director, he stood up started unbuttoning his pants and said, So, Mike, have you ever seen “Deliverance?” Again, a sense of humor to match my own…

I was hired at the old KISS FM in San Francisco and we liked to play and work hard. (Great team to work with and I feel the best radio I ever did. The morning crew doubled the ratings in one ratings period and we were blasting away from San Francisco to Sacramento! My salary jumped to $65,000 now from the $45,000 I was making at the old station, so radio has fed me all my working days.)

I enjoyed turntables for those artistic segue’s I prided myself on and even enjoyed CD players but one day the “computer” entered my studos. Barbarians! No real control…I did strike a deal where they left me three CD players and I only used the computer to launch those dreaded commercial breaks that seem to drone on for hours.

The Computers are coming! The Computers are coming! The day of arrival our engineer arrived with $30,000 dollars worth of studio and production room computers…only the Station Manager was away that morning and didn’t know they were already in the store room awaiting to be set up but the empty large boxes were in the van below in the parking lot from our second floor studios downtown.

When the GM arrived back at the station we told him the computers were here and ready to be unloaded and brought up so he had me an my morning partner, Kevin go get the boxes and bring them up. Joe, the GM stood at the railing and watched as we unloaded an empty box we made appear heavy as hell. We struggled up the stairs huffing and puffing when we got to top I said I needed a rest and we set the empty box on the railing where it proceeded to crash two stories down into the parking lot.

We Could Have Used the Elevator

Joe’s mouth dropped as me and Kevin began a screaming match at each other laying the blame on the other at the top of our lungs with F words flying like schrapnel…Joe’s face turned white….I swore he was gonna have a heart attack as the rest of the staff emerged from the station laughing….

Now he realized what was going on and he didn’t really have to call the corporate office to say we had destroyed one 5,000 dollar computer smashed to smithereens….OK, so my sense of humor was not run of the mill…..

Another time we had our all night guy dress up in a Barney the Dinosaur costume to stand on the street below the station during the morning rush hour to pass out passes to a kids movie coming the big movieplex…..many pulled over to grab them as prizes..others drove by and pelted our “Barney” with empty cans and trash…the local junior college college apparently didn’t like Purple Dinosaurs.

NOBODY Likes Barney…Not Even His Relatives

We changed everything there…our station identifier was not More Rock More Often or anything like that…we went with..”At Last…A Radio Station that doesn’t suck!” We also began an on air campaign to “flip off” the competition and “flip us on”

One promotion we did was having me and my morning crew broadczes to give away IF…they came up honked, and flipped us OFF giving us the bird. I have never been given the finger so many times, so eagerly ha, in my life at one sitting or handed out so many prizes….

We were a tightly knit family of stations..all competitors and friends so it was inevitable one Halloween that we should get together, 5 stations, jocks mainly, no suits, represented at one of the engineers homes. I went as a lesbian..that way I could go as myself as I hate costumes! My girlfriend went as a lumberjack!

We, perhaps 30 people, station people and dates spent hours drinking and smoking weed at the house in Petaluma, (Petaluma? Think Polly Klaas kidnapping and Wynona Ryders hometown) where the engineer fired up his low power pirate radio station.

Completely illegal, but once a pirate always a pirate. I grabbed the mic first and never mind the seven dirty words you can’t say on the air…we did..seven and then some. We broadcast for a little under an hour then cut it off in case we were reported to the FCC. Didn’t want to get my broadcast license yanked and banned from the air waves. If that happened, I’d have to get a real job!

Next up … How i got in an argument as Music Director with Billy Joel’s record company, Columbia and Radio and Records Magazine. Radio station Music Directors send lists to Billboard and Radio and Records of what they are playing that week..new adds..drops, etc. I dropped Billy’s by refusing to play his what I call “wimp” shit in the 90’s..some crap off the River of Dreams I think along with anything by Michael Bolton and Richard Marx….the station was being revamped to Classic Rock and they had no place in it.

The Columbia record guy was pissed that I had added Tom Petty (Last Dance for Mary Jane) and Leonard Cohen (Closing Time) but dropped His Majesty Billy! He was yelling at me over the phone saying not to fuck with him as he is “a mean Jew from New York” I told him to “Fuck off, I’m a pissed of Dago from Detroit! And Fuck Billy Joel! ”

He calmed down and started to laugh, not used to being talked to that way I guess and then sent me a ton of Columbia CD’s to give away on the air and T-Shirts as a peace offering which also allowed Billy’s older stuff on but now as classic rock format change I didn’t report to the Record Mags now….Gawd I love a good battle!


Mike Marino has made his “roadhead” bones and enjoy’s nothing better than a greasy, unfolded map on the seat of the car…a bag of beef jerky and smoked fish and a cream soda to wash it all down as the highway and the steel belts play a meloldy of asphalt. Originally a product of the Motor City, Mike has lived in on the streets and on the beach in Hawaii, as well as in Haight Ashbury and the North Beach neighborhoods in San Francisco. Mike is also founder of the Experimental Theater Workshop, The Spare Change Artists Project, adn the Dung Zen Sustainable Living Project. He is primarily though a freelance magazine writer of pop culture, car culture, travel and history for numerous publications and he enjoys Hawaiian shirts, classic cars, Ed Wood Movies, fuzzy dice and hula dashboard ornaments as well as a good Hemmingway cigar, Corona beer, hiking and backpacking and rummaging through flea markets and auto junkyards.

One Response to “Mike Marino – Pissed Off, Billy Joel, and The 5,000 Dollar Computer Heart Attack!”

  1. Peter montreuil Says:

    I always enjoy your column

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