Gene Milner made the front page of the Des Moines newspaper, smiling and grinning with disingenuous glee. He held his handcuffed wrists proudly before the flashing cameras, as though he was some kind of hostaged hero rather than an uncommon man restrained by most common law.

Irony filled the episode.

Gene had flown into Des Moines the prior morning and had concluded his industrious day at the station with a General Staff Meeting at the close of business. The topic at hand addressed concerns brought to Gene’s attention regarding employee comportment at various “watering holes” while wearing official ” Gold KSO Staff Jackets”. These unmistakably identified the company, if not the wearer, with crystal clarity. It seemed that a few individuals so nobly clad had been accused by unidentified complainants as “acting like assholes” in public. Gene had accidentally fielded one of the calls himself as “the guy in charge”. He felt it desirable to set matters damn straight.

The caller, to Gene’s deep disappointment, had been unable to offer more than a vague description of the alleged perpetrators of asshole-ish-ness. Milner’s lecture was accordingly aimed at everyone collectively.

“I’ve put my time and money and life and guts and sweat and blood into this radio station and I don’t give a rat’s ass what you do on your spare time, except if you’re wearing KSO jackets. As far as I’m concerned, you are KSO with those fuckin’ jackets on. When they see those goddamn jackets, people see KSO!” He was right.

Gene went on to express the nature of responsibility to others, responsibility to him, responsibility to oneself, and responsibility to the concept of responsible responsibility.

The meeting adjourned. We executives headed-out with Gene for dinner at the Holiday Inn, where the station had a “trade agreement”. This meant exchanging commercial air time for goods and services. Gene stayed there while in Des Moines.

Jackie, a most attractive and spectacular blond, was Gene’s second wife and mother of five little Milners. Gene had already sired four other mini-Milners in his first marriage. He had met Jackie when she was a highly promising Jazz singer. He could spot talent.

With their youngest child having just started school, Jackie was now “learning the business” with Gene at WTAC. Her daily presence contributed significantly to the success of the operation, but sharply curtailed a number of previously enjoyed exploits and arrangements. Gene was forced to exercise particular caution in entertaining clients over extended lunchtime periods of hedonistic bliss within the confines of his luxurious “WTAC Suite” at the Autorama Motel on South Dort Highway, the product of another trade agreement.

Gene personally recorded commercials for the Autorama. According to him, South Dort Highway was “Flint’s Golden Strip.” Appropriately, it was there that the “WEETAC-Twins” were said to prance about in nude splendor. The whiskey flowed and Gene bestowed. The twins were identical, flawlessly-configured sisters in their early twenties and were included on WTAC payroll ledgers as “promotional specialists”. They certainly were special. Gene was a master practitioner in the art of attending to client needs.
Without the “National Red Association of Socialist Broadcast Fellow-Traveling Employees and Communist Technicians” and “Jackie” in evidence, Gene was prepared to relax in Des Moines.

“Dinner” started around 6:30 with eight or ten rounds of drinks, then a bit of food.

This was followed by another dozen or so beverages each with Gene lifting us to new heights of cosmic camaraderie. His stories were of epic proportion and all dealt with fucking.

Gene was mirthfully reaching the end of a particularly engrossing tale involving a “married bitch with three nipples” when the clock behind the bar struck eleven p.m.

In Michigan, this would have signaled three more hours of unrestrained frolic ahead. “Last call for alcohol” would have been politely issued a few minutes before 2.

In Iowa, it meant the night was ended.
The bartender was a plain, bored, sour-faced man, who may earlier have taken offense at Gene’s insistence upon affectionately and repeatedly calling him “Shithead”. He strode up to the table and started hastily removing half-filled glasses.

Gene was initially simply wide-eyed with stunned surprise and undisguised disgust, as though the offender had shit in his ashtray.

Then, even sheets-to-the-wind under rudderless sail, the expert conciliator attempted reasonable resolution through the oldest, most time-honored method known to any.

“This says you keep pourin’ and if so, there’s to be another one like it in your pocket at the end of the night. Shithead.”

“Keep it, Mister. Time to go. You’ve had enough.”


The Holiday Inn bar, typically for its time, offered cheap Hawaiian motif.

Within what seemed like a half an instant, although recalled in slow-motion memory the way much trauma is, Gene lept to his feet and started trashing.

Each wall was stripped naked as a twin. There went the lovely leis, the volcano vases and the lava lights.

Here came the chairs tossed through windows to the north, south and east.
Westward, toward the bar itself and then behind, strode the raging Gene.

Out flashed the angry fist overturning shelf after shelf; shattering bottles by the bunch with now bloody blow; leaving none unseen, unstruck or unbroken.


As Milner finished the last of his bottle breakage, he glanced about the room with fresh, fierce fury and, spotting “Shithead”, charged toward the cowering figure at full ramming speed.

There were five of us and the best we could do is slow him down.

It turned out to be the final and best definition offered of “enough”, for that was the amount of time afforded Shithead to race out of reach. Gene became instantaneously and honestly remorseful, primarily because the only plentiful booze remaining was awash on the floor below.

He greeted the police upon their arrival with delicate grace and accepted the manacles with cheerful charm.

Released from custody after proper payment with monies successfully expended obtaining expeditious justice and apologies earnestly expressed to all, Gene called another General Staff Meeting the following morning. Waving the newspaper headline which cried: “Radio Owner Arrested In Bar Disturbance” he proudly proclaimed: “I knew I’d have to give you a real example of what we discussed yesterday to drive home the point. I don’t want to have to do it again!”

Shortly thereafter, a group of out-of-town investors brought a new English band into Des Moines who were heralded as a bunch of “dirty Beatles”, sporting not only “long hair”, but “street clothing”, an “insolent attitude”, “coarse language” and “rude behavior”. I found the first two allegations to be true, but the last three were nothing more than flamboyant record company press agent drivel. Their first American release, an explosive remake of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, had not been a smash hit, but had brought them to the public eye. Standing before the microphone in only a partially-filled auditorium with easily less than a thousand in attendance, it was clear the boys were very much on the ascent given the unusually enthusiastic welcome accorded by the crowd following my words of introduction.

“Ladies and Gentleman. The Rolling Stones!!”

I found the Stones to be genuinely polite, although quite tired. They were disappointed in the turn-out, but pleased to be playing in “The States” and most confident that better things lay ahead. They were looking forward to spending some recording time in Chicago on their tour and were particularly excited about their pending visit to Chess Records in the Windy City where Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and other Black Icons had put it in the grooves. Judging from the title of their first million-seller which was to come out of the Chess sessions, Mick and company certainly found playing within such sacred studio walls the source of inspired “Satisfaction”.
Other concerts by “The Searchers”, “Gerry and the Pacemakers” and “The Kinks” drew a bit better, but I missed Flint considerably. Lying on my back on the cement bottom of our unfinished swimming pool in front of the station on a warm summer night, throwing empty beer cans at the full moon above with Jason Hawkeye, I was becoming ever more convinced that hot times and cold brew mixed more merrily in the “Auto City” than the “Hawkeye State”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: