“Jerry and Me”




In early July, I was at home randomly scanning the dial on a new multi-band Panasonic radio I had recently acquired when, roaming through telephone frequencies and hoping to hear wild sexual exchanges, I happened to accidentally come across even more interesting communications. Instinctively and illegally, I recorded around thirty minutes worth. There were actually several different conversations involving the highest echelons of General Motors.

The President of Buick Motor Division was speaking on his car phone with superiors in New York and Detroit. Many serious things were under discussion. The executives were obviously privy to governmental information which had not yet been made available to the general public. There was talk of strained relationships with Opel in Germany, pending safety standard guidelines and “price control” data. There was also an abundance of corporate intrigue evident in factual variations presented in the accounting of specifics to different individuals and assessments volunteered on the efforts of others. I was most intrigued by the fact that they didn’t sound like typical milquetoast General Motors types at all. How refreshing. At the top of the pyramid, they talked like Rock ‘n Roll promoters!

“Those fuckin’ Germans are a complete pain in the ass!”

“We’re sayin’ we’ll put the goddamn things in for cost, but there’s twenty-five points in every one of those cocksuckers!”

“Sure Ed’s secretary’s got big tits! She’s top-pick for the top-prick. Ha-ha-ha-ha!”

What wonderful men. Actually, they seemed quite likeable. Did they know they were “on the radio” ? I thought not.

I should just call up the President of Buick Motor Division and slip him the word. Why not? What goes around, comes around.

As partially expected, I was stopped at the lowest rung of the Buick internal communications ladder by some junior executive who needed to know specific information before I could possibly be referred upward. He was a snotty little jerk. To tell him anything seemed ill-advised and indiscreet.

An indirect method offered solution.

Dan and Dave West’s Dad was an artist at Buick. He’d been there for thirty-some years and was looking forward to retirement. I called Dave and asked him to stop over. Dan would have wanted to make two thousand copies of the tape and throw them off Flint bridges at every Buick passing underneath. Dave was considerably steadier and infinitely more responsible.

I played several minutes of the tape and Dave couldn’t believe his ears.
I told Dave I had tried to reach the primary conversationalist, but wasn’t allowed through. He did believe that. I suggested that Dave simply tell his Dad that telephone car communications could be a sensitive thing and why. No specifics regarding content were to be shared. I would be glad to confirm interception only with those involved.

Holy Motors!!

Dave called his Dad early the next morning and, within twenty minutes, Buick Motor Division’s Director of Public Relations was on the phone to our WTAC Vice-President and General Manager, Charlie Speights. I was still on-the-air, but had briefed Charlie earlier about the curious affair. He was utterly fascinated.

As the story had rapidly raced up through the Buick command structure, it had become radically enhanced. Charlie was told that a WTAC “employee” named “Peter Cavanaugh” had recorded hours of secret corporate conversations and was “playing them at cocktail parties all over town”. What’s more, these tapes were going to be “broadcast on the radio” and “offered for sale”. No threats were made, but it was quite clear to Charlie that any assistance he could offer in limiting damages would be “greatly rewarded” by the corporation. Oddly enough, the main thing the Buick boys wanted to do was “listen to the tapes”. You bet.

Although I had no intention of taking the matter of the tapes any further that I had, adventure is where you find it. Charlie and I discussed an approach. We called the Director of Public Relations on Charlie’s speaker-phone.

“Hi, Jerry Rideout!”

“Jerry? This is Peter Cavanaugh!”

“Peter—ahhh—-Peter Cavanaugh?

“That’s goddamn right! Did you just call my fucking boss?

“Ahhh. Ummm.. Errrr. See. I’ve known–known Charlie for years and he’s an old–an old friend–and–“

“You called my fuckin’ BOSS??????”

“Now. Well. You see–“

You get your ass out here!


Within seconds, Charlie’s private line rang.

Charlie told Jerry that I had gone completely berserk when informed of his call. Charlie said that, while I was normally a fairly nice kind of a “cat”, I had a vicious Irish temper and was given to bursts of uncontrollable rage as is true of many performers. Charlie reported that I was running around the building screaming about having my job threatened. Charlie said I had so far shared the entire tape with no one, not even him. Now I had a call in to Ralph Nader and was talking about making copies for all the networks here and overseas, especially in Germany. “Whatever that means”, added Charlie.

All because the Buick Motors Division Director of Public Relations had FUCKED UP!!

Mr. Rideout was looking at a one-way ticket to No Snatch, Saskatchewan.

The Director arrived at WTAC within minutes, perspiring heavily and minus his coat-jacket which, for a General Motors executive, was like not wearing pants. Or shorts underneath. He had literally run to his car and headed south on Center Road.

At the time, I looked quite anarchistic. My moustache was Fu Manchu and my hair was shoulder-length. I was wearing sneakers, torn jeans and a T-Shirt that said “So What?”.

In spite of every effort to maintain practiced composure, Mr. Rideout couldn’t help but radiate the feeling he was in the presence of a genuine bomb-thrower. An honest-to-God terrorist was holding the keys to his career in one hand and preparing to crush his balls with the other. This hadn’t been addressed at General Motors Institute.

“Jerry, I’d like to cover a few things quickly and cleanly.”

“Absolutely, Mr. Cavanaugh. Absolutely!”

“Jerry, I’m of Irish descent and like to handle things in Irish ways.”

“My wife is part-Irish. She’s a wonderful woman!”

I coudn’t resist.

“Well, that’s good, Jerry. That’s very good. And you screw Irish gentlemen too?”

“Oh no. No. No-no-no-no-no! That’s not what I meant at all.”

“Jerry, when you called Charlie Speights, you were trying to screw me. Charlie happens to be just about my very best friend in the world, but you didn’t know that! You thought you would call my boss and tell on me. Do you know what that’s called in Ireland, Jerry?”

“In Ireland?”

“In Ireland, Jerry, that’s called informing! Do you know what happens to informers in Ireland?”

“In Ireland?”

“In Ireland, Jerry, INFORMERS STOP INFORMING! At WTAC, you’re in Ireland.”

“In Ireland?”

“And here’s the Irish deal:

“First, the next time you have a question for a common Irish worker, you will ask him directly and to his face. You will not contact his “better,” for there’s no such thing! Is that understood?”


“Secondly, there is absolutely no way you or anyone else connected with Buick is going to listen to any recordings which may be in my possession, except the President of the Division if he should so choose and only then to verify the extent of his vulnerability. He should watch it on his goddamn car phone. That’s my only message here.”

“I see.”

“And lastly, Jerry. You seem like a decent guy. Tell your people I’m erasing the tape and that you talked me into it. You came right out here and behaved respectfully. You may come back to Ireland any time you wish.”

“To Ireland. Yes. Yes. Then, we don’t have to worry about—“

“All you need worry about, Jerry, is keeping your wife happy. Irish women are creatures of deep passion. The tape will be erased.”

The Director of Buick Public Relations left WTAC in a state of joyous relief.

Charlie and I fell on the floor in hysterical laughter.

By the close of the day, all car phones were removed from every executive vehicle in the entire Buick fleet.

I played the tape for no one else.

It was not erased.

One Response to ““Jerry and Me””

  1. Joseph Goddeyne Says:

    Thank You for 70+ chapters. You’re part of the reason I’ve worked in broadcasting. Now back in Bay City, semi retired, or loafing.
    Worked with Don in St.Ignace.(1995). Also in Toledo 1977-1981.
    for Ch. 30 (PBS). Still do contract engineering. Great colorful writing! Also very Irish, with all the issues. You learn to live with those issues, if you’re really blessed. Take care. Joe

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