“FR2”

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CHAPTER FIFTY-EIGHT

FR2

We met at “The Canopy” in Brighton, Michigan; a reasonably upscale restaurant just off US 23, north of Ann Arbor. I was relieved.

Frazier Reams, Jr. was not at all what was expected.

He was a refined, gracious, uncommon man.

Frazier was in his mid-fifties with white hair and noble bearing.

He bore a measure of resemblance to Peter Graves of “Mission Impossible” fame,  brother to James Arness of “Marshall Dillon” repute. Later, I would see Frazier mistaken for Senator John Anderson when the latter ran for President. I believe Frazier even signed a few autographs rather than make the petitioners feel foolish. He used his own signature, a bold “FR2”. No one complained.

Mr. Reams was quite candid regarding intent. His Flint AM was licensed to broadcast during daylight hours only and with a signal enormously inferior to that of WTAC. WTAC would offer a significant upgrade in power and strength and would contribute meaningful ratings points, which could be sold combined with WWCK-FM. As is usual in such circumstances, there was no specific discussion as to my own status should a successful sale be negotiated with Fuqua.

I felt quite comfortable with Frazier and saw fit to impress him with our entire WTAC story, including vast publicity generated by yet another new promotional coup.

One of the biggest motion pictures in the Summer of ’79 was “The Amityville Horrors”, a film depicting an alleged “haunting” in New England, complete with demonic possession and the “real life” experiences of a family suddenly faced with supernatural terror beyond belief. Perfect!

I had contacted the Amityville Chamber of Commerce and discovered, not without expectation, that they considered the whole thing nothing more than a stupid joke. They jumped at my offer to help in setting matters straight and dispelling notions of evil incarnate dwelling unchallenged in the midst of their lovely community. WTAC would send two listeners and our morning air personality, Sean McNeill, to spend Halloween in Amityville.  The Mayor would bring them all over town and they would meet with religious and civic leaders, all of whom would express disappointment with the Hollywood hype which had tarnished their image across the land. Sean and our listeners would then spend Halloween Night calling in reports from “the Amityville Horror House”. We would prove to the world that Amityville was a quiet, peaceful, God-fearing, law-abiding oasis of tranquility. The only thing “scary” was that so many people had thought otherwise, thanks to vivid imaginations and an exploitive media.

Naturally, WTAC exploitation in Flint was extensive.

Two weeks before Halloween, Sean McNeill started to rave on his morning show about personal disbelief in witches or ghosts or goblins or anything which might go bump in the night. He demanded to be shown otherwise. That’s when “The Voice” started materializing. It would come in out of nowhere in the middle of records, during a weather forecast or even under the news. It was almost inaudible at first, but then grew ever louder with passing time. It was mysterious and ethereal. It dared.

“SSSSSEEEEEEANNNNNNNNN McNNNNNNEEEEEEILLLLLL——YOUUUUUU OFFFF LITTTTLLLLEEEEE FAAAAAAAAITHHHHHHHHHHHH—- COMMMMMMMMME—-COMMMMMMMMMMME TOOOOOOOO MEEEEEEEE IN AMITYVILLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEE—-MYYYYYYY HOUSSSSSSSEEEE AWAAAITTTTTTTSSSS YOUUUUUUU THERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEE!!!”

Of course, Sean wasn’t frightened at all. He said that he wasn’t afraid of any stupid voice and would go to Amityville. The stupid voice became enraged.

“SSSSSEEEEEEEEAAANNNNNN McNNNNNNNEEILLLLLLLL—MYYY HOUUSSSSEEEE AWAAAAAAAITS—-YOURRRRRRR BLOOOOOOD WILLLLLL FLOOOOOOOOWWWWWW—–ONNNNNN HAAALLLLLOOOWEEEEENNNNN—–YOUUUUURRRRR LIIIIIIIFFEEE WILLLLLL GOOOOOOOO”

Sean now suggested to his audience that, although he still wasn’t really scared, it might not be such a bad idea to bring a few friends along. Through contesting, a brave couple was selected to accompany him on his courageous mission. Although fairly tongue-in-cheek in execution, we had again successfully struck a nerve. Local television crews were on the scene as Sean and listeners boarded their flight for Amityville the morning of Halloween.

The hardest part of the journey for all involved was staying awake.

Amityville, as promised by the local Chamber of Commerce, was a complete snooze. Still, Sean rose to the occasion and made things sound as interesting as possible with a series of excellent reports. He even talked his way into the “Amityville House” on Halloween Night. A fraternity group from a nearby college had rented it for their annual party. Every twenty minutes, Sean phoned Flint and was carried live on WTAC. The “Amityville House” turned into “Animal House”, complete with assistance from our partying listeners and scores of Long Island college students eager to share in a moment of distant broadcast fame. It was great radio. WTAC’s exploits were reported in all the important trade magazines, as well as a number of major newspapers

Frazier and I also discussed implications of WDZZ-FM’s sign-on, which had taken place three months earlier. I had sent Vern Merritt, the station’s new General Manager and Co-owner, a floral arrangement. It welcomed them all to the Flint broadcasting community. I was the only competitor to have acknowledged their arrival. I expressed to Mr. Reams my conviction that WDZZ was doing outrageously well with Flint’s Black population and had already rendered WAMM obsolete. I was also quite certain that WTAC’s “fusion format” would also be negatively effected by the new operation, but that WWCK would actually benefit from further proof of FM viability in the market.

I presented Frazier with typical facts and figures relating to a  general overview of WTAC and answered all questions asked. I felt the encounter had gone very well and reported this later in the day to Joe Windsor in Georgia. Joe told me the following afternoon that Frazier had been very impressed during our meeting. Joe mentioned that Frazier was engineering  corporate reorganization within his own ranks and would be getting back to us once certain matters were finalized.

The 1979  Holiday Season was filled with typical festive frolic on-the-air and behind the scenes. January was the first month in a brand new decade.

The 1980’s began in the darkest and deadliest of ways.

4 Responses to ““FR2””

  1. Michael Sean Says:

    I have discovered the pinnacle of laziness! Instead of having to conjure images of the good old days, I only have to visit Peter’s blog and the good old days are spread out before me…and they ARE the “good old days!”.

    • petercavanaugh Says:

      Hah! A lovely compliment, indeed. But even better (for the WWCK period) is this retrospective video Jim Baade just put together (http://vimeo.com/35121312) —

      Say, “hi!” to Karen!!!

      • Michael Sean Says:

        “Bad Boy” did an extraordinary with his video. I am waiting for the sequels, “Parking Lot Roulette, gridlock on Lapeer Road.” or, “The 105 Super Van, the untold, despicable, illegal, sworn to secrecy , the grand kids don’t need to know stories.”
        Unrelated, in the chain of custody you were last in possession of an 8 mm film spool that had a stand up that I did in front of the Amityville horror house. Do you still have it (you must since you invented the term “PackRat) and/or has it been converted to another format? I never have seen but it would love to. Hi to Karen? Done! She is winking at the teleprompter 1 last time at the end of the month….can you believe after 32 years?

  2. petercavanaugh Says:

    I vaguely remember that film, which, it seems, I sent over to someone (Sam Teague?) at Channel 12, hoping to get some sort of coverage of your daring expedition. I have some old Super 8 stuff in our storage area and, if anywhere, it might be there. However, the more I think about it, it seems as though I had anything I had kept through the years on film (mostly family stuff) converted to VHS video about 10 years ago. But, I’ll check.

    That “Amityville” deal was a TERRIFIC promotion and you were GREAT! In fact, it’s quite possible I have some of your “reports” stashed away on cassette somewhere. I have hundreds of those suckers, most either unidentified except for general phrases or just plain unmarked.

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