Charles Laquidara is Being Fired

Charles had been fired, or was in danger of being fired. Where were Charles, Al Perry and Carla? Nobody would tell me what was going on. Had Charles not showed up? Or had he been there for only part of his show? One of the subs had evidently worked part of his show. Meryl, the bookkeeper, told me that T. Mitch, Arnie Woo-Woo Ginsburg and Ray Riepen were in the office, had been there since she got in, and had not come out except to use the bathroom. Woo-Woo was grim, she told me.

I asked Kate, the Head of Volunteers. She could not tell me. She wanted to know what I knew. Her great, romantic, hidden, unconfessed Love for Charles, combined with the fear that the object of her love might me taken from her, had twisted her lovely, supple body into a knot in the corner by Carla’s desk. Kate was Irish. She mustered the phalanx of volunteers with efficiency and wit, except when Charles was around, when she retreated as it were into one of those transparent Santa balls, and was without speech. Only an enormous blush was left behind.

I asked Danny Schechter, the News Dissector. Danny hammered on the same message every day. The National Liberation Front was our ally (he never once used the phrase “Viet Cong”). Imperialism must and will lose the war in Vietnam. I hope he has not mellowed. Danny had a lot of stories about Corporate America, about minority and women’s issues; a lot of sources; but today he had nothing. “I don’t know, man”. he told me in his New York accent. “Do you know anything about unions, man”? He was not changing the subject. I told him that I did not, but wanted to know.

Little Bill darted out of the record library with a couple of albums. Little Bill was supposedly only 14. He claimed to be in the ninth grade at Newton South High School, and was the only volunteer to have had air time. Woo-Woo Ginsburg, impressed with Little Bill’s unbelievably frenetic delivery and knowledge of the hits, had put him on the air a couple of times on the weekend overnight shifts when nobody else wanted to work. Bill was called “little” because he was about five feet six. I was the other Bill at six feet two. He didn’t know anything either, although it was hard to tell what he knew, if anything, because of his supercharged state.

Max was not in yet, so I couldn’t ask her. Sam Kopper was just coming in the door, and I turned to ask him, but just then Arnie, Mitch and Ray Riepen emerged from the office and brushed past me on the way out the door. Sam and I stepped aside. Arnie Ginsburg’s head was down, a cigarette in his mouth, his complexion a light brownish green. The three executives went into the elevator.

Sam had nothing, either. He was a short timer anyway, having accepted a gig on the West Coast. His farewell party was to be in Littleton the next weekend, and he was mellow, with not much invested in the politics of WBCN at this point. He perched on Carla’s desk, fiddling with some rolling papers and the contents of a baggy. “Don’t get too excited,” he said. “It’ll all work itself out.” And he gave me that unforgettable grin.

Copyright 1971, 2010 William J. Spurlin

Copyright 1971, 2010 William J. Spurlin

I went into the studio. Charles’s license was still there. with the crossed-out, substituted “3” in “1938”. Jim Parry was in the middle of a set and gave me a dirty look, so I went through the back door into my small domain with the limiter, compressor, wires and a bucket full of screws. Nothing doing back there. I was nervous, on edge about Charles. If Arnie Woo-Woo Ginsburg could fire Charles he could do anything. He could destroy WBCN. I’d be working for a top 40 station. I might as well be dead.

I didn’t feel like fixing anything (although I knew that a potentiometer in the Sparta board needed replacement) so I went into the production studio instead, cued up an old 50’s hit “I Couldn’t Sleep at All” by Joey Ramone, and recorded a spot. I had to make a couple of splices, but it turned out pretty well, a spot for Slak Shax, one of WBCN’s larger advertisers. Personally, I had never worn a pair of slacks, or at least would not admit to having done so. But our advertisers at WBCN were often incongruous. It didn’t seem to matter much. We could sell anything. We had the listeners, the ratings, T. Mitch was selling some time for the first time in his life. Charles was our biggest star and all the advertisers wanted their spots on his show. Woo-Woo had tolerated Charles up to this point, but evidently things had been driven to a breaking point and Woo-Woo was prepared to sacrifice Charles, and ruin my life. I was just as infatuated as Kate, although less tongue-tied when it counted, and not as repressed. I wanted secretly to be a DJ, but it was no secret to Woo-Woo, who had seen it all before, and he let me record the occasional spot.

5 comments

  1. I never knew that you always wanted to be a DJ. If you had ever tried to convey that to me and I ignored you I apologize. In my mind and my memory I was always trying to help people and if I did not help you as a coworker, shame on me. I just do not remember, and I trust whatever you say, because you are keeping and have kept notes and great memories.

    1. It was long ago, Charles, and is no longer important to me, but I appreciate your words. I would be better as a DJ now, or perhaps as a talk show host. I sure do like to hear myself talk, and I am much less fearful than I was in those days.

      I have no notes, just the photos you see and memories, some wonderful, some not so good. I was only there for a year, you for much longer – 25? 30? My experience at WBCN was just long enough to have some continuity: a beginning, middle and end; and short enough that it is isolated in my memory as one mountain peak stands out from others. So I have tried to make a story of it, embellishing as little as possible, and certainly not where you are concerned, old friend, as you are watching and remembering, too. But it is a story about me more than about WBCN.

      We were in the radio business together, and you were a lot better at it than I was. It was my first job in radio, and I was so saturated in booze and marijuana that I was neither a quick study nor a reliable worker. You were, and are a professional. I was a callow amateur. I learned a lot from you. I got better later, and by 1992 had gone about as far as an engineer can go in radio, and I have sinced moved on to another career.

      Please have a look at the vignettes I’ve posted recently. They, and my WBCN story, are all of a piece.

  2. Good day!
    Here is an article this week about Arnie. I remember him from Boston in 1970’s when I went to Berklee and did sound and light engineering at Pauls Mall Jazz Workshop…Got to meet him last week!
    Thanks
    Dan

    here: http://issuu.com/weeklysentinel/docs/ws_030714

    ps–I forgot to ask Arnie if he was ever married, family etc?? Do you know??

    1. Arnie was never married, to my knowledge. He doesn’t mention WBCN in the Weekly Sentinel interview. Those were not happy days for him, I think.

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