I have been a fan of HOT 105 since the station started up in South Florida during the mid 1980’s. During this period my life was being completely overhauled. And as I got back on the road again, this station among others provided background music with all the wonderful and unique attributes of radio.
Video killed the radio superstar. Who remembers that jingle? What do you think? Well, it introduced me to the 1980’s. – when special camera effects and enhanced video vixens made “just okay” songs iconic hits. MTV and paid TV ruled. Deejays and Top 40 hits were being knocked down for the countdown. It was a time to listen, and to watch, to see Michael Jackson moonwalk, and to be thrilled. The great wireless and wonderful disc jockeys, of whom we joked, “they look good on radio,” were not in the picture.
But it grew worse for our silky voices announcers. Cable giants began their take over of the television world, with networks specializing in music entertainment, 24/7, changing the paradigm of who was a star. However, before radio gasped its last, it was saved by the automobile commute to work, and by the need for workplace background sounds.
My automobile presets kept radio breathing during my morning and evening commutes – 20 minutes going and coming from work. In the environmental laboratory where we tested water, selection of the radio station was based on seniority. I was senior, I chose HOT 105, an Urban station (code for Black).
My favorites were the featured “call ins.” I dialed in to answer questions, winning several prizes. A favorite memory was my correct answer to the question, “How many times did the reigning career home run leader, Hank Aaron, slammed more than 50 in a season?” Everybody was guessing, but I knew, because I had listened (on the radio) to baseball all my life. Upon getting through, I calmly announced “zero.” 40 plus consistently, but never the flashy fifty. If memory serves, I won an invitation to be a special guest at the station’s all day party in a downtown Miami, during an automobile race where streets were blocked off and transformed into a raceway. The upper suites of the hotel overlooked the track. There I met the radio hosts in their diminished stardom.
We sat around, snacking on complementary meatballs, soft drinks and diced fruit. My pre-teen son came along. Radio personalities and us fans mingled, casually watching the cars whiz along Biscayne Boulevard, now without speed limits or pedestrians. We engaged each other with easy conversation. I remember the young woman – What was her name? She had worked as a police officer and now was trying out her skills as an announcer.
The first time I discussed with a cop police shootings was with this woman. She said that if forced to use her weapon, she would shoot to kill. No witnesses, said this rather attractive lady, who played music and joked around on the airwaves. A recent police killing had sparked that conversation.
We were regular people, enjoying Sunday afternoon. I wonder if that would be the ambience if there were Radio Superstars in the room.
What happened over the years? Listening to radio became comfortable and convenient, precisely because it was not so captivating. Not like TV, which had to be watched and heard, holding you captive even during advertising breaks. The personalities were approachable; I met several of them in casual occasions and locations, today some are my Facebook friends. In a society that loves sensation, I love that radio is with me while I drive, while I work, and while I don’t wish to be entertained. Video may have killed The Radio Superstar, but Radio lives on!