Straight From the Mouth
The Morning Mouth's April Interview with Paul & Young Ron
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2009 Talentmasters Inc.)
How about a quick background check?
Paul: I started at WSHE in Miami after college in 84, as a Production Director and then morning show producer during the Herman and McBean (the morning show at that time) era. Tommy Griffiths (Tommy and Rumble, WNOR) and I graduated from the University of Florida together earlier that year, he was doing nights, but we both hosted a Saturday night show together on WSHE. One evening we got a call from Dave Gariano who was putting together a morning show in Orlando at WHTQ, and he put us together as a team, until we were sued by actress Shirley Jones and subsequently fired. I eventually worked my way back to WSHE in Miami, where Brian Krysz put me together with this stiff, my partner of 19 years: Ron Brewer. teamed with Paul for mornings in '90.
Before we ask another question, bring us up to speed on your mom & wife's car accident and how they are both doing?
P: On December 23rd, on their way back from a trip to Disney World, my Mother and wife were in a head on collision. Mom broke her neck, and Gina lost her spleen, had 3 broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken sternum and other internal injuries. I'm lucky they survived, the woman who caused the accident, ended up in a coma and her Mother died at the scene. My Mother is wearing a halo, which is drilled into her skull and will have to wear it for 6 months, and my wife just had her final surgery and is on the road to recovery. My Mother yelled at somebody for staring at her at a restaurant the other day,"I was in a car accident, stare at somebody else!", so she's obviously on the way back to being her feisty self, but It's been a nightmare.
Sadly, your wife went through another ordeal not that long before?
faced that battle head on, with chemotherapy, radiation and numerous surgeries. She was just getting back to feeling herself, doing yoga, traveling, being a Mom and more when the accident happened. One person shouldn't have to suffer as much as she has.
What's been the darkest moment?
P: I've had a lot of dark moments in the past few years, but I must say that this Christmas Eve was about as tough as it gets. My wife is in intensive care in critical condition; my Mother is on a different floor with a broken neck. My 7 year old son is crying and wondering if Santa is still going to come while his Mom is at the hospital, and my sister and brother in law and I are sitting in the middle of my living room trying to figure out where my wife hid the presents. I lost it, but I had to be strong for my kids. Lets just say there were a lot of tears that week. How long have you been married? Gina and I were married in 1996, after one of my interns (Omelette of the Omellete and Finster show, KLRT) asked if I would speak at his broadcasting class, I promptly told him, "no way". Until he said he had, "A hot Italian teacher, that I would marry if I met her". Turns out he was right! I still owe the SOB.
How are your kids doing? How did you hide your worries and fears from them?
P:Kids are resilient, it's amazing. They are coping way better than grown ups. Perhaps because they aren't aware of the severity of it all. Although, my youngest at one point pulled me aside crying and told me, "I want to know everything. Every time I am in the room and you get a phone call, you walk away and whisper. I am old enough to know everything. Is Mom dying?" Wow, talk about a lump in the throat. From that moment on, I was completely honest to him about the whole ordeal. Our teenage son (my stepson) reacted a little differently, sort of leaning on his friends more than he did us.
You do a fun, off-the-wall kind of show. How were you able to keep that going given everything that was going on?
P: Thankfully, my partner Ron and my team, Steve Brancik, Toast, OMG and Dave Lamont and I are all really close friends as well as co-workers. We are a total family, and you can't imagine the support I got from the guys and the
didn't send flowers (he did), he said, "well, it was Christmas week and all, ya know we had a lot going on." You gotta love him for always staying in character. Really, the 5 hours of our show was the only "normal" time of my day. The rest of the time was much more difficult. I will say though, that I at least got a ton of material out of the experience. During the first month or so, my Father moved in with me while My Mom was in the hospital. When was the last time you lived with your Italian Dad? It was the mid 80's for me. He's still in charge. I learned that he won't eat food that has been cooked or re-heated in a microwave oven. He'd say "You wanna take short cuts in life, fineYour Mother wouldn't' use one of those." Are you freaking kidding me? I also remember, one particularly sad night in the Intensive care room with my wife when a news story came on about the accident. I said, "Gina look, you're on the news". She goes, "At least I got you some press, too bad it's the winter book." You gotta love a radio wife!
Following your wife's experience with breast cancer, she, along with some other women, wrote a book. Give us some details. How can our readers buy this book?
P: The book is called "Just a Lump in the Road. Reflections of Young Breast Cancer Survivors". It's available at Amazon.com, all the national chains and at their website, www.alump in theroad.com During Gina's recovery, she joined a support group and befriended a great group of young women who unfortunately, had this one terrible thing in common. Instead of whining and complaining, they went public and decided to help people and wrote a book describing in detail what they all went through. It's extremely helpful for anybody who has been diagnosed, and the odds aren't good. One in 7 women end up with one form of the disease or another. Anybody who wants to arrange an interview (by press time, Gina will be fine), go ahead and e-mail her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I guess it's fair to say, while everything else pales in importance next to these occurances, you did have other things going on in your life. You re-uped with Clear Channel and it looks like they made you a deal you couldn't refuse. But now you're on till 11 AM. How's that working out?
P: I thought, "ok... no problem, what's another hour?" I was wrong! After for another hour. I understand why they asked for it, it's much easier to sell an hour of morning drive, than an hour of Fleetwood Mac. Actually, the 10-11 am hour is kind of relaxed, the other day we had our post show meeting "on the air." It's also a great avenue for us to get guests that normally wouldn't wake up early, and we get the benefit of airing it again the next morning.
And without letting the cat out of the bag, how much more are you takin' in now compared to your first job?
P: Don, contractually, I am not allowed to say how much I'm getting paid, but let's put it this way: in my first radio job out of college, in 1984, I made 14 grand. Last Friday I made that in the 6 o'clock hour. (I'm joking!) We also somehow talked the company into putting us on in another market (West Palm Beach, Treasure Coast) on WKGR 98.7 FM, which is on in my home town, and that's been a real treat for me personally as well.
What doesn't work any more on the air?
P: We don't do fake bits or phones any more. I remember a conversation with Brother Wease where he said, "we don't do fake phone call crap, we don't BS our audience at all, we're real." And I'm thinking, "Oh crap, that's our whole show!". I also don't focus on the phones as much anymore. I used to panic if I had a topic and the phones didn't ring. There are days that go by, and remember this is a 5 hour talk show, that we don't take any calls! If you told me that 5 years ago, I'd have thought you were nuts. The theory is: why wait for Bob from Miami to call in and maybe give you a punch line, when you are surrounded by 4 very funny totally interesting people, that are way funnier than the audience, and you know you are going to get a laugh every few minutes.
Pick a morning show since the beginning of time -- who's the best ever?
P: Tough one. Maybe Jonathon Brandmeier in his prime; obviously, Howard, although I competed with him his entire career and didn't get to hear much of his show. We're all so damn different. Wait 5 or ten years, people will probably be saying, Free Beer and Hot Wings. Those guys are fantastic (and so young! I hate them).
R: For me it was Imus.
I see PPM headed to Miami in the not to distant future. What have you learned about managing your show in this rating concept?
P: They keep pushing it back in Miami, but one of the things I learned at 'Boot Camp last year was that it is very friendly to Rock formats and shows like ours that target 25-54. I also am intrigued that we won't be so damn concerned with the spring and Fall books, that we'll be able to take vacations year round. I will deal with PPM's as they get closer, but right now I am more concerned with how much our companies are pushing us to pump up the internet, to the point where I am thinking, "hey wait a minute, what about all those people in their cars!" I realize it will be in all of our cars someday, but until then, I still think we need to concentrate on good radio and reminding people why they like us coming out of their speakers. I have a feeling that one day we'll be doing just what the writers did, "heywe wanna get paid for what your selling on the internet too!"
R: It seems that shows like ours will automatically benefit from what I've heard.
What's something jocks do that drives you crazy?
P: I hate liner jocks. Give me something more, tell me what's going on around you. Is there a game today? Am I going to get hit by a tornado? Voice tracking has created a lot of "liner jocks". "Coming up tonight at 11, it's the blah blah blah". I'm tuning out.
R: Laughing when nothing is funny.
How do you plan a 6 hour show?
P: Our show runs like a well oiled machine. We each have certain strengths and things we bring to the table on a daily basis. I ask each member of the show to prep as if they have to host the show by themselves, I also ask that each person on the show e-mail me a rundown of what happened to them the day before. You never know what is going to spark a bit or a conversation. We just had a bit of a readjustment to our staff, again playing into the strengths of the show members. Steve Brancik who was our executive producer, has been moved to the newly created position of "creative director". Toast, who was our associate producer, has been upped to executive producer. What we found was that Steve, is one of the funniest and most talented writers there is. It would be better served having him on the air with us full time, and instead of answering e-mails, booking guests and scheduling the show, why not have him just sit back and come up with funny, creative bits. Toast, who has been with us for ten years on and off, is really good at organization and production, he'll keep our sound fresh, and handle all guest booking. It's a subtle move, but in the long run, we all think the show will be better off. We also have OMG, who is in charge of gathering audio, setting up the logs, and archiving our best of material. He spends a good portion of the show in a production studio looking for odd sound clips, and great audio for the show. My partner Ron is the show's news man (yet, I can't think of the last news cast he actually got through without a bit forming). Thankfully, he keeps abreast of "what's going on news wise, nationally and locally, and brings that to the table as well as being the best straight, yet odd man in the business. Ron will take the bullet anytime for a good laugh. I can say to him at 5:30 am. "Ok, I came to your house yesterday and you were wearing a housecoat". He'll play it up on the air that "it's no big deal, all guys wear housecoats". Our web guy (In our deal, CC gave us a full time web person), site in minutes. One of the important things about prepping a show is the diversity of the characters. I learned this from Kidd Kraddick. Even though we don't have a girl on the show, we have Ron, who is our "chick" (a guy who doesn't like sports, is the true family man, and will basically defend women at all times). We have me, "everybody's best friend, the guy you want to have a beer and go fishing with, the sports nut, and the show bully." Ron and I are both married with kids, I'm in my late 40's and God knows how old he is. There is Steve, who's gay, yet not the stereotypical gay dude. He isn't flamboyant; he loves sports and dresses sloppy. Toast is married, but in his 30's and loves to catch a buzz and watch the Red Sox. That's all he does. OMG is our link to the 20 something slacker community, he goes out drinking every night, and his dating habits are a big part of our show. Sharp Dressed John is our web guy, and he's black, and actually did bits with us during black history month. He regularly calls us out on racism, and has a great sense of humor. Dave Lamont, has been a part of our show on and off for years. He also does his own morning show on 610 WIOD, an AM station down the hall. Talk about synergy! He comes down the hall for sports and when his show is over, he hangs with us to argue about music, etc. He brings us a bit of credibility, since he calls games during college football season on ABC TV. With a diverse group like that, something ridiculous is always going on and we're never at a loss for materiel.
Since you've been on the air, you've done a billion bits, stunts, etc. Give me the two or three that were the motherlode of the greatest. The ones you still think about and go, whoaaaaaaaa?
P: One of the coolest stunts we did was this summer, when American Idol was filming in Miami. Since we're on a classic rock station, we get absolutely no access, so we sent our stunt guy "Oh My God Mike" (OMG) to the auditions, where 5000 people were waiting in line for 3 days. We had him walk all the way up to the front of the line, saying"Excuse me, I'm with the Paul and Young Ron show, please stand back" Until he was in the front of the line and next to Ryan Seacrest. The place was going nuts, we told him he had to get Seacrest on the air. He and everybody else is yelling "Ryan, Ryan". Now, I know that our agent Paul Anderson used to rep Ryan, so I tell OMG to yell out, "Hey, I've got Paul Anderson on the line". Sure enough Ryan gets on the air with us, "Paul Anderson, how the hell are you?" I tell him it's The Paul and Young Ron show and that we lied to get him on the air, and he loves the bit. We had a great conversation with him. I also hear from our listeners who loved a prank we recently pulled on OMG. He screwed up as usual, so for punishment, we told him he had to sit naked and pose in front of a group of professional local artists from our audience. We had sculptors and painters, but he didn't flinch, we even had him take a Viagra before the bit started. It still didn't faze him. It wasn't until we hit him with the twist that we had him squirming. We told him that the artists needed a break, so we wheeled a panel in front of him and they left. When the artists came back in, and we pulled back the panel, we revealed that we had replaced the artists with all of the women that work in the building. Secretaries, sales staff and all. The audience was in on it the whole time. It killed, and we got more web hits that day than ever.
R: All the ones I came up with.
Morning Show Boot Camp is celebrating our 20th anniversary this year. We've had the pleasure of your company at most of them. If someone reading this is having a hard time convincing their boss to let them come, what would tell them to say?
P: Gee Don, the first MSBC that I came to was in Atlanta, and it must have been in 1989, I remember wondering what it was going to be like, and as I was walking in the door for the very first time, I bumped into Mark and Brian, spent a few minutes chatting with them, and thought, "This is about the coolest thing I have ever done." Over the years, sitting at the bar and getting to BS with some of the most talented people in the industry, as well as picking up tons of bits, either in sessions, or on a cocktail napkin, has been a real boost to my career. The relationships formed over the years with people that A) do the same thing you do, and B) you don't compete with will benefit not only you, but your company as well. Give your GM (PD's don't make decisions any more) a list of the personalities that attend every year, there's a reason these are the most successful names in broadcasting.
Final question: About the cover; who's pool?
P: Mine, nice huh?