For as long as I can remember, I've been obsessed with radio in some form or another. I went through a huge Dr. Demento phase. I'd listen late at night (unbeknownst to my parents) to the pirate radio station, broadcast from a little studio in California which played to songs like "Dead Puppies," "Bra Size 45," and "Existential Blues." I'd religiously tape the shows on my little square panasonic tape recorder in the hopes of catching some of my favorites like "Eat It" by Weird Al or "Fish Heads" by Barnes and Barnes. At some point, Dr. Demento lost its charm for me and I moved on to adult talk radio. In the wee hours, after I was supposed to be asleep, I'd listen to the "The Larry Glick Show" on WBZ. I loved it.
Larry Glick was an institution in New England. His nightly talk show had legions of listeners, including me. It was a fun show that included a bit of everything. (One of my favorite segments was when he would make calls to random phone booths all over the world.) It was primarily a talk show during which, callers would call in with whatever interesting thing they had to talk about. Larry was great. He was funny and slightly arrogant and opinionated and worked hard to make his show interesting each night. For me, it was a nightly escape into the world of grownups. As a 12 year old, I didn't think I had anything very interesting to say, but I was dying to call in. Larry would award all of his callers with the coveted "Glick University" maroon tee shirt and I wanted one so badly. Most of the kids at school would have no idea what it meant, but I didn't care. I really wanted a shirt. It was my dream.
I had a phone in my room when I was a kid. It was a big deal to get a phone, and I used it to call in to a LOT of radio stations. I had all of the contest lines posted on a list next to my bed and during the summer, I'd somtimes stay in all day flipping back and forth between stations trying to catch their contests. I had it to the point where I knew what time certain radio stations gave stuff away and I'd call as soon as the DJ just started saying that it was time to call. I won a crapload of tickets. Of course usually, the tickets were not what you'd call top tier shows.
I won tickets to:
Budweiser's World of Wheels at the Centrum
Tina Turner and Wang Chung at Great Woods
Firehouse at the Channel
and my favorite...
a Canobie Lake Park funpack. (I ended up working there a few years later)
On certain rare occasions, I won KICKASS tickets. I won 10th row tickets to see David Bowie at Foxboro Stadium on the Sound/Vision Tour PLUS a Remastered CD version of Ziggy Stardust. That ruled.
But I digress. I had a phone in my room, so one night I decided to try to get on the air with Larry Glick. I had tried before (mostly just to see if I could get through), with no luck. The lines were always busy. They were so busy that to even get a busy signal was rare. Usually, I just got the annoying high pitched three tone whistle followed by, "We're sorry, all circuits are busy now. Please hang up and try your call again later." I expected not to get through. I was used to not getting through.
So I nearly shit myself when I dialed 617-254-5678 on my newfangled cordless phone with the telescopic antenna and heard...
My heart kicked into overdrive. I GOT THROUGH.
Luckily, I had planned for this day. As a twelve year old, I didn't think I had much to say to Larry, but I knew someone who did.
In those days (and up until his recent retirement) dad worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. His area was endangered species, and back then he had recently returned home from Canada where he took eggs from the nests of Bald Eagles and relocated them to a nest in Quabbin Reservoir in Mass. The eagles were severely endangered because of the havoc that the pesticide DDT caused (it thinned the shells of the eagles' eggs to the point that the mother eagles cracked the eggs merely by sitting on them.) As an integral part of the effort to restore the population of our Nation's symbol, I thought my dad definitely qualified as an interesting caller.
Someone answered on the other end. "Larry Glick show, who's this?"
I swallowed. I thought about hanging up, but I knew I might not get another chance. I really wanted that tee-shirt. "Hi. My name is Shane."
"What do you want to talk about Shane?"
I stammered out the information about my dad and waited for them to politely hang up on me.
Finally, the man on the other end of the line said, "OK Shane. Turn down your radio, have your dad ready and we'll get to you soon, ok?"
"OK," I told him as my heart lodged in my throat.
I raced downstairs with my cordless phone in hand.
"Dad, I'm on the phone with the Larry Glick show and I already told them about you and they put me on hold and you're gonna be on the radio so can you talk about the eagles?"
Both of my parents stared at me in shocked silence.
Before I had a chance to elaborate, Larry Glick...the man himself was on the line.
"Hi, who's this?"
"Hi, my name is Shane calling from New Hampshire."
Larry gave a shout out to NH and asked me what I was calling about. Once again, I told him about my dad and the eagles and the eggs.
Larry liked it. "Sounds pretty interesting Shane, why don't you put him on."
And I did. My dad, who just seconds earlier had been watching the Red Sox was now live on WBZ AM telling the Greater New England area talk show fans about Bald Eagle recovery. By this time, the rest of the family had gathered around the radio to hear dad talk to Larry Glick.
It was awesome. I got my tee-shirt which I wore proudly to school as soon as it arrived. I expected lots of jealous pining from my schoolmates, but I think I was actually the only nerd in school that listened to talk radio. I didn't care. The shirt meant everything to me and that's all that mattered.
About a year later in my freshman year of high school, I made the mistake of leaving it in my gym locker one night. I came to school the next day to find the shirt torn into shreds with its tattered remnants strewn around the locker room. I was crushed. Apparently I had accidentally left a corner of it sticking out through my locker and someone decided to rip it out through the vent and then destroy it.
It was irreplaceable of course. I was pretty sure that it was a random destructive impulse that just happened to involve my favorite, hard-earned shirt, but that didn't lessen my complete devastation when I discovered it lying in ruins on the floor.
I picked up the pieces of the shirt, took one last look and threw it unceremoniously into the big grey trash barrel on the way out of the locker room.
Someone may have ripped up my proof, but one time when I was a kid, I was on the Larry Glick show on WBZ. It was awesome.