Want to take a trip way behind the scenes of 96-7 KCAL Rocks? Strap in. I can take you there.
Picture this: you have about the coolest job on the planet. You’re the dude responsible for everything that happens on the air here. Yep, there are “responsible” people that work here – we’re just not that responsible. (Or have you never checked out Boob Camp?)
The incredibly talented and funny morning show you’re lucky enough to work with is about to do one of the best, coolest things they’ve ever done. Everything’s ready to go…and then, all hell breaks loose.
Okay confession time: occasionally, we record things and play them back on KCAL later. Usually, that’s because Stu, Tiffany & Jimbo can only get an interview with somebody after 9am. (Funny how celebrities don’t like to get up early, isn’t it?) Other times, it’s because we get a clever idea and there’s just no way to make it happen before 9am. We’re going to do something anyway, and we want to make sure you got to hear it, even though it has to happen after 9am. (Kinda like when we go down to see the Chargers and record interviews with them.)
Back in the day, we used to give Tiff a boatload of crap about how no man in his right mind would ever marry her. By August of 2001, we knew we were full of it. Tiffany and her then-boyfriend had gotten really serious, and it was obvious they were about to get engaged. We also knew they didn’t have the money to go on a honeymoon. So, we decided to do something about it. We called a travel agent and set up a deal where Tiff and Mark were going to get a free Caribbean cruise, and our listeners, who are pretty much family to us, could go on their honeymoon with them.
Sack was our morning show producer back in 2001, and he went out in search of a travel agent with an attitude. He found one. Then, he put her on the phone with Stu and Jimbo. We recorded everything. It was seriously hilarious, and we couldn’t wait to play it on the air. (Remember? Back in 2001, there were still travel agents.) Tiff knew something was up, but she didn’t know what.
STJ were going on vacation after Labor Day, and we knew she would come back engaged. We decided that on the Monday they came back, Tiffany would drop the bombshell. She did. People freaked. The phone calls we got that day were incredible. It was one of the best days the show had had in its four years together. It was insanely entertaining. The next day, we were going to play back all the stuff Sack recorded about the cruise.
Oh, just one thing: Monday was September 10, 2001. We don’t have the stuff we recorded any more; we (obviously) never played it on the radio.
I was fast asleep at about 5:50am on the 11th after watching Monday Night Football the night before with M.J. Matthews, who used to be on the air here from 9am to 2pm. (He’s doing great, by the way. You can find his memories from 9/11 on this very website.) Then, the phone woke me up. It was Tiffany telling me that there had just been an accident in New York – a plane had flown into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. She asked me whether I thought we should drop all the honeymoon stuff and talk about the plane crash.
At this point, we didn’t even know whether it was a 747 or a Cessna that hit the building. We did know, however, that once you start talking about a tragedy like a plane crash, you’re done trying to be funny for the day. Because we didn’t know how serious things were, we decided to wait for more information. We figured we’d take15 minutes to see what news came out. I jumped into the shower, figuring I was going to need to haul ass into the radio station.
I got out of the shower just in time to hear Tiffany announce that a second plane had gone into the South WTC Tower. Until that happened, one plane hitting a building seemed like an accident. Two planes? Uh oh.
I hauled ass into KCAL. Personal note #1: while I was driving in, I called my then-girlfriend (now wife), who was the security director for a hotel by LAX. I was floored that they hadn’t woken her up. If terrorists had gone after airport-type stuff in New York, you had to think they might go after L.A. too. She hauled ass into her work.
Was I worried? Duh.
I got here around 6:30. The place was already buzzing.
Not long after I got here, the third plane hit the Pentagon. Within half an hour, the South WTC Tower had collapsed, and the fourth plane had crashed in rural Pennsylvania. At that point, anything seemed possible. Rumors were everywhere. I remember one had something to do with a plane on the runway at the airport in Cleveland. There was a question about whether terrorists had taken control of it. At one point, we heard that it was almost certain a terrorist with a bomb was holding the plane hostage on a runway there. (That, of course, turned out to be wrong.)
A buddy of mine, who I knew was flying that day, called to tell me he was okay, but he was stuck in Memphis. He spent three days there before he rented a car and drove home. Another friend was on a dream vacation to London. He landed in London just before the first plane hit. He couldn’t get a plane home for two weeks and ended up spending a lot more time in England than he’d banked on.
Back at KCAL, we’d turned into a news/talk radio station. No music. No commercials. Just information mixed with all of our personal reactions to that information. We started taking phone calls – lots of phone calls – about, well, everything. We learned how to pronounce Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.
More importantly, our own walls came down. M.J.’s show started at 9am, but he probably got here around 7:30, walked into the studio, and just started participating. We all watched the North Tower collapse together in the air studio on a crappy little TV somebody brought in. (I think Jimbo sent Sack over to his apartment to pick it up.) Daryl showed up mid-morning and joined in. I don’t remember what order they left in, but the last member of the morning show left around 3pm.
Office people who never talk on the air on KCAL were in the studio, passing on information. Everybody who wasn’t in the studio was watching a TV in our little conference room. Like Tiffany, I studied journalism, so I spent a lot of time on the internet, figuring out what seemed to be rumors and what seemed to be real and then going on the air with stuff we knew was accurate.
We didn’t stop talking long enough to play even one song until maybe 11am. The first song? “Remember The Heroes” by Sammy Hagar. The second song, maybe half an hour later? “Born In The U.S.A.” When did we go back to what we lovingly call “regular format”, playing lots of music? I don’t remember – probably late in the day. We were spent, all talked out.
Personal note #2: you’ll never believe how my day ended. I bought a house.
2001 was when real estate was just heating up, and I’d never bought a house before. I’d been haggling over this one house with these people I was really starting to dislike. Wednesday the 12th was the day I was going to have to either agree to buy the house or tell them where to go and what to do there. On the 10th, the realtor I was working with set up an appointment to look at another house that had just become available in this development I really liked. The appointment was for 5:30pm on Tuesday.
At some point during the day, the talk turned to how we needed to continue to live our lives on our terms. Otherwise, the terrorists would have gotten what they wanted. So, I did.
I went and saw the house. I liked the house. I bought the house. Just my little way of telling the terrorists to f themselves.
Personal note #3: guess what I’m doing on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I’m flying halfway across the country. I’ve got a life to live and a nephew getting married in Chicago. I suspect security at the airport won’t be much fun, but you know what? I’m fine with that.
Terrorists? F them.