Thursday, December 4, 2008

Some People Who Make Very Little Noise - By King Daevid MacKenzie

Fifteen years ago, I sent the following post (which I've slightly modified for publishing here) to the Usenet newsgroup, when the late Bill Pfeiffer was moderating it. He liked the post enough to repost it himself a couple of weeks later. Some details have become antiquated since then, considering the ChumpChannelisation of terrestrial radio, but the essence still stands. I hope you find it to be worth another think.

Back in 1965, Robert and Thomas Dunker of Gauntlet Press in Hermosa Beach, California, began publishing an annual magazine with a name that decorum prohibits announcing here. The closest I can come is the compound word “Horsespit,” which is just one consonant away from reality. Its slogan was “The Offensive Review,”' so you can imagine to which level of profanity it aspired.

Inserted on page 11 of the first issue, amongst some primitively sexual humour, angry political satire and cartoons so surreal and biting that one suspects even the Los Angeles Free Press would have rejected them, was the anonymous piece below:


The pretty girl with deformed feet who sits at home with her aging parents and gets quietly drunk at night. Then waits until they have fallen asleep and cries and cries.

The thirty-five year old fat woman whose husband won't take her anyplace and who pours out all her heart's love on her little dog, the only one in the world who loves her.

The middle-aged man who looks up from his work and sees a pretty blonde teenager sitting close to her boyfriend in a car and remembers that he was always afraid of girls when he was young.

The young married man whose wife is holding some unnamed grudge and won't sleep with him.

The kid who was a star halfback on his small high school team and who was injured in his first college scrimmage but continues to play because he is afraid to tell the coach.

The plain 31-year-old sales clerk who has a pair of newlyweds come into the store and keep looking at each other, while she waits with hungry hopeless eyes.

(Missing, but you can easily add, was: The 47-year-old man who foregoes companionship because he cannot bring himself to emerge from his closet.)

Of course, this describes a good part of the radio audience; those with such paralysing fears and sorrows about the world around them that they are only able to relate to whatever little section of reality they can through US in the broadcasting business. I'm also certain this describes a helluva lot of US, too; I'm convinced at least a third of us are in this business because it allows us to make contact with potentially millions of people at one time without having to look any of them straight in the eye.

I bring this up today because this is the time of year, the one month out of the twelve, where we pay lip service to the socially disadvantaged. We conduct God-only-knows-how-many local Toys for Tots campaigns, food drives and bell ringings at every business center imaginable. We seem to play more songs about positive family relationships, reconciliation and peace on Earth between Thanksgiving and New Years Day than any other stretch of the calendar. We claim to shed a tear or two over the umpteenth local TV run of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Question here is---why does it seem that on January 2 we begin thinking of these folks described above only when “Eleanor Rigby” pops up in the oldies rotation, if even then?

Surely it can't be only because we can't effectively build a promotion like this around some other time of year---can it?

Of course, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is now run only a couple of times a year on terrestrial television, and I can't recall the last time I heard a commercial radio station play “Eleanor Rigby” when I wasn’t the disc jockey playing it. But the remainder stands fairly solidly today. And, since I like to think this paper attracts an audience that's much smarter than the average bear -- is there really anything left to say?

(King Daevid MacKenzie is a longtime broadcaster for many radio and TV stations in Chicago, Winnipeg, Wisconsin and Arizona, including contributing commentaries for "LesBiGay Radio" on WSBS and WCFJ in Chicago.)

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