What it was like to intern at K-Rock and Z-Rock in 1991
(Infinity Broadcasting's WXRK and WZRC in New York City)
It didn't occur to me, in 1991, how much the music industry would have changed by 2009. But in looking over my papers from that time, it occurs to me that they may be of historical interest, so here they are.
The "official" record of my experience at these radio stations is the "Analysis and Evaluation Paper" I submitted to my college, in order to get college credit for the internship. You should probably start by reading that here. I've also posted a collection of related documents here.There were additional anecdotes and observations which didn't make it into my final paper, either because they seemed unimportant at the time, or because I thought the school would frown on my including them. I'll relay them now, in no particular order.
Please note: My comments regarding Steve Aprea aren't intended to make any representations regarding his current behavior. I'm describing events that took place (as of this writing) 18-odd years ago. I haven't interacted with him since, and have no idea what he's doing or what he's like now.
Sometimes it was my job to answer phones when people called in for contests, and I was supposed to write each winner's name and address in a special notebook kept for that purpose. I was somewhat dismayed by the high percentage of listeners who didn't know their own address -- and they didn't sound like little kids, either. I remember one caller (though I don't remember the exact address, so I'm making something up, but you'll get the idea) who said his address was "123 Maple." I asked, "Is that Maple Street or Maple Avenue or what?" He replied, "I don't know, they took the sign down!"
Stuttering John sometimes guest DJ'd, and during his shows he was responsible for getting information from contest winners. He never wrote their information in the aforementioned special notebook, but instead on random little scraps of paper which he left in random places, and they usually got lost. (It's quite possible that no one ever told him about the special notebook, but you'd think that he'd realize that little scraps of paper are a bad method.) So when someone came to the station and said, "I'm here to claim a prize that I won on Stuttering John's show!" we'd just give them whatever they said they won, despite the fact that we had no record of it. Luckily word of this never got out, or we might have had a lot of dishonest people trying to claim prizes they never won.
I was instructed that when someone came up to claim a prize, I was to check their driver's license to make sure they were who they said they were. The funny thing was, no one ever asked if I knew what a driver's license was supposed to look like. At the time I started the internship, I had literally never seen a driver's license in my life (this is NYC; everyone I knew just walked or took the subway). So I'd ask for a driver's license, the person would show me something, and I'd say, "OK" and hand them their prize. I figured that if no one at the station thought to ask if I knew what a driver's license looked like, it didn't matter much. Luckily word of this never got out either.
One time at Z-Rock, I was about to start answering phones for a contest, when Steve Aprea came in and said something to the effect of, "Tell every caller that someone already won, and write my friend's name in the book as the winner." I refused to do that. Steve asked again and I refused again. He started getting angry, so I reminded him that as my supervisor, he could order me to leave the room, and answer the phone himself. So he did just that, and I watched from outside as he answered all the calls and said, "Sorry dude, we already have a winner!" Then he wrote something -- presumably his friend's name -- in the winner notebook.
Steve also had a really bad habit of telling people that they were on guest lists for shows when they weren't. When I and other interns went to shows to promote K-Rock, we'd get random angry people coming up to us saying "Where's Steve? I'm going to kill that jerk! He said I was on the guest list for tonight and I wasn't!" We couldn't do anything but apologize and say we didn't know where Steve was (which was the truth). We'd leave messages for Steve, "So-and-so said to tell you he's angry that he wasn't on the list," but Steve didn't reply to them as far as I know.
Once I spent an afternoon alphabetizing records, and overheard Steve making a lot of calls in the next room. He was inviting various people to be guests on a special live show, and telling them all, "It's going to be a great show -- Marky Ramone is going to be here!" His last call of the day? Marky Ramone. "But I told everyone you're going to be here!" I couldn't hear Marky's side of the conversation, but I got the impression he wasn't happy.
During my internship, I wondered how Steve was able to keep his job, when he was so rarely in the office, and then mostly to make personal calls. I found out later that he wasn't getting paid (which I still find surprising, considering that he was held out to the public as basically being in charge of the whole station). It's true that you get what you pay for.
For a while, Z-Rock was doing a promotion where they gave out metal dogtags, each one having the Z-Rock logo and an individual number. Periodically the station would announce a random number on the air, and anyone who had the matching number would win a prize. Some of the employees and interns would have fun looking through the big boxes of dogtags and keeping for ourselves any that had cool numbers on them, like ones containing a "666" or "007." (We were not eligible to win prizes though.)
At that time, Howard Stern was always very insulting toward Gary Dell'Abate and made him out to be a fool, but I found him to be very intelligent and a nice guy.
One of my jobs was to pull CD's from the shelves, clean them, and stack them up for the DJ's, going by a printed list prepared in advance by the program director. I had done this a few times for Tony Pigg, and one day I complained to him, "You know, for every one of your shows, I'm pulling this same "Eat A Peach" album. I'm really sick of this album!" So Tony skipped over that song, despite the fact that he could have gotten in trouble for that (not to mention that he threw off the whole playlist, which was timed down to the second). He always had an air of cool rebelliousness about him.
One time I was pulling albums for Flo and Eddie, when I noticed Mark (Flo) looking me up and down in a peculiar manner. Finally he asked, "Where do you get jeans that fit like that?" "They're stretch jeans," I replied. He gave the impression of having never seen or heard of stretch jeans before.
Not long after this, my boyfriend (now husband) was listening to Flo and Eddie on K-Rock on a day when I wasn't there. One of them (we forget which, sorry) asked the other, "Where's that new intern with the great butt?" There were few, if any, other great-butted interns there at the time, so we assume they were talking about me.
After my internship ended, I wrote to Mark Chernoff (in charge of both K-Rock and Z-Rock) to ask if they would hire me. Mr. Chernoff replied by calling me personally, which I thought was very nice since I knew he was busy. He said they weren't hiring though.
To enter the radio station offices, one had to enter a PIN on a keypad near the door. After my internship was over, I'd go up and visit once in a while, and kept using the same PIN, which apparently never changed.
After my internship was technically over, I did get to sit in on a special live Z-Rock show with some of the Ramones and (if I recall correctly) Dick Manitoba, and Joey said "Thea's cool" on air, which I have on tape somewhere and will post when I find it. Someone had brought in a cheap acoustic guitar for the special guests to sign, which they then auctioned off or gave to a contest winner or something (I don't think I ever had the details on this). Gene Frawley, who was working for the Ramones (and also a friend of Johnny Ramone's) inexplicably insisted that I sign the guitar too, and wouldn't take no for an answer. So someone out there has a guitar signed by a bunch of rock stars and me (it says "Thea" very small).
After the show, we all exited the building together. There were two fangirls waiting to meet Joey, and they each gave him a red rose. Marky said that if anyone was going downtown, he could give us a lift in his antique car. I hadn't been planning to go downtown, but suddenly decided that, yes, in fact I was. You know that scene in Rock 'n' Roll High School where they drive up in the Ramonesmobile and "I Just Wanna Have Something To Do Tonight" is playing? I always thought that looked a bit stupid, like, "Yeah right, I'm sure that when the Ramones drive around, they're playing Ramones music in the car!" Well, on the way downtown, Marky played a tape of the show we had just done, which included some Ramones music. So I was in the Ramonesmobile with the Ramones, listening to "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" and a replay of Joey saying "Thea's cool" on air. And after Joey got out, he suddenly turned back and gave me one of the red roses (which I also still have somewhere). If I do nothing else in my life, I can die happy.