A Rain of Frogs ~ Invocation
for a Bowling Tournament
by Rob Hunter
Invocation for a bowling tournament
For those of us who fiddle away the idle hours in which we should be writing to view the statistics of our websites, a favorite activity is checking out the phrases visitors type in their Google searchboxes. Both “Night bowling in Taunton Mass” and “Invocation for a bowling tournament” had led, sometime over the past year, over two hundred surfers to “The Perfect Homburg,” a story of mine at onetinleg.com. What did they think of The Perfect Homburg, these traversers of the subetheric void, when they clicked on onetinleg.com expecting to copy-and-paste an upward-bound entreaty for straight balls and slick alleys? And why Taunton? And why a pre-chucking prayer anyway? Well, the prayer in the tale is uttered by Divine Artemis, candlepin ace of the Olympian pantheon, who is in Taunton for a duello-to-the-death. Not hers, either. Sister of Apollo, likewise the Fata Morgana, Lady of the Wild Things, Diana of Ephesus, et cetera, et cetera, Divine Artemis is a goddess and gets to say what goes; she makes the rules. Her prayer is an invocation of self. Behold! Ecce Bocce: a bowling alley.
And, speaking of Manny Ramirez, herein follows the brief history of Taunton, Massachusetts as a rock ‘n’ roll hotspot. Many thousands of years ago, when the earth was still flat—before Saran Wrap, even (thanks, Mel Brooks)—I played an evening of candlepins in Taunton with the happy couple who had won WSAR’s “Dream Weekend” promotion. Yep, in Taunton—we had a limited promotion budget. Besides, I was the boss and I had to do it. I dragooned Big Jim Harrington and his significant other along to share the agony. Taunton played football in the same conference as our local Fall River team, BMC Durfee High School, so we had been there as visiting aliens. Ah, but I digress. Suffice it to say my sole brush with bowling left me blemished but unbowed.
Which brings us in a sideways leap of logic to Top-40 Radio and Radio in general. By consensus the three great radio monologists are: Henry Morgan, Jean Shepherd and Garrison Keillor. Like Shepherd and Keillor, I come from the Midwest and can recall Aldo Leopold, Fightin’ Bob Lafollette and Chicago’s Calumet River regularly catching fire. Spalding Gray should go here, too. Spalding Gray got his monologist’s stripes in the theater—in front of real, live people, a scary thing. Spalding Gray’s family were neighbors on Samoset Ave. in Barrington, Rhode Island and I was the program director-cum-morning man of a 5000 watt rocker in the tidal marshes of Fall River, Mass. As our dog had chewed up his mother’s cockapoo in a fit of pique, the households weren’t speaking. I was supposed to be the celebrity. Guess again—almost everybody and their cousins and their aunts were better, but I was a journeyman.
In any list of talkers upon the radio [see Stanley Elkin’s The Dick Gibson Show for a character conflated out of the natterers in the night, Long John Nebel in particular], if said list was long enough and “disc jockey,” surely a bottom-dweller in any hierarchy of the spoken arts, were to be included you might find my name (near the bottom). I excelled at small-time radio production—syrupy nostalgia for the good times that, if they weren’t the best while you were experiencing them, looked great looking back.
The staff when I came on board at WSAR included David Craig AKA Johnny Dark on the overnight, Harold Schofield and John Lambis as 1st phone engineers (a four tower directional array sunk in the swamps between us and the Brayton Point power station). Rob Hunter was the morning man, Capt. Midnight (Tom McMurray, the boss, Group P.D.) as midday pinch-hitter before the arrival of Ron Cassinelli (Papa Cass) from East Providence. Larry (Fabrizio) Donovan did PM Drive.
The boss had trouble pronouncing the letter “W” coming here from KRIZ in Phoenix. Tom’s cognitive difficulties extended to ethnicity as well—hence he felt a natural nom-du-disque for Cassinelli was not Papa Cass but “Ron Canaan.” Go figure. Bob Hollands, the Amway salesman, did middays later, as did “Harvey Holiday” (Harvey Levy from WDAS in Philadelphia) early P.M. drive. Harvey broke Jay and the Techniques’ Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie, WSAR’s only musical coup until Geoff Fox (who, with Jim Conlee, did weekends and utility whilst at Emerson College) ran us a bootleg copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water. Bob Ray came to Massachusetts via Hawaii; Dan Gifford brought his Grizzly Adams persona and broad “O” mid-Atlantic pronunciation from Baltimore [Note: it sounds natural now. The boss who couldn't say “W” had a shit-fit. Me? For the last 20 years I’ve been living at the trailing edge of the Canadian Maritimes—think hoose instead of house].
The broadcasting consortium of which WSAR was but one of the cluster was the hiding place for a minor chunk of the Kennedy money. The flagship was WNAC-TV, Boston. The group was merchandized as “A Ring around Boston.” In 2009 Teddy Kennedy died, and Dan Gifford and I had an exchange of emails. Dan was currently an “investigative reporter” for a wing nut website. To everyone’s credit, during the Chappaquiddick business there was no interference with our news coverage. Dom Arena, the local cop who investigated the Chappaquiddick incident (the death by drowning of Teddy’s putative girlfriend) loved lights and cameras and couldn’t stop talking. Everybody had the story before a watchful curtain of self-censorship descended. We told it all, albeit without the effervescence worthy of the trashy celebrity fanzines. Perhaps self-censorship was expected.
But wait! This just in: The net of conspiracy theories has reached beyond the grave, exposing Teddy Kennedy's subversive dealings with the Soviet government. Dan has exposed (Big Hollywood, September 2, 2009) the Massachusetts senator’s subversive backchannel activities in the cause of nuclear disarmament. Shame, Teddy! Duck ‘n’ cover, kids.
Big Jim Harrington and Bob Schlosser (Skippy Ross) filled out the roster of what I came to call “The League of Lost Boys.” Mike Ivers (from WEIM, Fitchburg, Mass.) anchored evenings and the Original Sunday Night Hall of Fame. The oldies on the HOF were all Mike’s. He hit town with a U-Haul trailerful. The Skipper, Ivers, Lambis and Hunter migrated to WBT with Tom when the effluent hit the fan at Knight Quality Radio: the servants were slated to get their throats cut to be buried with the pharaoh.
Thanks, but no thanks. The U-Hauls hit the road.
The newsman was John Abaray in early ’68. Jarret Day and Mike Cabral followed. Cabral was one of the neatest guys I ever met for Grace under Fire, etc. Likewise Papa Cass, whom I understand is a reporter with the Providence Journal-Bulletin. I was the morning man and resident whipping-boy (on-air local P.D.) at WSAR in Fall River, Massachusetts through 1968 and 1969. The boss and dispenser of whippings was Tom McMurray, for whom I worked at 4 additional stations—WBT (Charlotte), WIVY (Jacksonville), WJAR (Providence) and WNDE (Windy in Indy).