Show Business: The New Talk Jockeys

  • Share
  • Read Later

(2 of 3)

Judge Rowe is an archconservative. At the other end of the spectrum, both ideologically and temperamentally, is Martha Jean, "the Queen," Detroit's 1,000-watt soul sister. "You are livin' with the Queen," she tells her mostly black audience on WJLB. "And that's pretty good livin', I betcha. All you got to do is be touched by the Queen and everything will be all right."

Up Kilimanjaro. Robert E. Lee Hardwick, a talk jockey on KVI in Seattle, has a different audience, the white middle class, and a different approach. He has taken a group up the slopes of Kilimanjaro and guided an expedition of gem hunters to the wilds of Idaho and Montana. Along the way, he has started a mock fan club of 15,000 for Seattle Pilots Shortstop Ray Oyler, who had the next to the lowest batting average in the American League one season, and he has led angry taxpayers to Olympia, the state capital, to press for tax reform.

Few of the talk hosts are so openly political. Sex remains a staple theme. In the past year, a show called Feminine Forum, on which women tell the world their most lurid adventures or fantasies, has rocketed Los Angeles' KGBS from 26th to third place in the midday ratings and spawned imitations from New York and Miami to Cleveland and Toledo. "It's like electronic voyeurism," says Allan Hotlen, program director of the New York imitator, WHN. "It's hard for a man not to listen." Feminine Forum is even piped over the public address system of the Los Angeles police headquarters.

No wonder. Host Bill Ballance and his 400,000 daily listeners regularly get an earful of erotica that would have titillated Freud and Krafft-Ebing. One woman confessed that she let her husband think that he was hypnotizing her during the sexual act. Another said that she solved her daughter's marital problems by going to bed with her son-in-law. "That's a melter, Vicki," cooed Ballance. "I think that's neat." Not quite neat enough, however. Next day the daughter called in enraged. "Oh-oh," Ballance said. "And did your dad hear her on the air?" "He certainly did," said the daughter, "and so did his whole construction crew."

Like several of the other jockeys, Ballance himself is often the object of attention. "My name is Linda," said one caller, "and I love you." Most of the t.j.s, in fact, are too busy to do much but read and gear up for the next day's show. "No matter how far out a subject might be," says Judge Rowe, "I'll wager someone will call up and discuss it." Beyond hard work and a gift of gab, however, the t.j.s have little in common. Though they usually try to create the impression that they are young and sexy, several, like Ballance, are 50 or more. Few have completed college, and most started out on small stations where they were heard by a dial-hopping big-city exec.

Interpersonal Glue. Immediacy is the key—the listener who calls in wants to hear himself now, not tomorrow—and the programs are tape-delayed only the seven seconds that allow the t.j. to blank out any obscene words. Rarely does a t.j. lack for callers—a specter that haunts them all. More often the problem is how to curtail long-winded callers, and all the t.j.s have a stock of turnoff lines like, "Lady, my desk is on fire."

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3