Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Birth of the Boogieman

 
The question I get asked the most by CHUM fans is “How did you come to be known as 'The Boogieman'?”  Well, as with most of the events in my professional career, it wasn't my idea at all.

The ultra high energy, nearly frantic presentation I used wasn't new by any stretch, any number of Djs had adapted the approach for years.   From Dick Biondi... first in Buffalo, then Chicago... to “The Real Don Steele” in Los Angeles, radio personalities had been tearing up the airways and driving responsible adults nuts since the beginning of Top-40 radio.   Indeed, Toronto had experienced it's own wild man in the personage of Dave Marsden, who as “Dave Mickey” made me look like a somnambulist.  The fact of the matter is, I didn't really care for that kind of radio at all.  I wanted to be the hippest guy on the block.  I've always had a propensity to use “Jive” or street talk.  In the sixth grade I'd refer to teachers as “Daddy-o”, much to their chagrin... especially the women.  Well to the best of my knowledge I'd never heard the term “Mommy-o” so what was I supposed to call them?   "Maam” I guess.  Fat chance!

At any rate my approach on air was “up” but not “frantic, until one day I got a call from Bob Wood.  I was sick with the flu, but had come in to do my shift anyway.   It was a Saturday, so I had a long, 5 hour airshift.  If you don't think 5 hours on the air in a fast tempo station like CHUM was exhausting, try it some time!  Anyway, as my energy was giving out by the second, the “Batphone” lit up, Bob Wood was on the other end.

“Ahhhhhhhh... Scotty...”

I knew what was coming, whenever he used the phrase “Ahhhhhhhh... Scotty...” there was criticism on the way.

“Uuuummmmm... I noticed you energy level is a bit low today, is something wrong?”

“No Bob, other than the fact that I feel like a skunk that's just been run down by Vito Corleone's Cadillac everything is just ducky!”

“Uuummmmm, well.... Could you pick it up just a little bit, the station is starting to drag?”

“Sure Bob”

“Thanks Scotty.”

Now I was pissed.  Not only was I sicker than a dog, but I had to pick up the pace which would probably make me sicker.  A devious plot began to take shape in my mind, if I went on the air screaming like a lunatic at 100 mph, maybe he'd decide he liked me better the old way.   I decided to give it a shot, I cued the op for the next song and let her rip...”

“AAAAAWWWWWWWWRIGHT BABY WE ARE SMOKIN' TODAY. GIT YO' BOOGIE BOOTS ON AND GIT YO' TAIL-END OFF DA' COUCH FO' DIS ONE... IT'S LLLLEEEEEDDDDD ZZZZEEEEEEPPLIN WIT' A WHOOOOOOOOOOOLE LOT-U-LOVE!!!!!”

I sat back and waited for Bob to call back and tell me to crank it back down.  Sure enough, seconds later the Bat Phone lit up again.

“Ahhhhhhhh... Scotty...”

“Yes Bob?”

“That's JUST EXACTLY what I want!”

I thought of my experience years before with Lottie The Body.  I should have NEVER tempted fate like that!

As for the name “Boogieman”, I didn't think of that either.  It was pretty common in the early seventies to use "boogie" in conjunction with music, dancing, partying etc.  In fact it still is.  I was on the air one day, and using the word copiously as usual... “We're gonna boogie tonight” “Dis' is the baddest, boogienest jam I have EVER heard”... etc.  when my op, Bob Humenick, piped up over the talk-back.  

“Hey, you're “The Boogieman!”  

“Hmmmm”, I thought. “Boogieman”... yeah that's the ticket!!!  So “The Boogieman” was born.


I originally conceived this persona as a kind of character.  The Boogieman was a somewhat egotistical, but likable dork who had visions of grandeur but a ton of self doubt.  In other words, he was not unlike the teens who made up the bulk of my audience.  I would constantly share with my audience the many ignominies foisted upon me by my employers, who obviously couldn't see what a gem they had in their midst.  On one occasion I was to see how powerful this image had become.

I came up with the plot that I had asked for a raise, but the company didn't believe I deserved one.  If I could convince them what an enormous asset I was, maybe they'd give me some more money.  I furthered the plot along by forming my own fan club, the “Screaming Night Creepers”, and encouraging listeners to send letters to the station to join.  I also put listeners on the air to take the “Scott Carpenter, World's Greatest Disk Jockey” oath.

“Do you solemnly swear that you will always listen to the Boogieman, support the Boogieman, and love the Boogieman forever?”  

All pretty lame stuff, and intentionally so since The Boogieman wasn't supposed to be all that bright anyway.  What happened next was a bit of a shock.  I assumed that a few letters might trickle in, and the whole thing would be forgotten by the following week.  Imagine my amazement when the letters began to arrive by the bagful... hundreds of them... stacked in the conference room.

The phone rang at home... “Ahhhhhhhh... Scotty...”

Uh oh

“Scotty... the station has been inundated with requests for this fan club of yours.  You need to come down and pick up the mail, since this was your idea the station isn't getting involved.  However I expect that every letter will be answered."  

I ordered up hundreds of membership cards, and sent them out on my own time and at my own expense.   I figured I'd done my career some good.


Flash forward years later.  I am now a systems admin at the US Dept of Energy in Washington, DC, my radio years far behind me.  My phone rings and Scott Jackson, a radio personality whom I'd influenced to get into radio years ago, is in town.  He and his wife would like to meet me for lunch.  We have a nice visit, and just before they leave his wife pulls out her “Screamin' Night Creepers” membership card from 1972, over 35 years ago!

If only I'd known then what kind of impact we'd had on so many people.

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