Archive | 12:05 am

The Allure of the Flute.

14 Apr

April 13, 2011

Love him or hate him, Bob Grant is a New York radio legend. One of the pioneers of political talk radio, he’s been on the air since 1970 and he’s been cranky since Day One.

He isn’t genteel. Phone calls frequently end with him telling a caller to “get off my phone, you jerk!” Guests are often informed that “you’re a fake, a phony, and a fraud!” Shows would end with “Somebody’s got to say these things, it has to be me!”

Howard Stern used to credit Bob Grant as an influence, then Stern decided that he had invented everything in radio down to the original Marconi wireless and called Grant an imitator. (“Tell ‘em Fred.”) This despite the fact that Grant was in radio causing controversy long before Hoo Hoo Howie.

However, it was his regular (and slightly irregular) callers who often stole the show. This is from Wikipedia, whose journalistic content exceeds the sewer but doesn’t approach your car’s owner’s manual:

One of Grant’s most memorable regular call-in guests was Ms. Trivia, who aired her “Beef of the Week”, a series of seemingly trivial complaints, such as her objection to stale gum in baseball card packets, the exaltation of the lowly mouse in popular cartoon culture (Mickey Mouse, Mighty Mouse) at the expense of portraying felines in a discriminatory manner (Felix, the trickster, Sylvester, the loser cat with a lisp, etc.) She later insisted that she be called “Mm. Trivia” in support of doing away with titles that differentiated men from women (such as Miss, Ms. or Mister). Grant referred to Mm. Trivia as the most popular personage on WMCA radio who was not even on the payroll. Ms. Trivia was Grant’s guest at a Halloween Festival dinner held at Lauritano’s Restaurant in the Bronx, where a young Ms. Trivia, not long out of her teens, revealed herself for the first time to a startled radio audience, many who had expected and assumed, based upon her articulation and intonation, that she would be an elderly, prudish woman. Instead, a statuesque and fashionable Ms. Trivia, wearing an elaborate Victorian costume, was the surprise guest seated next to Grant at the dais table along with several political figures from New York. The following day the majority of calls to the show were for the purpose of obtaining information about the mysterious Mm. Trivia, with Grant in his typical manner finally in exasperation hanging up on the callers, shouting, “THIS IS NOT Mm. TRIVIA’S SHOW!”

I only wish I were as accomplished a crank as Mm. Trivia.

The caller I remember most, however, is simply known to me as The Flute Guy. Long before people would call a show just to shout “Ba Ba Booey!” this guy called Bob and, without ever saying a word, played a few notes on a flute until he was cut off. It wasn’t much of a tune; sort of a simple yet haunting series of rising and falling tones. Sometimes he’d manage to get in several times each show, other times you’d go days before hearing him again.

It got to the point that you wanted to hear him because Bob couldn’t simply hang up and go to another caller, he go off for the next two or three minutes on what the Flute Guy’s problem was, if it was a mental problem or if he was just a jerk. Eventually his call screener got pretty good at keeping him off the air but sometimes he’d manage to fool the screener and get through.

Bob: “OK, Michelle from Sunset Park, you’re next on the Bob Grant Show.”
Flute Guy: haunting melody quickly cut off.
Bob: “Get off my phone, you jerk!”
Me: “Yay!”

The Flute Guy remains my favorite radio show caller thanks to being so esoteric, just ahead of the legitimately nuts (and eventual subject of his own blog) Jerome from Manhattan who calls WFAN and pretty much every other station in NYC.

So what is the appeal of the flute?

This is the appeal of the flute.

Interested in more New York radio?
Check out Breakfast with Bob and Betty and Bernard Meltzer.

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