This was small market heaven in the area I grew up. I had complete autonomy over the sound of the station, within reason of course. WWHB had signed on the previous fall under three absentee owners and a New York City radio veteran on-site in the dual roles of General Manager and morning personality. One year later, after he ran afoul of everyone and everything, the owners promoted Nina from the News Director position.
I was very proud of the way this station sounded. The original format was all over the road, along with songs that had at least one lyric in French. I changed it to soft AC and the station once made the ever-difficult Nassau-Suffolk book. (Someone in my family must have gotten a diary and never confessed.) Without consultants and group PDs, I borrowed much of the philosophy of Bob Henabery in keeping the station's music familiar. But in what could have been easily considered a non-rated market, I was able to take a few creative liberties.
Despite growing up seven miles away in Riverhead, I had never experienced the Hampton's scene up close. My only glimpse into that lifestyle came from behind a lawnmower during my two summers as a landscaper. WWHB's location in Hampton Bays assured us of rubbing elbows with the East End's ersatz affluent society. Not to be confused with the summer residents that possess great wealth (and waterfront property), these are a group of "have-somes" that were then compromised mostly of night club owners who charged $20 admission and double that for premium liquor drinks. Having station-sponsored nights meant skipping the velvet rope altogether and possibly a few complimentary trips to the bar.
In 1984, the station was bought by Eddie Simon and investors (including his famous brother, Paul) and I was replaced as program director by Eddie's chiropractor. Eventually, he struck a deal to have WNEW-FM from New York to simulcast over 107.1, a better move.
Today, the Hamptons are home to three times as many stations and I wonder where they find the advertising dollars. With the drinking age at 21 and a DWI infraction no longer a stern warning, most of those "must-be-seen-at" nightclubs have been converted to day spas or tout the real money as art houses. WWHB is now WLIR after multiple format and simulcast failures and our old competitor, WSBH, simulcasts WBAB.
As of June 2002, a pizza oven now sits where the old HB console used to be. The pizza joint next door expanded into the old, long empty, studios.
Keeping you company on the overnight
shift: It had been snowing heavily for a couple
of hours. Around 10:30pm, I got the dreaded call from the scheduled
overnight talent. He was stuck at the airport which was more than
two hours away. Now, I've had to go on the air at midnight
a number of times. Local radio on the eastern end of Long Island
is not teeming with readily available talent. But I was already
on the schedule at 6am and really didn't want to do a 12 hour
shift. I called the night guy already at the station and asked
him to stay on. "No
way" he retorted, "I've got friends I'm supposed to
meet and I promised I'd be there." I knew which friends
he was referring to. On my list of home phone numbers, his
not only included his apartment, but also the numbers for the
Post Stop Café and Magic's Pub in Westhampton Beach. Biting
my lip, I told him I would get there as early as I could. He again reminded
me he had no intention of staying past midnight.
WWHB was in the King Kullen Shopping Center
in Hampton Bays. When I drove up to the entrance, I couldn't pull in to
the parking lot because plows had pushed the snow high along that side
of the road. The gas station across the street was still open and I asked
if I could leave my car there overnight. I then climbed over the snow
bank and across the parking lot. His car was the only one in the lot and
the drifts were almost to the windows. I let myself in and confronted
him. It was short and quick, but I never did fire him. Didn't matter.
It was 11:55pm when I signed on the log.
Epilogue: This was the first station I was ever fired from. It was August 1984 and new owner Eddie Simon was bringing in some high-profile talent (who's name completely escapes me) to replace me. When I was a teenager, it always bothered me that my family knew so many people from the luncheonette. This time it turned out to be advantageous as a letter writing campaign got me back on the air by September. The following November, I received the call from WWYZ wanting me back. After a night of fine dining and complimentary cocktails at the station Christmas Party, I announced my plans on returning to Hartford.