pirate radio WCPR WFAT WHOT RFNY oldies top-40 rock and roll
After the WFAT bust, I figured that would be it for "Hal" and "Larry", although I did hear them pop up on the Howard Hoffman, Mark Simone and Alan Colmes shows as some of their various alter egos (Chesley and Cosmo or Phil and Bill). I didn’t know it at the time, but they were also preparing for their return to the underground radio scene.
It wasn’t long before they were back on the air via FM as WILD, a low power outlet at 91.5 under the new names of Hank Hayes and Jim Nazuim. Since the FCC was monitoring the AM dial, FM seemed like the logical place to set up a new shop. Since the itch to do AM (where the signal is much more powerful) never goes away, they also did a small amount of AM shows as WQXQ and WBUM.
By 1980, the guys were in a new location, doing semi-regular broadcasts at 91.5 FM (or “91 and a half” as it was being called) as the newly-christened WHOT-FM, sporting a new sounding Top-40/Oldies format that relied on the time-honored (and mostly still ignored) radio traditions of high-personality on-air DJs, jingles, and (of course) reverb! Much as WFAT spawned from the lack of New York-originated talk programming at the time, WHOT grew from a distinct lack of fun, high-personality radio on the air in the 80s.
WHOT never interfered with the licensed WNYE at 91.5. They would either wait until WNYE signed off at midnight - or simply broadcast at 91.9 until WNYE signed off, then “slide down” to 91.5. They would even occasionally pop up on AM at 1630 as WGUT, using the monikers "Hugh Hughes" and "Gus Guts". This was to keep the AM and FM entities “separate”, keeping WHOT safe - just in case any FCC monitoring stations were listening. The stations, however, sounded identical.
This is where I suddenly come into the picture. On the night of February 11, 1983, New York was being hit by the Blizzard of ’83. Being the radio goofball that I am, I was snowbound and tuning around the dial for something interesting to listen to. Hearing some Beatles tunes, I stopped at 91.5 and wondered what station it was I had stumbled on to. “Jim” opened up the mike to explain that he was playing Beatles LPs so he could go frolic in the snow. I immediately recognized Jim’s voice as none other than “Larry McRae” of the old WFAT. I called in as soon as I heard the phone number (still using a phone company “loop line”) to say hello. I had been listening to them since I was nine, so we began talking on the phone and hanging out together.
There were some amazingly enjoyable broadcasts, and notable holiday specials: the Fourth of July show (with live street mics!), the 3rd Anniversary show, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's...all of which were just tons of fun. It wasn't just records and banter - the gags, the production, the presentation, all just drew you in. It was as if you were there having fun WITH them.
I'd been invited down to the studio a few times already, and soon began to take part in some broadcasts. By mid-1984, I was a part of WHOT, handling my own “shift” (loose and sloppy in those early days). I was finally doing something I had wanted to do since those days of listening to Big Dan Ingram and imagining how great being a DJ would be. I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest - I was having a ball! I had already decided that I was going to try and make a career out of broadcasting, so this gave me a pressure-free atmosphere to try and get my "chops".
By 1985, WHOT’s listenership was growing in leaps and bounds, thanks in no small part to a power boost (one of several HOT would get over the years) and an increase in broadcast hours so all of us could get air time. Then, during the early-morning hours of November 26th, Jim and I were winding down a show when suddenly there was a pounding on the door. Jim looked through the peephole to see two FCC agents demanding entry to the building. Jim and I tried a different approach this time around…we signed off abruptly, and refused to answer the door. After an hour or so of knocking, the FCC agents gave up...but we knew they would eventually be back.
The next day, we broke down the station and moved the equipment to various locations. A few hours later, the FCC reappeared...without any warrant of any kind. They simply would not leave, which prompted Jim's brother to call in New York’s finest. The police informed the agents from the Commission that unless they could cough up a warrant, it would be in their best interests to get lost! Having very little choice in the matter, the FCC took off with their tails tucked firmly between their legs. Hank cut a trip short and flew back to Brooklyn, and it was decided among the three of us that it was certainly time to lay low for a while.
After spending some time off the air, we relocated temporarily to a different address (thanks to a listener who himself would run a pirate later - none other than Johnny Lightning of WJPL fame!) to get through the holidays. We got through the New Year’s Show of ‘85, and as impossible as it sounds, the FCC showed up AGAIN at the “new” location early in 1986! Again, having no warrant, their entry was refused. WHOT had now been “busted” twice in two different locations within the last three months - without any actual "bust". It was time to really lay low.
We waited a few weeks to see what the FCC’s next move would be, and amazingly, nothing was happening. There weren’t any further “visits”, no calls, nothing. It was very quiet. The only thing that happened was the delivery of an official "cease and desist"-type letter. One thing was for sure…the FCC knew where we were and what we were doing, so we had to assume that it was only a matter of time before the hammer came down for good. We had two options: stay off the air and say “goodbye” to WHOT forever, or since the end was inevitable, go out in a blaze of glory.
We chose option two.
WHOT returned to the airwaves within a few weeks back at the original studio. This time, we were prepared for the FCC, even planning to broadcast the bust when it happened! Among the changes were increased power, increased broadcast hours, and a permanent phone line. We had nothing to lose and treated every show like it could be the last. At first, we did mostly AM shows, since NOW the FM band seemed to be where the FCC was devoting most of its’ attention.
By Spring of 1986, we began simulcasting on AM and FM regularly, with two goals in mind: one, to gain new listeners beyond just the New York area, and two, to just throw caution to the wind. If the FCC was gonna come, we wanted to get our money's worth. We even added more friends and fellow DJs (Chuck Simpson, Terry Walker, Tommy Edison to name a few) so we could spend more time on the air. In no time, listenership blossomed beyond our wildest expectations. The mailing list went from a few scribbled pages to almost a full notebook in a matter or months. These were great days for WHOT, when music, fun and entertainment ruled the day.
Over the years, with more and more listeners calling in and joining the mailing list, we did lots of silly things to amuse them - and ourselves - both on the air and off. It was WHOT's way of doing something the "big" radio stations couldn't (or wouldn't) do - keep a "personal" touch with our listeners.
For years, the bane of our existence was the "WHOT Tee Shirt". We came up with the brilliant idea to give t-shirts away to the listeners (we gave away various items over the years, like "regular" radio stations - but all from our own pockets). From the moment we announced it and started taking orders, it became one problem after another. Offers from printers to "make them cheaply" fell through. Poor designs. We were broke. You name it, it happened. Through it all, we kept promising to get the t-shirts out "eventually".
Rather than ignore the issue, we made it into a running gag on the air, and even worked the "t-shirt controversy" into every flyer or newsletter we sent out to the mailing list. For a typical example of a "T-Shirt Update" mailing, see the link below (in "Cool Stuff"). Such mailings would eventually mutate into an attempt at a regular WHOT Newsletter aptly titled, "What's HOT".
THANKFULLY, we finally had the t-shirts made and sent out. The "WHOT Good Guys T-Shirt" became our most popular giveaway.
The only blemish on the last half of 1986 was a "war" that erupted between us and another pirate station (which was aided and abetted by another "third party" pirate) over lots of issues. There was a breakdown in the "gentleman's agreement" between the stations and some other things involved. Egos were in the mix as well. It was a mess that would get temporarily resolved early the next year with the help of some unplanned "adventures".
As 1986 ended, we were riding a wave of great radio and great fun. We had no idea that waiting right around the corner in the new year were the above-mentioned "adventures"...but there they were!
© 2000 - 2013 Petezs Productions
Brooklyn Pirate Radio History | Classic Pirate Radio Airchecks | WFAT | WHOT | Radio Free New York | Hank, Jim and Pete