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Hank and Jim's RNI show aired the evening of July 27th 1987, right at the height of the media blitz. "A Current Affair" even did a live broadcast from the deck while the show was airing (see previous page)! Because of all the news coverage, that broadcast probably had the most listeners of any of the previous tests (a majority of the reception reports and QSL requests that came to the mail drop seemed to mention the Hank and Jim "show"). Despite being just dry runs, these "test" shows were essentially a preview of what RNI would have been: fun, free-form entertainment...no formats, no constraints. The personality of the person on the air would have been the personality of the program.
Allan needed several things for maintenance purposes. Some tools, some speakers, some fly swatters (the fly problem was ridiculous) and some more foodstuffs (plus beer and pretzels). Hank and I had taken the supply boat to Brooklyn so we could get all these things and crashed for the night. The plan was to return to The Sarah first thing in the morning, as July 28th was going to be a big day again with the media and I was scheduled to do my first actual show that evening with Hank. Meanwhile, Jim was back at his house monitoring the news.
The clock radio went off at 7AM to the sounds of 1010 WINS as expected, but what we heard them reporting was most unexpected. The bulletin was coming across right at that very moment that The Sarah was being boarded by the FCC and Coast Guard...and RNI was being shut down. We were in shock. We stopped what we were doing to listen to live coverage of Allan and Ivan (along with reporter R.J. Smith from the Village Voice) being handcuffed and led off The Sarah. WINS reported that they were being taken to Federal District Court in Brooklyn for booking, so we headed there instead.
When we arrived, the rest of the intended RNI crew had already started assembling, and we all piled into the court room. The magistrate released Allan and Ivan on their own recognizance, pending a hearing. Hank and I dropped Ivan off at his home, and took Allan to Jim's to see all the news coverage he'd been missing via a week's worth of videotape (with a brief stop for King Cones at Hank's Good Humor truck).
The atmosphere following the shutdown was depressing, as you could imagine. In the immediate days that followed, all of us were being asked to speak with the press. Allan had gotten what I thought was terrible legal advice not to talk to anyone in the media. We could see that opportunities to strike while the iron was still hot were being missed, and we were able to talk Allan into doing SOME press appearances.
In the meantime, the issue of The Sarah had to be addressed. The FCC were unable to cut the anchor chain, so the ship was still sitting out on the ocean unattended. The law said that someone needed to stay with the ship or anyone could "claim" it. A lifetime of drawing the short straw came back to haunt me as I got elected to stay on the ship "for a couple of days" while Allan had some issues taken care of on shore. So on July 30th, we loaded up the supply boat with a full media contingent and headed out to assess the FCC's damage. It wasn't pretty. Equipment had been smashed, cables had been cut...the studio was mangled beyond recognition.
"A couple of days" turned into one week. Then a week and a half. I was by myself, four and a half miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. Having never spent quite that much time isolated like that, I learned a lot of things about myself. Mainly, I get stir crazy very easily. Also, I get seasick during thunderstorms. I only wish I had gotten a better chance to thank all the folks that would come by the ship on their boats to say hello and ask questions. They kept me sane. There was the cool dude that got me a roast beef sandwich (and I was only joking!), the guys that brought me newspapers to read, and most importantly, the bikini-clad gals that kept stopping by to "meet the pirate". Even the most unfortunate situations can occasionally yield benefits.
On the day Allan was coming to relieve me from my stationary sea voyage, I woke up to refuel the engines (as I had every morning) only to find five feet of water in the engine room and the water rising fast. Since drowning was not on my day planner of 'things to do' that Friday, I immediately got on the CB and declared a Mayday. Within minutes, the very same Coast Guard that had been reluctantly assisting the FCC just weeks earlier, was now pulling along side The Sarah to theoretically save my sorry ass.
Just around the time they started pumping the water from the engine room, Allan pulled up. He had been listening to everything on his radio and was happy that I was OK. Apparently, while I slept one of the engine cooling hoses broke and started bringing in sea water rather quickly. With the engine room now pumped out (and remarkably clean) and the hose patched, I hopped a ride with one of the press boats that had sped out to see what was happening. I got on the Long Island Rail Road and headed back to civilization and my own bed.
Allan summoned back The Munzer and had The Sarah towed back to Boston with the hopes that he could re-fit the ship for getting back on the air. With things still legally murky, that was with a big "maybe". Allan and Ivan returned to court for a hearing on August 27th. After all the show of force and bully tactics undertaken by the FCC to get RNI off the air, the charges were officially dropped - proving to us that the "bust" was definitely carried out under legally murky circumstances. The government didn't care because they'd accomplished what they wanted - RNI was off the air and that was that.
In the weeks and months that followed, we continued to be celebrities of the moment. There were endless appearances on radio shows...interviews in newspapers and magazines...the cover of the Voice...a two-column article in Rolling Stone...a guest VJ gig on MTV...the whirlwind was fast and furious. Then in early August, we were approached by WNYG-AM, a radio station in Babylon, Long Island and asked if we'd like to have "a day to ourselves" on their radio station, to which we eagerly agreed.
The day of "RNI on WNYG" took place on August 5th, and the station was packed to the roof with media. It was such a success for the station that they invited us back to "take over the station" every weekend. They christened it the dreadful title of "The Pirate Party" (shudder) and the first regular shows began September 5th. Eventually, Hank and Jim would do mornings, I'd do the midday and Randi, Ivan and J.L. would anchor evenings. What started out as a neat idea quickly evolved into a nightmare.
The station refused to pay us, so they were getting free air talent every weekend at our expense. When we protested this, we were instructed that we could sell our OWN advertising if we wanted to. The station was getting free publicity and decent ratings and wouldn't even help us get any sponsorship. Then came the constant nitpicking over the content of the shows. When we complained about THAT, the station staff opened rifts between the factions within RNI by playing sides and pitting us against each other.
The whole time, very little was being done or discussed as to what the next step for RNI would be. The three of us found it hard to believe that all the work and time that we put into RNI were culminating with this stress-filled show on this insane-asylum AM station in Babylon. Our efforts simply didn't justify the constant headaches we were being subjected to by both WNYG and the fractured state of RNI itself.
On Saturday October 24th, we walked in to WNYG, announced that this would be our last show, and simply walked away. We also resigned our services from RNI as well, rather than deal with the constant inside bickering. Regardless, I never regretted the experience - just the peripheral sideshows that never seemed to cease. Now it was over, and that was certainly for the best.
We decided to answer the question of "what's next?" on our own. After we walked out of WNYG, we piled into Hank's car and headed back to Brooklyn. Somewhere on the Long Island Expressway, it was agreed that WHOT would HAVE TO make a return to the airwaves. In fact, Hank, Jim, Ivan and I did a test broadcast that very evening.
The REAL fun was just beginning...!
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