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Through the first half of 1989, we continued to crank out broadcasts like a warhorse. Always looking for any excuse to have a big promotional procedure, we kicked off "The 91-and-a-half Days of Summer" - and one of our most ambitious schedules ever - on June 6th ("from D-Day to Labor Day"), full of contests, remotes and giveaways. At times, we'd be on for entire weekends before taking a break!
As always, we looked forward to the annual Fourth of July extravaganza. This time, we prepared to do a mega-broadcast over the entire holiday weekend - live from street level with several outdoor microphones, special guests, family and friends, a full staff and anyone who knew the "secret location" invited down for the fireworks and fun. We also gave away "WHOT Good Guys T-shirts" every hour as part of the radio smorgasbord.
The proceedings went according to the hysterical plan: blowing off about 300 dollars worth of fireworks and losing our minds. Thankfully, we decided to record the whole thing on videotape - using multiple cameras - for posterity. We had a studio cam and two street cams rolling all afternoon and night! The fun carried on and on for TWO DAYS with WHOT finally signing off for a break the early morning hours of July 6th.
The station had truly become everything we had envisioned. We were doing things that had probably never been done in underground broadcasting before. WHOT had succeeded at maintaining and building a loyal listener base. We'd come up with a format that seemed to have clicked with mass appeal (without using any messy consultants). The only thing separating WHOT from the "big guys" were the lack of commercials and oh yeah, that pesky license.
Sadly, we wouldn't make it through all "91-and-a-half Days" that summer. Mere hours after signing off the morning of July 6th, the FCC finally returned not with warrant in hand, but a court order - as well as several armed U.S. marshals, who saw fit to treat a pirate radio station bust like they were taking down a Columbian drug cartel. Jim found himself staring down the barrels of several shotguns and was subjected to much unnecessary verbal and physical abuse.
Still clad in his footy pajamas, Jim began dismantling the equipment. Piece by piece, the FCC began carting WHOT away. There were many questions regarding the legality of the bust - the FCC clearly violated the conditions of the court order. It is perhaps for that reason that Jim was able to eventually get most of his equipment back. However, unable to secure proper legal representation, WHOT was seemingly off the air for good.
The WHOT bust was just the start of an FCC sweep that shut down 400 underground broadcasters over the next couple of years. As had happened in the past, there was the initial burst of publicity following the bust, with the prerequisite articles in local newspapers and magazines, plus a handful of radio and TV appearances (including an excellent two-part interview on Manhattan Cable). On the negative side, there was a terrible piece done in the Daily News that printed factually incorrect details about WHOT and twisted the story beyond recognition. The Fifth Estate strikes again.
WHOT would never have been what it was without the listeners. It was as much for them as for our own amusement that we tried to make The Hot One the most entertaining experience it could be, and a real alternative to the constrictive, cookie-cutter fare being offered elsewhere on the radio dial. WHOT also couldn't have been a success without the talents of Hank, Jim and myself (naturally), Tommy Edison, Terry Walker, Chuck Simpson and Joe E. Reynolds.
Of course, we were pretty upset at not having had the chance to say farewell on the air, thanks to the FCC's new sneaky tactic of waiting until AFTER a station has signed off to execute a raid. Undaunted, WHOT returned to the air for "one last show" in late December of 1989 so we could say goodbye to our loyal listeners the proper way. Hank procured some borrowed equipment and a super-secret location to let the listeners know about the bust and wrap things up in a more suitable manner.
We all took some time off to refresh our heads, and then went about figuring out what was next. Was WHOT truly done - for good...?
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