In terms of my career, I learned more about my chosen profession at one address: 510 Lovett in beautiful crime free Montrose, in the shadow of downtown Houston.
At one time, the address was actually that of an insidiously dirty building; a two-story petri dish with carpet, an elevator, and no ventilation. It was ugly and crowded and there wasn’t anything positive about it…other than the fact that it housed some of the most talented radio people who ever graced a microphone. And I mean that sincerely.
It was gutted a few years ago and has since been made into high-end apartments; the only apartment building in Houston with a foundation that has a street value, IF you know what I mean.
You know, rock and roll and all.
During its hey day, the building was home to KTRH-AM, a once powerful all news/talk radio station that at its height ran 24/7 with a full-time on air staff of more than 30 people. Behind the scenes? Double the figure, and in a post Telecom Act world today, that’s unheard of. KTRH and it’s news nerds housed the north side of the building; the cool rock and rollers who manned the studios at the mighty, mighty Rock KLOL; a powerhouse of an FM station that believed in BIG on-air personalities who took home BIG paychecks which helped them talk up the BIG on-air promotions, lived on the building’s south side. KLOL, particularly in the mid 80’s and through the mid 90’s, defined major market rock radio.
I began my broadcasting career in Houston at KTRH. I started in April of 1990, if memory serves. I was a Producer and a Reporter. Then, I became a full-time reporter when management realized that I was a little different. My writing style was unusual. I viewed my assignments like art pieces andwrote them up accordingly, usually with humor adn all kinds of effects. No, almost always with humor and all kinds of effects. I was different. My stories were different. People noticed this as did my handlers. I guess they liked what they heard because within months of starting the gig, I was given a very healthy raise and promoted to Features Reporter and soon, pursued my own stories with little or no input from the Assignment Editor or anyone else for that matter. I did that for just over three long, arduous years. Then, it was time to move on.
My gig at KTRH might have been deemed as “cushy” by some. While I had more freedom than most reporters, I can assure you, I earned every dime I made. It was nothing for me to put in 12 to 13 hours a day…consecutive days… at KTRH/the station. I personified that old adage: to whom much is given, much is expected. I was 34 in the summer of 1993 and I was exhausted. I walked away too tired and too overworked to care that my departure left some very angry people in its wake. I think I made some enemies. I remember hearing the words “disloyal” and “ingrate” lobbed in my direction. Yeah and from the cabal that was management. They took my leaving personally for some reason. Then again, they didn’t like it when anyone left.
Be that as it may, I did what I had to do. I needed to leave for my sanity, in more ways than one. I walked out of that station with a real understanding how emancipation must have felt to a select disenfranchised demographic of the Old South 148 years ago.
After that, I made a vow that I would never work that hard, ever again.
But the reality is, when I was younger, working my fingers to the bone seemed easier. Twenty one years ago, I was ambitious with a point to prove and I felt I had allthe time in the world to prove it. I came in to my own at KTRH though I’m not sure why exactly. I suppose there were times that my being there felt surreal..almost cosmic. It was like life had me as part of this huge flow chart; Laurie and career all came together at a common point in the midst of this very specific data flow. In truth, everything just sort of meshed. I guess it was the right person at the right time in the right location under the auspices of one Laurie lovin’ celestial alignment.
But I digress…
As I said, the two stations may have shared a building, but that was about the only commonality. The FM side was hip and cool. The AM side was…well, AM. There wasn’t a lot of mingling. But I was lucky enough in my career under the Rusk Corporation umbrella to do what few have: I ‘crossed the hall’. I worked in on air positions at both stations and learned a great deal from both schools of thought.
At KLOL, I was an on air personality on the Stevens and Pruett Show, a talented duo who for years dominated morning radio in Houston. The show’s elder statesman, Mark Stevens died this past October. He was in his mid 70’s, but tragically, Alzhiemer’s made him old before his time. I admired Mark very much and mourned his loss, personally and professionally. I put all those feelings in an emotional vault and haven’t addressed them since news of his passing. But tonight, I did something I didn’t want to do, but made myself. I went to various blog posts and newspaper articles that covered Mark’s demise and read all the comments. For some reason, I avoided doing this; I don’t know why, especially since reading them tonight made me realize that Mark was as revered as he was. I decided to take a break from reading the Stevens tributes. I absent-mindedly picked up the remote and started going through the satellite channels on my dying 32-inch Toshiba. I stopped on the last few minutes of the Tina Turner biopic, What’s Love Got To Do With It. And that’s when one particular memory came back to me.
I can’t remember the exact year–possibly 1996–and I can’t recall the day or month, but I remember the show and it promised to be an S&P classic. Shows were always great when the guests and the topics we’d cover were varied. It was 9 am, the last hour of the show which was usually reserved for musicians. I was asked to bring the last guest up to the studio and went down to the lobby both stations shared.
I exited the elevator and was dumbstruck by what I saw. In the lobby, sitting on one couch was our guest… music legend and southpaw, the late Ike Turner. Beside him on another couch, separated by a small coffee table was a woman waiting to appear on a show on KTRH. She was someone I’d interviewed many times. She was the president of the Houston Area Women’s Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
They sat there three feet from each other–two very different people from two very divergent walks of life, yet oddly connected in that one particular way–he lived in a world of perpetrating violence; she worked with its victims. Both were blithely unaware of who the other person was. I had to smile at the irony.
Sometimes, life’s like that.