About that time when I was a radio DJ and some guy wanted me to help him with mind control

August 12, 2007 at 5:43 pm | Posted in college, crazy people, mad mad world, music, summer | 1 Comment

While I was an undergrad at the University of Delaware, I moonlighted as a radio DJ for WVUD, small community run station on campus. It’s not like it was My Secret Identity or anything – I used my real name and even had a really rudimentary website that I updated in live time with track listings. That website, to the best of my knowledge, was hosted by Angelfire because it was the year 2000 and I didn’t know any better. Having a radio show was awesome. It was something I thought about doing throughout most of my high school career and I was thrilled to find out how easy it was to actually make it happen.
I went to an interest meeting at the beginning of the semester along with several of my girlfriends, none of whom actually followed through and ended up on the air. After the meeting we were able to take a tour of the station, and as soon as I walked through the doors I was positive that I would try my damnedest to make it a part of my life. There were kids hanging out in the lounge studying, kids in the recording studio making promos for their show, and of course there were kids in each of the broadcast studios. The music library was really what reeled me in. I had never seen such a huge collection of records and CDs. We were invited to browse through the stacks and no matter what band I thought of, no matter how obscure that bank was, I was able to find something by them. I felt like I wanted to pull hundreds of record off of the shelves and roll around in them like Demi Moore did with that $25,000 in Indecent Proposal. I fell in love with the musty smell of an original Troggs recording.

I wasted no time in getting my broadcasting license and spent a couple of months doing an internet only show so that I could get comfortable with the boards and the timing and so on and so forth. Finally, a timeslot opened up on the FM station, Thursdays from 5-7pm, and I jumped at the opportunity. Before I knew it I fancied myself a right and proper DJ. Although I do attempt to avoid cliche at all costs, I still have to say that starting my radio show was a sort of defining moment in my life. Music was no longer just something to listen to, it was part of my lifestyle. If I wasn’t in class or slaving away in the coffee shop where I worked part-time, I was probably at the station or at some station related event. I interviewed bands, I make promo commercials, I read the news.  When I look back on my college years, I almost instantly think of the radio station. I think of warm afternoons, leaving my dorm and walking down The Mall , which has since been renamed The Green for some reason unbeknown to me, and heading down to the station for a couple hours. Having a radio show was like being able to make a giant mixtape for hundreds of people every week. I had an almost unlimited amount of music, and open airwaves. Of course, this also meant that I had to deal with the occasional freak show that called in. This only really bothered me in the summer, because while school wasn’t in session the station was virtually deserted. It was a little creepy to be in this huge studio by myself, but I always felt safe in the fact that the station had not one but two doors that were opened only by passcode. Once I got through the first door I was pretty much good to go. I used to get calls from one crazy in particular that were sometimes unsettling when I was alone. He never said anything nasty or offensive, he was just strange, and he had a really peculiar voice. The only way I can describe it is : you know that noise a garden hose gets when it’s all kinked up and can’t spray properly? The noise that sounds like water rushing into the tube only to get all backed up? Well, it was kind of like that.

My first encounter with Weird Caller Guy was during our annual fundraiser. I was working the phones during another DJ’s show, and he called to make a pledge. Two minutes later he called back and cancelled his pledge (which I think was like $10) because he “forgot his electric bill was due.” The second time he called was when I was on the air. It was early summer, and I was working on campus as a research assistant in a cognitive science lab that studies infant language development. My show was almost over, and all I could think about was getting home, packing my bag, and taking a train up to NJ to see my boyfriend. Of course, I was parked all the way across campus at the lab where I had a summer permit, and I wasn’t looking forward to the walk back by myself. The phone rings, and I know instantly that it’s Weird Caller Pledge Canceller Guy. He says to me:

“Uhhh, yes. Hi. Hello. I need a favor. Can you play something nice for me? Can you play something nice and dedicate it to Paul Caruso and his children?”

I was a little caught off guard because I didn’t think that there were a lot of families sitting at home around the radio listening to my show, but I went along with it. I think I played something by Elliott Smith and said it was for the Caruso family. Done, right? Wrong. The phone rings before the song had even ended. Same guy. Heavy breather, squeaky voice.

“Ehhhhhh, hey. Hi there. This is Mark. I called earlier about a song for Paul Caruso?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, there is no Paul Caruso. Eeeehhh, see it was a trick, it wasn’t very nice. Paul Caruso is from a Jimi Hendrix album. Ehhhhh the second album. It was a trick.”

“Okay, I see.”

“Yeah, and I am trying to gain some notoriety for it, so could you announce on the air that Mark says sorry? Mark is really sorry about the trick.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that when one is trying to “gain notoriety” for being a trickster, he should probably go about it in a way that people actually understand. Making a really obscure musical reference isn’t really that effective. But Mark wasn’t done. Oh no. The phone rings again.

“Ehhhh, this is Mark again. Actually, don’t say anything on the air. Don’t say it was a joke. I changed my mind. I’m 47 years old, and this is what I do. I like to try and mess with the public and ehhhh control people’s minds, because there’s nothing else to do. You know, there’s nothing to do in Delaware.”

Whoa, so now it’s about mind control? It’s one thing to be a complete weirdo and have bad taste in jokes, but mind control is a whole other basket of kittens. So there I was. Alone. Getting ready to leave the studio and walk to the complete other side of campus. Alone. In the back of my paranoid mind all I could think about was Mark/Paul Caruso parked outside the building in something really conspicuous like a 1975 Lincoln Continental. He’d see me walk out, run up to me, and throw a burlap bag over my head. He’d stuff me into the Lincoln’s trunk and drive me to a secret hideout where I would be changed to a record player and forced to broadcast guerrilla-radio style on his private station, Radio Free Mind Control. I would be an unwilling accomplice in the attempted brainwashing of an entire nation. He would make me dedicate songs to all sorts of allegorical musical references and I would only get one break a day to pee and eat a slice of bread. It would be awful. I half considered calling someone to come meet me at the station, but I had that train to catch. I didn’t want to be held up waiting for someone to arrive, so I sucked it up and signed off the air. As usual, the reggae DJ for the show after mine was running late. I flipped on the AP newswire and was about to walk out of the airstudio when the phone rang again. I shouldn’t have picked it up. I really shouldn’t have. But I did. Guess who?

“Ehhh yes, hello. Do I have the right station? Can you hear it in the background? All I hear is some newscaster!”

“Actually, the Reggae guys are running late so we’re running the AP newswire.”

“Let me give you a piece of advice. I’m 47 years old and I own my own business and everything. Never say ‘actually’ people will think you have two separate lives. It’s scary, never say that. It’s in poor taste. Imagine if your children said that to you or something.”

I wanted to scream into the phone I DO NOT SEE ANYTHING WRONG WITH THE WORD ACTUALLY AND ACTUALLY I DON’T HAVE ANY CHILDREN AND ACTUALLY YOU ARE A FREAK SO I AM ACTUALLY HANGING UP ON YOU NOW. Instead I just hung up. And then I ran. I ran all the way up the stairs, out the building, and halfway through campus until I felt like there was enough distance between me and the telephone. I made my train and told my boyfriend the whole story and for a couple of months we’d get a good kick out of mentioning Paul Caruso or saying actually with emphasis.  It takes all kinds to make this world go ’round. Allllll kinds.

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1 Comment »

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  1. Wow! Sounds like a real wack job!


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