Stephen Newman

A Cheeseburger With The Janitor by Stephen Newman

For.those of you who don’t know me, I am a bit of a radio geek. I worked as a DJ for many years, and have been obsessed with radio since I was 4 years old. The following is a story, from 1997, about one of my favorite listeners at Cricket Country in Albany, Oregon.
Kevin was a janitor. He cleaned the Albany, Oregon library at night. He also was a sports fanatic. Football, baseball, basketball…Kevin knew all the players, all the stats.

Our friendship began with discussions about sports. It was 1997. The Portland Trailblazers were having a good season. We talked about it, or rather, Kevin talked, and I mostly agreed. He could talk for hours — sometimes he did, and I would record every minute, hoping for material I could play back later on the air.

I received a reprimand at KRKT (better known as Cricket Country) where I worked the night shift in Albany — about an hour’s drive from Portland, and a couple miles from the library. Turns out the boss, Glenn Nobel, didn’t want us having long conversations on the 1-800 request line. It got expensive, he said. Something like 15 cents a minute. He insisted, “Five minutes maximum. Take the request, record what you need to get a good ‘bit,’ and hang up.”

But Kevin had so much to say. And he called me every night while he diligently cleaned that library. Kevin lived in a group home. He had a severe case of Down’s Syndrome. He was my biggest fan.

Glenn, the program director and my boss, suggested that I don’t play as many phone bits from Kevin, as listeners may think that I’m making fun of him. Bill, the crotchety old morning show host, would leave notes in Glenn’s mailbox. One read: “Steve put that drunk idiot on the air again. Make it stop!” (Bill changed his tune once the ratings came out later that month. I got 93 percent of the total audience).

I was feeling bold on a particular Sunday afternoon, and when Kevin called, I invited him to the station for a tour. He took the bus, and arrived just after 2 pm. I let him sit in Glenn’s chair and prop his feet up on Glenn’s desk, and I took a picture with a disposable camera (only rich people had cell phones back in 1997, and few phones then, if any, had cameras). I drove Kevin to the Burger King near the studio, and bought us a couple double whopper combo meals. People thought he was my brother. After lunch, Kevin thanked me for the free lunch, we shook hands, and I walked him back to the bus stop around 3:45. I simtaneously felt awkward and good.

This mp3 is from my last day at KRKT. It’s long, but if you fast forward toward the end, you can hear Kevin calling, thanking me on the air for the cheeseburger I bought him. “That was good, I appreciate that,” he said. It was one of my all-time great radio memories. Sadly, the cassette tape stopped recording right as my friend and fellow DJ, Derek Bryan and I, were talking about Kevin. It was the last thing I talked about at KRKT, and then I was off to Salt Lake City for my overnight shift at K-Bull 93. Salt Lake was the #35 largest radio market in the country. Albany, Oregon, by comparison, was something like #292. Needless to say, it was quite a jump!

I worked at KRKT for 13 months — an eternity by radio standards. I came close to being fired one other time there. In 1997, Oregon legalized assisted suicide. The night of the big legal decision, I did a call-in show with the topic: “Now that assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, if you were the doctor, who would you like to assist?” It was my best show ever. I got thousands of calls. Unfortunately, so did the receptionist the next morning. And so did the owner. “Steve Newman needs to get fired, immediately,” the listeners insisted.

Well, I didn’t get fired, but over a decade later I did get 15 years in prison. Hopefully that will appease the critics.

The second half of this mp3, once Derek showed up in the studio, was a lot of fun. I was only 23 years old and still very inexperienced on the air, so don’t judge me. You can hear it here:

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Stephen Newman
DOC #90843


Categories: Stephen Newman

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