Topic A

It’s been long enough that I’m not really sure if the year was 1999 or 2000. But on January 1 of one of those years, I started a radio show on KDHX, called Radio Free St. Louis. I was blissfully unaware that WGNU had nicknamed itself that, which wasn’t known to me until RFSL went off the air a year later. Oops. That show was a talkie focusing on local music; it was a mix of recorded music, live sets and conversations with musicians, or affiliates. If memory serves correct, the first guest was Jordan Oakes, then publishing the power-pop fanzine Yellow Pills. It was a nasty evening, very icy. That I remember quite clearly.

After RFSL’s year, the show morphed into The Wire, a gig that would have its title grabbed by a popular cable show a bit later. (Really had a way with naming back then!) The show would be dedicated to local talk topics, on any subject of regional interest. After laboring through a run of doing it solo, I asked my frequent Metropolis colleague Amanda Doyle to come on as co-host. Luckily, she accepted and we ran the hour format for a time, until the combined efforts of Metropolis, the emerging The Commonspace and other projects suggested that we give up the show.

Which we did. For a short while.

Soon, though, Collateral Damage, our replacement show, would be split from an hour show to half that, with The Wire coming back on at 30-minutes. It worked that way for some years, before Amanda and I decided to change things up conceptually, with a new title: Topic A. With this format, we’d be able to talk to anybody, under the banner of monthly themes. We got to chat with some awesome folks (Hentoff, Zinn, etc.) and feedback seemed stronger than the previous gig.

In time, I was granted the show Silver Tray and I shifted from on-mic duties to purely running the board for Topic A. I think the show worked better with Amanda asking all the questions. My opinion is exactly that and it won’t change.

But with the station’s talk plans changing after the new year – and with volunteer hosts and producers long waiting for exactly what those changes will be, even a few weeks prior to rollover – our tenure on KDHX ends tonight. And the kicker is that I won’t be there and neither will Amanda. She’s pre-taped the show and is on vacation; and I’m loading records into the Halo Bar for a DJ set, so it’s a reather unfortunate bit of timing, a seriously unsentimental way to end a project of such length.

Over time, we segued to-and-out-of our show with a variety of great hosts. Early on, Paul Stark and Art Dwyer, when featured on Friday nights. On Mondays, we bumped up on Tom “Papa” Ray, DJ Wilson and Fred Hessel, Jeff “Kopper” Kopp, DJ Needles and G-Wiz and, of late, Annie Zaleski. And then the Barroom Bob segments! What a treat to listen to those over time.

It’s been fun to share a microphone with Amanda these many years, most of all. Probably, I enjoyed the set, weekly download of pre-show gossip as much as the show, itself. Thinking that Amanda’s choice of letting it go now is a good one. We weren’t burned out, but the gig wasn’t kicking the way it used to. With the permutations of the new talk block looking to add, rather than subtract, from responsibilities, it’s time to bounce.

It’s been a helluva lot of fun and hopefully has added something to the greater, overall, local conversation.

Thanks to anyone who listened, which is exactly what I’ll be doing tonight.

December’s 13

There’s never been a better day to listen to Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, while emptying a box of junk. But not just any box of junk. One that contains these gems:

1. A collection of all my clips from the 1984-85 Webster Groves High School Echo newspaper, including all known examples of my painfully-unfunny “humor” piece, “From the Dark Side,” a playful knock on another writer’s “From the Light Side” column. Geesh.

2. A press photo of NYC folkie Brenda Kahn. Not autographed.

3. Tax returns from 1990-96.

4. My high school commencement program from WGHS. The guy listed just before me married our German teacher, who, herself, would die of cancer a couple years later. Notable graduates included rockstars Karl Grable and Anne Tkach. The bulk of the rest of the names? Um…? Nope, can’t recall ’em.

5. A 1994-95 St. Louis Blues media pass, issued to Thomas Cron of the Riverfront Times. Who wore for the photo, inexplicably, a weathered Colorado Rockies ballcap.

6. A photo of a college crush playing ping-pong. Ah, Ruth S.!

7. Photos of myself finishing a St. Louis Marathon in 4:05:42. Glad to have evidence of such a thing, ’cause it ain’t gonna happen again.

8. A letter from Cliff Froehlich, turning me down for a job at the Riverfront Times in 1989. The gig would go to Daniel Durchholz. This one gets framed.

9. Contact sheets (and negatives, hmm) of photos taken at Mangia Italiano in the earliest ’90s, featuring wrestlers Wayne St. Wayne, Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff and one of the Von Erich brothers. Damn. That was a great, great day.

10. An “Enormous Richard Distinguished Service Award,” signed by the six members of the group: Chris King, Chris Bess, Joe Esser, Rich Skubish, Karl Mueller and Matt Fuller. This artifact is a keeper, as it entitles me to “impose upon” the group’s members anytime I’m in St. Louis… where I am right now!

11. A list of books read in 1992, including, but not limited to: “The Student as Nigger,” “Rebellion in Newark,” “The SDS,” “Malcolm X Speaks,” “The Year of Young Rebels,” “The Racial Crisis in American Higher Education” and “Death at an Early Age.” And this version of Thomas Crone wasn’t arrested/jailed ever… why? Oh, yeah, for fun, there was also a reading of Douglas Coupland’s “Shampoo Planet.” Balance is very important in life. Was then, is now.

12. A German passport, issued in 1980 and ceasing validity in 1985. Somebody combed their hair back then.

13. And, with 1985 on the brain, a season preview of that year’s Webster University Gorlok soccer team. That squad would go on to win the program’s first game (season one was winless) in a heart-stopping match at Parks College. The team’s 16-year-old keeper was seen in the photo, but was nowhere to be found in the article, probably owing to no coach wanting to actually entrust a 16-year-old to that job.

Good times with a box of junk, friends!

Yet it’s time to get out of the house, for fear of nostalgia poisoning.

Blessed Boxing Day to you and yours.


Due to America’s economic downturn, coupled with a distinct sense of holiday-less spirit, Christmas and affiliated traditions have been suspended for this year. Don’t give nothin’, don’t expect nothin’. We’re still cool and next year we’ll have a really sweet treat, affiliated with it, thanks to an idea from Brandyn Jones.

Do, however, expect big news late next week. SO big. Truly.

In the meantime, Happy Festivus, for those of you keeping track of such things.

Meltdown’s HQ was recently rocked by the complete and thorough failure of our outfit’s primary computer, which has resulted in the loss of: several bajillion photos; hours of never-posted video of various urban exploration trips (including a summery jaunt to Gateway Community Hospital with musical duo Fatoush); a small cache of bad poetry and fiction (thankfully destroyed, really); and, worst of all, several years’ worth of syllabi and assignment cheat-sheets. On that count alone: oucha.

We are taking time to process these losses, while occasionally staring at the detachable hard-drive that sat, unused and unutilized, during the departed desktop’s creaky winter years.

In an optimistic moment, this is all regarded as somehow “freeing”…

If anyone out there was curious about what my Media Literacy students were thinking about current stories, trends and quirks in journalism, they can check the site in the subject line for, oh, the next two-weeks-and-one-day.

Not encouraging you over there, just noting the existence of this fine blog.

DJ Action

As once stated by a wise man, “one man’s broken bone is another man’s added DJ attractions for December.” A very apt phrase and one that notes the reality of my man Rob Levy’s barking foot and some extra DJ gigs this month.

Saturday, Dec. 12, The Royale, 9:30 – 1:30

Saturday, Dec. 19, Atomic Cowboy, 6:00 – 10:00

Friday, December 25, The Royale, 9:00-ish-1:30

Monday, December 28, Halo Bar, post-Unconscious – ’til 3:00

Tuesday, December 29, Halo Bar, post-Pale Divine – ’til 3:00

And on the radio, the Friday, Dec. 18 episode of “Silver Tray” will include two live sets. At noon, Mike Apirion and Darren O’Brien of the Unconscious play a 20-minute set, with Michael Schaerer of Pale Divine doing the same at 1 p.m. Kewl.

Coverage of Films @ the Beacon

I’m always happy to contribute to the St. Louis Beacon. And, yesterday, I was able to do so with a first-person account of the creation of the films “Old Dog, New Trick” and “The Pride of St. Louis.”

Here’s a link to that clip.

I’ve been posting a ton of movie-related news to the films’ dedicated blog, as well. It’s over here.

Shillin’ over. For now.