My fellow DJs, consider this a public service message in the interest of your well-being. After Pseu Braun's recent post on "DJs gone bad," I've decided to turn my attention to the offense end of the dark court where the DJ/listener relationship lobs (wilts?) back and forth... that lithium-dulled elephant in the studio (on hold just for you at the request line): the "listener gone bad." Let's face it: to a sanity-challenged, occasionally violent, needy warp-job of a human, radio DJs (so easily obtainable with the flick of a knob) are virtually like fish in a barrel. A typical DJs face-less, booming, God-like voice is like a wet palette (or a cutting board) for any wrong person's free-floating delusions, an invisible neurosis-magnet if you will. Just Google "stalk murder DJ radio host" and you'll find a veritable shooting gallery of famously tragic cases from all over the globe. And it's a shame indeed.
However, in my research for this post, I did notice one key factor in the survive-ability of stalked DJs: the ones who made the biggest extroverted drama-queen scream-y fit over their ordeal, from the very beginning, are the ones who are still alive. So DJs, next time you get an email from a listener that seems a tad too informed of your private life, or a phone call from a song-requester that's a little "odd"... don't shrink like a wallflower! Go seizure-fit ape-shit right there and then! Point your finger and screech like Donald Sutherland at the end of the re-make of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers!" Yell "ST-ST-STA-STALKER!" dramatically into the phone or at the computer screen that holds the sinister email! Let EVERYONE see you! Point out that listener's suspicious and inappropriate attention without a moment's hesitation! Do not give that potential stalker even a micro-second to start creeping you out... you need to completely crack-out and over-spazz from second one! If you're live on the air, even better! You just go downright banana peel-smoking, speed-monkey, shout-y crackers! Interrupt the music right in studio, live on the air, and yelp in tear-gulping terror at the top of your lungs just like Adrienne Barbeau in "The Fog" "AHHHH!! STAY AWAY FROM THE FOG!! I'M BEING STALKED!! AAAGGGHHH!!" Do not give a moment's consideration to how foolish or delusional you might seem yourself... it could be the most humiliating, but smartest, thing you ever do!
Some cases in point:
- One of the most famous and tragic cases of radio host stalking is the one of controversial and legendary radio personality Alan Berg. On June 18th, 1984, DJ Alan Berg (then of KOA-AM Denver) was gunned down in the driveway of his home by a member of a white supremacist group as a result of his outrageous and popular show, and the views he expressed on the air. Berg had received threats before the shooting occured. Berg's case was, of course, the loosely-based subject of the 1988 Eric Bogosian film "Talk Radio."
- DJ Bob Cooke, of Tuscon, Arizona's KWFM-FM, was killed by a deranged fan (whom had been sending Cooke threats) in August of 1982. The murder occured in the barren, late-night parking lot of a nightclub where he had just done a live broadcast.
- Witayudh Saengsopit, program director and host of a political radio program in Surat Thani, Thailand, was murdered (link - 2nd item) by gunmen on his way into the station's building to host a show in April of 2001. Saengsopit was actually under police protection after finding a grenade placed under the gate to his office.
- The host of "Total Information A.M." (at St. Louis' KMOX-AM), Nan Wyatt, was shot inside her home in February of 2003 by an obsessive fan who was obviously not a morning person, and was later revealed to actually be her husband (does that still count as an obsessive, deranged listener?)
Of course, besides crazed listeners and obsessive fans, sometimes DJs turn on each other, a Hell from which there is probably no advice I can give towards you escaping:
- In September of 2001, Miami's popular 104.7-FM hip-hop DJ, Al Moss, was shot to death upon answering the door to his home. The gunmen were actually striking the final blow in an ongoing dispute over airspace involving a different local pirate radio station (Moss lived on the pirate station's premises) and inadvertently shot Moss thinking he was someone else (but don't get your hopes up - their intended target was indeed another DJ).
- In October of 2002, Latham, New York DJ Irving Bynum (aka: 'DJ Biz') was shot and slashed as he left the studios of WAJZ-FM (he survived). Police arrested none other than a rival DJ in the attempted murder, one Aristelle Thomas (aka: DJ 'Air Alert'), who was apprehended days after he gave chase, abandoned the car and weapons, and disappeared into the woods.
And sometimes the listener's ill-will against DJs take a more passive aggressive, surreal approach... which might be a good thing for all considered:
- In September of 2004, Billy Wayne Miles, an oxygen-tank/scooter-bound Texas man suffering from obesity and diabetes, bizarrely made bomb threats to a nearby parking garage after a local radio station (KMCM-FM) refused to play his Fats Domino request. No one was hurt, and Miles is now facing felony charges.
This leads to my all-important point. Most of these awful crimes are often nipped in the bud by DJs and radio hosts who waste no time in getting the law and coworkers involved (however uncooperative the law and coworkers may be in the beginning) when it comes to the potentially dangerous over-attention of weird listeners:
- Busty (and photogenic!) British DJ Michelle Dignan (host of Manchester's Key-103's late-night shift) recently ended a year-long "stalking Hell" ordeal due to the harassment of an obsessed male fan, Jason Wood. 35 year-old Wood was described by friends and family as an "intelligent and articulate man" who had "a great interest in radio." His interest in the 19 year-old Dignan unfortunately got the best of him, as his relentless threat-tinged letters and packages to her resulted in his arrest. Dignan requested police protection at the first sign of real trouble. Like many stalkers, Wood finally got to meet his pout-a-riffic object of affection in the very real flesh... at the court hearings during his sentencing.
- Also recently in the UK, a very attentive radio listener by the name of Rebecca Corrighan was so attentive of drive-time Signal Radio host Matt Rogan, that she began to sincerely believe that the DJ was, in actuality, the secret identity of convicted child-murderer Robert Thompson. Since Corrighan thought (still thinks?) that the BBC, the police, and pretty much everyone else in her city were in on the sinister cover-up, she heroically embarked on a one-woman harassment campaign to "uncover" him, which included in-studio death threat calls with disguised voices, poisonous text messages, and visits to the station where she was able to elude building security because, according to her, she could "...walk through walls." Matt Rogan and the station's management got involved, and Thompson was arrested in July of 2004.
- For 11 years, Florida radio host K.T. Mills (WALK-FM) was the recipient of letters, flowers, gifts, engagement rings and occasional in-studio phone calls from mental ward pay phones. This of course led to the ineditable in-person creepy visits/threats by faithful listener Alexander Rousseau, who apparently believed the two shared a mutual affair in his own mental la-la land. Police recently crashed the honeymoon and nabbed Rousseau, and Mills' case became a lightening rod for tougher harassment laws in New York (her own quote about her ordeal is the title of this post).
Sometimes though, things just get weird with obsessive listeners, and even though everyone ends up OK, everyone also ends up a loser.
So, my fellow DJs, those examples may not have been exactly rote, but my point is this: do not go gently into that obsessive listener's spider's web nut zone. Do not! When your friends and co-workers are accusing you of being "paranoid" and "ego-centric" when you express polite concern over the listener who mails you their bloody ear in a heart-shaped envelope... don't listen to their jealous cries of "foul." Follow your instincts and cause the biggest commotion conceivable! Get everyone involved! Get the law involved! Don't hesitate to loudly demand body guards and home security devices and restraining orders galore. You ARE an important voice! You ARE a talented, complex, mysterious and enigmatic radio personality that obsessive human mental cases CAN and WILL become overly enamored with! Flaunt it - it's called surviving! Get an agent! Call TV stations and demand that your living Hell be turned into a "Lifetime Movie-of-the-Week!" Go on daytime talk shows and gush buckets of tears as you talk about your harrowing ordeal! You've climbed the ladder of success ...all the way to the level of becoming an inner-world sounding board projection of some unbalanced person's unresolved love and hate issues! Tell the world - or you'll end up on the slab! Follow your gut instincts before your guts themselves end up splattered all over the station's parking lot! It's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease and the obnoxiously self-centered stalk-ee who doesn't get shot (but may have to show up at court hearings)! Hang your restraining orders in your cubicle like the medical degrees or Nobel Prize certificates that they ARE equal to! Point them out to passersby! You've earned them! You've attained one of our celebrity-obsessed society's most sought-after medals of honor: a stalker. Be an "in-your-face" stalk-ee! Flaunt your victim-ness, and also the clingy, dangerous, unpredictable weirdo that haunts your every move, as obnoxiously and relentlessly as possible... you may lose your dignity, but you'll save your life.