Saturday, May 31, 2014
I always tell people that if you want to get to know me read my short stories. You will always find at least a small part of me in my stories. Sometimes it is a much larger part, and not that hard to pick out. However, writing a memoir puts all of your cards on the table face up; it’s ALL about you! Enjoy this follow up chapter to Love At Work, from my forthcoming memoir A Change Is Gonna Come. For more insight into BJ Neblett check out my first memoir Ice Cream Camelot, available in e book form and soon to be released in paperback.
© 2004, 2014
“Ow, she’s a Brick House/yeah a Brick House”
The Commodores’ distorted voices blasted from cheap speakers, ricocheted across the club and split the evening’s silence as I pulled open the heavy steel door. A burly, bearded, tattooed giant in denim and dark glasses gave us the cursory once over, clicked his hand held counter twice, and returned to his Easy Rider magazine. Inside, the well worn 45 RPM record skipped once, twice, three times on the jukebox.
“Damn!” A rough female voice screeched, filling in the unexpected void in the din.
“She’s mighty, mighty/just letting it all hang out”
The music picked up again. Our ears slowly acclimated to the excessive decibels. Our eyes dilated and adjusted themselves to the dim lighting. The thick gray smoke didn’t help.
The club was small I thought, not really knowing what to expect. Most of the ambient lighting came from red candle vases on the tables, the soft greenish glow of the jukebox, and a dusty mirror ball which spun silently overhead. Stumbling through a maze of tables, Bill and I made our way to the bar. A very bored looking bartender begrudgingly replaced the paper napkin under a drink, eyeballed us curiously and then looked out across the room. A total of eight customers, all males, were scattered about, strategically placed to make the club appear busy. I was trying to make my order known to the bartender when my friend forcibly spun me around in my stool and pointed. On our left, a long narrow chest high runway protruded from a small square stage like a huge phallic symbol. A buxom bleach blonde, scantily clad in G string, leather boots and a disinterested smile strutted up and down the glossy black surface somewhat in time to the music. She paused just long enough to bend over provocatively, allowing a wide eyed patron to slip dollar bills between flesh and string.
Bill and I watched agog. It was our third night in Houston, our second evening out and our first foray into the exotic, erotic and enigmatic world of gentlemen’s clubs. It wouldn’t be our last. As our work schedules permitted, Bill and I slowly graduated from the seamier to the classier strip clubs in town. Over the next few months, we sampled all that Houston offered. It wasn’t long before we learned the only difference between a strip joint and a gentleman’s club was the location of the building, the price of the drinks, and the age and quality of the dancers.
Smarting more than I realized from Julie’s sudden departure, I was through with any serious entanglements. I was twenty-eight and single, with a career that provided me a measure of fame as well as fortune. All I was interested in now was partying. One particularly boring night Bill in his infinite wisdom suggested we raise some hell. As we worked our way up through a chain of progressively classier clubs, the object of our boisterous behavior this evening would be The Forum, one of the city’s premier gentleman’s clubs on Houston’s trendy Southwest side.
The great thing about radio is you are known by your voice. You can be Joe Citizen with a private life when you choose. However, with the drop of your name to a doorman or maître d' it’s instant celebrity. Such was the case this evening. Bill and I were ceremoniously escorted to a great table just off the end of the runway stage. We took our seats as a half naked dancer concluded her number and faded into the background amidst hoots and cheers. The house lights brightened a bit and a nasally DJ suffering from either too much or too little cocaine announced with too much enthusiasm the presence of the city’s newest and hottest radio jock. Several barely clad beauties surrounded our table leading a round of applause. The intro was over the top, the scene embarrassing, and the undeserved celebrity status intoxicating. It was a drug I would indulge in repeatedly over the next few years.
The house lights dimmed, the club DJ made a quick pitch about tipping the waitresses, and then introduced the next flavor of the evening a fetching black girl named Licorice. As she strutted, a greasy gentleman with a bushy mustache approached our table. He was accompanied by a gorilla of a man in a fuchsia leisure suit, flowered shirt and dark glasses, following two steps behind. The mustachioed man positioned himself between Bill and me by placing ring studded hands on our shoulders. “Gentlemen, welcome to The Forum,” he proclaimed with a pronounced New Jersey accent. “My name is Harvey. I’m the manager. Anything you need, anything, you let me know.” He turned my way holding out a fleshy hand. “It’s especially nice to meet you Mr. James… Billy. May I call you Billy? Of course I can!”
I stood and he took my hand. Instead of shaking it he clasped his other hand firmly on my upper arm. Looking me straight in the eyes, Harvey nodded his approval. The last time anyone greeted me this way I was attending a Sons of Italy dinner at Palumbo’s Night Club in South Philly.
Releasing me from his grip, Harvey gave me a once over. “These eyes,” he said, almost poking out his own beagle browns with two stubby fingers, “these eyes, they have been around. I know… I can see.” He nodded with confidence, “James, now that must be just a stage name or something.”
It took me a second. I decided to play along. Hell, I figured I’d better. “You got me Harvey,” I confessed. “I was born in South Philly. My mother’s people are from the old country.”
“Ha!” Harvey slapped me on the shoulder. “I knew it.” He turned to his companion in the bright suit. “Did I tell you, Bruno?” Bruno nodded expressionless.
Unlike his apish friend, Harvey was more conservatively dressed. That is if you consider a pale yellow suite with white Florsheim shoes and a white open collar silk shirt set off by several gold chains conservative. His slick straight back hair showed a touch of thinning while his chin sported a perpetual shadow. He wore his olive skin loosely, befitting a man of fifty trying too hard to hold on to his youth. Turning his six foot muscular frame back my way, Harvey took my hand again, this time shaking it warmly. “Anything you need… someone gives you trouble in this town, you just let Harvey know. You want anything, I’m your man.” As he pumped my arm, from across the club a fetching blonde caught my eye. Harvey took notice. “Ah!” He grinned broadly and patted my cheek then pinched it. “You have good taste my friend.”
Before I could say a word, Harvey turned and whispered to Bruno. The big man almost smiled, nearly breaking his stoic expression. Returning his attention to Bill and me, Harvey laughed, wiggled a finger at us, laughed louder, and then he and Bruno disappeared into the crowd.
Bill was wearing a large grin of his own as I sat down.
“Looks like you made a new friend,” Bill said flashing that knowing expression of his.
“Well, with friends like that I won’t have to worry about enemies,” I replied.
“With friends like that you won’t have any enemies,” Bill corrected.
We turned our attention back to the stage where Licorice was into her second number. Strutting topless, her G string lined with bills, she positioned herself at the end of the stage. Smiling seductively at three guys seated nearby, she suddenly dashed off down the runway, slowing only slightly as she approached the far end of the stage. The nimble black stripper executed a perfect hand spring, throwing herself at a chrome dancer pole. A breathless second later Licorice hung upside down, her legs wrapped tightly around the shiny pole, her lithe body still wiggling in perfect time to the frantic music.
The club went nuts.
Bill and I smiled at each other and joined in the applause. From behind, a pleasant female voice with a pronounced Texas drawl cooed into our ears. “How do, gents?” A tall shapely strawberry blonde with hair down to her waist, a rose tattoo over her left breast and a sexy crooked smile stood between us. It was the girl that Harvey saw catch my eye. Without waiting for a reply, she placed a green bottle of unknown brand on our table. “This,” she said, “is on the house.” Producing four stemmed glasses, she poured, skillfully topping each with a pale reddish bubbling beverage. She then slid my chair from the table and fitted herself comfortably across my lap, one tan arm around my shoulder. “And so are we!”
I looked at Bill befuddled. He had his own hands and lap full with a pretty redhead. Adjusting to the situation quicker than I, he grinned across the table. “Now how’d Harvey know I preferred redheads?”
Kiki, Bill’s redhead, and Mandy, my sexy companion stuck with us all night. They kept us well oiled with mediocre champagne. We kept them well decorated with bills. By the end of the evening we had all become quite friendly.
Kiki was cute as a button and just about as big. Working as a dancer for just six months, she hailed from Louisiana and carried a tough Cajun accent that didn’t match her round girlish face. Her tiny frame and red curly hair, to say nothing of her over ample breasts, came straight out of my friend’s fantasies. At six foot and five foot nothing respectively, Bill and Kiki were quite a sight.
I was enjoying the situation myself. Twenty-four year old Mandy was an old pro, having worked the clubs since before her eighteenth birthday. Thin and shapely on a leggy five foot eight inch frame, her round pointy breasts, heart shaped face, full lips and cute light freckles served her well in the competitive, cut throat business. On her own since fifteen, Mandy’s worldly knowledge, street savvy, and determined confidence belied her age. She was sweet and funny and, unlike many dancers, down to earth and real. From my lap, Mandy batted her long lashes at me and through her crooked smile drawled, “Well, ain’t you just the most adorable thing!” I was hooked. Mandy and I were off on a stuttering, unconventional, fun, no strings relationship that would renew itself time and again over the course of a dozen years.
Bill and I continued to explore Houston’s seemingly endless stream of strip clubs. From Southwest plush to Eastside sleazy we sampled them all. Sometimes Mandy and Kiki would tag along. Sometimes dancers we’d meet in one club would lead us to other clubs and more wild times. Either way, the young ladies we encountered were always eager and willing to make sure a good time was had by all.
By the summer of ’79 I was something of a radio star in Houston. The fame wasn’t lost on any false modesty as I continued to live the part. A string of casual, quick relationships peppered with one night stands, plus the always ready for fun Mandy, fueled by alcohol, cocaine and ecstasy became my modus operandi. When I wasn’t on the air; doing a remote or personal appearance for the station, or mixing records at a disco, I could usually be found on the town.
My party partner Bill on the other hand all but ended his nocturnal reveling. He was in love. The elusive object of his affections was a lovely divorced black woman who worked alongside of him at Texas Instruments. Hopelessly smitten, Bill relentlessly pursued her, leaving me for the most part to party on my own. It didn’t take long for me to grow accustomed to going it solo.
Honey and Summer
One sticky night in July I wandered into a new small club off of Highway 290 on Houston’s northwest side. Finding a comfortable seat away from the deafening music but in good view of the stage, I ordered my usual gin and Seven Up. I was just finishing my second when a petite blonde took the runway.
Her movements were faltering and unsure. Self-consciousness shone through her painted smile. Looking around, I doubted anyone in the small club was paying attention to her face. Shedding the skimpy baby doll top for her second number, the DJ re-introduced her as Honey, “The newest bee in the hive.” From her movements and youthful looks, I estimated her to be very new. I watched as she nervously strutted to the end of the runway. Pulling a wad of bills from my jeans, I strolled up to the stage. Honey smiled and stooped, allowing me to line her G string with ten singles. She brushed my cheek with a kiss. I whispered, “Come join me at my table.” Nodding discretely, Honey rose and returned to her dancing.
A very cute girl with golden brown ringlet curls followed Honey’s performance. She too seemed nervous, refusing to make eye contact with customers. After a time I had given up and was about to leave when I spied Honey crossing the club. Dressed in a black teddy with garters and a sheer black cover up, she approached my table, followed closely by the cute ringlet girl. “Hi.” Honey’s voice lived up to her name.
I stood. In tall heels, she was barely my height. The ringlet girl took her place beside Honey as I held out a hand. “Hello.”
“Hi,” she repeated with a nervous tremble. Her hand was tiny in mine, her skin smooth and baby white. She cast her chocolate bunny eyes downward and her cherry cheeks flushed a deeper red. “Hi, I’m Honey. This is Summer.”
Studying the fetching pair, I realized these two belonged on the side lines of a high school football game shaking their pom-poms, not shaking their young bodies on stage in a Houston strip club. “Nice to meet you both,” I said holding a chair. Honey sat next to me. Summer sat close to Honey.
A waitress arrived with another drink for me. She placed what looked to be a cola with cherries in front of Summer, and a Shirley Temple by Honey. At the time, in Texas you could work in bars and clubs, serve drinks, even dance topless at the age of eighteen. You just couldn’t drink alcohol until you reach twenty-one. Honey looked up from the innocent beverage, her cheeks redder than before. “I hope you don’t mind,” she said, biting her lower lip. “We aren’t old enough to drink.”
I smiled back at the both of them, bemused by the situation, “Of course not.”
Honey noticed my gaze landing on her silent partner. “Oh, I’m sorry. I guess I should have asked, but Melissa… I mean Summer…” She cast her eyes down again as if expecting to be scolded for the slip. “Summer is my best friend. We do everything together.”
I felt as if I were back in high school, my timid blind date forcing her reluctant girlfriend to tag along, just in case. It wasn’t a bad feeling. “It’s nice to meet you both. I’m Billy.”
Summer silently sipped her drink. Honey continued to blush and stare at the table. “We know who you are, Mr. James,” she said almost apologetically. “We seen ya up in the DJ booth at the Library Club. We love your station.” Summer let the straw slip from her kissable lips long enough to nod in agreement.
“Well then,” I replied, trying my best to ease their nervousness, “you should know I like to be called Billy.” Both girls smiled. “So, you know who I am, tell me about you.”
Honey looked up, obviously relieved at the simple question. “Well, Summer and I are from Enid, Oklahoma.” She placed a delicate hand on the other girl’s wrist, looking at her affectionately. “We’ve known each other since the third grade.” The two smiled warmly at one another before Honey turned her attention back to me, leaving her hand resting on Summer’s arm. “We’ve been best friends ever since. After graduation last month we moved here. Enid is so boring. We wanted some fun, excitement.” Summer readily nodded again but remained silent. They both relaxed a bit. “We’ve met some really nice people working here, and the other girls are so sweet and helpful.”
Their simple, trusting naivety was overwhelming. I wondered if they truly understood where they were and what they were doing. Born Amanda and Melissa, they took jobs dancing on a dare. Both had been cheerleaders back home in Enid, Amanda – Honey – head cheerleader and the quiet, lovely Melissa prom queen.
Honey’s mention that they did everything together proved an understatement. I never saw the two apart. That evening, after the girls got off work we drove over to Jo Jo’s Restaurant for breakfast. Away from the club they slipped comfortably back into their innocent, mid-western selves. A few nights later I was invited to spend the night at the apartment they shared. I quickly learned the true meaning of we do everything together, and why the shy pair were eager to leave the moralistic judgments of small town America behind.
Like all of the dancers I dated, Honey, Summer and I carried on a comfortable, casual, on again off again relationship. As it was, the pair followed the well trodden path of other dancers, perfecting their trade, learning to deal with the advances of overly eager customers, and honing their skills at juggling several regulars at the same time. They also followed the downward spiral of drugs, alcohol, partying and too much too fast.
The last time I saw the affectionate duo the three of us spent a fun Easter weekend on the beach at Galveston Island. The girls seemed to be handling their chosen careers well, having graduated to the nicer gentleman’s clubs. But the effects of cocaine and late hours had already begun to wear away at their natural beauty. Returning to the city, we discovered someone had broken into the girl’s apartment. Although visibly shaken, they shrugged it off as just another random burglary in the big city. I sensed it was something more.
Summer had become acquainted for a time with a well known drug dealer. She hadn’t seen him for at least a month. Still, three days after the break in, an addict, strung out on crack and heroin showed up at the girl’s apartment ranting that he had been burnt by Summer’s friend in a drug deal gone bad. They desperately tried to reason with him, explaining through the chained and locked door that he wasn’t inside.
He wouldn’t be convinced.
Leveling a sawed off shotgun at the flimsy apartment door, the crazed addict fired both barrels. The two innocent eighteen year old's from Enid, Oklahoma, who were only looking for fun and excitement, were killed instantly.
Through my relationship with the enigmatic Mandy, I became a full time denizen of the world of strip clubs. It was a world unto itself, with its own set of rules, priorities and standards; a world that existed primarily while the rest of the world slept. For the most part, this was a world ruled over by money and drugs. But there were exceptions.
Mandy was one.
Every bit a party girl, Mandy had a good head when it came to that very same partying. A junior high dropout, she was fond of quoting Mark Twain, the Bible and Oscar Wilde. Her very appropriate mantra was Wilde’s Moderation in everything, except moderation. They were wise words for someone dealing with the readily availability of drugs.
And then there was Molly.
Along with The Forum, Sweeties and The Second Look were the premier gentleman’s clubs in Houston. The three were written up in Playboy and Penthouse magazines. Here the prettiest girls at the top of their game danced for high rollers from the sports field and the board rooms. Here drugs took a backseat to dollars. The three clubs were no nonsense money makers and the Holy Grail for every serious dancer. Molly was the poster girl for the Hollywood ideal of what a stripper should be, and what America wanted to believe.
Just thirty-three when we met, Molly was a devoted mother of two, holding down two jobs while putting herself through paralegal school. The wildly beautiful brunet was full of boundless energy and optimism. An athletic body that she somehow found time to keep in shape belied her age and rough early life at the hands of an abusive husband. Classic looks, long sexy legs, and a sharp, caustic sense of humor made her a favorite among regulars at The Second Look. She also enjoyed her role as nurse maid, surrogate mom and mother confessor to the other girls.
We actually met in the club’s parking lot late one night after closing. “Perfect ending to a perfect day!” she fumed aloud, almost in tears.
“Perfection is an over rated concept,” I said, strolling over.
She looked up, wiping mascara from her piercing blue eyes, “One that has been the downfall of many a good man.”
“Touché, but chivalry is alive and well, my lady,” I replied, feeling the effects of the evening’s gin.
“And does Sir’s gallant steed carry a spare to fit a ’76 Volare?”
“Ah, a rare breed indeed. Me thinks not. However I am at my lady’s service. My name is Billy.”
Shaking my hand, her eyes narrowed and her smile widened to a shrewd grin. “I know who you are. I’ve seen you in the club a number of times.”
“That’s not exactly what I would call a stellar recommendation.”
“Perhaps not, but I know you’re one of the good ones. My name is Molly.”
Molly tossed a small travel bag into the stranded car’s back seat. “Honey, when you work with fifty other girls there are no secrets.”
“I’ll have to remember that,” I said, blushing and making a mental note to watch what I said and to whom.
“Besides,” Molly locked the car’s door and turned, her large purse slung over one shoulder, “you can observe a lot just by watching.”
The passage made me laugh. “Now how can I leave someone who quotes Yogi Berra stranded; especially such a pretty damsel in distress?”
Molly and I ate breakfast at Denny’s, breakfast and nothing more than a quick peck on the cheek. One night stands weren’t Molly’s style. With the busy pace she kept she barely had time to herself. The next day, after my show, I had Molly’s tire repaired and brought it to her apartment. It was her day off. I enjoyed her company the night before and my plans included talking her into going out to eat. Instead, I sat down to my first home cooked meal in years.
The apartment’s homey atmosphere, barking dog, ringing phone and bickering kids dispelled the typical stripper’s image I held. Over delicious homemade manicotti, Molly explained that many of the girls, especially at the better clubs were just struggling working moms as herself. “Just don’t tell the regulars,” she joked, “or we’ll all be out of work.” Later that evening, as we drove to pick up her car, Molly surprised me. Sliding across the wide bench seat of my vintage De Soto, she kissed me tenderly. Then she looked at me with soft but tired eyes. “Tomorrow is Saturday. I have a rare weekend off. Please don’t send me home to my screaming kids and lonely bed.”
Her touching plea caught me off guard. “What do you suggest?”
She shut her eyes and sighed. “It’s been a long time for me. I guess I’m just out of practice at this.”
I kissed her cheek. “Don’t worry,” I teased, “it’s just like riding a bicycle.” That won me a big laugh and another kiss. Twenty minutes later we entered my apartment. Molly made some phone calls while I made some hot chocolate against the cool, damp February night. When I carried the tray into the bedroom I found her curled up on the bed fast asleep.
Late the next morning I heard the shower running as I fixed omelets and toast. Molly appeared wearing my bathrobe, looking refreshed and beautiful. She sighed and sampled the orange juice I handed her. “I guess I should have told you. I never learned to ride a bicycle,” she confessed and we both laughed.
Molly and I dated for around a year. It was a very easy, casual relationship, both of us enjoying what was missing from our lives. We did normal things, like normal people: movies, dinner, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and the annual Renaissance Festival. We agreed on the basic ground rule of not mentioning work.
I got to spend some time with her kids as we visited Astroworld Amusement Park and took in the Astros. Molly turned out to be an avid baseball fan. I became an instant hero to her son the afternoon I threw out the first pitch at the Astrodome and introduced him to some of the players.
Molly graduated from school and left the club life behind. She landed a good job in a judge’s office. Shortly afterwards Molly married. The last time I heard she, hubby, the kids and new baby were doing just fine.
And so it went. Four years dissolved into a blur of over indulgence. Like the dancers I dated, I too found myself awash in a sea of too much too fast.
The spring of ’81 my friend and fellow DJ Misty reluctantly accepted a good job offer from a station in Baltimore. At a going away party she hugged me a little longer and cried a bit harder than I expected. It gave me pause. But her career was on the move. It was time to let her go.
Later that same year I stood up for my best buddy Bill. He finally managed to charm his heart’s desire. Or, as Shirley put it, she slowed down enough for the old guy to catch her. Bill and Shirley made quite a pair and I never saw my best friend happier.
December 1981 I turned thirty-one. I spent my birthday alone, mostly by choice. The clubs were closed. Mandy was off with friends to South Padre Island. Molly was busy with family, as were most of my friends. Bill and Shirley were spending their first holiday together as husband and wife.
I sat alone in the darkened air studio on Christmas Eve drinking heavily spiked eggnog. Looking out on the city, I pictured the Astrodome as a giant chocolate muffin with a single lit candle. I really didn’t need to be there but I had nothing else to do; no place to go. I volunteered to mind the on air board, giving the married jocks time with their families.
I looked over my shoulder often, thinking I heard something. The ghosts that haunt every radio station were restless.
It was a lonely uncomfortable night.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
When Do You Say, “Uncle”?
It is not in the nature of humans to give up; to say, “Uncle.” Society as a whole praises the hero, the successful; the stalwart individual who triumphed in the face of overwhelming adversity. We tend to look upon those who give up, whatever the reasons, as losers.
I have been working on a song for a future gig. You can listen to this intriguing tune from The Script and watch the video by clicking here. The lyrics, clever, poetic and insightful, speak to me. They beg the question: When to say when. Where exactly lays that fine line between hopeless romantic and helpless fool; between determined lover and restraining order?
As children, we are taught to never give up, to persevere. Bumper stickers remind us Winners Never Quit and Quitters Never Win. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson led his team to Super Bowl victory with the simple line, “Why not us?” Literature is ripe with happy endings because of the hero’s tenancy. The Bible admonishes us to pray ceaselessly (Matthew 7:7-8), and that the Lord will reward those who are patient and persistent (Luke 11:8-10). Even the happiest place on earth was founded on the lyrics of a song sung by Jimmy Cricket: “Fairytales can come true/If you believe that they do…”
Belief and faith: two sides of the same coin. Flipping it only results in the same cliché: Hang In There Baby! Okay, but for how long? I have yet to find a crystal ball, Ouija board, Magic 8 Ball, fortune cookie, sage, soothsayer, fortuneteller, oracle, or wise old uncle that puts term limits on advice. And even if one was to surrender, to give up and forsake their noble quest, won’t they always be plagued with the unanswerable question: What if?
I suppose in some circumstances the inevitable is obvious. Most all battles have winners and losers; board games end with a clear victor; the race goes to he who finishes first, the rest are usually forgotten. But what about when it comes to matters of the heart? There is always another battle to win, another game to play; another race to run. And who says the participants can’t be the same?
If you are looking for some sort of clever ending here, some saying to take with you that yields solace on lonely nights, sorry. I’m as clueless as anyone. Perhaps if I had the answers I wouldn’t be writing this; or feeling these feelings of doubt and confusion. Robert Frost spoke so eloquently of The Road Not Taken. He made an excellent point. Unfortunately, he never told us what to do if the road chosen turns out to be a dead end.
There is another piece of bumper sticker wisdom that reads: There Is A Difference Between Giving Up and Knowing When You Have Had Enough. Perhaps I haven’t attained that higher plain yet; perhaps I never will. Prayer and personal poems; thoughts of laying an endless path of tulips along the road, to her feet, are more my speed. So for now I choose to believe in The Little Engine Who Could. I remain the hopeless romantic and foolishly hopeful… it’s who I am.
Click to listen!
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Discover the identity of the Porn Rock Couple. And find out who was at least partially responsible for all that thumping and dancing that emanated from your radio way back when. The year is 1977 and I'm on the air and on my way to Houston, Texas, and on my way to fame and fortune. With humility and a full blush, I give you another random chapter from my follow up memoir to Ice Cream Camelot, titled A Change Is Gonna Come. Please enjoy, link, like, comment and pass the love. Just don't ask... I may deny the whole thing!
Love At Work
© 2004, 2014
Her name was Julie and she possessed the legs of a goddess.
Poised behind a receptionist’s desk, her legs crossed and to one side, a glossy pink high heel dangled provocatively from a well manicured toe. I have been known to be enamored by beautiful eyes; charmed by a captivating smile, and a push over for a pretty face. For my attention to be drawn so sharply to a shapely pair of legs speaks volumes of the young woman’s charms. And charms Julie possessed in spades.
It was the fall of ’77. Elvis was dead and disco was rising. Nicole was engaged, Mom and Dad were divorcing and my sis and brother-in-law had moved their family to Syracuse. The station where I worked had been sold. And soon it would turn cold and snowy. My old nemesis change was once again having his way with me. I didn’t care. I’d long since discovered the cure for change: alcohol and apathy. Change was going to happen, especially to me. It was as sure as the dawn; inevitable as tomorrow. Staring change in the eye and spitting in his face, my best friend Bill and I packed up my restored ’56 De Soto and headed for warmer, if not greener pastures. We settled for Texas.
I had received a firm offer from a medium sized broadcasting company to join their radio staff in Houston. Bill accepted a position with Texas Instruments. His aunt and uncle live there which would give us a leg up in the area, plus a temporary home. It seemed everything was set. Except that I’d forgotten about change’s derisive side kick, irony.
The trip down was uneventful. We stopped in Joplin for a visit with my uncle and cousins. The both of us coming off of relationships, Bill and I also wanted to blow off some steam and do some partying. Joplin in the ‘70’s was a town wide open, if you knew where to look, and I had 20-20 vision. Three days later, we sobered up enough to pour ourselves into the old De Soto and head west on the Will Rogers Turnpike. A left onto I-45 and it was endless fields of bluebonnets and the heart of the Lone Star State.
We weren’t, however, the only ones on the road to Texas in 1977. The second oil crunch and its resulting recession sent literally tens of thousands of newly unemployed flocking to Texas, and Houston in particular in search of a fresh start. The locals were not happy. Blissfully ignorant of the situation, we rolled down I-45 on a warm morning in October. Somewhere north of our destination Bill switched on the car’s radio. “Let’s see if we can pick up some Houston stations,” he said, fiddling with the tuning dial.
A few minutes of static and then Willie Nelson’s unmistakable warble filled the car. “Looks like the only thing we can pick up is country,” I suggested. “That’s ok, maybe it’s a Houston station and we can catch some news.”
It was indeed a Houston station, Houston’s number one station. And it provided us with more than just the news. During a commercial break, the DJ, in full country accent and attitude, spoke of an ongoing contest. “And don’t forget the grand prize,” he proudly announced, “two all expense paid, one way tickets back to wherever you came from!”
Bill and I sat there stunned. Did we hear right? We looked at each other. Bill’s words echoed my own thoughts, “This is gonna be a fun place to live!”
Bill’s aunt and uncle were typical overfriendly, loud and brusque, albeit down to earth Texans. They welcomed us warmly into their home and did everything they could to help us make the knotty transition to southern living Texas style. Soon I was ready to meet the city and my new job head on.
My new employer was located in the top two floors of a very high downtown high-rise. It towered over the surrounding buildings in an area known for its cloud piercing glass towers. Riding up in the elevator that Monday morning wearing a tie, slacks and my gray suede jacket I suddenly felt over dressed. Noting my fellow passengers, I realized business casual in this town meant starched jeans, boots and collared shirt. Ties and jackets were optional almost everywhere, and suits were reserved for the boardroom. Stripping off my tie, I nervously stepped out of the elevator and into a posh, modern reception area decorated in Texas chic: browns, tans, grays and leather; cowboy prints and armadillos. It was down home meets tacky.
“May I help you?”
I could feel her gaze examining me. As I looked up, the owner of the fabulous legs rose from her desk. “Yes,” I answered, finding the rest of her as delicious as her legs. “I have an appointment with the station manager.”
She gave me a smile of approval, flashing blindingly white teeth through full pink painted lips. “Oh, yes, you must be Billy.” There was just a hint of cute Texas twang in her soft voice. She stepped forward holding out a slender hand, each delicate finger proudly sporting a painstakingly manicured nail in bright pink; each one a stranger to a typewriter keyboard.
Her handshake was strong and positive, warm and comfortable. She stood a full three inches taller than me in her pink heels. The simple short sleeved blue dress, cinched at the waist with a wide pink belt revealed smooth cream colored skin adorned with a gold chain and a #1 pendant. Just then the phone buzzed. Gracefully slipping back behind the desk, she lifted the receiver. Flipping aside long naturally yellow hair revealed gold Texas shaped studs piercing her delicate ears. As she spoke, her slightly turned nose twitched and wiggled like a bunny’s. It was incredibly sexy.
“I’m sorry, where were we?” she asked, returning the phone to its cradle. Piercing Mediterranean blue eyes, guarded by pencil thin arched brows, smiled at me from behind wispy bangs. I caught myself staring, and for good reason. This woman was beautiful; stunning. She had the looks of a movie star, the air of money and the grace and poise of a sophisticate. Texans had a saying for such women: high maintenance. I wondered what she was doing behind a receptionist desk. I was to find out later that in Texas nearly everyone wears two hats; even if it’s only in their own mind.
“That’s ok. I’m Billy Neblett, or Billy James, on the air anyway. I’m joining the air staff.”
She laughed, letting the formality and her business tone drop. I liked the natural drawl. “Honey, right now you are the air staff. We’ve been running on auto-pilot for a few months now. The new format is on hold.” Auto pilot…? New format…? These words are red flags to any experienced radio person. I tried to collect my thoughts. Catching my reaction she grimaced. “Uh oh, you didn’t know that, did you?”
“Actually, I don’t know much about the station. A headhunter for the company waved an indecent amount of money at me and here I am.”
At that she sighed, nodded knowingly and crossed to a filing cabinet. “Well, don’t let it throw you. Mike… Mr. Jasen, the station manager will explain it all. He’s really a very nice man with way too much on his hands. I’m sure you’ll like it here. We’ll do all we can to make you feel at home.”
I was sure she was serious.
Handing me a pack of employment documents, she deftly punched a few buttons on the complicated looking phone panel. “By the way, my name is Julie. Make yourself comfy. I’ll let Mr. Jasen know you are here.”
Mike Jasen was a large, pleasant, amicable man, six foot two and fifty years old. Like me, he had been recently and reluctantly lured to Houston. His handshake was firm, his grey eyes honest; his laugh easy and sincere. Sporting an odd mix of Brooks Brother’s suit, Tony Lama boots and a western string tie, he tried his best to fit into his new position and surroundings. For an uncomfortable moment it struck me the new format may be country. If there was one thing Houston and I had in common it was the fact that neither of us needed a new country station.
“My wife says if I buy a cowboy hat she’ll divorce me and move back to San Diego,” Mike joked, relaxing behind the oversized desk. I liked him immediately.
Unlike most managers, Mike’s background was radio, not business or sales. It made him invaluable to a station that had been left to languish in apathy for too long. He kept himself open and available to air and support staff. His first unpleasant duty had been to fire nearly everyone and institute transitional, innocuous automated programming. This station was rebuilding itself and I would be in on the ground floor.
To my surprise and dismay I learned our entire staff consisted of Mike and myself; Julie, an engineer, one salesman and one overworked intern. I was made acting music director and put in charge of fleshing out the station’s new format and identity. Julie knew everything of the station’s operations and Mike wisely kept her around after the purge. I found her to be as intelligent and professional as she was beautiful. She provided valuable insight and information during the stations formative weeks and months. Julie introduced me to Houston and helped Bill and I find an apartment.
Working late into the night, Julie and I often hit local bars to unwind. We became friends and saw a lot of each other away from work. Over Amaretto Sours at Cooter’s night club I discovered the real Julie Jo Acker. “I’m from Dumas, a dusty speck on the north Texas plains, half way between Amarillo and Oklahoma. Daddy’s a cattle rancher.”
“And what’s a small town girl doing in the big bad city?”
“Football…” She giggled and snatched the cherry from my drink. “Football is the root of everything. In Texas, football is religion. Every boy plays; every girl cheers.” The drinks were starting to take a hold of both of us. “I didn’t play football… I’m…”
“A very pretty lady…”
She giggled again and twitched her nose. “That too… My brother was the town’s high school football hero and all-state at Texas A&M. I was a cheerleader and went to Baylor.”
Not only had Julie graduated from Baylor, but that same year she placed runner up in the Miss. Texas pageant. She escaped small town boredom by taking a job in Houston. Our relationship was close but plutonic. Julie remained somewhat aloof and a bit of a mystery. For the time it was an arrangement with which we were both comfortable and we savored each other’s company.
With a target date of January first for the premier of the new format, things got crazy as December approached. Julie and I hit upon the then unusual scheme of programming twenty-four hour seasonal music for a couple of weeks before Christmas. Running the idea by Mike he off handedly quipped, “Hell, no one’s listening to us with the crap we’re airing. Why not start Thanksgiving?”
“Are you serious?” Julie asked, reflecting my feelings.
He was serious.
“Thanksgiving is Thursday, Mike. It’s Tuesday afternoon,” I reminded him.
“Ok, so what’s the problem?”
“You know better than that. You know what all is involved.” There was more than a trace of annoyance in my voice.
“Well, we do have the library,” Julie naively suggested, quickly adding, “but that is a lot of programming; a lot of work.”
“It’s your call, Billy.” Mike played his position perfectly. “You’re the music director.”
“Music director, and program director, and board operator, all acting of course… I’m surprised you don’t have me cleaning the restrooms.”
“Don’t be silly, building maintenance takes care of that.” Mike grinned. “I know, but you’ve got the intern and Julie to help. We’re what, about a month away from the new format?”
“Exactly six weeks,” Julie answered.
“Right… what this station needs is some publicity, front page stuff to get the people thinking and talking about us.” His grin broadened. “First… the new format will greet Houston one minute after mid-night New Year’s Day. I want a countdown, Auld Lang Syne, and BAM!”
I liked the idea. By morning commute back to work January second every radio would be tuned to us. We’d be water cooler conversation all across Houston. “Ok, sounds good,” I agreed.
“Second,” Mike continued, “6 AM on Thursday, Thanksgiving we go twenty-four hour, commercial free Christmas music. The few sponsors we have left can give themselves a plug while wishing listeners happy holidays. On the 26th we change music again for a week, followed by the hits of 1977 all day New Year’s Eve. That ought to get us some attention.”
Yeah, I thought, but what kind?
Mike looked at the two of us. “What are your plans for Thanksgiving?”
“Nothing, really,” I replied, suspicious of the question.
“I’m not going home until Christmas,” Julie added.
Mike slapped the desk. “Perfect… you two pull this off and I’ll buy you Thanksgiving dinner at the Four Seasons.”
“Make it the Houstonian and you’ve got a deal,” Julie smugly countered.
“Ok, deal! And Billy, Julie, make it good. The station needs the attention.”
Julie spent Tuesday afternoon pulling all of the station’s Christmas music, while I busied myself writing up drop-ins and jingles. We corralled everyone we could, the salesman, sponsors, a couple of custodians, even some giddy bank employees from downstairs to get as many different voices as possible, and ran them through the production studio. That evening we worked past mid-night editing promos and holiday wishes, and re-dubbing old station jingles. That out of the way, our plan was to do a marathon the day before Thanksgiving and get as much music recorded and into the system as humanly possible.
By nine thirty Wednesday night Julie and I sat on the floor of production studio one surrounded by mountains of records and tapes. Mike stuck his head in and looked around, “Anybody home?”
I peeked over a stack of 45’s. “We’re here, I think. Right now I’m so exhausted I’m not real sure of anything.”
“You guys need a break,” Mike said, setting an oversized pizza box on the counter. “Here, I brought food, from Mario’s. Oh, by the way, tomorrow night, the Houstonian, 6:45, you two… I’ll be dining with the family.”
“Just be sure your gold card is there,” Julie called out, but Mike was gone.
I fetched us something to drink from my office. Walking back, Julie pulled me into the main on air studio. “I thought this would be nicer,” she said.
The studio was large and modern, newly redecorated with plush carpeting and sound proofing. One entire wall consisted of floor to ceiling windows, giving the room a breathtaking view of the city skyline and the Astrodome. Julie dimmed the lights, found an old blanket with the station’s call letters on it, and fashioned us a make shift picnic on the floor by the window. We dined on pepperoni and extra cheese pizza and wine coolers, with Houston at our feet.
Biting into a pizza bone, Julie shot me a curious look. “Why haven’t you made a move on me yet?” she asked matter of fact.
I was dumfounded. Thinking, I realized it was a good question. “That’s a good question. I don’t know.”
“Daddy says Yankees are slow,” she teased, “but my gracious. It’s not like you haven’t had the chances.”
She was right. Since meeting we’d spent nearly every day working side by side. We became friends. We went out together several times on unofficial dates. Julie lay on her side on the blanket with one leg propped up, her head resting in a slender palm supported by her elbow. From behind, the lights of the city cast a flaxen glow on her hair which was loose and fallen.
Suddenly she sat upright. “I guess Daddy was right!” She smiled and pulled her Baylor sweatshirt up over her head and off. Tossing it aside, she quickly unhooked and wiggled out of her pink bra. Freed from their restraints, her breasts stood out large and firm, her nipples erect. Watching, I became instantly turned on.
“Oh, you like that, huh?” Giving her body an enticing shake, Julie stood and unzipped her jeans. Turning her back to me, she seductively eased out of the tight fitting denims. She stood in front of the large window clad only in skimpy pink panties.
I needed no further encouragement.
We lay curled together on the blanket, the sun’s rays warming our naked bodies. Julie stirred luxuriantly and let out a long, low sigh. “I feel wonderful,” she purred. “I haven’t slept like that in ages.” She giggled girlishly, moving her face close to mine. “That’s probably because I haven’t screwed like that in ages.” Her hand ran across my body and we kissed.
“Why do I have the feeling I’ve opened a can of worms here?”
“More like Pandora’s Box, lover… I was exhausted last night. Just wait till I’m at full strength.” The thought was at once intriguing and scary. “Mmm… the sun feels so nice. What time is it?” she asked, her head resting on my chest.
I glanced up at the large wall clock. “Just seven…”
“Damn!” we both said in unison, looking at each other and then the control console.
Julie jumped up first. “You stay where you are, sweetie. I’m not done with you yet. I’ll be right back.”
As I watched, Julie padded naked across the studio to the control board. She skillfully flipped a couple of switches and made several adjustments to the on air controls. “Humm, naked radio… now there’s a format we need to explore.”
Julie looked up from her work. “I like the way you think.”
A legal ID followed by a jingle about being the first to wish Houston listeners a Merry Christmas poured from the studio air speakers. It was instantly followed by the opening crescendo of Phil Spector’s production masterpiece. Darlene Love began to plead, Christmas, Baby Please Come Home. The station was now twenty-four hour holiday music.
“Very nice,” I called out as Julie danced her way back to me. “Perfect segue, and only an hour late.”
She knelt down, swinging a shapely leg over me, straddling my body. “Thank you,” she said, wiggling on top of me, “so, where is my reward?”
As my hands touched her and our bodies came together, the room grew dim. We both turned to the window. The sight froze me in place.
Just outside the building, suspended in mid-air floated the Good Year Blimp. It hovered silently, level with our floor. Three faces were pressed against the windows of the pilot’s gondola. “Oh…” Julie chimed. Still straddling me, she flashed the peeping aviators a big smile and waved. I was certain I saw at least on happy figure return her friendly gesture. Several embarrassing moments later, the mammoth air ship moved stealthily away and the studio was once again bathed in sunlight.
I tried to speak. For the first time in my life was struck mute. Julie laughed out loud. “What’s wrong, lover, never see a blimp before?”
Slowly regaining my composure, I motioned towards the window. “But… the… they…”
“Oh, don’t worry. They do that all the time, floating around, peeking into office windows.” She leaned down, kissing me wildly.
Instantly the blimp was forgotten.
I awoke exhausted, spent, drained and with an incessant ringing in my head. A naked body began to stir next to me. It was Julie. She rolled over in the bed half on top of me, her soft hand moving across my stomach. “Oh, what are you trying to do… kill me?” I managed through a parched mouth.
She brushed a fold of golden locks from her sleepy eyes. “Relax, sweetie, it’s just the phone.” Reaching over she kissed my lips, “Besides, can you think of a better way to go?” Retrieving the hand set, Julie rolled back over, the long coiled cord stretching across my chest.
Blinking the sleep from my eyes and looking around I finally realized we were in Julie’s bedroom. The flowered pink comforter; the pale pink walls; the rose pink curtains; the dark pink rug, and the bright pink princess phone were a dead giveaway.
We had finally dressed and left the radio station some time after noon on Thanksgiving. Managing a couple of hours sleep, I showered, shaved and dressed in my black suit, black bow tie, white dinner jacket and a splash of Aqua di Silva. Like most things at the Houstonian, Thanksgiving was a formal affair. But while I was still feeling the effects of marathon sex, Julie looked amazing. Her hair was perfectly pinned and she was fresh and striking in a shimmering full length pink gown that hugged every curve of her incredible body. Making our dinner call with time to spare, we turned more than a few heads in the main dining room. Or maybe it was Julie’s deep plunging neck line. After an endless feast of food and drink, we strolled around Transco Tower’s alluring park and fountain.
It didn’t take much convincing for me to spend the night.
“Ok… yeah… he’s here…” From what I could make out Julie was having a hard time with whoever was on the phone. She turned, handing me the receiver, “Here, see if you can do something with him.”
“Mike, I think, he’s laughing so hard I can hardly make out what he’s saying.”
I propped myself up and took the phone. Julie slipped into a hot pink robe and left the room. She was right. Mike Jasen’s hardy laugh came through clear and loud. All I could get out of him was something about the newspaper. As I hung up, Julie returned. Now she too was laughing hysterically. Snatching up tissues to wipe the tear streaked mascara she sat on the edge of the bed, dropping a copy of the Houston Chronicle in my lap. It was open to Friday’s dining section. A sharp clear picture of a handsome, well attired couple having dinner graced the bottom of the page. The caption read:
Houston newcomer, radio Program Director Billy James and companion
Julie Jo Acker, Station Executive Assistant, celebrated their promotions
while enjoying the Thanksgiving fare last evening at the Houstonian Club.
I looked at Julie. She was still racked with fits of laughter. Sitting up in the bed I re-read the caption and gave the picture of the two of us a closer look. Ok, so Mike had set us up. What was the big deal? Julie continued to laugh and dab at her eyes. What was so funny? I didn’t get it.
“I don’t get it,” I said, giving Julie a perplexed look. Through her laughter she managed to hand me a copy of the Houston City Paper. There, in the corner of the page in the entertainment section, was a small, grainy photo of two naked bodies, the female straddling the male on what was obviously the floor of an air studio. The station’s call letters and logo were clearly emblazoned across the blanket the amorous couple shared. The headline above boldly proclaimed: Porn-Rock New Format?
Julie almost rolled off the bed in hysterics. I felt the bed, and the room, and my career crashing in on top of me. Seeing my reaction, Julie managed to compose herself somewhat. “What’s wrong, lover,” she asked, smiling and swallowing more laughter, “never see a blimp before?”
“What’s the matter? Look…!” I held up the paper.
“Yeah,” she said, shaking her head, still grinning, “it’s a shame it’s so grainy, isn’t it?”
I nervously examined the photo. She was right. While the station’s call letters could easily be made out, the figures were unidentifiable. Wild strands of blonde hair covered Julie’s pretty profile. Her hand and arm obscured my upturn face.
Julie was downright proud of her sudden, albeit anonymous fame. It was all I could do to keep her from calling a press conference to announce she was the Porn Rock Girl. Mike and I agreed a more subtle approach was best. Let the city wonder and speculate. Julie bought up a dozen copies of the edition for family back in Dumas. I made a mental note to do my best to avoid meeting any of her kin.
We decided to lay low for the weekend, least anyone start putting two and two together. Hanging out at Julie’s apartment was a mixed blessing, given her appetite for sex. She was insatiable. On Saturday night, to alleviate some cabin fever, and give my sore body a rest, we joined Mike and his wife for dinner at a small family run Mexican restaurant on Houston’s near north side. With flawless Spanish, Julie ordered us a satisfying spread of pozole, tamales, black beans and rice, pico de gallo and mole poblano. In faltering Spanish, I gave the bemused bartender a quick lesson on mixing Cactus Flower Margaritas. Over desert of camote and frozen ice cream, Mike confessed. After securing dinner reservations through one of our sponsors, he alerted the Chronicle. The paper dispatched a staff photographer to the exclusive inn.
The blimp, however, was an ironic coincidence. It was on its way to cover the city’s Thanksgiving Day festivities. It just happened to be carrying a free lance photographer. Any way you sliced it, the station was getting the attention Mike wanted. We were the talk of the town.
December blew by, taken up with getting the new format ready. Julie and I stole away to Galveston Island for a couple of days then she was off to Dumas and family for the holidays. Houston became a ghost town. It was amazing how many people from the rest of the country migrated here. And they all went home for the holidays. Even my friend Bill deserted me to be with his mom on Christmas. Somebody had to babysit the station. That somebody was me.
I sat in the darken air studio Christmas Eve, sipping rum spiced eggnog and looking out on the city. It was 8:40 PM and 81 degrees outside. I wondered what the Astrodome would look like covered with snow. I really didn’t mind too much being there. Being single with nothing else to do and no place to go, I was accustomed to working weekends and holidays, giving the married guys time with their families. It was just part of the job.
“Now how did I know I’d find you here?”
I recognized the soft, well trained voice of Misty, the station’s intern. She smiled and stepped into the room. From behind her back she produced a giant chocolate muffin with a single lit candle. Holding up a finger, I caught her just in time. “If you sing Happy Birthday you’re fired.”
“Fired from what? I work eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, and don’t get paid… including holidays I might add.”
Misty was barely 18 years old and had been interning since her junior year in high school. Upon graduation, she postponed plans for college to spend every waking minute here at the station. She lived, breathed, ate and slept radio. All she wanted was to be a DJ. She reminded me a lot of myself. She presented me with the thoughtful, makeshift birthday cake. I paused for a moment then blew out the candle. Her kiss to my cheek seemed curiously more than friendly. “Merry Birthday, Boss,” she said taking a stool next to me at the console, “Merry Birthday and Happy Christmas.”
We sat in silence for a while, watching the Houston night. The deep mellow voice of Bill Pinkney flowed from the studio air speakers as the Drifters began to dream of a White Christmas. Misty smiled, reached over and bumped up the volume a notch then relaxed back in the stool, her eyes closed.
“You know what I wish?” I asked as the music changed.
“Shhh…” Misty touched my arm gently, “you won’t get your wish if you tell.”
I looked over. She sat with her feet drawn up, her arms wrapped around her knees, head back and eyes closed, quietly singing along with Karen Carpenter. Tiny Christmas ornaments dangled from her pierced ears. Misty was a beautiful girl with dirty blonde hair and questioning hazel eyes that sparkled when she smiled. She also possessed a strong, steady melodic voice and a natural talent for radio. A mischievous grin crossed her face. “So, this is where you and Julie did it.”
I could feel my cheeks reddening. “What?”
“C’mon, everyone knows it was you two. It’s the best known secret in Houston, probably all of Texas by now.”
Straightening in her stool, Misty turned to me still grinning. “Easy, Boss,” she said, making an overt motion of checking me out. “I can’t say I blame her.”
“Yeah, well, thanks for the compliment,” I replied fully a blush. “But I’ll choose to believe my fantasy that no one knows.” I gave her my best suspicious look. “And you young lady, what am I going to do with you? How can I be sure you won’t tell?” Misty’s expression changed. She wasn’t sure if I was serious. “Well, I’ll think of something.” I pointed to a stack of papers on the end of the console. “Hand me that air shift schedule, please.”
“Air shift… we don’t even have any DJ’s!” She looked at me puzzled and reached for the schedule neatly laid out on stationary proclaiming the station’s new logo and call letters. Her eyes grew wide and her face lit up like the New Year’s Eve ball. “Yahoo! Oh my God… oh my God!” She jumped out of the stool. “Yes… yes, yes, yes!” Stopping long enough to catch her breath, she looked at me. “You’re not kidding, right? Tell me this isn’t a joke, please!”
“It’s no joke. The new format starts the first and the station can’t function without DJ’s.”
“Yes… but daytime… 10 AM to 2 PM… full time?”
“It’ll be just you and me Kid for a while.”
“Oh my God…” One moment Misty looked as if she would explode; the next like she might cry. She hugged me tightly. “Thank you, Boss, oh, thank you. I won’t let you down.”
“I know you won’t. That’s why you got the job. That is if you want it,” I teased.
She kissed me again and hugged me even tighter. And she started to cry. “Thank you, Boss.”
I held her, kissing her forehead. “Merry Christmas, Kid, now go on and get out of here. I’ll see you bright and early on the twenty sixth. We still have a lot of work to do before the first.”
Still clutching the schedule, Misty wiped a tear with her sleeve. “Can I…?”
“Go on, take it; frame it. You earned it.”
She squealed again like a little girl and rushed out of the studio.
Watching Misty’s reaction that night was the best birthday or Christmas present I could have received. The years to come would prove my faith and belief in the shy girl who wanted to be a DJ were well founded.
I finished off the eggnog and poured myself a tall glass of straight rum.
The new format made its debut right on schedule. By January second every school lunch room and business office buzzed with talk of Houston’s new disco station. With a blitz advertising campaign, club tie inns, and word of mouth we had the city humming a disco beat. We were written up in newspapers and Billboard magazine. Soon we were the #3 station in the market, assuring my position with corporate.
Once over the hump, the station’s popularity thrust me into the forefront in Houston’s frantic dance club scene. What little free time I had was divided between my strained relationship with Julie and work as a guest DJ. Julie, too, found herself being pulled in different directions. As the station settled into some semblance of routine, she became restless. A couple of months slipped by and Julie accepted a lucrative position with a local law firm, saying good bye to radio forever. Conflicting schedules sounded a death knell to our relationship and it wasn’t long before we regrettably lost touch.
I took consolation exploring the other side of Houston’s night life, its gentlemen clubs.