Thanks to John Lee, who was part of the superb technical crew that worked on the movie, I’ve learned that “Toxic Zombies,” a.k.a. “Bloodeaters,” a.k.a. “Forest of Fear,” a.k.a. Il ritorno degli zombi,, in which I play a small part, is one of 2,700 movies on VHS tape acquired by Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library, according to this Yale Daily News story. The story mentions “Toxic Zombies” at the outset, evidently because of its gory title–also mentioned are “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and “Buried Alive”–but without mention (until my comment below the story) that its writer, producer, director, and star was a Yale Law School alumnus, my late friend (he was in his office on the 100th floor of One World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001) Charlie McCrann. You can read more about the making of “Toxic Zombies,” and find links to a trailer and some reviews, here.
The studio light would blink. I’d answer the phone, expecting a buzzed request for Metallica or Aerosmith. “KDDX, this is Dan.”
“Dan. This is Diamond. Tighten the fuck up!” Click.
In a radio studio the phone never rings, but the light is always blinking. Nighttime radio is great. Broadcasting from the Black Hills of Western South Dakota a 100 thousand watt FM signal travels across five states of prairie towns, military bases, and truck stops. Thousands of people all dial in to the same chatter of music, local low-budget ads, fast jokes, and rock ‘n’ roll. The listeners talk back to the radio. The phone rings and the studio light blinks.
I used to work the afternoon drive at a big rock station in the Black Hills region. It’s a small but fun radio market, and we were a highly-rated station. When the drive time shift ended I would stick around on-air as I recorded my evening voice track recording for the weekend hours. Punching the ‘on-air’ button is a lot of fun regardless of market size, and our station had a big and rowdy audience. Answering the phone at X-Rock station was frequently an adventure. Sometimes the caller just wanted to hear that one Alice in Chains song. Again. And sometimes the listener was roaring backstage at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Talking up and down the ramp of Walk This Way is fun every time, though, and with a big audience it’s easy to get a little cocky on-air. I turned up the studio monitors, glance at the music and production list, cut an ad, punched a talk set, and repeated the cycle through the hot-clock. The station light blinked. I had just cut the air and was expecting to get a buzzed request for Metallica or Aerosmith.
The light blinked. I answered.
“KDDX, this is Dan.”
“Dan. This is Diamond.”
“Hey Diamond, thanks for-”
“I’ve been taping your show all night. Tighten the fuck up!”
In 1967, Diamond was one of the first disc jockeys to play “Light My Fire” by The Doors, then a largely unknown L.A. band, and he connected listeners to The Seeds, Iron Butterfly, Love, Linda Ronstadt and other acts who at the time could not find airplay.
Through his Black Hills Music publishing company, the South Dakota native was the publisher of “Incense and Peppermints,” the psychedelic pop hit from The Strawberry Alarm Clock that reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in May 1967.
Named one of “America’s Early Radio Idols” by Billboard, Diamond was one of the few radio reporters to tour with The Beatles during their first trip to America.
And on a 1967 edition of The Dating Game, Diamond was one of the three bachelors attempting to woo actress Yvonne Craig (TV’s Batgirl.)
Diamond was an academic and a rock ‘n’ roll radio jock. His influence was both personal and vast. “Tighten the fuck up” is the closest I can come to a story that properly (impossibly) summarizes the personal impact of a guy who also influenced thousands listeners and students. I’m willing to be that a lot of Diamond’s friends and family have similar stories and feel the same way about their relationship with him.
“Tighten the fuck up” became a mantra that was always coupled with a productive and inspiring session of granular critiques. Always tough, never negative Diamond expected work to be good, rehearsed, and repeatable. This value was one many Diamond’s Laws to Live By to which he attributed his personal and professional success.
Here’s one of my favorite Diamond’s Laws to Live By:
Life is short. It can be snatched from you instantly … that is why we must do our best to do good, to love, and not waste too much time! Time bleeds!
Of course, Diamond taught more than just the value of practice and hard work. From him I learned a ton of practical lessons about the media industry, the history of rock ‘n’ roll, and his home, the Black Hills. Diamond helped coach me through the process of running a radio station, starting a business, and managing people. Sure, Diamond was a successful guy and taught a lot of lessons. The practical lessons, however, were always coupled with his consistent reminders about healthy and smart living.
Be a good person. Do the right thing. But don’t take no shit from fools.
I was fortunate to be one of many young people Diamond mentored. As a great DJ, one of Diamond’s many skills was his ability to develop intimate and sincere relationships with a diverse and large group of people. His method was hands on, cerebral, and personal. Diamond’s friends and students now work in media across the country. And with the success of his friends comes the inherent dissemination of Diamond’s values and creativity.
As he was in life and on-air, with his passing Diamond remains a broadcaster. His values are the transmitter, and the people he taught are the signal.
Turn up the radio. Thanks for listening. Break on though.
Here’s Diamond during the final hour of Burbank’s KBLA rock program:
From the Web
Jack and Dan discuss a brief history of hacking, explain how the NSA captured personal user data from major internet providers, and provide a few essential security tips for the web and mobile on Minnesota’s progressive talk station, AM 950.
Filed under: Audio, Blog, Culture, Episode, Friends, Interviews, Media, News and Politics, News/Commentary, Podcast, Politics, Radio, Regular, Reporting, Tech, Technology Tagged: AM 950, Dan Patterson, Episode, Glenn Greenwald, Hackers, Hacking, Jack Rice, NSA, Podcast, Radio, Snowden, Technology
From the Web
I got to know Larry Kirwan back in 1978, when he and Pierce Turner, as Turner & Kirwan of Wexford, were the house band at the Bells of Hell, one of the two greatest bars (can you guess the other one?) that ever were in New York. The Bells closed in 1979, and Larry and Pierce continued on for a while, making a move into electronica and disco as the Major Thinkers, then each went his own way. For a while, Larry concentrated on his other talent, writing, and produced a play called Liverpool Fantasy, based on the question: What would the world be like if the Beatles never made it? (Larry has since expanded it into a novel.) Then, in the late 1980s, Larry got together with some other superb musicians and formed Black 47, a band that I love despite having once tongue-in-cheekedly described them as “traditional Irish hip-hop thrash metal punk” or something similar. In the video above, they do my favorite of their songs, one about the 1916 Easter Rising, “James Connolly”:
My name is James Connolly, I didn’t come here to die,
But to fight for the rights of the working man, the small farmer too,
Protect the proletariat from the bosses and their screws,
So hold on to your rifles, boys, and don’t give up your dream,
Of a republic for the working class, economic liberty!
I’ve posted before about my visit to Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, where the surviving sixteen leaders of the 1916 Rising were taken and shot; the wounded Connolly having been tied to a chair to face the firing squad.
Larry has now sent word that, a little over one year from now, on the 25th anniversary of their first gig, Black 47 will disband. As their website notes:
There are no fights, differences over musical policy, or general skulduggery, we remain as good friends as when we first played together. We just have a simple wish to finish up at the top our game after 25 years of relentless touring and, as always, on our own terms.
In their remaining year, they’ll continue to tour, and are working on one final album, Last Call. I will get a copy, and attend as many of their gigs as I can. I’ll report more here from time to time.