Monday, March 07, 2011

WFMU Marathon weeks

I have 220 Facebook friends, a manageable amount. Nearly all of them I at least knew of before I joined Facebook; that is, few of them were completely unknown to me. More than half are either WFMU DJs, former DJs, listeners, or people with some connection past or present to the station. For two weeks every year, every WFMU Marathon fundraiser promo posted by the station or a DJ is picked up & shared by dozens of others with all their friends. So in order to get at a few hours of personal posts & news items in my feed, I have to scroll down the page & individually "hide" the WFMU shares clogging it up. I don't want to hide the friends posting them. I make a modest general contribution to the station; I don't pledge the shows of individual DJs & probably wouldn't even if I could afford to spread a lot of money around. I'm ineligible for prize drawings, & all phone pledges have to be written on pledge cards &  inputted. Anyway, the last Marathon where I made individual pledges, I lost track & was shocked when the bill arrived.  Those $15 ones added up to an amount I couldn't honor in full.  WFMU DJs routinely  call in small pledges to other DJs as a token of support when shows are struggling to get the phones ringing.

As one of the worse  pitchmakers in the history of WFMU, my Marathon shows were rescued time & again by my fellow DJs. I imagined them listening & wondering, "How can a guy who talks so much on-the-air go so tongue-tied during the Marathon?" It was a mystery. I could pull together coherent monologues from a few sentences jotted on scrap paper, but went blank with a printed list of 100 reasons to pledge in front of me.  Other DJs who hardly said anything beyond announcing their setlists  became  articulate, convincing salespeople at Marathon time.  Put me in the second chair in the phone room as a co-host & I was an affable, relaxed, well-organized sidekick.

One Marathon, a long time ago, with the phones dead & panic creeping up my spine, my phone room co-host & I traded seats as a goof.  "I'll be you & you be me." I forget who it was - it was his idea - but by ceding my studio chair to him we generated a 15 minute flurry of pledges before the novelty wore off.

Now, there's a WFMU host who raises $80,000 during a single shift. Great for him, great for WFMU.  But it's an obscene amount of money to me, as I remember my struggles year after year to justify in dollars & cents my presence on the station. I couldn't allow myself think like that &  survived at WFMU even back in East Orange. You have to believe in what you do there enough to let yourself be subsidized.


I have many good memories of the WFMU Marathon. When I was unemployed (and later, employed), I used to cook for the volunteers. Even my Mom chipped in and whipped up some tasty dishes. I loved staffing the phones at 9 a.m. so I could clean up over the delicious plates of lox and bagels left by the JM in the AM crew.
I remember hanging out with the keg in the front hallway of the former WFMU HQ in E. Orange to close out the Marathon.
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