Shortly after I arrived in Atlantic City to begin my 13-year run as general manager of WIIN/WFPG, I would be interviewed by Atlantic City Magazine about some of the changes I was making at the radio stations.
WIIN was a news station with a five person news staff, a full-time sports director, even a plane in the sky over the South Jersey Shore doing traffic reports in season. WFPG was the iconic Bonneville Beautiful Music formatted radio station with an hour I.D. that many remember for the sound of ocean waves, sea gulls and buoy bells. During my interview with the magazine I was asked about Pinky and his WOND radio show Pinky’s Corner, to which I replied something to the effect that he wasn’t on my radar and what he did made no difference on my operation; basically a one-liner in a much longer story on South Jersey radio.
By the time I arrived in South Jersey Pinky had been doing his radio show longer than I had been sucking up oxygen as part of the human race.
Sunday morning November 1st I woke up to the news that Pinky had passed away Saturday night at the age of 88. He had retired only earlier this year after heart surgery in May had caused Pinky to call in sick for the first time in his 57-year radio work history.
I have so many memories of Pinky.
As a competitor I remember calling on advertisers that told me they bought ads in Pinky’s show so he would never say anything negative about them. Hard to argue with that reason. I remember Pinky broadcasting his radio show by the cash registers as I was checking out with my groceries at the supermarket. I remember the time when Pinky was without a remote location sponsor to do his show from, so he took the latest technology – a bag phone – and hopped in the back of Atlantic City police cars and did his radio broadcast live on patrol, the kind of thing that COPS does on TV.
My radio career would take me to the Midwest and one day my office phone would ring and it would be Howard Green, the owner of WOND, home of Pinky’s Corner. Howard said to me “Dick Taylor, what would it take for me to get you back to Atlantic City and working for me?” I said, “Make me an offer.” He did. I took it. I returned to Atlantic City.
Because Pinky always did his radio show from a remote location, he was usually never in the radio station broadcast center. One day, I saw Pinky walking towards my 3rd floor corner office. I said “Hi Pinky,” to which Pinky said “I have no confidence your ability to manage this radio station,” then turned around left. It’s always nice to receive that kind of positive encouragement from your team when you start a new job.
I would learn those words were due to that Atlantic City magazine article of over a decade earlier. Pinky had an incredible memory. He remembered everything. He even did his radio commercials from memory for his clients who sponsored Pinky’s Corner.
When we were approaching Pinky’s 45th year on-the-air, I conspired with his remote sponsor to throw a big 45th anniversary celebration surprise party during his live radio show. The casino folks agreed and it was a surprise that I’m sure Pinky never expected to have occurred on my watch.
Another thing I remember about Pinky was that during my time as the WOND manager, Pinky wouldn’t say the call letters or the frequency of the radio station. No matter how I cajoled Pinky he would not change his ways. I commissioned a research study of the people who listened to Pinky’s Corner and found that 60% of the people who listened to Pinky every day did not know the call letters of the radio station his show was broadcast over. But I still couldn’t change Pinky’s mind.
Frustrated I went to the company owner, Howard Green, and asked for advice. Howard’s response was priceless. “Don’t ask me” he said. “Pinky one time had t-shirts made up with his picture drawn on them and the words ‘Listen to Pinky’s Corner’.” Howard said when he saw them he said to Pinky “Pinky, you didn’t put the call letters or the frequency of the radio station on your t-shirts.” To which Pinky replied “and you didn’t pay for the t-shirts.”
Since Atlantic City uses unaided diary recall I decided to put the WOND call letters in every station break and between every commercial during Pinky’s Corner I could squeeze them into. Then Howard Green became ill while on an ocean cruise, lapsed into a coma and died. The next day I turned on Pinky’s Corner to hear what Pinky would say about his friend and employer of over four decades and what struck me most was that Pinky was saying the station call letters everywhere. And that would continue from that point forward. I guess I’ll never know the reason why that change occurred.
I’m happy to say that Pinky and I became friends, who respected one another’s abilities and love of the radio business. I always enjoyed seeing him on my annual trips back to Atlantic City for the New Jersey Broadcasters Association conventions.
For so many people in South Jersey, they don’t remember a time when Pinky wasn’t on their radio. He truly was one-of-a-kind.
Thank You Pinky for making WOND, like the slogan said, “Radio You Can Depend On.”