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dr. joy browne

Seconds after midnight, January 1, 1993.

I’m six weeks into my radio career and I’m subbing as the board-op on Dr. Joy Browne’s national feed. It’s a best of. After all, it’s New Year’s Eve. I’ve worked on the show for maybe three weeks, watching the main guy, running an hour or two of the live show, but on this night I’m in the studio by myself.

The hotline rings. It’s Joy. She’s called to thank me for taking care of the show and to wish me a Happy New Year.  I’m just some random kid that’s worked on the show, sort-of, for three weeks.  I never forgot that call.

….

If you’re stumbling across this because you googled Dr. Joy Browne or someone shared it with you, I was Joy’s producer for 7 years.  I found the news of her passing quite stunning and just stared typing.  What you’re reading is a bunch of random memories.  A little therapy, a little behind the scenes.  Joy was a friend, a mentor, and part of my life for some very happy moments and some very sad moments.  She will truly be missed.

Monday, August 31, 1998.

My mother starts getting calls from her friends.  Joy was talking about my wedding which had been two days earlier.  Joy goes on and on about how great the wedding was, with exquisite detail.

We had recorded that weeks earlier.  In those days we would freshen up the reruns with new opens.  I’d edit the shows to make them not-dated, and move the hours around so that if something had originally aired at say 11am eastern, I’d rerun it in the 9am hour with a new open.  Maybe the show wasn’t new but it might be new to you.  Joy had moved her traditional end of August vacation to align with my honeymoon, so we were on tape, and she had pre-reviewed the wedding.  Apparently it was great!

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

When Joy was off I used to edit the next set of best-ofs.  Gotta stay ahead.  She was off that morning and I was sitting in the editing bay when I noticed the twin towers were on fire.  You know the rest of that story.

In the subsequent days we had shows to do.  It was a weird time doing national radio, not just on Joy’s show but on all the shows.  It seemed like the further you were away from New York City that the less 9/11 was on your daily mind.  So we had to somehow mix in calls from folks directly affected by 9/11 with other folks calling in about their sex life or kids doing homework.

May 15, 1998 

A friend reminded me of this one.  Seinfeld had aired it’s last episode the night before.  Sinatra had died on that same day.  Joy had done some sort of monologue about the two, and some woman called in to complain about it, how dare we compare Seinfeld to Sinatra.  This being radio and radio being entertainment, I put it on even though it wasn’t really what we were supposed to be doing.  What was great about the caller is that she sounded just like George Costanza’s mother, which made the call seem all that much sillier.

My return

I left the show in 2002 to take a program director job.  A year later that new station was out of money and I was unemployed.  So I visited WOR.  Scott Lakefield had succeeded me as both Joy’s producer and as Assistant PD.  A shooting had happened near City Hall, and Scott needed to go deal with the breaking news.  I see him looking around for someone to take over for him producing Joy, but there’s no producer around.  So I say, “Well, I do know how to do it.”  So Scott gets up, I jump back in my old chair and start producing the show.  Joy looks up from the other side of the glass and sees I’m somehow randomly back.  Nice moment.

Sex Friday

Our long time engineer Al Randall enjoyed the sex calls. So did Joy’s twenty-something producer.  When I first took over the show there was some absurd rule where we couldn’t talk about sex on the show until 9:30 or something, and heaven forbid someone mention a specific type of sex.  Over time we ignored the rule, and I’d lead off the show with a sex call any time I had one to lead off with.

Along the way we started doing “Sex Friday.”  It was never mentioned on air, but I’d screen the sex calls in at a heavier rotation, and screen the “my kid won’t do his homework” calls out for another day.  Joy was always game and went along with her immature staff.  We were also winning in the local talk show ratings war so I guess it worked.

Eventually Joy wanted to do Elvis Friday.   Joy loved Elvis.  She asked if we could do Elvis music bumpers.  Sure thing Joy!

So along comes Friday and we come back from break with….Elvis Costello.  We then played any Elvis we could think of eventually landing on the great Vietnamese singer Elvis Phuong.

Chocolate, Chicken, and other random stuff

Joy loved chocolate.  She loved her birthday.  She loved for you to remember her birthday.  Like really really loved for you to remember her birthday.  Chocolate was a good gift.

As for chicken, one of the great battles was getting Joy to do live read commercials.  She didn’t want to do them to avoid any sort of percieved conflict of interest with her clinical practice.  I particularly remember arguing about an ad for Pathmark.  “Just read it.  You’re not endorsing chicken, you are just factually sharing that chicken is on sale at Pathmark this week.”  She wouldn’t do it.

She had a cool phone number.  It spelled out two words.  (As an example, it could have been CAR-DOVE.  It wasn’t those two words, but two words like that).  You never forgot her number.

Joy enjoyed joking about her age.  When I was 20 Joy was 40.  When I was 40, Joy was 39.  At one point her daughter and I were the same age, I think I was eventually older than Joy (I’m 46.)

Speaking of age, one time, Stanley called in.  Stanley was 99 and had some problem about a friendship.  A ninety-nine year old caller on the air!  And Stanley was great.  His goal was to make it to 2000, if I recall he was born in 1898, so that he could live in three centuries.  We asked Stanley to keep in touch, and he did, and he did get his third century.  By that point he was in his 100’s and the call screening software couldn’t handle it – so he went in as 99.  Sorry database.

She loved her movies.  Oh she loved her movies.  Many a programmer tried to get her to stop doing the Friday movie reviews, but she loved her movies.  I was especially thankful when she got me into an early screening of the new Star Wars movie.  Oh sure it turned out to be The Phantom Menace that we all know and don’t love – but holy cow, Joy got me in to see the new Star Wars movie early!  A few Star Treks too.  And Apollo 13.  And a bunch more.

If you only knew Joy through the radio you still knew Joy.  That wasn’t an act.  Oh sure. maybe somewhere in the thousands of calls we took when I was her producer she might have rolled her eyes at an under-prepped caller who was rambling – more upset at her producer than the caller- but she was there to help people.  The advice off the air was the same as on the air.

Mercury Retrograde

It’s funny how the universe sends you signals.  It’s August 30th and I only learned of Joy’s passing today.  Joy would often talk about Mercury going retrograde.  That’s when the weird stuff happens.

I decided to google “when does Mercury go retrograde.”

It went retrograde today.

 

 

 

 

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