The Sacramento Radio DJs, Or, What Will With Any Luck Be The Immediate End To An Era

GateHouse — When mass-market FM radio dies in the next few years, its least-mourned casualty will be the morning radio DJ.

A mutant leftover from the glory days of radio, which were in the 1940s, the morning drive-time DJ is a weird and curious relic, a fiftysomething with a name like Boomer or Robbie Boner or Mancow and a reliance on public-intercourse jokes irrational enough as to suggest some sort of thyroid condition. Their specialties were low-rent song parodies and astonishingly lengthy bits in which listeners call in to discuss their boobies. Many sound effects are used. Sometimes they decide to get political, which is really, really funny, in that garish self-important twerp kind of way.

It should be noted that this has been the case for about 30 years before last week, when hosts of Sacramento station KDND’s “Morning Rave,” engaged in an on-air water-drinking contest, an aggressively unfunny idea that becomes even more unimaginable when you think of how many grown-ups had to implicitly OK it. It also should be noted that writing anything regarding morning-radio DJs will, by definition, not be funny, but the following story boasts the garish extra-mortifying chapter in which the mother of three dies.

The contest was called “Hold your wee for a Wii,” and seriously, by radio-DJ standards, that kind of pun is erudite-bordering-on-Thomas-Pynchon. The idea: You drink water and don’t go to the bathroom. Whoever does it longest wins. It would be nice here to go off on a lengthy tangent about what these people are paid, but I’d probably just end up beating myself in the head with a baseball bat.

Anyway, you can see where this is going – the woman, 28-year-old Jennifer Lea Strange, died after participating in the contest. Investigators are investigating, but the Sacramento County coroner said preliminary findings indicated water intoxication, which is sort of like saying that the cops called to Kurt Cobain’s house initially suspected the warm shotgun.

According to news reports, consuming large quantities of water quickly can throw off the body’s natural balance of electrolytes, causing potential brain swelling, seizures, coma and death.

One caller phoned into the show arguing that excessive water consumption was potentially dangerous, but Wingnut and Horsepants blew her off.

“I want to say that those people drinking all that water can get sick and die from water intoxication,” said the caller.

“Yeah, we’re aware of that,” replied a DJ, according to CBS news station KOVR-TV. “They signed releases so we’re not responsible, OK?”

For increased wackiness, check out the online recording of the show, where the DJs are heard talking about deaths from water intoxication, and one mentions that maybe they should have done some research.

For its part, the station, after Strange’s death, fired 10 employees, who will all be appearing in court very, very shortly.

None of this will matter much next week; the story and Strange will be forgotten, the DJs will go on to some other line of work with which they can drain the precious life out of society and next week there will be a story reported, with faux-moral indignation, that two DJs in New York or someplace have been fired for some contest involving, I don’t know, gerbils or a strip club or something. The Nintendo Wii retails for about $250, and Strange leaves behind two sons and a daughter, for whom she was hoping to win the game console.


About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

One response to “The Sacramento Radio DJs, Or, What Will With Any Luck Be The Immediate End To An Era

  • bdure

    I can go along with this to a point, but I’d argue there’s a place in the world for the community DJ. XM and iTunes are great, but they’re impersonal.

    In my area, people are mourning the loss of the local commercial classical station. In a lot of respects, that’s weird — the public radio station can do it better (and is ditching its talk shows to do it), and there’s no competing with the classical offerings on satellite or the Web. But people will miss the local feel. The DJs, perhaps even the ads.

    Too many morning shows, of course, aren’t about community at all. They’re about cheap stunts — the drinking contest, the phone call from a DJ to Darryl Kile’s recent widow asking if she had a date for the weekend, etc.

    But the good ones are worth preserving. However many there are.


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