Talk Rodeo

WIOD's Phil Hendrie hears voices in his head. They tell him what to do. They tell him what to say. And right now they're telling him to make you laugh.

Caller: "I like to listen to Channel 7's news, but I don't watch because the women on there look like they should be on the street."

Greif: "You know the Shangri-Las? Go-go dancers? We should have a cage up there. I told them they have to look professional. They said I was meddling in their personal lives. All I said was that maybe an anchor should get a Buick that's more than two inches off the ground. And then I find these Milky Way bars in his desk. If Rick keeps it up -- "

Hendrie: "Hey! I thought you weren't going to mention any names."
Greif: "-- he's going to look like Dave Thomas from Wendy's. These people need to know that they're coming to work in a newsroom, not a liquor lounge."

Another caller rings in to note that Rick Sanchez sweats a lot, and that the female reporters at Channel 7 are laughed at.

Greif: "I gave him baby wipes. And this anchor with the red pumps and no bra. And do we really have to go without panties?"

Hendrie: "Oh, come on!"
Greif: "And he has these Holley headers on his Buick. It's nice, but he shouldn't drive it to work."

Caller: "Yes. I've complained to Channel 7 several times."
On the monitor, a huge logo flashes "COUNTDOWN TO COLLISION."
Greif: "And this 'Newsplex'! It looks like we're broadcasting from a big TV store. And the weatherman, this guy needs a scaffold for his hair. We got those sets from a pawn shop, by the way. I'm leaving because of that, the hair, the shiny suits. Rick with his gut hanging out."

On the monitor, Rick Sanchez, standing in the Newsplex, is wearing a shirt but no jacket. His belly hangs over his belt. Reality and fantasy collide in a burst of ether coincidence.

Another caller: "I think Rick's great --"
Greif: "Has to drop the candy bars."
Another caller: "How do you know she wasn't wearing underwear?"

Greif: "Well, she was sitting on a stool in the newsroom and she forgot to cross her legs."

The caller seems shocked but laughs anyway: "Wait. How close were you? Maybe she was wearing black underwear."

Greif: "No, no. And something else. You know that television puts 30 pounds on you, right? That makes Rick look about 350. Also, I wanted to dispense with the closed captioning. What I wanted to do, I asked Rick and Kelley to talk slowly and pronounce more so these viewers can simply lip-read, which a lot of them do. We could've saved some money on that."

Another caller asks about Rick Sanchez's weight.
Greif: "That's exactly why I took the Milky Ways from him. To save him from himself."

Both Hendrie and the next caller want to know why fat men are acceptable on TV, but fat women are not.

Greif: "Get real! Women want the women they see on TV to look good. We've learned this from consultants and focus groups."

Hendrie: "You need glasses for your focus group."
Greif: "Well, I know that you need sixteen axe handles to measure his rear end."

Hendrie: "Okay, a call from Steve."
Steve: "Brian?"
Hendrie: "Oh, Brian?"
Steve: "No, Brian. This is Steve."

The segment -- and the day's show -- ends with a listener calling Greif "a mental case, a sick pedophile." Greif calls the listener a mental case, and the two argue vehemently into the newsbreak. During the segue, Hendrie gets in one last jab: "Brought to you by Milky Way, breakfast of champions."

General manager Bob Green walks into the control room, says hello to Kalb, and points toward Hendrie on the other side of the glass wall. "He's a real piece of work."

Kalb steps outside and sits at the picnic table with Hendrie. "The real Brian Greif just called," the producer reports. He wanted to compliment Hendrie for the spoof, Kalb explains, to say that he thought it was good fun. "Great," Hendrie says. "A consultant that likes me."

Colleagues and listeners seem to like Hendrie, and the most evident reason is that the man with the voices in his head is honest (except when he's lying), a guy with no pretensions, hangups, prejudices. Early in Hendrie's WIOD tenure, the acerbic Neil Rogers, who hates everything except hockey, praised him on the air. Another day, a listener showed up at the station seeking (successfully) Hendrie's autograph. As one former colleague in California puts it, "If Phil is talking to you, it's because he likes you. He doesn't do things to get publicity or attention for himself." WIOD listeners pick up on this. It really is like talking to your neighbor across the fence. Especially if your neighbor is the master of a thousand voices, has a razor wit, and knows a little bit about everything.

That last asset is what really makes Hendrie's show so effective. He can quote great literature and talk about driving his pickup off a cliff (he wants to get rid of it, and feels it deserves "a Viking funeral"). In a split second he goes from dissing a crank caller representing the "three-ball softball team" ("Even the dull and ignorant have their story," Hendrie yawns, quoting a hippie-era psalm called Desiderata) to a live sports broadcast (with Hendrie as all the announcers and color men, covering the Major Indoor Screwing League, an arena event in which celebrity competitors receive one point for bringing a woman to orgasm, two points for maintaining intercourse for 90 minutes, and three points for simultaneous climaxes). Anything can happen here, from scenes of simple insanity to significant historical moments.

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