By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
Toast and OMG announce they have stuck such Post-Its to the screens of dozens of strangers across the vast corporate office. Paul is to expect a steady stream of confused underlings wondering why the boss has summoned them. It's the prank on page 4 of Austin's book. They've also opened and hidden cans of tuna fish throughout the advertising department in hopes that as the day goes on, the stench will cause mayhem and confusion. It's on page 14.
Another unwitting employee shows up at the door looking expectantly at Paul.
"No, I don't need to see you!" he shouts. "It was a prank. Sorry."
Paul wasn't always the boss. He went to school in Florida but cut his teeth in radio doing morning gigs in Nashville, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama. Ron was a local news and sports guy, an industry veteran. After some badgering, a radio executive put them together in 1989. Like just about everything else, they bicker over when exactly they first met.
"We went out to dinner at ... what's that place on the Intracoastal?" one says.
"No, no. It was at a party at Brian Olsen's house," the other replies.
During a merry-go-round of bosses and a few station jumps, they've worked their way up the charts to a 1.8 rating for men ages 25 to 54. That means more than seven percent of the prime advertising demographic listening to the radio is tuned to Paul and Young Ron.
To keep their on-air discussions fresh, they rarely speak before the show. They each wake up around 4 a.m. and get to the studio about an hour before airtime. They are so comfortable with each other and the crew that they can outline their bits simply by uttering sentence fragments back and forth ("You really want to see Mamma Mia!," Paul might tell Toast before a show).
But the overall direction of the show requires much more forethought. The team attends national morning radio show conferences, mining friends in other markets for new ideas. And they study market research. "It sounds like that Young Ron might actually have a serious drinking problem," a woman in a focus group once said as the team looked on from the other side of a two-way mirror.
Ron doesn't shy away from discussing his drinking. "This is a dark world full of horrible things. Every day I worry about car crashes or cancer. I worry my kids are going to fall off something tall. So I self-medicate."
Paul is the positive, white yang to Ron's black yin. Though his wife recently battled cancer and a family car accident left his mother and wife in the hospital and another woman dead, Paul is constantly smiling.
"He loves the attention," Ron says. "He'll sit and schmooze with listeners for hours."
"That's why I make three times as much as you," Paul shoots back. (He says his contract with Clear Channel has a clause that prevents him from discussing exactly how much money he earns but that he has a lot of toys, has worked hard over the years, and is very comfortable now.) Public records show that in 2007, his Lighthouse Point home was worth more than $900,000.
"He just loves to be loved," Ron says.
"I'm a ham," Paul says. "What can I say? I was student body president three years in a row in high school."
At 10:30, they replay an earlier segment in which they listen to fans who've called in to the Drunk Dial Hotline. They snicker as two young women ponder whether one of their skirts is on backward.
By 11, they retire to their office. Paul is going to get his hair dyed before a charity event later that evening, and Ron is going to pass out. The morning radio schedule requires that the day's sleep come in two sessions — one at night and another in the afternoon.
By noon, Ron is heading out to his sleek Porsche, what's left of the tequila bottle in tow. Paul is not far behind him.
As they pass through the advertising department, the hallways reek of tuna fish.