It’s beginning to look like the most interesting story in Dallas-Fort Worth radio involves two guys who are no longer on the air.
Our story thus far: On April 15, sports-talk station KRLD/105.3 FM “The Fan” canceled the afternoon show RAGE Radio , which got its acronym from “Richie and Greggo Extravaganza,” after its hosts, Richie Whitt and Greg Williams. The cancellation left Williams and Whitt without jobs; sidekick Sybil Summers (who is now Whitt’s fiancee) remains on the station, co-hosting The Saturday Morning Test Drive, a 9 a.m. Saturday show paid for by Autoflex Leasing.
A couple of weeks later, Williams talked with DFW.com about his exit from The Fan. Williams, who has gone on the record about his substance-abuse problems -- including in an excellent 2008 profile written by Whitt for The Dallas Observer in 2008 -- blamed station management for the demise of the show, but he would really let loose when he launched Greggo’s Gigantic Blog and Cafe, giving an account of the firing that you can read here. And here and here, because it’s in three lengthy parts. Williams is most critical of Gavin Spittle, the station’s current program director, and never fails to praise Whitt, his former co-host.
Aside from the Fan announcing (and confirming an already-strong rumor) that the Ben and Skin Show would replace RAGE, things were pretty quiet. Till this week.
On Monday, Whitt -- who is also a former Star-Telegram sportswriter -- launched DFWSportatorium.com with a five-part epic giving his side of the story of the show’s cancellation and his firing. He also tells of a co-host who was an unreliable, lying, relapsing drug addict given to frequent absences and lame excuses. Whitt doesn’t spare management for their handling of the situation, but he doesn’t lay everything at their feet, either, saying that Williams dragged the show down and led to his co-hosts being fired along with him.
It’s pretty fascinating -- if lengthy (the June 15 post goes on for 15 screens). Whitt supplies texts and e-mails to document his story, and to paint a picture that isn’t pretty.
(I’ve emailed Williams for comment, but haven’t heard back. However, he does have a brief note in his June 21 Friday Frags: “To the legions of you that have contacted me wanting my take on [Whitt’s] five-part blog… Yes I have seen it… Yes I read it… I agree with some and I vastly disagree with many… I am sorry he feels the way he does… At some point I will address the entire series…” CBS Radio has declined to comment.)
I talked to Whitt on Thursday about the imbalance between his story and Williams’ take on the situation. (Full disclosure: Whitt and I worked for the same place for several years, but I never physically crossed paths with him at the Star-Telegram because sportswriters rarely come into the office.)
“I’m certainly not an angel,” Whitt said. “But I certainly did nothing to damage his career. Matter of fact, I got him hired at the Fan. I did everything in my power to keep him out of trouble at the Fan. So what would he possibly have to reveal about me that would be negative.
“He’s a very smart guy. In the wake of our firing, when I didn’t return his calls and texts for a couple of days, he put two and two together and started saying, ‘Oh, crap. If Richie writes what he could write and goes public with it, I’ll be toast.’ So by going out and proactively and saying ‘Richie’s a great guy’ -- it was all calculated. It was trying to get me to have sympathy for Greggo and try to back down from what I was going to air.”
The thing is, Williams was already saying that he was toast. This is a guy who has also been fired from sports-talk stations KTCK/1310 AM “The Ticket” and KESN/103.3 FM ESPN Radio, achieving an unenviable sports-radio hat trick. Even before he started blogging, he was tweeting that his DFW radio career was over. When I pointed out to him that media personalities have an amazing ability to bounce back, no matter what has happened to them, he said he didn’t want to return to KESN and didn’t think the Ticket would have him back. But if Williams wasn’t toast before his blog launched, his takedown of Fan and CBS Radio management didn’t just burn bridges -- it blew them up and soaked the remainders in acid.
And that was before Whitt told his side. But even he’s not saying that Williams’ career is over.
“When he’s on -- and there’s a lot of machinations that go with him being on -- he’s still a unique talent,” Whitt says of Williams, whose DFW radio career dates back to the ’80s. “People absolutely flock to him. They worship him. He’s the common man’s radio star. I wouldn’t bet against Greggo being on somebody’s airwaves again at some point. I don’t know who, I don’t know where, I’d wonder why, but I wouldn’t bet against it.”
Whitt, who has been writing professionally since 1986, says he never intended to get into radio, but the Fan gig fell into his lap in 2009, and in 2010 he was teamed with Williams. Whitt says the main reason he wrote his side of the story was to clear his own name.
“I think a lot of people said, ‘Oh, Richie failed at radio,’ and I have a strong opinion that the reason I was fired by CBS was not based on my performance,” Whitt says (Spittle, the program director, told The Dallas Morning News’ Barry Horn that the show was canceled because of poor ratings). “To say that we never got ratings is inaccurate, and to say that RAGE brought down that station is a crock.”
Whitt points out that in late 2011 -- the year the Mavericks won the NBA championship and the Rangers went to the World Series -- ratings were good enough that he, Williams, Summers and producer Armen Williams received bonus checks. It was about that time, he says, that things started to go downhill. Whitt says RAGE never even tried to beat The Hardline, the long-running show RAGE was up against on the Ticket, but it did manage to mount a good see-saw battle with Galloway & Company, the KESN afternoon show co-hosted by Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway.
Whitt, who is involved in an upcoming a north Fort Worth pizza-and-beer-delivery joint called Pizza Buzz, says that Summers is already getting offers from other stations. “She’s talented enough to get another job in radio,” he says. “I just don’t know if I could do it again. It has to be the right situation, because I love writing, No. 1, and I’d have to shower for three months straight just to get the radio scum off of me.”
But he adds that despite all the problems, he often had a blast.
“I probably never had more fun in my life than in radio,” he says. “It’s so rewarding. It’s an ego stroke, man. People stop you on the street and want to pose for pictures and autographs. There’s no way around the fact that that’s gratifying.”
Which makes me even more curious about this paragraph from this week’s “Whitt’s End,” the Friday round-up he’s been doing since he was at the Observer: “After the day-to-day teasing on here I hate to do this, but next week I'll have breaking local radio news that could re-shape the landscape you've known for three decades. And, yes, I'm talking about The Ticket. See ya Monday morning.”
Stay tuned ...