The storyline goes like this: Two airheads stumble into a nearly empty campus radio station. The dysfunctional duo wrangle control of the microphone, and proceed to channel a blend of Jerry Lewis and Les Nessman. Panic ensues.
You couldn’t script a better screwball comedy, but Guy Hempel and Larry Holt recall that’s how they lived it. “Hempel and I were the first two students on the air at WVXU in the fall of 1970,” says Holt. As he recounts the scenario, faculty members were manning the control board in the basement of Alter Hall. “The station was on the air only two hours a day,” he says. “We stopped in to see if we could get on the staff. They basically said, ‘What are you doing today?’ and we were on the air. As you can imagine, we had no idea what we were doing.”
“That’s very accurate,” says Hempel. “We left for the summer thinking we would come back to the low-watt AM WCXU, in hopes of getting a position playing rock ‘n’ roll. Surprise! We came back to an ‘educational FM’ WVXU and we were the first two student staffers. Then we had to get creative to fit what we wanted to play into the ‘educational’ mold.” This involved a mishmash of news and disc jockeying, alternating jazz with comedy. There was always beer in the fridge, says Holt, and all the expected firestorms, fistfights, on-air f-bombs and a GM “who used to quit in a huff about once a week, and then show up the next day as if nothing had happened.”
“I still can hear the phone calls: ‘Guys, this is the FCC calling,’ ” says Hempel with a laugh. There are, of course, memories they’d rather forget. An in-studio bachelor’s party, for one. And some imported programs. “ ‘Good Music for Good Neighbors’ was the bane of our existence,” says Holt. “And ‘In the Bookstall.’ We got tapes from some guy at Ohio State who just read books out loud.”
After graduation, both bounced around broadcasting. Holt worked a dozen years at WKRC-TV in Cincinnati along with some other outlets and now heads up Max Marketing and Productions. Hempel, meanwhile, became vice president and general manager of WHNS, the Fox affiliate in Greenville, S.C.