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50 Stories: 50 Years in Radio


Story Eight

As much as I was thrilled to be on WIBR/Baton Rouge, a top medium market station in a drive-time slot, that station should have a special place in the Broadcasting Hall of Shame for running two of the dumbest on-air contests ever (and they ran for years). One was called the Sorry, Wrong Number Game.
On the altruistic bandwagon of “encouraging everyone to drive safely,” management made arrangements for the Baton Rouge City Police Department to call the WIBR hotline every time there was an accident within city limits. The on-air jock or our receptionist would dutifully answer the phone and record the location. The jock then had to immediately hit a God-awful Klaxon auto horn sound effect (sfx), announce the location of the wreck, the new total number of accidents for the day and “Remember the total for our next Sorry, Wrong Number Game.” The truly asinine part of this “game” was that we had to hit this irritating sound and recite all that crap, regardless of what was on the air at the time (except of course, news or commercials). The only thing to interrupt -- MUSIC! The main reason people were listening!  So here you are, singing along with your favorite hit tune when all of sudden:
BWAAA-WAAA-BWAAA-WAAA… Baton Rouge City Police have just informed WIBR of another accident, this one at the corner Dumb and Dumber Streets. This brings our total to XX for the day. WIBR reminds you to please drive with greater care. And remember our total (insert total again here)! Right now, we have XXX dollars in the jackpot if you know the correct number of accidents the next time we play the WIBR Sorry Wrong Number Game, coming up soon!
After reciting all that bull, you would return to whatever was left of that spiffy tune you just interrupted, supremely annoying a huge number of people who flat out didn’t give damn about some fender bender.
Then there were the mechanics of the Sorry, Wrong Number Game itself. Here’s how this exercise in nitwittery was played:
Female Voice: Sorry, Wrong Number!
Jock: Yes, it’s time once again to play WIBR’s Sorry Wrong Number Game! I’m going to call a phone number chosen at random from the Greater Baton Rouge telephone directory. If this is your number, just answer your phone with the correct number of accidents we have announced on WIBR so far today, and you will win all the money in the Sorry, Wrong Number jackpot, which right now totals XX dollars.  The correct number of accidents reported in Baton Rouge so far today is XXX, XXX. Remember you must answer your phone with that number.
I’m now dialing that number, chosen at random from the Greater Baton Rouge telephone directory.
Place call on air.
Jock: The phone is ringing… (DUH).
Let phone ring five times. If no answer, hang up.
Jock: There was no answer at (telephone number) so no one wins all the money in the Sorry, Wrong Number jackpot. Stay tuned for the next time we play the Sorry Wrong Number Game with XXX dollars in the jackpot, and remember to drive with greater care.
If the caller answers with anything other than the correct number of accidents:
Jock: Sorry, Wrong Number (and IMMEDIATELY HANG UP)! As you heard, the party at (telephone number) did not answer with the correct number of accidents. So now we’ll add (ready for this?) **TWO DOLLARS** to the jackpot, making the new total XX dollars the next time we play WIBR’s Sorry, Wrong Number Game. And remember to drive with greater care!
If the caller answers with the correct number, play Party Music Cart 100, congratulate the winner, get the name and put him/her on hold.
Jock: Congratulations to Furd Douchnozzle on Road Apple Road! He answered his phone with XX, the correct number of accidents we’ve had in Baton Rouge so far today and wins all the money, XXX dollars, in the Sorry, Wrong Number jackpot. Listen again for the next Sorry, Wrong Number Game when the jackpot total will start over with (here it comes) **TWO DOLLARS**! We’ll increase the total two dollars every time we get a wrong answer on WIBR’s Sorry, Wrong Number!
(Jingle out or segue into stop set.)
The only radio game on the air that highlights stupidity and carnage!
Hopefully, I’ve managed to convey the marrow-deep sense of how tedious, insipid, boring and stupendously counterproductive this “game” was. Throw in morbid while you’re at it. It was ridiculous to believe a dumb game was somehow going to inspire the average moron driver to change his/her ways. I used to say on the air that those involved in accidents were listening to other stations and all this “encouragement” to “drive with greater care” was a monumental waste of time. But the boss/owner, Bob Earle, got the idea from a small consortium of station owners in similar markets. The group met to trade or steal ideas from each other that were (allegedly) creating great ratings. Personally, I never saw or heard anything from anyone that supported the notion the listener or advertiser gave a rat’s ass about the number of accidents; even less having their favorite tunes interrupted. The only people who got excited were the rare winners who got checks for $100-$200. At $2 per answered call, it took forever to build the “jackpot” to an amount the average person would find sufficiently attractive to listen through all the bilge in the hopes that his/her phone would ring.
But wait! There’s more!
If the Sorry, Wrong Number Game wasn’t cringe-worthy enough, there was the other WIBR brain-dead classic:  the Meet Your Neighbor Game. It went like this:
MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR SFX (mercifully I have forgotten what it was…)
Jock: And now it’s time to play the WIBR fun game (we actually called it that), Meet Your Neighbor! I’m going to read a commercial message from one of our Meet Your Neighbor sponsors. Then, I’m going to call a phone number chosen at random from the Greater Baton Rouge telephone directory. If the person who answers the phone can tell me the name of the sponsor I just mentioned, they’ll win all the money in the Meet Your Neighbor jackpot – which right now stands at XX dollars!
Our Meet Your Neighbor sponsor right now is Roadkill Restaurant (blah blah blah…) from the middle of the road to the middle of your plate, unidentifiable but guaranteed-fresh at Roadkill Restaurant!
(Dial phone but do not put caller on the air.)
This what the listener heard:
Jock:  I’m calling the Dumbass family on Lobotomy Lane in Baton Rouge…. the phone is ringing….
OK…there’s the third ring, two more before I have to h… Hi! Is this Mr. Dumbass?  Great! This is Brian Wilson at WIBR Radio with the Meet Your Neighbor Game, Mr. Dumbass. If you can tell me the name of the last sponsor I just mentioned, you’ll win the XXX dollars in the Meet Your Neighbor Jackpot. Can you give me that name, Mr. Dumbass?
Ohhhhh… that’s too bad, Mr. Dumbass! It was the Roadkill Restaurant on Squish Road. Right... well better luck next time, Mr. Dumbass, and thanks for playing Meet Your Neighbor here on WIBR!
Well, as you heard, we didn’t get a winner this time so I’m going to add (hang on now) **ONE DOLLAR** to the jackpot, bringing our total to XXX dollars the next time we play the Meet Your Neighbor Game!
(Jingle out.)
If the above wasn’t enough to kill-off the most dedicated listener, there are a couple other things that made this “game” an insult to any sentient being. First, with the caller kept off the air -- for fear s/he would mention some OTHER business -- what you didn’t hear often went like this:
Jock:  Hi! Is this Mr. Dumbass?
Caller (Sleepy, grouchy voice, probably a shift worker):  Yeah?
 BW:  Great! This is Brian Wilson at WIBR Radio with the Meet Your Neighbor Game, Mr. Dumbass, and if you…
Caller:  Who? Beat Your What?
BW:  …if you can tell me the name of the last sponsor I just mentioned, you’ll win the XXX dollars in the Meet Your Neighbor Jackpot.
Caller:  What the hell? Is this one of those stupid radio games? Who is this waking me up?
BW:  Can you give me that name, Mr. Dumbass?
Caller:  I’ll give you more than that, you bastard! Who is this? I’ll come down there and beat the crap outta you.
BW:  Ohhhhh… that’s too bad Mr. Dumbass. It was the Roadkill Restaurant on Squish Road. Right… well better luck next time, Mr. Dumbass…
Caller:  You’re gonna be roadkill, asshole. Who the hell is this?
BW:  …and thanks for playing the Meet Your Neighbor Game here on WIBR!
Caller:  Your neighbor? What? Why I…
BW: Well, as you heard, we didn’t get a winner this time so…
This happened more times than you could reasonably guess, or believe. On top of that, with no winner, adding a whopping **ONE DOLLAR** to the jackpot sounded cheap and silly. Which it was. Because Bob Earle (RIP) was cheap but never silly.
As you’ve probably guessed, when we did have a winner, the jackpot went back to one dollar. Imagine the thrill of waking up someone and telling them if they get the answer right, they’ll get a buck! I implored Earle – at least start it at ten dollars! Nope. Not happening. Didn’t happen. Never happened.
I hated that game.
Maybe it all worked out. After numerous ownership and format changes, WIBR has been off the air for years!



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