Wanna Win A Walrus?

I used to work at a radio station in Dallas called "HOT 100". Hot was a very young top 40 type station, and it was a hell of a lot of fun to be involved with. We were brand new & had no budget, so we relied on lots of stunts and such to at least get word of mouth promotion for the station.

We once spent an entire Thanksgiving Day without talking on the air. DJ's took requests over the phone & then edited out their own voices, replacing them with badly done turkey gobbles... then the more or less one-sided conversation would play on the radio between songs as if it made perfect sense. If you were listening that day, you'd hear something like:

Turkey: "Gobblegobblegobblegobble..."
Caller: "Hi! I wanted to know if you'd play me a song"
Turkey: "gobbgobbgobblegobbglegobble!!!"
Caller: "yeah... me too. I was hoping you had the new one by Christina Aguilerra"
Turkey: "gobbgobbitygobblgobble"
Caller: "hey thanks!!"
Turkey: "gobbidygobbgobbgobblegobble!!"
Caller: "You too!!!"

It was the most bizarre thing I've ever heard on the radio. We did it for an entire day without ever mentioning what it was or why it was happening. What made the dumb stunt so funny was that it sounded like the callers understood every word the turkeys were saying.

Another gimick: We spent over a month giving away our competitions prizes. Our main competition was 106.1, Kiss FM. Whenever Kiss said to call & win a thousand dollars - we'd stop whatever song we were playing and say to call Kiss and give their phone number to win their $1000. "This way, you don't even have to listen to their crappy music to win their money! It's like a public service."

Then there was the time Kiss was giving away Ten Thousand Dollars one thursday morning at 7:20... As a spoof, we decided to gave away Ten Thousand too! In our case, it was TEN THOUSAND pennies. That one didn't exactly work out. Our morning show made a big joke about the whole thing, constantly saying "TEN THOUSAND pennies." "TEN THOOOOUSAND pennies." When they finally gave it away, the winner thought she was winning ten thousand dollars, and eventually we got sued.

My favorite stunt during my time at HOT 100 was an April Fools prank.

There's a little town about an hour south of Dallas called Waxahachie. Waxahachie is the ultimate Texas town... it's still got the quaint Texas charm from decades ago. It's the sort of place that everybody's heard of but nobody really goes to. For April Fools Day, we announced on the air that the Waxahachie Zoo had fallen on hard times and needed to relocate all of their animals - "so - we're givin' 'em away!" Of course, there is no zoo in Waxahachie... How could there be? And really - how can you give away zoo animals on the radio?

Before the 'giveaway' began, the staff met in the station's conference room to go over the prank and to have a little fun with it. We made a list of animals to be given away... One person would say a kind of animal, somebody else would yell out a goofy fact or character trait, and eventually we'd end up with creatures like "A uni-directional one-finned Trinity River Trout" and "A white-spotted albino Scandinavian snow leopard". All that mattered when we put the giveaway on the air was that the DJ's presented the whole thing as being 100% real.

When we put the silly giveaway on the air, listeners went crazy. They bought in hook, line & sinker. We had people calling us to ask if thy could adopt the animals. We had people calling to find out when the best animals were being given away. (the 'best' animals?) We had someone from the Waxahachie city council call us to ask how long they'd had a zoo! A woman called to find out if we'd be giving away any giraffes because she had lots of high trees in her back yard. A man called to ask if we had anything he could learn to ride. (what?!?) Somebody wanted a hippopotamus for the pond behind their house.

Somehow, the DJ's handled these questions with ease. Even the complaint calls were hilarious.

Caller: "You can't give away a panda! That's an endangered species!!!"
DJ: "I KNOW! That's why we've gotta find it a new home! You can't put a panda to sleep! It's an endangered species!!!!"

Hearing that stuff on the radio every few minutes was unbelievable. Of course, the whole thing was a joke. Just an April Fools prank.

DJ: "It's the new Hot 100, you're caller ten!!!"
Caller: "Ooooooh yeah!!!"
DJ: "You just won a Walla Walla Walrus named Wilbur"
Caller: "uuhhmmm... ok! What do I need to feed him?"
DJ: "Whadaya got?" [answers like that are priceless]

The DJ then tells the winner OFF the air that it's all an April Fools joke, and laughter ensues... though every now and then you could tell the caller was disappointed to NOT have won some sort of dangerous beast. ON the air, we never mentioned that it was a joke.

The prank got even funnier when things went wrong...

A mother calls with a problem.

Caller: "My daughter won a leopard from your radio station."
DJ: "Yeah...?"
Caller: "Well we live in an apartment, so we can't have a leopard."
DJ: "How big is the apartment?" [As if that matters!!!!]
Caller: "You don't understand... my daughter's just a kid. She doesn't understand these things... we can't have a leopard!"
DJ: "Well how long ago did she win it?"
Caller: "About an hour ago I guess..."
DJ: "Hang on... [shuffles through papers] ...ma'am, I'm sorry but they've already got the leopard in the van on the way to your apartment."
Caller: "WHAT!!!?"
DJ: "They should be there any minute. Maybe you can put an ad in the paper and somebody will want to adopt it..."
Caller: "Oh $%!#!!!"

Come on people!!! How can a radio station give away a leopard? How could a radio station that plays Britney freaking Spears give away a Cockeyed Cambodian Caramel-Colored Cougar?

::::: | Thursday, Apr 01 2004 at 9:57 PM
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