Friday, May 6, 2016

In a Philly Mood WDAS 1993
by T A Malone

In the fall of 1993, I had the honor of being an intern at the legendary Philadelphia, Pa. radio station WDAS during my 5th and final year of college. What started off as a classical music station in 1959, became what is now known as Urban Contemporary in 1971 and has remained a local favorite since. WDAS helped spread the “Philadelphia Sound”, which lead to disco and introduced the world to artists such as The O’Jay’s, Teddy Pendergrass and Patti La Belle.

Quick side bar…I highly, highly, highly recommend having some of Ms. La Belle’s vanilla topped pound cake. Ma’am, from the bottom of my heart and ever ready tummy, thank you…and “If Only You Knew” is one of the greatest songs ever written. But I simply must ask how did you do it? I must know, cause…I never thought I would taste a piece of heaven without it being attached to a woman.

From charitable events, to empowerment rally’s, to just providing some smooth music to listen to on the ride home, WDAS has done some great things for my hometown, and was a great place to work at. I learned a lot, and managed to make a fool out of myself too.

To begin with, I was an intern working for the news department, and helping the still sexy WDAS DJ supreme Mimi Brown in the afternoons. Quick sidebar…working with Mimi was an adventure because I constantly had to cover my mid-section whenever she sashayed on by. She was then and is now a master at her craft, and one of the smartest and sexiest women I have ever met.

I also got to talk to the legendary DJ Joe “Butterball” Tamburro. I got wiser just walking by his office. If you are not familiar with him, look him up, and learn about a classy dude. RIP.

My intern supervisor was the uber cool Tamlin Henry, who was one of the wisest guys I ever worked with. I learned a lot from him, and got to meet some amazing people, with sometimes funny results.

The first involved a simple misunderstanding.

At the time there was a reporter for either the Philadelphia Inquirer, or Daily News named Vanessa Williams, who called the news room looking for Tamlin. I took the message from the captivating receptionist at the front, and sat it on Tamlin’s desk. I didn’t read the note, I just dropped it off. So when Tamlin came in, he asked, “Well, which on?” I looked at him, dumbfounded, which, sad to say happened a lot in the beginning of my internship. “Uh,” was my articulate reply.

“Which Vanessa man,” he asked whipping out his not so little black book held closed by a rubber band whose elastic was stretched to its limits. “Vanessa from the paper, or Vanessa?”

Well, like I said before, I only knew one Vanessa, so I responded accordingly.

About five minutes later, the following occurred…

“Thank you for calling WDAS. How can I help you?” I said answering the phone.

“Is this Terry?” a silky voice asked.

“Yeah,” I responded dropping my voice a little lower for tha’ lady.

“Hi, this is Vanessa Williams, is Tamlin there?”

I swear to God, this is how I responded…”I-I-I-I-I-uh-uh-uh-I-uh-I-uh,”

Laughing hysterically Tamlin took the phone from me and the lead news man, another cool brother whose name was Dave, patted me on the shoulder. “Smooth,” he said trying not to laugh too hard.

Tamlin, who was too busy laughing to speak to the beauty at the other end of the phone, put it on speaker as he tried to recover from hysteria. I then heard the lovely Vanessa L. Williams say “I blew that brotha’s mind didn't I?” as she laughed like an angel.

I wasn’t always so clumsy when I handled the phones at WDAS.

I successfully interviewed former Heath Secretary Donna Shalala, and other local & national politicians, and entertainers whose publicist shuffled them our way. I would do the interview, edit out my voice, and make drops for Dave, Tamlin and the weekend news guy. In the afternoon, I would help Mimi out with getting music, food, and any thing else she needed. Hell it was Mimi. In fact, Mimi cut some drops for my college radio show which were so hot, one guy called me asking for her number. As I helped Mimi I met entertainers such as Jodi Watley, Teddy Pendergrass, and Pam Grier. 

Pam Grier…damn.

You gotta understand, Pam Grier was my first Hollywood crush. I remember seeing her on the Mike Douglas Show when I was four years old.

Yeah…I started young.

My “love” for her continued, for around the age of 12-13, I found a Player’s magazine with a pictorial of Ms Grier that I coveted as if it were gold. And no, the pages never got sticky, or even wrinkled. I kept it with my collection of comic books in a plastic sleeve.

See, she was the epitome of beauty for me at the time. And for a guy who only ever saw naked white women –Playboy, Penthouse, porn etc- seeing a naked black woman, with her body, that was something memorable. I also kept the Sports Illustrated with Tyra Banks on the cover and the Playboy featuring the first Black Playmate of the Year Renee Tennison.

But Pam, she was the first. 

In addition to probably being the inspiration behind the Commodores hit song Brickhouse, Pam Grier was/is a savvy business woman, multi talented entertainer, smart, and classy lady. I always had a crush on her, and saw the movie Posse just because she was in it. Heck up until six years ago, I had a video tape of the two Miami Vice episodes she appeared in, and was and still am mad jealous of Philip Michael Thomas.

But in 1993, God, allowed me a simple pleasure.

It was around five one evening at the station, and the sun had already set over my favorite city. I was done for the day, getting ready to go to my night job, which I hated. Come on, all day long I worked with local celebs, politicians and other cool folks. My night job involved typing receipts for some government agency, which was about as much fun as watching paint dry. There was this one sexy, witty woman in her forties who worked there and…oh nevermind…back to Pam.

Just as I put on my coat to leave, Tamlin walked in with a smile on his face, “Come on T,” he said. “I want you to meet a legend,”

I heard her laugh before I even got to the hallway, and her familiar voice which could melt half of Alaska spoke. “Oh Tamlin come on now,”

It was Pam Grier.

She was promoting a play she was doing in New Jersey and had come to WDAS to visit. She knew half the staff, and they just loved her. And I was in love the moment she smiled at me.

 “Hi” she said pleasantly after I introduced myself, not realizing how tall she was. “You look a little young to know about me,”

“What?” I said all too comfortable in her presence, because that’s just the energy she radiated. “Ms Grier you are one of my favorites! I saw you in Posse, Miami Vice, Foxy Brown, and my dad had a Player’s mag-”

Mimi laughed loudly as I caught myself, far too late. Tamilin started laughing, and Dave…Dave just shook his head.

“Smooth,” he said.

But despite my flub, the smile on Pam Grier’s face was one I would never forget. “Now, aren’t you a little young to be reading that?”

It was at that moment that my favorite image from that pictorial flashed in my mind. “Uh,” I said oh so articulately. “No,”

“I don’t think he read it,” Tamilin said, and then we all laughed, and she touched my shoulder. “It’s ok baby,” she said still cracking up.

Wow, I made Pam Grier laugh. That was cool.

And that sums up WDAS...a place of wisdom, music and well, just plain coolness. 

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