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This is, I will admit, a rather random podcast episode. It's a diversion from the usual conversation on storytelling, which I didn't have time to prepare this past week because I was on vacation. Instead, it's a short comic radio play I wrote years ago, and recorded with some friends. It's called "Love Shack," and in it, self-styled revolutionaries calling themselves "Che" and "Vlad" take over a radio station during a sex advice show, and learn a little something about themselves in the process. I got the idea for this show after working at KPFA Radio, the flagship station in the listener-supported Pacifica Radio Network. KPFA has quite a history, with no shortage of tumult. It's the nation's first non-commercial, lister-supported station, and it and sister stations in Los Angeles, New York City and elsewhere have been charged with indecency, communist affiliations, and general bad taste over the years -- thanks to broadcasts of/by Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the "dirty words" routine by George Carlin, an interview with Che Guevara, tapes by the Symbionese Liberation Army, and lots of other crazy stuff. I volunteered and worked for KPFA in the news and arts/literature departments about 1992-1997. At the time, the schedule was ALL over the place -- some weekly half-hour shows, some daily shows of a few hours, and many shows that only aired once a month. Cool, in a way, because they had programs that you'd never hear anywhere else -- news about Russia and the Eastern Bloc, Latin music, a gay talk show. Problem was, some programmers had become entrenched in their decades on the air, their shows sucked, and nobody was listening. And 94.1 on the FM dial is a pretty prime spot on the dial -- basically, the closer you were to the center of the dial, the better. So management shook up the schedule, dumped a bunch of old shows, and tightened up programming.
This was not to the liking of many long-time listeners, or the shows' hosts if they'd been ejected, or to some public media activists, who noted a distinct change from political programming to music programming. Lots of protests ensued, the station was occupied at one point, there was a big conflict with the national board of Pacifica radio. Both (or all?) sides had a point, and I'm glad they duked it out, because the programming coming out of KPFA got better as a result. Now, fortunately, we have internet radio and podcasting, which makes "niche" programming of the sort that was happening on KPFA entirely possible, and accessible to a wide audience. I was only peripherally involved in the whole blowout -- I moved out of town as things were heating up. Not because things were heating up, mind you, but around that time, to go to grad school! It wasn't in direct response to the controversy that I wrote the script for this little radio play, but nor do I suppose is it much of a coincidence that this is what I came up with. I suggested the idea to the station manager, who dismissed it because it might cut a little too close to home!