This DJ named Hot Rodney

(Note:  This is not a love story.. but a story of friendship in a time of innocence.. so no salacious details are forthcoming.. just a memory from decades past.)

I discovered radio back in 1979, when  I was in Grade VII and 13 years old.  Everyone was crazy about 99.5 RT’s airing of American Top 40, and I remember a classmate, Chinot, who could give you the latest update without batting an eyelash.  By my freshman year in high school, I was listening to this AM radio station which was sort of a cross between the Mellow Touch of old (now I’m really dating myself.. LOL) and your MOR or “middle of the road” hits.  I liked listening to to DWIZ because the car that was used to transport me and my siblings to school only had AM radio.  (Hey, this was 1980 so cut me some slack.)  I would listen and dial the request line.  I don’t know now if that was an influence of my then batchmate Sharon Cuneta’s “Mr. DJ”  (who, by the way, was a classmate in Grade II — we parted ways in high school because she went to St. Paul Manila and I went to St. Paul Quezon City.) or because I have simply loved music even early on.  This was also the stage in my life where I started amassing a modest cassette collection.  I would hie off to the record bar over at Unimart where the salesladies eventually got to know me.

I had a favorite song back then, “Lead Me On,” originally sung by Casey Cysik which was not getting much airtime in other stations.  (This is ironic considering the song has been covered many times a decade later..)  Anyway, I usually ended up hitting the radio program of Hot Rodney and I would dial the number and make my request.   I was such a regular requesting the song that eventually he asked who was on the line, and from then on, he would greet me by name after I told him what song I wanted him to play.   He would usually accede, providing it had not been played sooner than three hours earlier, which was the KBP rule and which stands to this day I believe.

He chatted me up and we found ourselves talking about anything under the sun.  I guess now you can say we became  phonepals.  I was put on hold every time he had to do a spiel, but for the most part, we would talk for an hour or so during his three hour broadcast.. Now that I look back at that time, I should commend the guy for his patience with a teenage listener.  When I worked for DZRJ as a newscaster and occasional DJa decade later, I realized it was his way of controlling the volume of callers — that meant that he didn’t have to keep answering the phone because he had the phone occupied.  It was a way to go through the three hours while having a conversation with someone instead of just talking to the microphone and imagining your audience out there. 

Deejaying is not just all talk, mind you.  You have to be able to cue the songs by “scratching” back to the right point, so that when you hit play, the record turns on cue and there is no dead time.  CDs are much easier because the songs begin right where the timer says 1.  You hit the track number, hit pause, and you know that when you hit play, the machine doesn’t even pause to think, it starts reading the track pronto.  You have to cue the commercials which are on 8 track tapes in a specified order, and you have to play the correct commercial, fading out the last one while you turn on the next.  There are also the usual time checks which are on a specific order, read with what we call an “Opening Billboard” (such as “This timecheck is brough to you by so and so…) and then a “Closing billboard” (such as “That was brought you by so and so..)  It’s a routine that can get pretty staid.  You need to entertain yourself.  I guess just as I found him entertaining, he found me amusing.

There was even a time I won one of their promos on the air, and while I cannot remember what prizes I got — I think I got a free album and some stickers — it was probably the one and only time he and I actually met face to face.  We chatted awhile.. the driver had brought me to their radio station so after I picked up my prize, we said goodbye.

Rodney, at the time, was in his late 20s.  I knew he was the only boy in the family, and he had gotten married sometime after we started talking to each other.  It was at this time that he introduced his brother-in-laws and their friends to me on the phone.  I guess it’s because of the voice quality but people get intrigued when they hear me talking.  One of the boys even made “bola” that I sounded like Margot Kidder’s narration on one of the versions of “Can You Read My Mind” (which Rodney and I disagreed with..) ..  I did have a good voice — why else do you think did I land the newscasting job at DZRJ?  And at the time, the “tusok-tusok the fishball” talk wasn’t even heard of yet, so people talked plainly and I suppose, naturally.

Now I came from a very sheltered upbringing.  I wasn’t even supposed to be talking to boys.  Thanks to Rodney, I was.  I did get to meet up with his brother-in-law once — but that was a very awkward moment during one of those WNCAA games when their high school played another school in the league, and St. Paul had a game against someone else.   Suffice it to say, that was all just talk — nothing came of it.  I didn’t have my first boyfriend until four years later, and I was already in college.

I guess Rodney was just playing big brother or “Kuya” to all of us.  Besides, it was all innocent child’s play.  But I looked to Rodney to talk about the typical teenage worries and problems, and while I can no longer remember all those things that made up the hours between his sign on and sign off, I know the thought that I was talking to a friend mattered a lot to a teenager like me.  He was the “Kuya” I wished I had, had my own Kuya who was four years older lived.   I remember how it was also this time that he and his wife lost the baby they  were expecting. 

I don’t remember now if we lost touch because I grew tired of radio, or if it was because he left the radio station.  I knew that for a time, he even managed some talents and handled Anthony Castelo.  But that was the last I heard of him.  I would think  he would be in the music industry somehow — I think I googled his full name and one time I landed on an OPM Lyrics page.  I have no idea where he is right now but if I could, it would be great to renew acquaintances.  Wouldn’t it be great if it turns out he is now in the US and actually lives around here on the East Coast?  It’s such a small world.. he might yet stumble onto my blog and pop up some time..