We noted here, about a month ago, the passing of R. Peter Straus who, as president of WMCA 570 AM, New York, “combined Top 40 music with socially conscious journalism and ground-breaking public service to animate broadcasting’s most successful and influential big-city mom and pop radio station.”
An e-mail arrived recently from Chris Albertson who was WNEW’s Continuity Director in the early 1960’s. He was also producing jazz recordings and working nights as a volunteer at leftist, avant garde WBAI-FM. He left WNEW in 1964 to work at WBAI full time, eventually becoming General Manager. (See Posts: “Civil Rights Jazz,” and “Civil Rights Jazz P.S.”) Chris’s most recent e-mail tells how his activist ire, provoked by a WMCA contest, found an ally in R. Peter Straus.
“I am sorry to hear of R. Peter Strauss’ passing. I met him in April of 1965 when he handed me a check for $1,000 for WBAI. I was doing the morning show and I used to take a cab to work each morning. One day the cab driver had his radio tuned in to WMCA and I heard them pitch an unusual contest. To enter, one had to send in a photo that showed the WMCA call letters on one’s body, by way of a sun tan, and the clearest call letters won a car.”
” The first thing that occurred to me was that this gave white or very light complexioned people a distinct advantage, which made the contest unfair. That morning, I urged my listeners to give WMCA a call and protest this inequity. The station was apparently flooded with calls, because I received a call from WMCA’s publicity dept. asking me to stop. Later that day, a call came to me from R. Peter Strauss, who was very embarrassed, thanked me for pointing this out, told me that he had killed the contest and that he wanted to donate a thousand dollars to WBAI. He did more than that, actually, because he placed a couple of ads in the NY Times urging people to subscribe to WBAI (we were a listener-sponsored station).The following day, Mr. Strauss told me to come and get it! I did, and here is the moment as captured by WMCA’s PR people.”
Thought you might find that interesting.