The year was 1997, when radio changed the face of narrative and literary culture in America.
GENE, STATION MANAGER: We knew they would become the voice of the new American story and our collective cultural narrative. We didn’t know they would do it with one particular broadcast.
EL FARTO, HOST: We decided to have an impromptu mud wrestling match between Monster Mike and Whiskey Pete, from our Butt Nugget Morning Dream Team. We did it inside the Hallmark store in The Galleria because Lynn booked us there for a live remote and we were mad.
MACHINE BOLT, HOST: It felt like a punishment for the Party Incident. Every other morning crew in Southern California was doing live remotes at concerts, bars, and clubs. But KPODD was sending us to a greeting card store that sold angel figurines.
LYNN, STAFF PRODUCER: It was my first job in commercial radio. I work in public radio now.
EL FARTO: We brought a kiddie pool and water and dirt. The deal was, whoever lost the mud wrestling match had to go by the name “Precious Keepsake” on the air for the next year. They were given a choice between that and “Emotional Greeting Card.”
MACHINE BOLT: Monster Mike lost. And Whiskey Pete was not a big guy! But he was lanky and deranged. And that combination always wins. In anything.
Documentary filmmaker Mills Baeyer once said that fame is a path lit only by flashbulbs — there is light by which to navigate, but it’s too bright, and too sudden.
GENE: Just like that we were no longer part of the zeitgeist, we were the zeitgeist.
LYNN: I remember the day they realized everything had changed forever. Machine Bolt looked at me, like a scared little kid, and said, “I can’t even go to the mall.”
MACHINE BOLT: Well, we couldn’t go to The Sherman Oaks Galleria. Because we were being sued by Annie’s Hallmark.
EL FARTO: If we tried to go to The Promenade in Woodland Hills, we’d get recognized and it would turn into an instant madhouse scene. Every time.
MACHINE BOLT: We had come a long way from sharing a studio apartment in the valley after Kath divorced El Farto for running up a bunch of credit card debt at Circuit City and The Good Guys.
But off the mic, things were getting difficult.
LYNN: You can only go so high before people start trying to bring you down— it’s been that way since the dawn of time. Greek mythology…. the Bible….
GENE: The FCC fined us. Two hundred thousand dollars — that’s the cost of speaking truth to power. That’s the cost of being brave in America.
EL FARTO: We got fined for doing drugs on the air. We had cocaine, a keg of Amstel Light, a latex Bill Clinton mask, a half-brick of M-80s, a maritime flare gun, stink bombs, and we just locked the door to the booth at the station and partied live on-air. KPODD 101.3 didn’t sign off on it.
MACHINE BOLT: I never understood the stink bombs. We were locked in a little room together. We were the only ones who would bear the brunt of the stink bombs.
GENE: Kurt Cobain had died three years prior. Princess Diana had died just three months prior.
EL FARTO: It was just a hella downer time. The Rock Mobile was broken down and stuck at the Van Nuys Auto Mall, so we hadn’t done a Butt Nugget Morning Prize Patrol for months. We were sad, we were angry. It was all building up and it just came out with the live party incident.
LYNN: We were grieving as a nation. Which is a tricky process.
They reached career highs that would carry them aloft well into the new millennium, where eventually, everything came crashing down around them.
MONSTER MIKE: I filed suit against them. This many years later, I still have people calling me “Precious Keepsake.” That name has made it impossible to make a living on my strength supplements. You try selling Precious Keepsake’s Ultra-Cut Strength and Testo Booster.
WHISKEY PETE: Give me a goddamn break. Precious is saying he would’ve made millions upon millions of dollars selling supplements? Pull your head out, PK.
LYNN: I’ve distanced myself from them enough to admit it: Our show changed the face of everything in FM.
MINI WANDA: Employing me as an infant, to be part of something called a Butt Nugget Dream Team? I don’t think you can call that “changing the face of everything.” Not in a good way, at least.
PRECIOUS KEEPSAKE: Their news reporter Wanda refused to come back after maternity leave. She had a much better offer from KROQ, I think, and she took it. So I guess the guys just thought, “Let’s at least hire her nanny and her baby to be on the Morning Prize Patrol.”
EL FARTO: I mean, Wanda was fine with the whole Mini Wanda thing, trust me. She didn’t have to pay her nanny for three years, and it paid for her daughter to go to UCLA once she wasn’t an infant anymore. (Long pause) There’s never going to be another time like that in broadcasting.
MACHINE BOLT: We had our fun, everyone got to buy houses, the end. Next!
GENE: Now you have these things called “podcasts,” where you can say and do whatever you want on the mic. Sound familiar? You tell me what could’ve influenced something called a podcast more than KPODD. We invented it, my friend.
LYNN: I have a hard out at eleven, so I need to wrap this up.
KPODD 101.3 is a new comedy podcast from McSweeney’s contributor Dan Kennedy and Greatest Generation’s Benjamin Harrison. They’re a ’90s FM alternative rock morning team on the right side of the dial and the wrong side of pop culture history, navigating their personal misadventures on the air, and trying to glimpse a future from the simpler times of 1997.