Sunday Night Homework

Dr. Demento has launched a new website! His once syndicated show is now a streaming service and I couldn’t be happier! Dr. Demento was a tradition of mine when I was in high school many eons ago. It was an essential study aid while I toiled away on my biology homework. Sunday nights were perfect for polishing up science projects. My arts magnet didn’t have science labs, so my teacher had us illustrate the chapters which were due at the start of every week. I would start with old time radio serials on Magic 61’s Radio Theater. Jack Benny and Lights Out were great for illustration. Then I would letter the comic or infographic to Dr. Demento. My teacher loved the results and the recordings of the songs I would bring to class. 

“Genetic engineering. Hope for the future…or is science just trying to get into our genes?”

Then one day, during my gap year, Russ the Moose of Magic 61, announced the station’s intention to stop broadcasting. The speech is clouded in memory, but what I do remember is him saying, “I’ve been doing this for 4 years now….”. Soon afterwards I noticed recent Disney and live-action studio show tunes were played more than Frank Sinatra and Doris Day and eventually different music entirely.  Magic 61 was no more. The death of Magic 61 was a painful reminder of my inconsistent loyalties for my time as a listener became sporadic during its last year of life. Live 105.3, which launched without ceremony my freshman year of high school in 1986 had really gained traction three years later with my clique of  College avenue ignenous. The modern rock station was an answer to the hip hop and overtly sexual R&B that dominated the Bay Area airwaves at the time. My friends and I were old enough to interpret lyrics by the 10th grade and the likes of 2 Live Crew and Lisa Lisa’s lyrics were enough to have the police called on us if we sang those songs out loud! A good beat that you could dance to became not enough. We became hyper-aware as nascent intellectuals, so music needed a good story, and age appropriate, thematically. 1986 was a wasteland in American mainstream music and it would be three years of my clique gleaning the airwaves for something our parent’s wouldn’t send us to juvie over before Live 105.3 was discovered. I turned to Magic 61’s American Standards for the duration while the rest of my social circle searched in vain for new songs from the new wave genre that seemed to go poof in the night. Many of us ended up collecting records of the music we heard in John Hughes’ films from the Telegraph avenue record shops. In 1989, my friend Teresa (one of the models for Tabby Soleil) discovered Live 105.3 for our clique. This godsend provided the Brit’s second wind, dark wave/post-punk, and became a venue for American alternative bands that were buried under hard rock stations. The discovery of Live 105.3 made my arty, college bound friends over joyed to have a hipper genre than novelty records and bubble gum to provide pop-culture mnemonics for what we would later study in college. The Smiths made AP English cool and the Cure made every, broody art boy with long black hair irresistible. Modern Rock united our tribe. Sorry for now,  Dr. Demento! C’mon, we were still impressionable teenagers and too cool for the room!

…another snit.”

Interest in this new-to me-genre coincided with my change in schools and a very light senior year. I had fulfilled my science requirements early, but had a disparity in foreign language, which was a breeze to fulfill. Thus the start of the week was replaced by an early bed time to Fox’ line up of Tracey Ulman show and Married With Children, but I still recorded Dr. Demento, which aired ten ’til midnight on KFOG 104.5 . Dr. Demento was perfect for my commute to my exciting new school in a different city the following day. Poisoning Pigeons in the Park and the rest of the Funny 5 became my soundtrack over French homework through the noisy Transbay Tube from Oakland to San Francisco. I peppered my 10 and 11th grade playlist of American Standards into my Live 105.3 Modern Rock mixtape and Dr. Demento remained a constant. The show served as the B-Side to the likes of the Cure, the Smiths, Depeche Mode and Ella Fitzgerald which spanned my senior slide, my gap year and the first two years of college. 

“…a bigger Snit”

Four years and half a degree later I transferred from the San Francisco Art Institute to CalArts and returned to geekdom due to long nights toiling under one of the most grueling and monastic metier outside of a STEM degree. Animation is tedium incarnate and I desperately searched for Dr. Demento’s broadcast to entertain myself and my cubicle mates through the wee hours. Dr. Demento was broadcast initially through the Westwood One Radio Network in LA, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find a way into the Demento Society. I must admit I was also distracted.  In LA, one runs ass backwards into every celebrity hero and more. Regardless, during windows of clarity, I would still share my recorded novelty song tapes with my friends and they had plenty for me. Nevertheless, after second year, life’s responsibilites shifted from third to fifth, so revolving one’s life around Dr. Demento’s broadcast became unrealistic. However, I made a point to collect the CD collections to see me through completing my thesis and boring afternoons doing character layout work on TV shows I couldn’t relate to once I graduated and became a responsible adult. 

“More snits!”

Now that my life is quieter as 20+ year animation veteran, I’ve fallen on the old habit of doing homework (now self -assigned ) to old time radio and podcasts. I now improve my algebra skills to the tune of NPR, Dope Labs, Modern Scholar by Recorded Books and any old time radio serials my local library may offer. Dr. Demento’s voice is still lodged in my psyche as a reminder that despite everything, my adolescence was not half bad. Thanks to Demento geek outs, I didn’t fall in with the wrong crowd. I didn’t become a statistic despite my inner-city environment. A geek is a safest thing to be for an at-risk kid, for whatever the world may throw at me, it still can’t prevent from my escape though learning. My library is still there to teach me, my network of friends continue to inspire me and Dr. Demento (talking credit wherever he can) provides me with the novelty tunes and interstitial antics to aid my retention of the information I absorb. Thank you, Dr. Demento. I hope to  conquer my high school algebra phobia  through this new streaming version of the show! 

“That’s why I am working so feverishly on my next project; Space travel.”
The S.N.I.T. by Hudson and Byner

Dr. Demento’s New Website and Streaming service

Fun Contemporary Podcasts

Dope Labs

Freakonomics

Marketplace

PRI’s The World ( dig it for the Geo Quiz!)

Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me ( Mo Rocca is my fav’!)

Magic 61 Radio Theatre

George Burns and Gracie Allen Show

The Jack Benny Program

Green Hornet

Arch Oboler’s Light’s Out

Other Old Time Radio Shows You Might Enjoy

Highway Horror (check to see if your local library has it.)

Inner Sanctum

Our Miss Brooks

The Great Gildersleeve

Novelty and Comedy Records that Comprise 70’s and 80’s Dr. Demento Show

Cheech and Chong’s Wedding Album

Bill Cosby, Himself

An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer

Yeah: The Essential Barnes and Barnes

80’s problems.

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