Accent on Living

A MAN who likes to sit in the kitchen drinking tea and listening to news broadcasts has to take in at the same time a vast amount of information about disk jockeys. Most news programs, he finds, are thickly bounded by the disk jockeys’ output, and it’s hard to pick up even a weather bulletin without first hearing, at some length, the disk jockey.

A man of few reticences, the disk jockey must rank among the most thoroughly overt personalities of all time, spending as he does his whole waking life in a state of minute selfdisclosure. He punctuates his discourse by playing new recordings of candidates for the hit parade. These are songs usually on the melancholy side, about love turned to ashes, the pangs of separation, loneliness, jealous despair, etc., rendered by vocalists about to burst into tears.

The disk jockey’s confident voice comes as a relief to the listener after most of the songs, and he attends closely the disk jockey’s account of his latest triumph at a record hop, his preference among salad dressings, his feelings about pills, lotions, fur coats, used cars, and the local spaghetti parlors. A disk jockey describing the two-dollar dinner at Flint Loo’s takes on the mantle of Savarin himself.

The immense variety of commercial endorsements in the disk jockey’s chatter is soon evident to the listener: everything is a plug. But the plugs are woven so intricately into an easygoing run of small talk that the listener can rarely spot one in the making or judge where one plug ends and another begins. There are plugs within plugs; some are fleeting and overlaid by more plugs; others are genuine old Madison Avenue transcriptions, complete with fanfare, delirious excitement by an announcer, and roars of approval from a dubbedin audience.

If some exceptionally popular chanteuse is hailed by the disk jockey as he touches off his next recording, her voice will prove to be raised in behalf of a shampoo. When the disk jockey himself is next heard, remarking the beauty of the winter day, it’s a certainty that he’s simply winding up for an affirmation about snow tires or storm windows. The listener wonders, meanwhile, by what system of monitoring the makers of N-Riched Dog Food can ever audit accurately the number of plugs for which they are billed. Is Fum Loo standing by with a stop watch to ensure full measure in the chop suey plug?

The confidence of the disk jockey in his relationship not only with the listener but also with his myriad sponsors is unmistakable. In an amiable way, he makes it clear that the listener is pretty well under his complete control, the sponsors his valued friends. “You will get a real deal from Ifarry Doakes at Nirvana Motors on any used car you buy there,” says the disk jockey, “if you’ll just tell him I sent you. He’s an old friend and I stand behind, personally, and guarantee every deal he makes.”

Even more impressive is the disk jockey’s willingness to protect the listener from a too eager compliance with his instructions. After rattling off the wonders of a three-hundreddollar TV receiver, or for that matter the two-dollar dinner at Fum Loo’s, the disk jockey magnanimously tempers his counsel. “Don’t do it,” he says, “just because I told you to. Go out and judge for yourself.”

Who said radio is dead?