Feature Stories

Good morning, out there. This is:

Good morning, out there.  This is:

Bosco Bleinerman

Audrey Backbiter

Rick Marlow

Coslo Maneater

J.J. Regan

This article appeared as a feature in the Finger Lakes Living section, The Ithaca Journal, July 15, 1978

By MIKE WITHIAM

Journal Staff Writer

Ithacans who listen to WTKO radio weekdays between 6 and 10 a.m. are treated to the adventures not only of local and national newsmakers, but a host of fictional characters as well. There’s adolescent bumbler Bosco Bleinerman, tyrannical station manager Coslo Maneater, loveable gossip Audrey Backbiter, and space detective Rick Marlow.

Behind this array of male and female celebrities in WTKO’s “semi-humorous interludes” is a single person, morning man J.J. Regan.

Regan says he can do about 25 different voices, and that he uses them in about 17 different shows. But he admits, almost shyly, that he uses the same voices in more than one show. “It’s hard to tell that the voices are the same when they’re used in a different context.”

His coterie of characters are hardly an exclusive club. Fred and Samantha, who star in “The Happy Hikers,” are a typical married couple, as Regan sees it. Fred would rather watch a ballgame, but Samantha’s worried about doing the right thing in order to climb the social ladder.

Captain Sally is WTKO’s traffic reporter, who is supposed to be in the air giving us the latest update on traffic in town, but is rarely even near his helicopter. Then there’s Rick Marlow who is hot on the trail of criminals in outer space.

Regan feel that his best known persona is Bosco Bleinerman of “Hi School Hi Jinx” fame. And don’t forget Bosco’s friend Moose, and Luwanda, the girl who’s always chasing Bosco.

“I guess it’s really a takeoff on the Hardy Boys, but with a couple of twists, Bosco is your typical bookworm: real intelligent, but he doesn’t have any idea what’s going on in the world.

“He has no interest in girls, but Luwanda chases after him anyway. And Moose is the guy who’s been around a bit. He knows what’s going on and he’s gotten Bosco out of trouble more than once.”

In “The Timersons of Tompkins County,” Regan tries his hand at city people trying to become country folk and not succeeding. His travel show features the inhabitants of that vacation wonderland, Bazoopi Island.

Regan is still waiting for a reaction to one of his newer programs, featuring “Dr. Ed Fendelman,” a dentist. It seems Dr. Ed wants to get on the radio, and every time Regan sees him, he’s treated to a new audition. But Regan says he hasn’t seen his real dentist since he started the show, and he’s not sure he wants to.

OFF THE AIR

So who is the real J.J. Regan?

He’s a soft-spoken 28-year-old with a Long Island accent that sneaks out once in a while. He’s not nearly as wacky in person as he is on the air, in fact, he’s almost shy. But he warms up to people quickly, and his sense of humor emerges.

Regan said people often seem surprised when DJ’s don’t come across in person the way they do on the air. But most DJ’s work hard to develop and “air personality,” and they’re surprisingly “normal” off the air.

Regan, who is married to a real estate saleswoman and has a three-year-old daughter, likes what he’s doing.

“I wouldn’t want to go off the air,” he says. “It’s fun doing AM radio, and you know there are a lot of different people listening.”

He got into it all by accident.  “I’ve always had a interest in radio,” he said, “but it never occurred to me to do it for a living.”

He studied anthropology at Cornell – even got a master’s degree in it – but was side tracked by a part-time job at WVBR-FM. From there he went to WTKO.

Regan started doing the morning show five years ago and just began airing his semi-humorous interludes two years ago.

PROMOTION

The popularity of the shows has surprised even Regan. He’s gotten many phone calls and letters in reaction to his shows, and has used his alter egos to help promote activities around town.

Bosco Bleinerman, for example, helped advertize Ithaca High School’s Christmas Formal, over the school’s loud speaker by agreeing to go to the dance with Luwanda – after a suitable chase, of course.

“People can identify with a lot of my characters,” he says, “or at least see somebody who resembles one. It’s like a Coslo Maneater episode. Everybody has a boss that hassles them once in a while, and when Coslo comes on, people can relate to the skit.”

That’s why the interludes are in the morning.

The morning show is the most important one for a radio station, because it has the largest audience.

“There’s a gigantic audience in town in the morning,” he explains, “and we try to get something on for all of them – sports, news, music, whatever. The episodes appeal to a certain group, and each individual on appeals to different people.”

PIECING TOGETHER

While Regan’s skits run between one-and-a-half and three minutes, they take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to piece together. He goes through each character’s lines separately, then splices them all together in sequence and adds sound effects.

Regan keeps close track of when he’s aired a particular program to avoid overkill, and has learned through experience that a drawn out series doesn’t work. “People listen to the radio at different times of the morning, and it’s hard to know exactly when they are listening.  So that makes it hard to run a show that’s more than two or three episodes long.”

Regan says that most people find it hard to believe that he does all of the voices.

“The greatest compliment is when people say: ‘He’s really funny in the morning. Who does the other voices?’

“It makes me feel that I’m really coming across.”

And just in case he had any doubts about whether he was coming across, there was the morning Regan ran an episode about the U.S. Department of Interference – which regulates such important things as how we tie our shoes or work a barbecue – and a man came into the studio and asked to see him.

“He demanded a copy of the tape and a copy of the script,” Regan said, “and sent it to both Washington and Albany with a letter attached that said. “This is what’s wrong with you.”

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