Wally Rabon, late of Prime Time With Wally on WKIX-102.3 in Johnston County, would like to know why Trent Lott is still in the U.S. Senate while he--guilty of a lesser transgression--is no longer on the air. Then, too, he'd like people to know that he's sorry if he offended anybody in the gay community, because he didn't mean to. "It was just supposed to be fun radio, is all," he says.
Though he admits he made one big blunder.
What was Wally's offense? It was opening up the phone lines one night a few weeks back to ask listeners what they thought about the new gay bar in Selma. Most of them--country music fans, now--didn't think too much of it, though one called in to say he was gay, and was as entitled as straight folks to a place he could hang out, and several others called to say they knew some genuine gay folks who were very nice, so couldn't we just live and let live?
That was Wally's view, too, sort of, as he walked a tightrope between saying "Oh my goodness, you people are hardcore" and "I just hope everybody can get along" when some of his anti-gay callers started in; and saying "I hope you don't include me in the media, 'cause I'm on your side" after the most virulent of them complained that "the media" was shoving pro-gay fare down his throat.
This last caller also decried the advent of interracial marriage, which had led directly to acceptance of homosexuality--in his opinion.
Well, Wally was playing with fire, obviously, and with the flames jumping around, he proceeded to pour a little gasoline on by suggesting that some viewer might go steal the rainbow flag--a symbol of gay equality--that flew outside the bar. "I want to play capture the flag," he declared. "I want somebody to bring that flag to the station, and maybe I'll give 'em a cool prize."
Oops. He knew he shouldn't have said that. After a break, he tried to make light of it, saying he'd need to check that one out with the KIX legal department.
Inciting a crime, perhaps even a hate crime now, got Wally fired by Curtis Media, the Raleigh-based company that owns WKIX and the right-wing talk-radio station WPTF-AM in Raleigh, among others. WPTF's roster of professional haters, led by Rush Limbaugh, can ridicule gays and blacks and get away with it because they know just how far they can go without hanging themselves--and how to speak in code, innuendo or a funny accent, so there's always deniability. It was a joke.
I listened to what Wally said, at his request, and he obviously meant it as a joke, too, only he didn't use the code correctly, so on paper it reads very badly. Capture the flag. A cool prize.
"I'm not some right-wing bigot type of guy," Wally says. "I was just trying to do a show and entertain people." He thinks everyone should have equal rights. He didn't think people would be so sensitive.
It's too bad what happened to him, because Rabon, at 35 now, worked his way up from scratch in local radio, starting as an office hand and part-time wrestling announcer (at Kings and the Berkeley Café, back when they did small-time rasslin' shows) before finally getting on-air--as a producer-sidekick on a WPTF show. He was fired from that for calling John Edwards a part-time senator (who didn't say that at PTF?--"I thought I was just doing what I was supposed to do," Wally recalls).
But later he caught on at WKIX, holding down the prime time 7-midnight slot, five and sometimes six, nights a week.
Anyway, he grew up in Garner, and he's got a 7-year-old daughter in the area (she goes to school in Johnston County, where his ex-wife lives), and he'd like to stay around, so he's looking for a new gig. He doesn't need much money. "I can make as much delivering pizza as I did before," he says.
Trent Lott, who said the country'd be better today if segregationist candidate Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948, still represents Mississippi in the Senate.
Should Wally Rabon, who said something very stupid and does not really understand get just how stupid it was to this day, but seems like a nice enough guy otherwise, get back on the air? The phone lines are open. ...
For diehard Wally fans, there's still www.primetimewithwally.com.