The Bad and The Beautiful
The condom isn't quite long enough for Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber--or rather, the condom song isn't. "Wait a minute!" he exclaims, eyes widening to comic proportions. It's the Valentine's Day edition of Crap from the Past, Gerber's weekly Friday-night radio show, and he's just realized that the track going out over the air--a single by an obscure Canadian band about a long-unused rubber--is nearly over and he doesn't have anything cued up to follow it.
Gerber leaps out of his chair in front of the mixing console in KFAI-FM's nicely appointed Studio 4, whips around the long desk, and flips hurriedly through a blue nylon CD binder. He finds his quarry, a homemade compilation titled Crapulation #48, spins back around, slips the CD into the player, and cues it with time to spare. Within a few seconds, he's seated and composed enough to colorfully back-announce the song he's just played, "Circular Impression" by the Extras. Gerber even tells the story of his 12-year search for the record, which he wound up acquiring from Dr. Demento himself in trade for a copy of Trip Shakespeare's Lulu.
"He's a great guy," Gerber notes of Demento. "Very friendly. And he's got an encyclopedic knowledge of music."
As does Gerber, although you'd never guess it just by looking at him. With his close-cropped hair and navy denim button-down tucked neatly into black jeans, the buff 34-year-old seems the antithesis of the stereotypically slovenly pop-music obsessive. By the same token, only his exhaustively catalogued CD collection betrays the faintest hint of the fact that this jovial schlockmeister is a scientist by trade, with a Ph.D. in optics, nine patents under his belt, and a résumé that includes stints with IBM, 3M, and Kodak.
He's hardly a newcomer to broadcasting, either. Gerber got his college-radio start in 1986, during his undergrad days in Rochester, New York, where he also worked part-time as a board operator at a commercial station. When Gerber left for graduate school in Tucson, Crap from the Past, which he had premiered in Rochester, moved with him. (The name was suggested by a friend.) Gerber's Tucson days also provided another opportunity to work in commercial radio, this time as an intern and call-in character on a morning show co-hosted by Jimmy Kimmel (of Jimmy Kimmel Live fame).
By the time Gerber launched the well-seasoned Crap on KFAI (90.3, 106.7) in 1999, he'd been in town long enough to befriend kindred spirits Joel Stitzel and Chuck Tomlinson, the hosts of Radio K's Cosmic Slop. Out of deference to the fact that "they were here first," as Gerber says, he yielded turf rights to whole decades of pop's lesser pantheon. "They tend to play more '60s and '70s stuff," he observes, "so I concentrate on the '80s and '90s. I'm playing songs now that didn't even exist when Crap from the Past started."
When some kind of overlap is all but unavoidable, as with the recent death of Maurice Gibb, Gerber treads carefully. His tribute to the deceased Bee Gee consisted entirely of cover versions of "Stayin' Alive," a move he correctly guessed the Slopsters would not be making.
Philosophically, though, the two shows are, as Gerber sound-bite source Lisa Simpson might say, craptacularly similar. Both offer largely forgotten pop music that is relevant, first and foremost, to the hosts--dusty gems and sonic coprolites alike. Both include plenty of between-set discussion, mostly pertaining to the music. And, as with Stitzel and Tomlinson, the imp of the perverse is Gerber's copilot. "I like a good pop song," he observes. But there's something about the bad ones that does it to me every time."
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