Tonawanda News

May 31, 2013

ADAMCZYK: It's just business. It always was

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — If you grew up in Western New York and can remember the Sattler’s jingle, you likely were influenced by Buffalo radio, and “influenced” is the operational term here.

Under the imprimatur of the Buffalo History Museum (née the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, that imposing building with the marble pillars next to Delaware Park) the “Giants of Buffalo Radio,” five men with a heavy presence in those late Fifties and Sixties and into the Seventies days when a radio was constant company, recently presented a laugh-soaked roll down memory lane. And other than a lot of reminisces and anecdotes, we learned it was all about the money. 

Of course it was, radio being a business like, and unlike, any other. Charity stunts were at the behest of advertisers, on-air contests were fixed, disc jockeys wielded considerably less power than their personae suggested and generally the “talent” seemed to be having a riot of a time until the grownups at the station put a stop to all the nonsense.

Some of this was brought out by the alleged “Giants,” each an elderly man in a comfy couch or armchair. They excel at talking and they have stories, so they talked.

We can look back on any job we’ve ever had and tell tales involving screw-ups, incompetence and whatever it took to get us fired. No one wants to hear about the idea you stuffed into a suggestion box that earned you $20 bucks and saved the company thousands. 

And while those of us with a connection to media enjoyed the stories of radio hijinks, the underlying current was clear: the fun stops when it is reinforced this is a business. A zoo does not give free reign to the animals.

Since the “Giants” forced me to recall those days, days when a radio was playing wherever I was, I am stunned by my, our, collected naiveté. Perhaps I look at the era with more maturity than I had back then, but it seems money was less important, and the thrill of experience meant more.

Oh, money meant plenty, but these days it seems money permeates everything. I note it, these days, in the way car dealers debase themselves for my business; there was a time an automobile dealership was a pillar of a community, with a stable and ongoing relationship between dealer, local customers and government, and occasionally you still can find that rapport. (It’s the reason local car dealers tend to be Ken-Ton Kiwanis and Rotary people, and why you still can’t buy a new car on the Internet.) Now it is more of a circus of constant and insulting promotion meant to sell cars while lowering the quality of life (and if you ever want to be treated like a god, own a car dealership and walk into a radio station).

Business is, well, business, with principles taught in schools and elsewhere and transferrable so they can be applied to whatever business you run — a car dealership, a church, a restaurant. Even a household; there is so much clerical work in simply being alive, it supports stores like Office Depot and Office Max.

In a way it is advantageous that churches need to advertise in newspapers and law firms beg for my problems on television. Transparency can be disillusioning, but it is informing. It is the residue of living in the Information Age.

It must be difficult, circa 2013, for the young to filter the crap from the truth. Some much of the former, no little of the latter. But then again, why is it different from when I was younger? I suggest our blinders were better. We, or at least I, cared more about what I wanted and how to pay for it, and less about where the money went after I spent it.

Are the young today unfailingly be in love with something, the way I was with recorded music and the next wave of people with newfound personal computers? (Why couldn’t a kid appreciate his Apple II the way Mom and Dad appreciated their Beatles or the Grateful Dead albums?)

If I am to live in a society in which money is paramount, or near it, fine. Let it be blatantly about money. I have it; not much, but enough for car dealerships and politicians and law firms and vodka distillers and radio stations and ticket sellers to seek my patronage. The pursuit of money is as competitive as the Olympics, so let’s see what hoops they all jump through to get mine, or yours. There is always someone out there who will do more for you to get yours. Business, after all, is business.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.