Air-to-Air Combat

A radio vet tells all in a new book about the FM wars.

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Radio Daze Agora Theatre, 5000 Euclid Avenue 7 p.m. Saturday, January 31. $10 to $15; call 216-881-2221
Of all the dirty tricks in Cleveland-radio history, the Slade story is one of Mike Olszewski's favorites. The Brit glam rockers were about to perform at a downtown "Party in the Park" in 1984, and rock station WGCL planned to film the show for a TV spot. But the station's deep throats gave rival WMMS a heads-up: The band was going to lip-synch its set. The WMMS jocks had a field day -- both on- and off-air. "The general attitude WMMS conveyed was not only that it was the best station, but it was decidedly uncool to listen to any other station," explains Olszewski, who was a WMMS newsman from 1988 to 1994 and again in 1998.

In his new tell-all, Radio Daze: Stories From the Front in Cleveland's FM Air Wars, Olszewski chronicles how a once-insignificant WMMS became a ratings blowtorch and an icon synonymous with Cleveland. The 468-page book comes to life Saturday at Radio Daze, where legendary jocks -- including Matt "the Cat" Lapczynski and Denny Sanders -- take the Agora stage to introduce local bands (including Easy Street and the Dave Bacha Band) and autograph copies of the book.

They'll revisit the early '70s, when WNCR became the "electronic backyard fence" for those who "had long hair, smoked dope, evaded the draft, and got pregnant," as former WNCR DJ Ginger Sutton puts it. As FM radio aged, the mud continued to fly. In the summer of 1994, Howard Stern was in town to hang effigies of WMJI's John Lanigan and WMMS's Jeff & Flash, his morning-show rivals. News of the stunt made the cover of Scene, and WMMS retaliated by grabbing every copy in town and hiding them in its prize closet. A station engineer even snipped the cables to Stern's live show, cutting his broadcast off the air.

"The saying [there] . . . was 'We don't go to work. We go to war,'" Olszewski says. "Sending rats or coffins to competitors . . . indicates just how in-your-face the radio wars became."

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