was appalled by Josh Potter’s unquestioning and gushing profile
of Harmando [“Freaky Frequencies,” Listen Here, Nov. 18],
the community DJ who has leeched off of WRPI for several years
I can testify that, contrary to his claims, Hair Man was nowhere
near WRPI in the 1980s—at least, in the period of 1983-89,
when I was there as the co-host and co-producer of the Sunday
night public affairs show Peace Radio. Colleagues of
mine from that era also do not recall his presence.
In the 1980s, we worked hard to produce an airsound and style
that reflected rigorous professionalism as well as searching
artistic vision. Announcers and engineers were put through
weeks of training that stressed the importance of always knowing
that you were on a 10,000-watt station getting out to three
states. Technical standards were very high, in keeping with
Rensselaer Polytechnic’s long-standing reputation as a world-class
technical school. And, no announcer— community or student—
would have been allowed to carry on as Hair Man does today,
babbling endlessly as if he has something important or profound
to say. If he did, he would have been thrown out in weeks.
And actually, when Josh Potter quotes Hair Man as saying,
“I don’t have a clue what I’m doing,” he’s not lying. The
whole persona of Hair Man is someone who actually knows very
little about music he plays, has learned nothing about it
in his 60-plus years, comes in to spin worn-out vinyl on misadjusted
turntables with broken styli, and just spins and spins and
spins. He says nothing intelligent or illuminating about the
vinyl he plays. He just prattles on and on— not unlike some
of the characters I used to see at the corner of Congress
and Third Streets in Troy, babbling away mindlessly while
waiting for the bus.
The decline of WRPI is very much a mirror of the decline of
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as an engineering school,
and its shift to a cloudy and vague arts university. And Hair
Man Doo’s presence is a reflection of that sad fact.
one who fell in love with the spirit of WRPI FM from ’81-’89
as Music Director and Wednesday night 9-midnight host, I was
absolutely appalled to read your fawning article on the station’s
most (so far) egregious embarrassment, “Hair Man.” Just when
I thought the station had finally freed itself from blather,
breathing and monologues of talk radio, comes this empty suit
of egomaniacal prattle, imitative voices, juvenalia and mindlessness
who, by all appearances, should probably be paying rent to
Shirley Jackson. No, he wasn’t part of the ’80s and he “listens
back” to his shows? Good god.
I spent six years building the station’s air sound, primarily,
but not limited to, music and spoken word intended to challenge
the listeners and expose them to creative material unavailable
elsewhere. Lower East Side composer- performer Elliott Sharp
once told me WRPI’s airplay was way beyond anything in NYC—and
it wasn’t just me. The spirit was infectious throughout and
WRPI routinely wound up on “best of” lists. Ratings had us
No. 1 in many quarter hours.
When I left, I did everything possible to pass the torch,
although with the always rotating college population, I realized
it might not happen. Still, WRPI had a solid history and strong
tradition going back to 1957 when WROW donated the transmitter,
having declared FM unprofitable, and I tuned in to the magic
as a seventh grader. I moved on and let it go.
Today, this once proud 10 KW station with all its potential
and promise is not even capable of maintaining a full schedule
during the school year.
True, many younger people today don’t even know what radio
is, but there’s no reason for this incredible resource to
have sunk so low to where this vacuous blowhard deserves the
deification your article grants. Surely, RPI and the surrounding
community contain some dedicated, creative people who understand
tradition and can carry the torch.
To clarify, Harmando made no aggrandizing claims regarding
his influence with the station in the ’80s beyond basic involvement.
This “gushing” profile wasn’t an effort to document WRPI proper
or to pass judgment on the station/university’s alleged decline.
In fact, I appreciate your implicit suggestion that my portrayal
was accurate. Love him or be “appalled” by him, Hair Man is
an anomolous persona on the airwaves and in our community—that
is, in my opinion, someone worth reading about.
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