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Hair Man Don’t

To the Editor:

I 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 now.

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.

Don Drewecki

Galway

 

To the Editor:

As 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.

Robert L. Henrickson

East Nassau

 

Josh Potter replies:

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.

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters addressed to the editor. Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length or clarity; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are anonymous, illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

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419 Madison Ave., Albany, NY 12210

e-mail: metroland@metroland.net

fax: 463-3726


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