Mount Airy mayor gains blip of fame

December 17, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Was it a slow news week or what?

A seemingly trivial directive from Mount Airy Mayor Gerald Johnson to his employees -- to hang up on obnoxious callers -- propelled him to 90 seconds of fame on Washington's radio airwaves this week.

The Greaseman, D.C.'s shock-jock, picked up on the mayor's publicly aired memo and urged station WWDC's morning listeners not to call Mount Airy because town employees will hang up on them.

Mr. Johnson, after learning about the Greaseman's comments, called the radio station to clarify the issue.

Imagine the mayor's surprise when the Greaseman asked whether Mr. Johnson would mind going on the air to discuss the matter.

"He wanted to know how all this came about," said Mr. Johnson, who didn't hesitate to join the broadcast. "I told him we had been getting some calls at town hall from very obnoxious people who were not identifying themselves."

Mr. Johnson had brought the matter before the Town Council, asking them to endorse his plan to allow town employees to hang up on such callers.

The council agreed, saying employees should not have to put up with such abuse.

"Our ladies here have been very gracious and patient listening to all of this [abuse]," Mr. Johnson said. "I don't think it's really necessary for them to put up with this. Ninety-nine and 44/100 percent of the people who call here do the right thing. It's the X number of people who make it difficult for everybody."

Mr. Johnson, of course, explained all this to the Greaseman, who he said was very pleasant and understanding during the live exchange.

The Greaseman suggested the town should invest in Caller ID, "and then we could call these people back and tell them 'Ruff, ruff, ruff,' or something like that," the mayor said.

Mr. Johnson and the Greaseman then exchanged thank-yous.

"And that was it," the mayor said.

When asked how the radio station, popularly known as DC-101, learned about the mayor's directive, Carl Foster, the show's producer, said yesterday that the station staff gleaned the tidbit from a news wire story.

"This was a whole lot of nothing," said Mr. Foster, annoyed by the publicity the broadcast has gotten. "[The Greaseman] just read a sidebar kind of thing and chit-chatted with the mayor for about 90 seconds. The mayor was on for a heartbeat. We weren't picking on him or anything like that."

Mr. Foster said the interview "was no big deal."

"It was trivial," he said.

The exchange, however, has made Mr. Johnson a celebrity of sorts in Mount Airy, where the broadcast was the topic of conversation before a Planning and Zoning Commission workshop Tuesday.

"People have had a lot of fun with it," Mr. Johnson said.

"Thank goodness it was something positive and not negative."

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