Baltim- OH OH OH

Radio personality Tom Joyner stops in with a message and a check

March 31, 2007|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun Reporter

Radio personality Tom Joyner took to the stage at Morgan State University yesterday and voiced support for historically black colleges, encouraged his listeners to vote and raised questions about the war in Iraq.

And after he got his audience thinking about serious issues, he hit them with the absurd - he offered $100 to the woman with the thickest mustache and another $100 to the man with the largest breasts.

Twelve times a year, Joyner, 57, takes his Dallas-based show on the road to drum up support for black colleges. Yesterday, he broadcast the show from Morgan's Murphy Fine Arts Center, and during the visit he gave the school a $630,000 check from his foundation.

Joyner's show is aimed at African-American listeners and its format mixes news and commentary with humor that sometimes pushes the limits of sanity and good taste. The show is carried by about 120 stations nationwide, including WWIN-FM 95.9 locally, and it reaches about 8 million listeners a week. No subject is too wacky for discussion by Joyner and his sidekicks.

About 1,000 people turned out yesterday to hear the theme, "OH OH OH - It's the Tom Joyner Morning Show" - and to witness Joyner's antics. It marked the first time he had broadcast from Baltimore in three years, when he did a fundraiser for Coppin State University.

"I like listening to some of the serious topics that they talk about, like encouraging black people to get health checkups," said fan Tungia Williamson. "And I like the jokes they do."

Since 1998, the Tom Joyner Foundation has raised nearly $55 million for 100 black universities. Thomas Joyner Jr., president of his father's foundation, said money is raised from listeners and through fundraisers the schools coordinate.

"We partner with schools to do a lot of grass-roots reaching-out in the community," Joyner said.

Yesterday, the elder Joyner, dressed all in white from head to toe, put on a performance that did not disappoint the audience. Tim Watts, program director for WWIN-FM 95.9, which hosted the show, said fans arrived as early as midafternoon Thursday to make sure they got seats.

The old school R&B group, The Whispers, soul singer Shirley Murdock and comedian Adele Givens also performed.

Williamson, 52, of Baltimore, said she showed up at 8 p.m. Thursday so she could get a good seat. It turned out to be a good decision because she found a good spot to reach the stage for a dance competition.

Williamson said she has lupus and uses a cane to get around. It served as a helpful prop during her routine, which included twirling the cane around her head.

"I wanted to get up there and dance," she said.

Joyner's core listeners generally includes black women in the 40-and-over club, an age bracket that made up the majority of the audience.

But Kerrine Fraser, a senior at Morgan State, said she appreciates Joyner and his sidekicks, even though she was among the youngest in the audience.

Fraser, 28, said most of her classmates were not ready for the 6 a.m. start anyway.

"They don't know nothing about this," Fraser said of her school's students.

Joyner's on-air crew includes Sybil Wilkes, J. Anthony Brown, Myra J and Ms. Dupre.

One-liners are abundant, as are bizarre requests from audience members. Myra J offered up a free shirt to anyone who could show her two forms of birth control.

"And I don't want to see pictures of your ugly kids," Myra J told the crowd.

Murdock crooned some of her hits from a couple of decades ago, songs that pulled at the emotional strings of some of the audience.

One woman was so moved, she joined Joyner on stage and publicly denounced reconciliation with her ex-husband. Joyner then tried to help another man get back together with his girlfriend by calling her on a cell phone in front of the audience.

Joyner got her voice mail instead.

"Even the answering machine said `Hell, no,'" he said to the audience.

Joyner got the morning's biggest laugh with that line, but he generally handles the social commentary and leaves most of the jokes to Brown.

Brown saved one of his best zingers for the woman who eventually won the mustache contest.

"She looks like that guy that used to be on Fred Sanford - Lamont," Brown said.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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