Doug (Greaseman) Tracht, the rambunctious shock jock at WWDC-FM (101.1), has been hit with a lawsuit that seeks $10.7 million in damages stemming from a telephone bit he did in April 1985.
Tracht is the same announcer whose racial slur on the Martin Luther King holiday in January prompted pickets and caused several advertisers to drop their spots on his show.
The suit, filed in District of Columbia Superior Court this April by a Virginia woman and man -- identified only as "Jane Doe" and "John Roe" -- names Tracht and brothers Morton, Howard and Stanley Bender, the Washington builders who own the station, as defendants. It claims that the Greaseman "knowingly, willfully, and maliciously" made false and defamatory statements about Jane Doe on the air. The plaintiffs' attorney, Glenn H. Carlson, will not identify his clients, saying that because Tracht used both plaintiffs' full names on the air, the woman received a series of harassing phone calls following the broadcast.
It all started when listener John Roe phoned the Greaseman and asked the disc jockey to phone his girlfriend at the University of Virginia with a greeting on her 21st birthday. The suit alleges that the Greaseman rigged the on-air call, using an actress who falsely identified herself as "Jane Doe." The bit was that a man answered the phone, then handed it to the woman who said she had been "cuddling close" with the man.
"The man with whom plaintiff Jane Doe was supposedly cuddling purportedly answered plaintiff Jane Doe's telephone at 6:45 a.m. and spoke in a very groggy manner implying both that he was not John Roe and that he had been sleeping with Jane Doe that entire night."
The bit was replayed at 8:30 a.m. for an estimated 63,000 listeners.
The Greaseman refuses to comment on the case other than to say, "To be honest, I don't know a whole helluva lot about it."
Station managers and their lawyers have also declined comment while case research continues. No court date has been set.
Tracht says he doesn't think he's becoming a problem jock, nor is he worried.
"Nothing worries me," he said, slipping into his alter ego. "I worry other people." That Ain't All, Folks . . .
WAVA-FM (105.1) listener Dave Reile says he was so offended by what he heard earlier this month during the "Morning Zoo" with Don Geronimo and Mike O'Meara that he complained to station General Manager Alan Goodman. The University of Maryland graduate student said he heard Geronimo express a desire to have sex with older women at a nursing home. Geronimo and Goodman deny Reile's version, but each offers a different version of what was said. They did, however, say that Geronimo followed the bit up with an on-air call to his 87-year-old grandmother outside Chicago and asked about her sex life.
"I'd prefer that they'd not talk about some things," said Goodman later. "The whole conversation could have been in better taste, or not happened at all. But really, it wasn't that bad. What can I say? They're naughty boys on the radio."
But apparently that naughtiness is what a growing number of morning listeners want. The "Morning Zoo" Arbitron market share ratings have gone from 3.1 in the fall book to a winter rating of 4.6. Geronimo and O'Meara, who took over in December after Doubleday Broadcasting uncaged their predecessors, Charlie and Herrigan. The Arbitrend March through May survey released yesterday gives the morning show a 4.9 share of the market.
And sometimes all the attention shows up on paper. The "Zoo team" is about to sign a new contract with WAVA that nearly doubles Geronimo's salary and finally puts free-lancer O'Meara on the station's staff with a "very handsome raise," says Goodman. The contract runs through August 1987 and prevents the pair from being split or given another time slot. How 'Bout Urban Weather? Rumors of WASH-FM's (97.1) possible format change continue to fly. They've included beautiful music, album oriented rock and country. This week, news/talk was added to the list.
Station General Manager Tom Durney admits he is "researching formats" but he won't say what the possibilities are, jokingly suggesting that he's considering a "rodeo bagpipe" format.
"We need to be the dominant adult station or switch, like WCXR," said Durney, referring to country station WPKX's January switch to WCXR-FM (105.9) and a highly rated classic rock music format.
But Durney rules out a country format.
"We don't plan to go country," he said. "There's really not enough listeners for two country stations and not enough revenues to support it. Country stations still take a back seat to stations that play to an audience of executives.
"We'll make a decision to stay with adult contemporary or change by the spring Arbitron book's release." Those ratings will be out in mid-July.
WXTR was also rumored to be considering a country format, but co-owner Sue Dalton says, "There's no chance of changing formats. It hasn't even come up in conversation."
Dalton, who with her husband Bill Dalton paid $2 million for the LaPlata-Waldorf AM/FM stations, says they are making lots of money with the oldies station and guesstimates the FM's value at more than $10 million. The sale of the AM outlet for $290,000 was completed last month. The Daltons celebrate their fifth anniversary of station ownership on Saturday. Also in the News
Monday night's fifth annual Old Timers Baseball Classic at RFK can be heard live on WMAL-AM (630). Johnny Holliday hosts the pregame show starting at 7:30 and then joins play-by-play man and voice of the Baltimore Orioles Chuck Thompson and Chicago Cubs commentator Jack Brickhouse . . . Bob Davis will pay tribute to singer Kate Smith and composer Alan Jay Lerner on his one-hour "Entertainment" show on Saturday at 1 on WGMS-AM/FM (570/103.5). Tuesday evening at 8:05, the station's Paul Hume presents the first of a two-part interview taped in February with Benny Goodman. The second portion airs July 1.