Call it a promoter's nightmare. During a new-car giveaway at Rosecroft Raceway in Oxon Hill Saturday night, several thousand race-goers began throwing objects at "Doctor Dave" Ferguson, dance-music WPGC-FM's (95.5) program director and morning man, after he shouted an expletive at the audience in an attempt to quiet them.
Nearly 6,000 people jammed the clubhouse for the Messenger Stakes, the middle jewel of a harness racing triple crown and the 11th of 13 races on the card that evening.
Following the race, Rosecroft's director of public relations, Kim Berkshire, took the seven finalists in the car giveaway to the winner's circle, where they each tried a key in the ignition of a 1990 Ford Probe. The key-holder who started the car was to keep it. The first key turned on the automobile's interior and dashboard lights, but the engine did not crank. The remaining contestants' keys fit into the ignition, but nothing happened when they turned the key, Berkshire acknowledged yesterday. "The first finalist actually had the correct key but didn't put the clutch in far enough" (a safety feature that prevents the car from starting accidentally).
Berkshire said the holder of the first key was later given the car, and the other six finalists were taken into the track's executive offices, where another drawing for a second $13,000 Probe was held.
According to several sources, Ferguson, who was at the event with his wife, Saundra, ordered the crowd, with microphone in hand, to "shut up" and at that point used an expletive.
"I think that's where the problems began," said Berkshire. "That got the crowd very stirred up."
Ferguson did not admit or deny that he made such a statement to the audience.
"They started throwing hot dogs, beverage cups, newspapers -- anything they had in their hands," Ferguson said when asked about the incident. "It was crazy, man. I was just there to give away the car. I was lucky to get out of there alive."
WPGC General Manager Ben Hill called the event "unfortunate" and said he received several calls yesterday from "people who were at the promotion and expressed displeasure that one of our people had offended them." Hill said he "discussed" the incident with Ferguson, adding, "Sometimes these things happen when you are doing a live appearance."
Saddam's Next Stop Lately, Rush Limbaugh on WMAL-AM (630) has been airing a bit that features a big, network-quality voice saying, "Saddam Hussein, your troops have invaded Kuwait, the world is on the brink of war: What's your next move?"
A Middle East-accented voice replies happily, "I'm going to Disneyland!"
Meanwhile, after a summer of letters complaining about WMAL's firing veteran announcer John Lyon and replacing part of his midday shift with Limbaugh's chat show, the station has begun receiving letters supporting the addition of Limbaugh. Now heard on 267 stations -- another three are scheduled to be added by month's end -- Limbaugh is the nation's most-listened-to talk show host, according to Arbitron's spring survey figures, with 1.3 million listeners per quarter-hour. Westwood One's Bruce Williams on NBC Talknet and Larry King on Mutual are each heard on more stations but have fewer listeners.
Hitting the Books WKYS-FM (93.9) morning voice Donnie Simpson will emcee a "Read It" rally tomorrow aimed at 16,000 fifth- and sixth-grade students in the Prince George's County school system. Among the celebrities at Capital Centre will be Washington Bullets Coach Wes Unseld, forward Bernard King, General Manager John Nash, team and Cap Centre owner Abe Pollin and the rap duo Partners in Kryme.
Literacy is Barbara Bush's pet project, and this weekend she'll debut a 10-week series dubbed "Mrs. Bush's Storytime" on the ABC network. The half-hour program, tentatively scheduled to air locally at 7:05 p.m. Saturday on WMAL, will begin with a 7 1/2-minute children's bedtime story read by the First Lady. She'll then interact with Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny and other such characters, and offer tips to parents on how to read to their kids. Each week a different celebrity, such as Oprah Winfrey, Bob Saget and Morgan Freeman, will tell how he learned to read, according to Jim Farley, the show's executive producer.
Shop Talk Goff Lebhar, general manager of WWDC-AM (1260), said yesterday that "we don't have a signed agreement yet" but that he expects to have a signed deal later this week to simulcast WRC-TV's 5-to-7 p.m. news shows on the nostalgia music station.
Lebhar said WRC is "the best two-hour news service in the market. Radio stations don't have the resources to compete with a network TV station. It's a win-win situation for everybody," Lebhar said. WWDC will not air any of WRC's commercials and will have 60 spots of 30 seconds each to sell during the prime afternoon-drive period.