Daybreak last Friday found Paul Young, a 27-year-old disc jockey for Herndon's WVBK radio station, studying his horoscope in the morning paper: Pisces, Young read, would find that "a successful career maneuver can be accomplished today."
That's when Young tied the radio station's control booth door closed, shutting himself and the world--and his boss--out.
For the next 12 hours, Young would play "Take This Job and Shove It!" over and over again to protest his $100 a week salary, gaining a notoriety for himself and his tiny station that neither had anticipated but which both, by the end, would love.
For weatherman Woodie West, it was to have been his first day on the job. He was eager to make a good impression, so he wore clean Nikes and a starched cowboy shirt.
But when he got to the control booth door, he found it barricaded.
He knocked. No answer.
"Hey," he shouted, "I'm here to do the weather!"
Deejay Young had just signed on the air--it was 5:45 a.m. He had no intention of opening the doors. For the first time that day, Johnny Paycheck's oldie, "You Can Take This Job and Shove It!" was wafting through the airwaves.
Station program director Jeff Davis woke up at home shortly thereafter and flipped his bedside radio to 1440 am, home to WVBK, his station. A familiar song was playing. He hummed along as he brushed his teeth.
Returning to his bedroom, he pulled on a blue tee shirt (it noted that "I Survived the Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens"). Then he noticed that the same familiar song was still playing on the radio. Davis was puzzled but not troubled. Not yet. It was, he remembered, Aprils Fools' Day.
By noon, down by the old railroad station in downtown Herndon, the regular customers at The Event, a town pub, were sitting on high stools swapping news and wisecracks with owner, Jack Guth.
Enter truck driver, Don Stevens. "You guys gotta hear this," he exclaimed, hoisting a radio onto the bar. A song was blasting out: "Well, you can take this job and shove it!"
"The guy's been playing this all morning," said Stevens. "He says he wants a raise. Claims he gets $100 a week and he ain't taking WKRP wages any longer!"
Holmes Gardner, known as "Gomer," leaned over one end of the bar, his ususally morose features defiant, and announced his one-man support. He said he would conduct a drink-in until the matter was resolved. Ahead still lay six hours of beer gulping.
Guth, a one-time Herndon mayoral candidate, decided to phone Young and offer him a meal. The line, however, was busy.
By the time the sun was heading into the west, Young was big news. NBC had a team on hand--first they were from the local staff, then came the national--as did ABC and Metromedia. Reporters from the local press were also on hand.
Everyone remarked about the transformation of program director Davis. With each interview, he became visibly more authoritative and quotable.
"I can tell you," stated Davis, "that we are in communication with Mr. Peltz the station owner in upstate New York . I am not at liberty to discuss the status of negotiations. We have, however, made the decision not to pull the plug on Mr. Young unless he does something illegal and/or irrational."
Meanwhile, in the control booth (it resembles a glass-sided aquarium visible from three angles through wide glass panes), Young pulled at an enameled earring and chatted with callers.
Until this point in life, the biggest claim on fame for Young, a Vietnam veteran, was that he had been a male stripper at the Hanger Club in Maryland. He was showing no signs of acting irrationally, however. Strobes flashed, newspeople were peering in, noting his every move. He was in what must have amounted to the most public solitary confinement at least in the history of Herndon.
His biggest difficulty was that he had no access to a bathroom.
By early evening, Davis announced that it was over: Young's demand to meet with the owner had been arranged.
Young allowed Davis to enter the booth, and they shook hands as Davis made the announcement that the siege of WVBK was officially over.
It was close to midnight before Paul Young entered The Event. His walrus mustache drooped and he could have used a shave. A full house of supporters raised mugs and cheered in salute of their hero. Young settled into a captain's chair in the balcony. All present lined up to shake his hand or slap his back.
Stevens was visibly elated. He hoisted a brew, revealing an R-rated tattoo on a bicep.
Overhead a local television news cast was lighting up a giant TV screen. The crowd in The Event fell silent. Larger than life, the image of a thumbs-up deejay flashed on.
"He did it," said Stevens. "The underdog won this time. You know, that guy just said what everybody wants to say."