It may have been April Fool's Day, but deejay Paul Young said he wasn't fooling.
After more than a year of spinning records at Herndon radio station WVBK-AM for $100 a week, Young yesterday morning at 5:15 locked himself in the station's control room with a bottle of Gatorade and for the next 12 hours played Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It."
Young vowed to play the song at the tiny, 1,000-watt station (1440 on your radio dial) until he was offered a "respectable" salary by the station's New York owner. For 50 minutes each hour, he cued up the popular country and western worker's lament. Young, 28, claimed victory at 5:41 p.m., when he said owner Ernie Peltz promised "serious" salary negotiations as soon as the college graduate, Vietnam veteran and onetime male stripper got off the air.
"We won!" Young said after the musical monotony ended. "I didn't lose my job and we've been promised a raise. I was keeping my fingers crossed, but I wasn't really worried."
Peltz, a Hammondsport, N.Y., businessman, could not be reached for comment.
"This isn't a stunt," the rookie deejay had insisted earlier in the day by telephone. "It just gets to the point where you've got to stand up for yourself. We've been trying to negotiate a better salary for months here. It gets to the point where you've got to stand up for yourself. Nowadays people are so scared about losing things in the recession that they'll put up with just about anything. That's wrong."
Publicity stunt or protest, it wasn't long before the phones were ringing, the network television cameras were rolling, and station manager Jeff Davis had decided that the siege of WVBK wasn't all bad.
"I know a good thing when I see one," said Davis, adding that Young, for all his good humor, was not one to tangle with. "The guy is 6-foot-4, and he's a bodybuilder. He's really not doing anything that violates FCC regulations.
"Besides," added Davis, who also draws $100 a week, "he has a point."
The station's listeners agreed. By noon a truck with C&P Telephone Co. workers had pulled up in the parking lot to cheer Young, and patrons of a nearby bar began a beer-drinking bout that they vowed would continue until Young got his raise. Fairfax County police officers who appeared and offered to break down the door were politely turned away by Davis.
"Our phones haven't stopped ringing," said Davis, whose station two years ago changed its format from rock and roll to country and western music. "The people listening feel that he is doing the right thing. He's doing this for the little people--the people in pick-up trucks--and they're responding."
Young, who lives with his parents near Warrenton, said he'd planned the takeover Thursday night, inspired by a recent television movie depicting fictitious nuclear blackmail in Charleston, S.C.
"Don't get me wrong. I'm not a John Hinckley, I'm not crazy," he said. "It just reminded of when I had to go and cover the nuke thing at the Washington Monument in December . My mother said to me then, 'For $100 a week you're going to go down there and get your head blown off?'"
Young said the promise of a pay raise vindicated his action. Despite having listened to "Take This Job and Shove It" approximately 240 times yesterday, he wasn't tired of hearing it. "I'm playing it again," he said after the showdown was over. "Some people called 'the gang from Dulles' just called up and requested it."