Stephen Capen died in 2005 from lung cancer in Massachusetts. Before we get into my memories of Stephen Capen I would like to give an overview of his career. I found his resume online using Archive Today. The resume is short and to the point, but is a comic work of art in itself. It starts out “My Brilliant Career”, but instead uses the word Careen, as in “Careening Into The Abyss.” Each position he lists comes with a joke about how it failed. Hopefully no one will care if I post repost his resume here. I did not alter it, but I did strike out a few curse words. I believe his resume belongs to his fans, as it is a sort of goodbye letter to them.
My Brilliant Careen
The Resume of a Radio Itinerant
KVON, NAPA, CALIFORNIA
News for the Dumbed Down. 1998-2000
Cracker Management Meets the Aryan Church
(No Truth anywhere in THIS Wine)
KUSF, SAN FRANCISCO
“The Futurist Radio Hour” 1995-1996
(Perorations! What of it?)
KTID, SAN RAFAEL
(Anemic Pop and Meaningless Drivel)
KDBK, SAN FRANCISCO
Newsflap, Weekends. 1993-1994
Viacom thugs fired me by phone as I was booking guests on the other line.
(The high price of call-waiting)
KFOG, SAN FRANCISCO
Graveyard, Weekends, 1992-1993
(Something innocuous this way slogged.)
WXRK (K-ROCK), NEW YORK
(Paralyzed ‘em from the waist up! Stern had them from the waist down.)
KRQR, SAN FRANCISCO
A two-day stint — cancelled after one. 1987
(Not there long enough to ascertain format)
KMEL, SAN FRANCISCO
KSFX/KGO AM & FM, SAN FRANCISCO
Morning Drive, later Newstalk 1981-1982
(You can teach monkeys to do this)
KFRC, SAN FRANCISCO
News Anchor, Mornings 1981
(With a legendary scumbag)
KSAN, SAN FRANCISCO
Morning Drivenness, 1980-1981
Last Gasp of the First Progressive.
(Fights broke out over drugs in the halls)
WCBS-FM, NEW YORK
Faux Oldies. Weekends, 1979
AKA: Jimmy Foxx
(They lied. I left.)
WPIX, NEW YORK
Afternoons, if the shuttle was on time. 1978
(Revolving-door school of programming)
(I don’t remember what I was doing there. Or when.)
“Country.” Sometime in the 1970s
Overnights in the dead of winter. Brassed it out for two long weeks.
AKA: Kevin O’Capen
(Front for a drug company)
Morning Drive from a Halfway House, 1976-1978
(P.D. fired me after I stole his girlfriend)
WINZ-FM, ZETA IV, MIAMI
(When I was able to make it)
WHCN II, HARTFORD
Progressive Rock. Evenings, 1974
(Hartford for the taking. Who cares, right?)
KGB AM&FM, SAN DIEGO
Whatever. Evenings, 1973
(All that’s currently wrong with radio had its origins right here.)
KPRI, SAN DIEGO
Doobie & Roach, The Baloney Brothers. The Morning Team, 1973
(So ill-conceived people overslept for days.)
CJOM, WINDSOR, ONTARIO, CANADA
Program Director, 1972-1973
(Locked out — on Thanksgiving Day — for an alleged farting contest.
(There’s a problem with calling the mayor a C?)
Program Director; Afternoon Drive. 1972
(Radio during wartime: AM sister-station engineers literally hatcheted transmitter lines.)
(Robot Radio, after the dismal Love Network failed.)
Free Form. Afternoons, 1970-1971
(The little station that knew not what it was.)
Morning News, Production Director, 1969
(“This is show business. When your tits sag, you’re finished!”–Ray Riepen, owner)
Evenings, earlier in 1969
($99 a week. No deductions, no frills, no debate.)
WCCC AM&FM, HARTFORD
Program Director, even earlier in 1969
(G.M.’s guidelines: “If you can hear the bass through the wall, don’t play it.”)
Mid-days, very early in 1969
AKA: Stephen Kane
(You’d think one might have a prayer with a P.D. named Charlie Parker.)
PM Drive Time Rock & Roll, 1967
($50 to play your record? Wowwwww.)
Mornings, Music Director. 1966-1967
AKA: Stephen Kane
(“Table Talk” pies merchandised [read “cashiered”] us. Poetic, somehow.)
WBZA AM&FM, GLENS FALLS, NEW YORK
Morning and Afternoon Drive. Go figure. 1965
(The G.M. recip’d us — traded airtime for cars, meals, motel rooms, watches — into oblivion.)
WFST AM&FM, CARIBOU, MAINE
6 days a week, $65. 1965
Snow shoveler, lawnmower man, trashman. Oh, and 8 hours a day on the air.(Salary boosts based on migrant Indian field workers from Canada blowing harvest wages on “bright, shiny objects” at Woolworth’s.) (G.M. warned: “no screaming Nword”—such as Johnny Mathis)
Parroting what the big guys were doing, what would you expect? 1964-1965
The Cambridge School/Grahm Junior College/Defunct.
(Does this count?)
Radio Stations that promoted me as joining the station who ultimately never saw my face.
WSHE, FORT LAUDERDALE KZMK, BISBEE, ARIZONA
Radio Stations who were absolutely certain they would hire me (“definitely call you Monday!”) whom I never heard from again. WDST, WOODSTOCK KPIX, SAN FRANCISCO
Radio Stations who assured me full-time work was imminent, then flipped the format, firing me instead: KDBK, SAN FRANCISCO
Owners who win the lumpen-to-samsara award for their rise in consciousness: Geoff Sterling, CJOM, Windsor, Ontario
PLEASE DO NOT BOTHER ANYONE CONNECTED WITH ANY OF THE RADIO STATIONS I HAVE WORKED FOR.
By embracing his failures, Stephen Capen shows us his success. Each time he would go to work in a new part of country more people learned about him. He died at a point in which his star could have gone on the rise if he found National Syndication or a Sirius Radio Show. I wish desperately that he would tone it down on the air, because he kept getting fired for his antics. Each time he got fired I was deprived of his voice. This made me very conscious of him, which is why I remember him. He liked to pull pranks such as this parachute stunt.
One time Capen had been brought back to whatever station I was listening to. I made a special effort to remember the experience. Capen had a newsman named Jack. Capen was joking around somehow Jack took offensive and walked out. Capen came back on the air after he was gone, and said “Jack, come back!” He sounded upset, but at the same time he still had a joking sort of attitude. It was as if he wanted to apologize, but did not agree that it was all that serious. I guessed they had an off the air argument. Maybe Capen was being too hyperactive? He sounded very coked up on the air. Naturally this made him the perfect 70’s radio DJ. I wonder if it was drugs, coffee or some kind of bipolar swing that made him that way.
The next day they had replaced Jack with a woman named Lori who I was sure was black, but one day she said on the air, “I am white-squared.” This stuck in my mind because I had thought she was black based on her voice. The DJ said something to her, and in the course of the conversation she said she was white-squared. I did not know what to make of it, but I assumed she saying she was white, really white. There was no way to see how these radio people looked at the time. This was before the internet. Lori was the newsperson after Jack quit. But she also got mad at Capen and they had the argument on the air. Capen was trying to tell Lori that she was upset over nothing and it was no big deal. Lori said “No, Stephen! You punched holes in my toast.” I had no idea what this meant, but I assumed Capen had punched physical holes in a piece of toast that Lori had made for herself in the breakroom. I assume they had an off the air break room for snacks, but I don’t know if they did. Shortly after Stephen Capen was fired again due to his inability to get along with the news people, I assumed, but it could have been something else. I wanted Stephen Capen back and there was nothing I could do. Lori stayed around for many more years, although I did not like her.
He had an amazing voice and you can hear samples of his voice here. After that whenever someone rains on my parade, I say, “You punched holes in my toast.” It means, I had something I was really excited about and you threw shade on my idea.
But, maybe the Lori worked with Alex Bennett and the woman who had holes punched in her toast was not named Lori and never said “white-squared.” I could be confusing many radio moments into one larger piece in my mind. Maybe some of the things I remember could be Capen or some of the other personalities.
Stephen Capen would read song lyrics. When Night Fever by the Bee Gees was a hit on the radio, Stephen Capen read the lyrics on the air. I had not been able to understand the lyrics, so I really appreciated it. He read the words “I’m glowing in the dark, I give you warning.” I had never been able to hear those words in the lyrics, so it all seemed very strange. He would read lyrics and then make fun of them in a strange offbeat way. I recalled he was either fired for disciplined for reading the lyrics to the song Girl in Trouble by Romeo Void and the stating the obvious fact that the song was about an an abortion. He always looked for anything he could do to cause trouble as if it was a compulsion, more then a comedy routine.
Stephen Capen did not always work under his real name, he sometimes used pseudonyms and those are noted on his resume. He started out in 1968 as Stephen Kane. I remember he made a joke of his name by saying it in a slurred and stuttering voice, which I assumed was his way of making fun of those people with speech impediments. Nothing was scared to Capen and he go to any lengths to have a prank or a joke, even when it was detrimental to his career or got him fired.
As you see from his resume Stephen Capen even worked in Napa as late of 2000, but I did not know about it when it came to different stations. I only heard him if I knew of the station and I was in the habit of listening to it. There was a memorial for him in San Francisco, but I did not know about that or I would have gone. He worked in the Bay Area more then any other location, but he moved back to Massachusetts after contracting terminal lung cancer to be closer to his family.
I have many more memories of Alex Bennett then I do of Stephen Capen, because Bennett was around for a lot longer and more consistently, until he was replaced by Howard Stern from New York. Alex Bennett did get removed from Sirius Radio after they gave him a political talk show. His Sirius Show was offensive and not at all funny. He opened it up in a terrible way that he thought was a hoot, but I hated it. I could not even get past it.
Bonus Update: I remembered something else about Steven Capen. If I think of anything more about him I will add updates here at the end of the post.
Burning Down One Side is a Robert Plant Solo song that was popular in 1982.
I heard Steven Capen talking as the song ended. I was recording the song with my radio cassette player. He said, “Robert Plant…..Knuckling Under.” I listened to the song over and over and eventually Capen’s words became like a part of the song. This is the only reason I still remember what he said. Had known, he was going to die, I would have of recorded Capen as much as possible for historical reasons. But one never thinks about how important it was to have more photos, recording and videos until its way too late. For years I wondered what was he talking about. How is the song Knuckling Under? Now I think it was some kind of mildly snide comment to a boss or a manager at the radio station.
I also have a memory of Alex Bennett. The best line he had was the caller is “A Small whining child from Pinole.” The “child” wanted him to play more music and talk less. Alex Bennett did not practically like music. Alex Bennett is not a DJ, but a radio personality.