Today, if you think about victims of stalking, you think of David Letterman, perhaps a movie or rock star. But probably every radio DJ has had a problem with it.
I know I did.
Because of the way radio works — a voice in the air, a listener in a bedroom — I believe appreciation can easily jump to infatuation, or something like it. And then, often, it can swing to the opposite.
Back in the 1980s I would be in the Manhattan studio to do my show at 4 a.m. Our switchboard didn't open until 9, so often I would answer phone calls while the records were spinning. Often a caller would tell me she thought I was wonderful, the show was wonderful, the music was wonderful, and she just had to say so.
I would tell her thank you.
The next time she called, she would go through the same routine: wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.
But perhaps the third time this listener would call, she would tell me I was awful, I shouldn't have said that or played that music. I was a disgrace, etc.
One day I'm loved. One day I'm not.
Rose and Fran were a living example of this phenomenon.
Rose was a pretty woman who drove a Mercedes convertible from her home in New Jersey each morning at 3 and parked outside the WRFM studio at 485 Madison Ave. She was waiting for me to ring the night bell to be admitted. She just watched me go in, but she also wrote me long letters every day, pouring out her love.
Then suddenly she was writing long letters — it was the same handwriting — but they were not so nice, and they were signed by "Fran."
Fran didn't like me: I was awful, and she had to tell me just how awful I was.
One day, the letter would be from Rose — who loved me. One day, Fran — who hated me.
On my birthday that year, the night watchman, who didn't know any of this, let this woman into the building and walked her upstairs, opening up our locked studios.
I went to get coffee when suddenly the back door opened, and in walked Rose, seemingly in a trance — and carrying a huge, pink birthday cake.
I said to her, "Who is this?"
And she said, as if in a dream, "Rose!"
I took the cake and thanked her for it, and the guard took her away.
I refused to eat even one bite, but the staff did. And no one died.
The funniest listener was Grace. She was the editor of a magazine, lived alone, and evidently had seen Mickey Rooney in The Human Comedy too many times.
She pretended to be a messenger delivering letters. She pretended she rode a bicycle to do it: She had a bicycle clip on her right pant leg. She wore a cap and carried an old clipboard, and each day she would attempt to deliver a letter to Jim Aylward.
She made Elaine, at our reception desk, sign for this letter, and then Grace would disappear until the next day.
It got to be so laughable that I refused to read the letters and tossed them all out. She kept delivering, of course. Until the day she delivered what turned out to be her last big hit:
Bicycle clip, cap, clipboard all in place, she delivered a letter that had written across the front of the envelope, "INSIDE IS THE REAL STORY OF JIM AYLWARD'S SECRET SEX LIFE!"
The staff said I had to open it. I did. Inside was completely blank. Nothing.
"Jim Aylward? I gotcha!"
New Port Richey resident Jim Aylward was formerly a nationally syndicated columnist and radio host in New York City. Write to him in care of LifeTimes, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.