This is the final chapter in the long story about my friend Giorgio Moroder. We had finished recording the Germersheim rock festival, returned to the network headquarters in Frankfurt with many hours of tape. The quality of that tape wasn’t great and the German engineers had rejected it for network play. On my way out of the building I let my friend, newscaster Milt Fullerton, in on my little secret about having long hair, disguising it under a short hair wig, and Milt immediately went to the commanding officer of AFN and ratted me out.
It was Tuesday, May 23, 1972 the day I returned from the festival and got back to Munich. Hot on my agenda was finding a place to build a new recording studio with Giorgio Moroder. Terri and I had looked at quite a few places but on that very day, found exactly what we were looking for. A beautiful large home in the Munich suburbs with a large garden and, most important of all, a big basement where we could build a studio. The landlord had no problem with us running a business out of the place. We grabbed Giorgio and Pete Bellotti to take a look. They loved it and Terri and I signed a 5 year lease with the owner. Things were moving along nicely. Construction on the new studio could begin immediately. I would be released from the Army within 30 days.
The following Monday I was surprised to see AFN’s commanding officer in the building. I was the morning DJ, responsible for a program called the Dawn Patrol, and if you’re interested, you can click here to hear a very tiny segment of my saying goodbye to listeners to that program. I am only on about the last 5 seconds of this clip.
When I got out of the studio that morning, there was a lot of activity around the Colonel’s visit and I was surprised when I was told to go report to him in the office (kind of like going to see the assistant principal at school). This wasn’t good, no doubt, and my heart was in my mouth as I stood before the colonel, Neil Fontaine the station manager and the German secretary from the front office taking notes. I was standing at attention after having saluted the colonel and he spoke.
“Take off the wig”. Uh, oh. That was the last thing I thought I would hear. I slowly reached up and took off my short hair wig. Underneath the wig was my real and longish hair, bobby pinned up like a girl.
“You look like an idiot.” I felt like an idiot. ”You have been a pain in the side of the army for several years now. We’ve tolerated your shenanigans because you’re a good announcer. But now it’s over. You have 6 months left in the service and that gives me the right to try and fix your attitude for your own good.”
“Sir, respectively, I am scheduled to be released in a few days here in Germany.”
“Yes, I know. I’ve rescinded that order and you are to be transferred to Fort Benning Georgia immediately. There you will serve out the rest of your time in the hopes we can turn you into a good soldier. I really should put you in the brig but I think this may be worse.”
Panic set in. This man had absolute control over my life. I had just signed a 5 year lease on a home, a handshake agreement with Giorgio Moroder and this was intolerable. ”Sir, if you don’t let me out as agreed I will burn down this network.”
“Son, I am going to give you one more chance. For your own good I have contacted the commanding officer in Fort Benning and asked him to make sure your life is a living hell. You’re not going to burn down anything. Your ass will be on an airplane tomorrow morning at 0600 hours and we are done. Dismissed.”
And true to his word, my ass was on a plane leaving from Frankfurt the next morning. My personal effects were scooped up by a moving company and unceremoniously delivered to Columbus Georgia in a large box. The tapes were all there, the mixing console and other electronics stayed a part of AFN, gone forever. I never had a chance to say goodbye to anyone, I was just gone, my hopes and dreams of a recording studio and a life with musicians dashed. Terri has never forgiven me for blowing the gig.
The army is a big organization and manages to shoot itself in the foot on a routine basis. Upon arrival in Georgia’s Fort Benning I reported to my new commanding officer. He looked at my records and said “I see here you’re a 71B (radio announcer). Odd they sent you here with only 6 months to go. The only job in your field is at the hospital radio station. I will assign you there, you have one person under your command.” Command? They were putting me in charge of a radio station? This was my living hell?
I arrived at the hospital radio station, located in the basement of the Fort Benning hospital. It was affectionately known as the “Bedpan network”. The soldier I was in “charge of” was named Lou and he was a private who was attempting to get out of the army as a conscientious objector. Needless to say, we got along just fine. The station consisted of 12 AM radio tuners, allowing the hospital patients to select from one of the 12 stations using their pillow speakers. There was nothing to do. Our only job was to make sure the tuners were working each morning.
I quickly learned that the sergeant in charge checked on us once a week, on Friday, at 3pm. No one knew or cared we were there otherwise and most of the time we weren’t.
I went through official channels to get permission to work as a DJ at night, after hours, and was denied. undeterred as usual, that only prompted me to simply change my air name from Paul McGowan to Christopher Robin, take the job at local radio station WCLS in Columbus and became one of the more popular DJ’s – one the army sergeants who told me I could not take the job liked. It was somewhat surrealistic to check into the day room in the morning with the very sergeant that denied me permission to work – and hear him talking about the new DJ in town that made them laugh. The new DJ’s name was Christopher Robin. Had I ever listened to his program?
Life is as interesting as you make it. All the tapes of the concert, all my interviews with the rock stars, a few 16 track 2 inch masters from Giorgio’s studio are all sitting in a box decaying over time. It’s on my list to go through those and share them with the world, if only I had the time and equipment.
Thanks for reading.
Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.