Sunday, July 5, 2009

The History of Zuma Dogg (Aka: My Version of a Resume)

My first love since I turned on the AM radio in 1973 and heard Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American Band" blaring through the speakers has always been, and I think still is radio. (Doug, Kevin and that NBC 4 reporter who interviewed me recently will tell you that I'm still a radio geek.)

In High School, I talked my way into an internship at the legendary, local FM rock radio station (WMMS/Cleveland) even though they didn't have a program that semester. (The administrator could tell I wanted it so bad, she just let me do it, anyway.) I got to answer the request line that I used to call into round-the-clock, then get to walk into the studio to hand the request page to the legendary DJ I used to listen to.

While attending Ohio State University (OSU) I needed that media excitement I tapped into at WMMS and got a part-time, paying job at Top 40 WNCI/Columbus.

This was in about 1986 when U2 "Joshua Tree," Bon Jovi, Michael Jackon (BAD, not Thriller) Guns & Roses, George Michael and Run-DMC were big.

The job was running the Casey Kasem Top 40, which allowed me to get behind the board of the radio station and get to read an occasional "live tag" then go back to listen to myself say, "Offer ends May 1st." And that alone was cool.

BUT THE MAIN THING THAT SHAPED ME, AND CARRIES WITH ME TO THIS DAY, was besides the Sunday morning gig, I did call-out market research for the radio station. I would take the phone list and call people and read the questionaire about radio and DJs and musicand take the feedback from people.

So, the most important thing in my life that has shaped me as "ZD" to this day, were the endless hours on the phone with everyday, real people, getting to hear their real and actual feedback (peceptions) based on what was happening in the radio market on a day to day basis, which I was also very much on top of.

So I began to get a feeling and instinct as to what works and what doesn't and what it takes to produce a result in the media. (How long a record needs to be played before the phones start ringing, or if the new morning show is catching on with people.

So I started calling the Program Director at home at the end of the evening to give him re-caps. Then HE started calling me, earlier in the evening for updates himself. And then, I was allowed to walk into his office anytime I wanted and he would drop everything to talk to me. And before you know it, I was helping with the music, then in charge of cranking out the hour by hour music logs. (DJs don't pick the music they play, not even the order, they just go down the list arranged by someone like ZD in the back room.

So the mix of talking to the people on the phone, seeing the research and knowing how much everything was being played all across the dial, cause I monitored the radio constantly meant I was soon PREDICTING what would be happening with the ratings and with what new music was about to break.

At the same time, I became a fan of Marketing Warfare (marketing strategy) authors Al Ries & Jack Trout. I started to apply their Sun-Tzu based "Art of War" tactics to radio and the results were amazing and it was a lot of fun.

From WNCI/Columbus, I went from researcher/weekend DJ (of course, eventually I had to fill in one Saturday Night for the DJ who couldn't make it, and the rest is history) to a small station in Toledo, Ohio where I took all the marketing warfare stuff and all my research knowledge from grunt work on the phone, and got to do it MY WAY as a big guy (Program Director) in a small town.

ZD BLEW THE ROOF OFF THE SUCKER, and within three months was moving up the radio ladder to the next market, Kansas City; then Washington, D.C.; then Houston and NYC/Times Square as Director of Hot 100 Chart for Billboard Magazine.

While in radio, I eventually became known as "research guru" (I hate that term, but who am I to argue) and while working at Z-100 radio, produced such "never before seen"phenomenal results in one of the $100,000 market research studies...THEY RAN THE RESULTS AGAIN FOR ERRORS, because as the head of the international research company said, "In the history of our company, we have never seen (ZD's part) outperform everything else by so much."

Z-100/NYC went from 11th place to #2 when I walked out the door and was responsible for so much innovation that I won't bore you with, but I WAS told that I would never be able to get Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Pepper or Nirvana played on Top 40 radio. (IT WAS, and NO, it wasn't easy!)

After the trek across the country in radio, and landing at Time Square for Billboard, I came out to L.A. for the Billboard Music Awards in '93, during the WORST winter weather since New York started keeping track. Meanwhile, ZD was Rollerblading down Venice Beach in January looking at the view and I said, "Jackie Kennedy and Donald Trump can't beat this view for all their money from their nicest penthouse.

I put in two weeks notice at Billboard, as soon as I returned to NYC becasue I was a hot commodity, and as soon as I announced I wanted to leave, people would jump. They did, and two weeks later I was working for another industry trade magazine that allowed me to do more.

BUT, the guy who hired me (the owner) went into the hospital shortly after I started (over back problems, NOT ZD aggrevation) and the accountant/numbers guy (who barely knew about me since I just started) kinda stopped the checks.

From there, I started out on my own in LA as a radio consultant, and it was good for a while and I was always able to crank out work, BUT...the Malibu rock and roll/radio lifestyle was a little too fun for ZD and started hanging out with too many Malibu people who could afford to hang out all day at the beach club during working hours.

AND, before you know it, not working for a radio station, even though I was "in" radio as research consultant wasn't enough creatively.

So I sent a CD of some funny stuff I did on my new home computer (in 2000) and sent it to Howard Stern. I was listening THE NEXT DAY (after Fed-Ex'ing it) and heard Howard play my bit. People noted how it was the longest they heard Howard shut up and let something play without interrupting. (I had already noticed, myself.)

Two weeks later, I was in his New York studio for that YouTube clip I think everyone reading this has seen. (That was the FIRST "Zuma Dogg"apprearance ever. I changed my name and hid appearance with hat and glasses so I would not be recognized by my radio associates, cause I was expecting to tank and though ZD was going to be the comic relief punching bag that the OTHER guy turned out to be.)

I had NO IDEA ZD had the knack for comedic improv. I REALLY DIDN'T. I thought I was TANKING during the segment. But when I walked out of the studio, the feedback made me realized it was hilarious. Then, when I watched it back, I saw how smooth it looked, but again, I thought I was DYING at the time.

My friend had one of those camcorders where you can put in a tape and record stuff to video then play it back on your TV. (It was only 2000, remember. Not everyone's two year old had their own video cam.)

I said, "Hey, let's go to Venice Beach and film some funny stuff." My friend ended up not being able to go with me to Venice that day, but let me take the camera myself. ( am I supposed to film without a cameraman?)

I figured out a way, and the rest is history.

ZUMA DOGG RESUME: Worked in radio industry in programming and research department of top stations in major markets responsible for managing staff (up to 50 people in NYC radio station) and worked with managers and employees from sales, production, accounting and promotion department. During this time, I studied the work of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, and my review of his work has been prasied by Deming and published internationally in Quality Digest in '94. After starting a radio consultancy firm, ZD was having a little too much fun getting creative with the Malibu Hollywood scene (I remember Ron Burkle's name from those days, at the same places); decided to go "in front of the camera" as Zuma Dogg for the Howard Stern appearance as a "hoot" for my homies. Found out I had a knack for improv performing and the rest is history. (Including the part that started in 2006 when I walked into L.A. City Hall for something called, "Public Comment" where you can tell City Council exactly what you think. I had something to say about a Venice Beach ordinance that was preventing me from doing business and cut off my income. Thought it would be a one time trip. Guess I was wrong about that.

Influences: KISS, Bruce Springsteen, Run-DMC, Scott Shannon/Z-100, Al Ries, Jack Trout, Dr. Deming, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins (he unleashed the Zuma Dogg within).

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