Schaffer prepares for exitWritten by Myndi Milliken | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I see a clinic full of cynics
who want to twist the peoples’ wrist
they’re watching every move we make we’re all included on the list
The lunatics have taken over the asylum
The lunatics have taken over the asylum
— As performed by Fun Boy Three
On a typical weekday afternoon, WSPD talk-radio host Denny Schaffer starts his three-hour stint with a cigar and a remixed version of “The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum.”
Listeners never know what to expect, but given Schaffer’s history, it’s a good gamble it will be emotionally charged.
Friday, Schaffer will hang up his headphones and turn off his microphone after nearly 13 years on Toledo airwaves.
A brief history
Schaffer started as a disc jockey at a disco nightclub in Flint, Mich. In 1981, he did a brief stint on-air in Toledo for WRQN in 1983-84, but was fired.
Being fired was common in Schaffer’s radio career, which took him all over the country with new radio jobs.
“It’s pretty normal in the business, but when you are an outspoken personality you’re gonna get fired a lot,” he said. “The first six full-time jobs I had I was fired. I didn’t take direction very well and thank goodness that’s changed.”
Schaffer returned to the Toledo market in 1992, where he headed “Denny Schaffer and the Breakfast Club” for 10 years. He then switched to WSPD’s conservative talk radio format. Through the years, listeners were able to follow Schaffer’s public transition from a party guy to a deeply religious father of two.
“I’ve always been passionate but now it’s better controlled and better directed,” he said. “There’s not just a complete radical, scream out of my mind … I’ve matured. I used to shoot from the hip a lot, and I don’t do that anymore.”
Schaffer will begin his new job at WGST in Atlanta, a Clear Channel News Talk station, hosting the 8 a.m. to noon slot sometime next week.
“It’s going to be very similar to here. Probably a wider range of topics because there’s only so many things in Toledo we can talk about as far as politics and stuff,” he said.
Schaffer said he didn’t intend on leaving Toledo — it was the station that sought him and offered him a three-year contract.
“I just bought a house,” he said. “I told my wife that this was the house I was going to die in, and three months later we’re moving.”
“There’s a lot of people I’m sure are celebrating that I’m leaving,” Schaffer said. “I just wish they’d invite me to the going away parties they are having for me without inviting me; the ‘I’m so glad he’s gone, life is going to be so much easier without that big mouth on the radio.’ They could have the decency to send me a thank-you note for going away.”
Schaffer said taking the job has “been the most difficult professional decision I’ve ever had to make. I have this beautiful studio, I’m treated very well by the company and I really truly respect my bosses. It’s really hard to leave because I’m so well-adjusted here; it’s my comfort zone.”
After 24 years of radio, Schaffer said he needs to know if he can play in a larger arena.
“A lot of this is about a new challenge and to test myself in a city that has no clue who I am. That excites me,” he said.
Schaffer, who has filled in for nationally syndicated radio host Glenn Beck several times, said he still plans to help on The Glenn Beck Program, but has no interest in syndication himself.
“My goal is to live in a city and be on one station and do well and hopefully change some attitudes and make it a better place to live,” he said.
Schaffer never hid the animosity between him and The Blade. Media columnist Russ Lemmon often wrote about Schaffer and the paper regularly covered a lawsuit between Schaffer and its company.
“Am I gonna miss Russ — the fun, the battles, the stuff off-air, the e-mails that no one ever heard about? I wish him well. I know he has a job to do and he does it very well, he’s answered the call of John Robinson Block and that’s his job,” Schaffer said. “He was complimentary the last time he wrote about me and that shows me he’s not a puppet of JRB, that gave me some hope.”
As for the threat of litigation from The Blade: “I am free to leave now. I’m so looking forward to that chapter of my life being over.”
Schaffer continues to be critical of The Blade.
“It wears me out. I know people think I like it when I do, but I hate it when I have to go after The Blade. It breaks my heart that I have to go after a newspaper that doesn’t get it,” he said. “Most newspapers think they are better than the people and they try to change minds and opinions where they should just be writing an unbiased story. They slant stories, and The Blade editorializes on the front page. You could pick out any number of people over the years that JRB got ticked off at.”
Same old song
“I’m so looking forward to not having to talk about the same politicians and the same politics and the same Democratic Party and how messed up they are,” Schaffer said. “I’m looking forward to getting out of a town that’s mainly a union town. I’m not bashing unions, I’m not bashing the people — God bless them, but I’m looking forward to new things to talk about.”
Schaffer said he has seen little change in Toledo’s mentality since he got here.
“There really truly are wonderful people here, but unfortunately the mentality has not changed a lot. Toledo has an inferiority complex; a bad self-esteem about itself, and it’s perpetuated by the labor mentality. I’m not bashing unions. I don’t know if that’s ever going to change in this town,” he said.
“And The Blade doesn’t help it because they are the worst cheerleader — if The Blade was trying out to be a cheerleader, they wouldn’t even make it on the bottom of the pyramid,” he said. “It’s a shame because they think they’re doing it. They could be so much more positive and they just won’t do it.
“When you’ve got a mayor that goes to Pittsburgh to run stuff by [John Robinson Block]; when you’ve got a mayor who consults with the editor of a newspaper, you’ve got problems. I think that’s why Jack Ford’s not going to win — he’s going to get destroyed Nov. 8 because people know he’s connected to John Robinson Block.”
Schaffer said he has always had a love/hate relationship with Carty Finkbeiner, former mayor and mayoral candidate.
“If I were to stay around, I was going to make every effort I could to have a good relationship,” he said. “I believe he’s changed.”
Schaffer said Toledo’s biggest problem is lack of diversity in politics.
“It’s a one-party town and you live and die by it. You should vote for someone who has the same ideas and represents you, not because there’s a D or and R next to their name,” he said. “From when I got here in 1992, the same people are in charge. How are things going in the last five years? Terrible.”
Love for Toledo
“The best thing about Toledo is the giving and loving hearts of the people,” Schaffer said, noting the disco parties he used to run at KISS FM raised nearly a quarter-million dollars (Schaffer will host one last party Nov. 23 at Gladiuex Meadows). “There are a lot of loving caring people here.”
He said talking about local issues could prove emotionally draining, and he takes some of the responsibility for Toledo’s “lack of change.”
“I don’t know if it’s because I failed, or I didn’t do my job well enough — I tick off so many people and they just shut down on me,” he said. “They think, ‘He’s just some angry white guy talk show host.’ I don’t do radio for a job, I don’t pick topics for a reaction; I pick them because it burns deep into my soul.”
Schaffer said he doesn’t know how he’s going to get through his last show.
“I’m gonna be a mess. It’s not going to be easy because I truly love this town. Even with everything I said. I love it here because this was the first time in my entire career that someone gave me the green light to do what I do,” Schaffer said. “Now they are going to give me a bigger market and a green light. I’m getting my shot, and if I fail, I fail. At least I tried. If you don’t try then you are miserable.”
Currently filling in for Schaffer will be the show’s producer, Fred LeFebvre.
LeFebvre has worked with Clear Channel radio in Toledo since 1980 and has worked with Schaffer during much of that time. He said he has applied for Schaffer’s position.
“From my standpoint, that job is open and we are looking for the best person to fill it,” LeFebvre said. “If they find someone other than me, I will probably stay and produce.”
WSPD officials said they have received applications from qualified individuals all over the country.