Aerial View was WFMU’s first regularly-scheduled phone-in talk show. Hosted by Chris T. and on the air since 1989, the show features topical conversation, interviews and many trips down the rabbit hole. Until further notice, Aerial View is only available as a podcast, available every Tuesday morning. Subscribe to the newsletter “See You Next Tuesday!” and find tons of archives at aerialview.me.
This past Sunday, the missus and I drove out to West Orange for a St. Patrick's Day party and made a side trip to where WFMU got its start, the former Upsala College campus (the "U" in "WFMU" stands for "Upsala"). The college long gone, the campus is now the site of condo buildings. When I first showed up at WFMU, the campus included a mix of utilitarian buildings and one-family Victorian-style homes that had been converted into offices and schoolrooms. Within ten years, the college would be gone.
In the bowels of one of those ugly buildings - Froeburg Hall - is where the studios and offices of WFMU resided. In a dingy, musty, rabbit warren of tiny rooms with no windows or natural light was crammed a small performance room, a main studio, a micro-production studio, the record library and the office. I think we had our own bathroom but I don't remember. You'd get to WFMU either through the main Froeburg entrance or a "secret" side door from the parking lot. Parking usually wasn't a problem but sometimes you'd get sidelong glances from students who had no idea there was a radio station in their midst and didn't understand where you were headed or why you were there. In my memory, not many students - perhaps none - were involved with 'FMU circa 1986 and we operated like some kind of stealth entity that tried its best not to show up on the college's radar screens.
In the early 90's WFMU was able to move out of Froeburg Hall and into "Avatar House" - a large, single family dwelling on Springdale Avenue (the south edge of the campus). I don't really know what the building had been used for previously. Did a Professor and his family live there? Did the college build it or acquire it? That information may be lost to time. What mattered to us is that A) It wasn't Froeburg Hall's "basement" and B) it had much more room, including a large backyard and detached garage/workshop (which became the de facto pot haven). The years at Avatar House were good one for the station but as our fortune's grew, those of the college declined. We soon found ourselves on a dead campus. There were periodic reports of gunfire from the campus. Several cars on the FMU lot were vandalized or robbed. The trend was downward. We began to formulate a move closer to Manhattan and after a long search, settled on our current home in Jersey City. I think that's where WFMU will likely remain for a long time, especially with the advent of Monty Hall.
On this show you'll hear me in my 1983 Mercedes Benz 300D Turbo Diesel (249,342 miles on the odometer) as I pass through East Orange on my way to West Orange for a St. Patrick's Day party. Without my phone to guide me it's no sure bet I'll remember how to get to our old campus, no sign of which remains. But will Avatar House be there or did they tear that down, too? Listen and find out.
Watch as Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) helps tear down the Upsala College campus.
Last Week: Surrender to Cheap Trick
Keith Hartel returned last week to help me unravel the "guitar stylings" of Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick. I learned how to play Surrender and I Want You To Want Me. How far did you get with those?
The Marathon CONTINUES!
The Annual WFMU Fundraising Marathon is now in its second week. Thanks to everyone who helped so far. If you haven't yet, please pledge your support right now. Click the + button next to the dropdown menu to be sure you're pledging to Aerial View and you'll get this year's limited-edition flip-top refillable lighter (pledges of $75 or more), with Chris T. illustration by Piersanti and graphics by Jack Taylor. This will be the last of five Aerial View lighters and the last time I ask you for money, so please dig deep NOW. ALSO: Each week during the Marathon, one lucky listener wins a copy of Underworld: From Hoboken To Hollywood, by Kaz! Pledge $25 or more to get in the running for this great Grand Prize!
You can "adopt" me for the Marathon by clicking the pic above!
Obligatory Throwback Pic
The old Froeburg Hall WFMU refrigerator & me, circa 1988.
George Chris T. Harrison
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ON DEMAND ARCHIVES: The Aerial View Archive page features archives going back to nearly the beginning of the show in RealAudio and MP3 format.ON THE WEB:Listen from the playlist page aeriaview.me.OVER THE AIR: Aerial View is currently off the airwaves of WFMU until further notice.PODCAST: Aerial View is available on iTunes as a podcast.