When Tom "Wally Witkowski" Bolden of WGOW’s "The Village Idiots" lost his battle with cancer last April, Chattanooga lost one of its truly iconic media personalities. Wally was a big guy with a big heart, a big personality and a big voice, and his passing left a noticeable void on the airwaves. Replacing him would be a challenge.
After a lengthy search, Wally’s radio partner, Jim "J.R." Reynolds, recruited standup comic and hair stylist Jerry Harvey to join him behind the microphone. The show has been redubbed "The Nth Degree," and after just a few weeks on the air, the pair has already developed a solid chemistry. Harvey had never worked in radio before, but his brash persona, bold views and comedic approach are creating a buzz.
Harvey talked to Nooga.com about the chance encounter that led to the gig, what it’s like to follow in Wally’s footsteps and his plans for the show.
You've worked as a paramedic, a veterinary technician, a hair stylist, a standup comic and now a talk radio host. Are there some common threads across those professions? How do they compare?
Honestly, there is very little comparison. I think that's what I love most about the changes. Working with wildlife and domestic animals is not lucrative, but it is very spiritually serving. Working with human patients in emergency situations was just the opposite—for me, at least. It was quite lucrative financially but left me drained and angry most days. I hated that guy! Now, having become a radio host, comedian and hair stylist feels natural and fun. It's like being paid for my art, so to speak. Wow, I think I have multiple personality disorder ....
How did you land the gig at WGOW?
The story I’m told is that Jim Reynolds came to see Etta May with his wife one night at the Comedy Catch. They had misunderstood, and it was actually my show that evening. He fell in love immediately. The rest is history. Love at first sight changes people.
Did you know Wally? What did you think of him?
I did not know Wally, but I would have loved to have met him. I hear wonderful stories about the fella. He is greatly missed by everyone at the radio station.
How has it been taking over for him? How are you guys similar? Different?
I’ve come into this not even trying to replace such a beloved character. I’m just me. New show, new rules.
What's it like to work with J.R.? How are things going?
Wow, put me on the spot, would ya? I really like and respect J.R. quite a bit. But on air, I’d like to strangle him with his own belt sometimes. It’s very much like stage performing. We may be at each other's throats during the on-air time, but as soon as it’s over, it’s back to coffee and pleasantries. So far, I’m loving this gig. But if he comes up missing, I may be the first person to point the finger at.
How did the name "The Nth Degree" come about?
We were tossing around names, and Jeff Styles came up with the name a couple days after we started the show. It certainly seemed to fit.
What is your goal for the show? What can we expect to hear each day?
My goal is to show my fiery side, no holds barred, but to also use the show to help people and share my spiritual side when I can. I love balance and contrast in life, and I want to bring it to this show, as well.
I don't know of too many openly gay talk radio hosts. How does being gay factor into your approach on the air?
I want to bring gay people out of the shadows a bit and show this area that we really are just people. Being gay only factors in when my girdle gets too tight or my lipstick smears. (Yes, for those who didn't catch it ... sarcasm!)
How have listeners responded to the show so far?
I have gotten very little negative feedback, comparatively speaking. I'm just amazed that I’m actually getting fan mail, new Facebook friends and pats on the back daily. Who would have thought?
Bill Colrus writes about (in no particular order) local news, culture, music and media. You can find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or reach him at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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