Community radio has a long and proud history in Australia with more than 360 community based broadcasters scattered throughout the land. Staffed mainly by volunteers, their contribution to the airwaves is often overshadowed by the crass commercial giants. Yet it’s widely documented that over 7,000,000 Australians tune into a community station every month.
Many presenters have racked up decades of service on the community airwaves and it’s not uncommon to find programs that have been running for over twenty or thirty years. Unlike the slick world of commercial radio, age is not an impediment and many presenters are still firing in their 60s and 70s – long after an organization like the ABC would have pensioned them off. Australian cowboy legend Smoky Dawson and his wife Dot presented a weekly show on 99.3 in Sydney for over twenty years, racking up and incredible 12,000 plus shows, with both broadcasting well into their 90s.
Back in the early 2000s, the perpetrators behind this weekly column (which has just reached number 300, we might add) began a weekly Saturday morning show on the then fledgling FBi (99.4). The “Naked City” radio show was a two hour grab bag of interviews, music, comment and information spotlighting the so called underbelly of Sydney – and the world at large.
Presented by Miss Death, Jay Katz and Coffin Ed it was a fast-paced, often chaotic mix of comedy, absurdity and the occasional serious editorialising that quickly developed a large and loyal listenership. The program was notable for its weekly cavalcade of interviews, which often featured up to six guests a week as diverse as Roger Rogerson, Dave Graney, Crispin Glover, Alexandra Cassavetes, Jeff Duff, Clinton Walker, Gary Lucas, Christa Hughes and Amanda Fazio – to name just a tiny few.
The program was also notorious for its regular ‘phantom’ broadcasts, which with the aid of a library of sound effects (and the magic of radio), saw the studio relocated to events such as Sexpo, Oktoberfest at the Fairfield showgrounds and the Chinese New Year celebrations in Dixon Street. Despite pushing the boundaries of plausibility to their limits, many listeners still admit to believing that the program was actually on location.
Another popular segment was the regular “phone card fantasy”, in which largely spontaneous calls were made to overseas locations such as a cowboy bar in Montana or a pay phone on the Mexican border – totally hit and miss but often producing some remarkable radio, including a memorable off the cuff interview with the Unarius Foundation (the Universal Articulate Interdimensional Understanding of Science) in El Cajon, California.
The weekly bedlam also included live bands, numerous solo acoustic performances, karaoke and a wildly eclectic selection of recorded music which almost entirely ignored the designated FBi playlist.
The Naked City program ran for about six years on FBi with the final show attracting dozens of loyal listeners into the studio itself, for a rousing but disappointed farewell. Thanks to AltMedia, the spirit of the program has lived on in this publication and to celebrate the 300th column, the original radio crew are getting together at the Darlo Bar in the Royal Sovereign Hotel in Darlinghurst on Wednesday October 14 from 7.30pm. As well as the usual offbeat quiz night there will be DJ sets from Jay Katz, lots of special prizes and surprises – and no doubt some suitably caustic comments from Miss Death!
Naked City Reunion. Oct 14, 7.30pm. Darlo Bar, Royal Sovereign Hotel, 306 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst. Free entry.