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The Aftermath

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July 22, 1989: “KOTV-6, Tulsa. This is the News on 6, the 6:00 report, with Clayton Vaughn, Beth Rengel, meteorologist Jim Giles, and John Walls sports.“

“Tonight, the Tulsa television market has been shaken by revelations concerning channel 8, KRJF, and its’ attempts to drive market leader KTUS channel 62 off the air. Good evening, I’m Clayton Vaughn.”

“And I’m Beth Rengel. KRJF channel 8 is currently off the air, as a result of FCC agent John Vickers revoking the station’s license not only due to having been late in filing for license renewal, but also station owner R.J. Fletcher’s explosive comments towards the people of Tulsa, which were played out over channel 8’s frequency. It’s all tied up in Fletcher’s efforts to take KTUS, U-62 off the air, having been knocked to second by U-62’s slate of experimental local programming. Reporter Jamie Castellos is live at U-62 studios in Edison, where they are currently cleaning up as a result of last night’s U-62 Telethon, with a special extended report. Jamie?”

“Well Beth, this is one of the most bizarre stories in Tulsa media history- and as you can see, it’s had quite a few consequences. But where exactly do you begin with such a story? With its’ general manager and creative dynamo, George Newman.”

“Two months ago, 26-year old George Newman was adrift in life. Thanks to his overactive imagination, he and his best friend, Bob Steckler of Chicago, had been fired from multiple short-term jobs in the area, most recently from “Big Edna’s Burger World”; Big Edna declined to comment. But his uncle and Hewlett-Packard financial advisor, Harvey Bilchik, had recently come into possession of KTUS channel 62, at the time mired in debt and with few viewers. Bilchik originally wanted to sell the station, citing both the lack of profitability and managerial stability, but his wife Esther expressed excitement over the possibility of having their own television station. She decided to help out George and gave him the managerial position.”

“Well, I was feeling pretty down that day after getting fired again, so I thought this was a boon for me. And plus, I thought it would be exciting to be in charge of my own TV station.”

“But after meeting the staff, including receptionist-turned-reporter Pamela Finklestein, cameramen Noodles Macintosh and Bert Reynolds- no relation to the famous actor- and engineer Philo, who could not be reached for comment- Newman and Steckler realized they had to try and get the station out of the ratings basement, preferably with live programming.”

“But a roadblock was hit by sheer chance- a mailman by the name of Raul Hernandez accidentally delivered a package intended for KRJF-8, the longtime ABC station and market leader. Newman offered to deliver the package himself and greet the competition, but his friendly greeting immediately brought the scorn of Richard J. Fletcher II, owner and manager of channel 8. On the way out, Newman spotted RJ’s son Richard, a News 8 reporter, hassling someone over a mop. That person would turn out to be the station’s key to survival.”

“It was a janitor, who’d been fired by Fletcher for misplacing something, and I saw him losing his mop. The mop meant a lot to him, and they callously took it from him, so I offered him a job at U-62.”

“Further abuse to U-62’s staff came during a live news report where Finkelstein and Macintosh’s attempt to get comments from Mayor Rodger Randle resulted in one of channel 8’s employees/hired thugs, Frank Warbith, tripping Macintosh, causing him injuries and damage to his camera. Warbith also told Pamela that quote “broads don’t belong in broadcasting”; when Pamela called Fletcher to complain, he mocked her further.”

“I couldn’t believe it- broadcasters are supposed to be professional, not overpaid thugs with sexist opinions. I had half a mind to go down to channel 8 and start protesting.”

“Despite this, Newman and Steckler attempted to keep the station afloat, but realized they were in over their heads and the station would soon go bankrupt. Combined with his girlfriend, local dentist Teri Campbell, breaking up with him, Newman abandoned a local kids’ show in the middle of taping to go drown his sorrows at a bar. But when he got there, he saw that the janitor he had hired earlier and who he had told to keep the show running was a hit with everyone in the bar. The janitor’s name was Stanley Spadowski.”

“Well, uh, I didn’t really think about being in TV, I just wanted to clean, make an honest day’s pay. My mother was a janitor for 20 years, and I wanted to follow in her footsteps. But George asked me if I wanted to be on TV, and I said ‘OK’. And that’s kinda how it started.”

“When George and Bob returned to the station, they found it flooded with calls about Stanley, and they realized they had a hit on their hands. So George offered the full time position of host to Stanley, and he accepted, with one caveat- that he remain janitor. Soon, Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse was topping late afternoon reruns on the other stations, a combination of being live, local programming, Spadowski’s energetic personality making him well-suited for TV, and the quirky segments seen, such as children sifting through a sandbox full of oatmeal to find a marble- and finding said marble would entitle them to a drink of water from a fire hose.”

“And then I realized that all of my imagination- I could use it to create wacky, off-the-wall shows for U-62!”

“That’s exactly what George did, creating such shows as Wheel of Fish , hosted by karate instructor Kuni Tamball and a parody of game shows like Wheel of Fortune ; Town Talk , an over-the-top spoof of Geraldo ; Bowling for Burgers , where Rose Bowl patrons compete for the highest scores to get hamburgers fresh off the grill from Chef Bernie, and Celebrity Mud Wrestling featuring impersonators of such people like Mikhail Gorbachev. The popularity of these and other shows resulted in a large windfall for U-62, and word-of-mouth spread through the area like lightning.”

“I couldn’t believe it myself when I opened the envelope from Nielsen- turns out our crazy programming was so popular, we beat out the networks most nights in the 18-49 demographic, and we were king in daytime.”

“But one person was not happy- RJ Fletcher, who was angry at seeing his station, longtime market leader, suddenly dethroned by a tiny UHF station in less than a month. He then called up Harvey, trying to make a deal to get rid of U-62. Harvey himself was in financial trouble, having lost $75,000 at horse racing to his bookie, Tulsa mob boss “Big Louie”, and needed it by Friday July 21, at 10:00 PM exactly. As a result, Bilchik made a tentative deal with Fletcher to sell U-62 to him for the money he needed. And since FCC regulations do not permit duopolies- when one owner owns two stations at once- this would’ve meant Fletcher could shut down U-62. But when Esther caught wind of it from George, she made him promise to at least let George try to raise the money, as Fletcher found out to his anger. At the same time, Philo set up a secret camera in Fletcher's office to catch any sort of incriminating evidence.”

“I have to admit, Philo was thinking ahead of us all there- it was a good thing he did set it up, because then Teri came in and started questioning Fletcher about all this.”

Indeed, Ms. Campbell came to KRJF’s studios to confront Fletcher over his loathing of competition, only for him to launch into a rant about how he thought the community was “a festering bowl of dog snot”, and went on to repeatedly denigrate the city of Tulsa and its’ citizenry as idiots, blindly following his will. But what he didn’t know was that Philo was monitoring him and promptly began recording the rant.”

“I was sitting on the front stoop with Stanley, trying to figure out what we could do. I’d already been rejected for a loan from the bank- but then I realized we could do what works for Jerry Lewis, and OETA- hold a telethon!”

“The U-62 Telethon was hastily assembled and went on the air on Thursday night- offering a share in channel 62 for just $10, and led by Spadowski’s charisma and energy, at first the telethon was a success. But Stanley was kidnapped by Frank and several other henchmen in the employ of Fletcher, keeping him locked in a KRJF storage room, and the telethon quickly slowed to a halt, despite the impromptu Gong Show -style talent acts being shown.”

“But then Stanley managed to spot his beloved mop at channel 8, and burst his ropes and freed himself to get it; a chase across the channel 8 offices ensued, ultimately ending in his capture in Fletcher’s office. With the spycam, Philo and George confirmed that Fletcher was behind the kidnapping.”

“When I saw that Stanley was in trouble, I kinda zoned out and thought I was Rambo, rescuing Stanley, and then shooting a billion soldiers, shooting down Fletcher in a helicopter. What I did was that I drove all the way to channel 8, and burst in like Rambo to try and save Stanley. But I didn’t have a plan after that.”

“Stanley and George however, were saved by Kuni and his karate students, having been called in by Philo to give George some assistance. They rode back to channel 62’s studios, with Stanley rallying a huge crowd on the way there, and he gave a speech on how evil channel 8 was. But at the same time, Fletcher prepared to give a slanderous editorial on Newman and U-62, only for Philo to override the channel 8 STL- or studio-transmitter link- signal to broadcast his earlier rant, much to his and Tulsa’s shock. Once it was over, Fletcher promptly attempted to stop the Telethon, right in its’ final stages.”

“It seemed like all hope was lost- Fletcher unplugged our clock and started giving a speech saying he’d tear down U-62 for a laundromat, we were $2000 short of our goal, and that Big Louie guy had arrived to take payment. But then this crazy homeless guy came up to me and offered $2000 exactly!”

“Once that happened, all that was left to do was have Harvey sign ownership over to all those that bought shares, and a celebration erupted over Fletcher’s defeat and U-62’s triumph. During the celebration, karma came back to bite Fletcher- the FCC revoked Fletcher’s license, he was seen on U-62 with Pamela Finklestein reporting over his loss, he was kneed in the crotch by an old lady who had seen his rant, and he found out that a penny he had given the homeless man was in fact a rare double-die coin that he was able to sell for a bundle of money, including, ironically, the $2000 he gave to U-62. Shortly thereafter, the police arrested him, his son Richard- who had been tripped into a mud puddle by Noodles as revenge- and his thugs, who had crashed their car after stealing a briefcase they thought was full of telethon cash, but was actually full of Philo’s insect specimens, which resulted in Frank crashing the car, having a severe case of insectophobia- for kidnapping, slander, assault, bribery of local bank officials, and other assorted crimes. Big Louie was also arrested, resulting in the $75000 being dispersed to U-62 and its’ investors.”

“Now as you can see, U-62 is relatively unimpressive looking from the outside, but inside is a large heart- one that cares for Tulsa and its’ people. They are now planning to build an entirely new studio facility to house their productions, and an expansion of their news operation, including a 9PM newscast. As for KRJF, there is currently a skeleton crew operating the station to continue airing ABC and syndicated programming, but newscasts and other local programming have been suspended indefinitely, pending the FCC’s investigation into Fletcher’s corruption; the FCC has stated it will be auctioning off the channel 8 frequency and assets in 3 months’ time, and that Allbritton Communications of Washington DC has expressed interest in acquiring the station. Live from Edison, Jamie Castellos for The News on 6.”

“Thank you Jamie, for that informative report- I have to admit it was such a shock to us here to learn how bad channel 8 had been in trying to get rid of a rival like that. In other news...”