Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Neil Rogers in Tropic Magazine, April 28, 1985

Tropic magazine, April 28, 1985
By Marc Fisher

The King of South Florida Talk sits in an ugly orange easy chair under three spotlights, leaning forward, his lips nearly touching the silver WINZ microphone. He is surrounded by scraps of newspaper. He stares at the clock, glances over to the telephone console.

No lights blinking.

His nails are bitten to the quick. His head twitches back and forth between the clock and the phones, the clock and the phones. He is, for the 23rd time this evening, repeating the station phone numbers. He scowls. Finally, a caller. He punches up the call.

"Line 2 in Dade County. Hello?"

Silence. A hang-up.

Neil Rogers, voice of the night, Nasty Neil, Uncle Neil, the funniest, most intelligent, most hated, most loved man on South Florida talk radio, is alone on the air.

Just south of the county line, at the end of a winding road, behind a chain-link fence, the radio station is plopped in the middle of suburban brush, a space-age pod packed with electronic gear and pulsing lights. There have been times when the switchboard flashed and sparkled; when the clamoring voices of callers petitioned for Neil's ear and a piece of his mind. But not tonight.

Tonight, a warm spring evening, Neil Rogers is in the talk studio, separated from his producer and technician by thick, dark glass, alone with his mike and his phone. His mellifluous sportscaster's voice fills the room, pumped back to him through speakers in the ceiling.

For all he knows, he is talking only to himself.

There's a certain breed of radio talk-show hosts who make a career out of making people angry. Neil Rogers made them angrier than most, and that made him more popular than most. No matter that he was a fat balding liberal Jewish atheist homosexual; his rantings drew the highest ratings ever on South Florida radio. Folks despised him and everything he stood for. Folks loved him and sent him cookies and long personal letters and went to the restaurants he advertised, hoping to meet the man who got their blood boiling and filled their evenings with laughs.

He was wild. Irresponsible. Outrageous. And delicious fun to listen to, unless, of course, he was calling you a "Neanderthal" or a "complete idiot" or "the worst thing to happen since the Spanish Inquisition." Even then, if you spoke to him on the air, you might figure, hey, Neil Rogers is calling me an idiot in front of just thousands and thousands of people. Pretty neat. And if you managed to tick him off just right, he'd say, "You're gone," and you'd be holding a dead phone.

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