Sitting in a room with him, it’s easy to see how Bulldog ended up with a career in radio – his voice easily fills his office and most of the floor holding his office – and his personality carries at least twice as far. Six years ago he returned to the States from the small island St. Maarten to host the Rude Awakening show on Seacrets’ radio station Ocean 98.1, and found Ocean City big enough to hold him.
“When you’re talking about radio stations egos and personalities are huge. People say I have a big ego — @#$% yeah I do! You’d better have a big personality because that’s what your job is,” Bulldog said while the walls reverberated with the power of his voice.
But he didn’t always work in radio. When Bulldog started out he was Dave Rothner, a mercantile trader on the floor of the Chicago exchange. He still trades during the day when he’s not on the air or planning the next day’s show in support of a fairly common ailment.
“I’m a car collector. I have to support my hobby,” he shrugs.
It’s that practical yet knife-edge pragmatism a couple people has seen the wrong side of, including a humble writer trying to snap a decent photo. After a half-dozen shots and finding one I thought was “good enough,” Bulldog’s vocal cudgel took the air out of my lungs.
“I’d fire you for saying that. Everyone who is working here now I hired. I want to surround myself with people who are working. I’m no fan of the “lower slower” attitude that everything will just work out,” he chided.
Sufficiently and dutifully chastised I shot several more photos until I was satisfied my modest talents had been appropriately applied. It’s a situation Bulldog sees all too often but is more than capable of handling no matter who is involved.
He was visibly moved when discussing a separation from a longtime employee because of what he described as an improper attitude but became positively animated when discussing the short tenure of former shock jock Don Geronimo – whose abbreviated stay at the station Bulldog takes full credit for.
“It was a business decision to bring a big name to a small station. He had become available and I did go to him but I got rid of him too. I don’t like firing anyone — except Don Geronimo,” he said.
A source of unexpected joy from the incident is reading all the rumors on the Internet about himself in the wake of his brush with celebrity.
“The Internet really is a wonderful tool. It’s so funny to read all the people who were talking shit. It went back to when I left the island – and we left it for one reason only, so our kids could go to school. Man oh man do people love to gossip: I was extradited, I was on the run from the IRS, I went to jail or was getting divorced. Sometimes I was in rehab, but none of it was true,” Bulldog explained.
It does fit in with his management philosophy.
“You do have to let people be who they are. If I were to micromanage everything, the station wouldn’t work. People need to be creative and do their own thing, but if you need to reel them in that’s what you do,” he said.
But how you play is almost as important as how you work, and there aren’t any shortages of options.
“There’s no question about it in the winter months there’s not a lot to do. On the weekends my wife and I are either in Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philly or New York City. I’m a city guy and everything’s so close. As much as I like the Eastern Shore, it’s hard to take the city out of the boy,” Bulldog stated.
But there’s a difference between “not a lot” to do and “nothing” to do.
“Look, St. Maarten is 37 square miles of nothing to do. I know nothing to do,” he mused.
And, working at one of the largest and most well-known nightclubs in Ocean City, he also knows a little something about too much to do.
“It’s easy to get caught up, especially at Seacrets. I get done with my show and look out at everyone having a great time. It’s sometimes easy to want to go down and grab a beer but then I remember I got up at 3:45 a.m.
When I first got here they gave me an apartment right on 49th Street – right next door. I’d take a nap and get right back into it,” Bulldog said.
Apart from Seacrets itself, Bulldog knows a little something about other places to go in town.
“Well if we’re going to Harborside you’re going to get crushed, there’s just no two ways about it. Sunset Grille is one of my favorites, and Buxy’s is a regular spot for their Tiny Hiny (sort of a turkey cheesesteak) or BJ’s for the seafood skins,” he ticks off the list without really thinking about it.
An avid golfer, the summer usually sees Bulldog on a local course, despite the fact “I suck,” he laughed.
It’s a booming, resonant sound that appears to take no effort on Bulldog’s part. He fills any room he’s in, and every weekday at 6 a.m. he fills the airwaves in and around Ocean City. It’s big enough for the both of them.