(Nov. 22, 2013) For most of us, 6 in the morning is the time we’re taking that first daily look into the mirror and trying to figure out how we got here.
David Rothner, better known to FM 98.1 listeners as “Bulldog,” with on-air co-hosts “Coach” and “Big Al”, takes 6 a.m. to a whole different place. Bulldog’s show, called appropriately “The Rude Awakening,” is exactly what one should set their morning alarm clock to. Simply stated, your snooze bar won’t work. Bulldog is pulling off your covers, with humor, irreverence and a pace faster than Robin Williams screaming “Good Morning Viet Nam!”
Many wish we could keep the radio on longer or at least take a longer route to work, because the Bulldog will take us on a magic carpet ride. There is no predictability to the 6-10 a.m. time period. While some may question whether it’s actually “rude,” one thing for sure, it’s absolutely awakening.
For a visitor to the station, located in Seacrets on 49th Street, one not only has to have a good, sometimes warped sense of humor to “get” Bulldog, but a great sense of direction as well just to find the studio.
Walking on a cold, windy Tuesday morning through a sandy pathway into Seacrets, a person with familiarity tries to explain how to find the studio. “Go down that hallway, go through the plastic, up the stairs … never mind, just follow me.”
Once there, you meet C.J., the show’s producer whose laugh can be heard through the studio doors on this “Funky Tuesday.”
In between cuts when Bulldog would bring on the funk, were fast-paced interviews. The show culminated in a funny interview with actor Judd Nelson, probably best known for the mid-1980s film, “The Breakfast Club.” Nelson’s latest movie is the soon to be released “Kristen’s Christmas Past.”
Bulldog and Nelson exchanged an inside story about a certain bar bouncer. And the actor left listeners with the best advice of the day, “Make bad decisions with good people.”
Before we even got close to Nelson, there was an interview with Drew Curtis from Fark.com, a site that aggregates true articles about bad decision-making regarding, um, the human condition.
Prior to that over the WOCM radio waves came an interview with the creator of “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader” where the great uncle himself tells us that this year’s 25th edition reports on among other vital issues, the “American secret plan to nuke the moon.”
“I see humor in everything,” said Bulldog.
Maybe it was the years as a commodity trader on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange that created his outlook on life. He keeps his jacket and badge framed on his office wall. By the way, his Stock Exchange nickname: “Pzaz.”
Or it could have come from the days he worked in Chicago radio on WLUP, as a record store employee and on the Exchange floor all in the same week. Did we forget to mention that he started this multi-faceted career at age 17. When most are preparing for the SAT and the prom, Bulldog was already on his way to being … well, Bulldog.
After working and living in St. Maarten and Houston, he was hired by station owner Leighton Moore to come to Ocean City. He is the station’s general manager as well.
Somewhere along the way, a martial arts teacher gave him the moniker “Bulldog.” In Ocean City if you asked someone to listen to David Rothner on the radio, they’d not likely know where to find this person. Mention “Bulldog,” and from Berlin, Ocean City, to Selbyville to Lewes, Del., there is only one Radio Bulldog.
“I wanted an independently owned station,” he said between exchanges with a woman talking about Bissells and Swiffers. “I wanted to work with a cool crew with full control.”
That crew includes producer C.J. or Carolyn Downey, who works the computers and phones at a booth adjacent the studio. Standing opposite Bulldog are co-hosts Coach (Doug Grimes) and Big Al Reno. One thing for sure, the time goes by quickly. The show has a purposed pace and that’s not to sit back and wait.
Sports topics do come up during the morning. Bulldog, who lives with his wife and two children in Lewes, is a devoted Chicago Bears football fan and Chicago Black Hawks hockey fan. On the wall outside of his office are framed posters of the 1980 U.S. men’s ice hockey team in its miracle win over the once mighty Soviet Union team.
One interview shows a different side of the show. Bulldog interviews Eduard Qwalls, an author who has written a book entitled “Community Capitalism: Pulling Capitalism from Its Own Abyss.” It’s a far cry from “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader,” but it does bring diversity.
It was also a good time to look around the studio and see hockey trophies, “Bulldog London Dry Gin,” a plaque with the Key to Ocean City, and a panoramic view of the bay. Bulldog even turned the studio cam around to give Internet viewers a look at the choppy water.
“I don’t cater to a right or a left side,” he said.
So political and religious topics are not to be heard. That’s by design.
Bulldog, Coach and Big Al agreed in a post-production meeting that they want their four hours to be a place where people can come to get away from the pervasive negativity they might find in media.
Another time segment and Jack O’Brien, author of the “DeText Book,” and editor-in-chief of Cracked.com, comes on with more strange stories to tell.
The secret to all of this came at the post-production meeting held in Bulldog’s offices.
“We put in a lot of preparation to be unprepared,” he said.
Coach added, “A lot of time though is spent on the show doing production. We go through the news, not the stuff that’s on CNN.”
Big Al adds to what Bulldog said in studio, that the show should be a place where listeners can relax. The team knows there are plenty of places listeners can go for the news of the day.
Big Al, who also sells advertising for the station, said that he has had senior citizens let him know how much they enjoy the show.”
The show, according to C.J., is heard all around the world via the Internet and is popular in Peru, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and other spots. Bulldog interjects that the show is “number one” in Sri Lanka.
Bulldog said that when he started on the air, he was a “shock jock.”
Here, that’s not the tag. He wants people, all people to listen.
He meets people, and he gets calls on the air from local listeners.
“They become your friends,” he said.
“This is the best team I’ve had in nine years at the station,” he said.
The production team talks about the station as being their best work or radio experience.
How could it not be?
They’re with Bulldog.
Tomorrow morning at 6, we’ll be with him as well.