Soldier On

Jan 6, 1999 at 4:00 am
"It's obvious that one day it will all collapse. It can't last forever. Try to pump glory into a pig and it will burst in the end."
-- Jaroslav Hasek, The Good Soldier Svejk

As we face the millennium, you'll be hearing a lot of the sentiment expressed above by Marek -- the acidly cynical first-year volunteer in Czech writer Jaroslav Hasek's classic novel of World War I, The Good Soldier Svejk. For all the optimism that attends the turn of a century (and a millennium), there's a sense of exhaustion and collapse as well. With the Y2K dilemma, one can argue that we've even manufactured an object lesson in exhaustion and collapse.

The Good Soldier Svejk is my favorite book, and that's not just because I'm a serious Czechophile or because one of its main themes is the exhaustion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Good Soldier Svejk is full of sparkling witticisms on serious topics, such as Svejk's take on war: "First we defeat our enemy, then we pursue him on and on and in the end we can't run fast enough to get away from him." It's also full of drunken, goofy episodes and bon mots, such as Svejk's excuse to a commander for missing his troop train to the barracks: "Humbly report, sir, while I was waiting for the next train I suffered the misfortune that I sat down at a table and started drinking one glass of beer after another." There are streaks of joy in the overall bleakness of Svejk.

But back to bursting pigs. Spies at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch say that the newsroom was bursting with anger last week when the daily was beaten by the St. Louis Business Journal to the story on the possible sale of the St. Louis Blues. Cynthia Vespereny, who wrote the Business Journal piece, must be bursting with pride at her attentiveness to the annual cash call by the club in January of consecutive years.

Bursting is also something that's happened over at KTRS (550 AM) over the past few years, since its inception in the early spring of 1996. Formats have burst. Personalities have gone bust. It's a mess -- plain and simple.

The latest personality to go bust is Kevin Horrigan -- one of the original pirates who jumped ship from KMOX in 1996 with KTRS founder Tim Dorsey to create the station. According to reports, particularly the lengthy item in Post-Dispatch columnist Jerry Berger's Tuesday, Dec. 29, column, the split between Dorsey and Horrigan was less than amicable. Charges of "liar" have now officially been traded, and Horrigan joins a growing list of KTRSers who have been tossed by the wayside.

Horrigan's St. Louis career path has wound from the Post-Dispatch to the now-defunct St. Louis Sun to KMOX (1120 AM) to KTRS. Call it the long and winding road. But despite his pronounced tendency to flit from employer to employer, Horrigan enjoys a near-universal respect as a writer in St. Louis. I've lost count of the folks who've called or talked to me about Horrigan since Berger's item ran, fondly recalling his sportswriting for the Post-Dispatch.

Horrigan always seems to land on his feet. KTRS is a different story. One source e-mailed me a prognosis on the station, noting that the unquestionably beneficial addition of Dan Dierdorf to mornings and veteran newsmen Jim Bafaro and Donn Johnson is offset by the casualty list of personalities and formats that litter the station's brief history. Only Wendy Wiese and Jim Holder seem to have survived unscathed, says this e-mailer, who lists Paul Shankman, John Carney, Dianna Proffitt and Debi Allen and a host of others who have departed the station. KTRS is in such a mess that my loyal radio spy (Secret Agent B) dialed me up to note that KTRS investor John Goodman was hanging out on KMOX again last week with late-night host Jim White. Loyalty buys loyalty, I guess.

What particularly cracked me up was the latest KTRS television ad, which I glimpsed last week at the Laundromat. In the ad, afternoon host Frank O. Pinion (with a flabbergasted Dierdorf in tow) guarantees that listeners who switch to KTRS will either like what they hear or the pair will resign.

I can believe that listeners will dig Dierdorf. But I'm wondering -- in light of the persistently idiotic show that O. Pinion puts on the air -- if I can get his resignation pledge in writing.

On the topic of O. Pinion, it seems best to end this particular column with one more quotation from my favorite book: "Not every man can have wisdom, sir," said Svejk convincingly. "Stupid people have to exist too, because if everyone were wise then there would be so much good sense in the world that every other person would be driven crazy by it.