I watched the replay of Keith Olbermann’s show tonight when I got home from work. Not a particularly exciting news day. I had already seen or read nearly everything he reported.
While he was doing the Imus story, Keith made reference to “1,200 Hamburgers To Go,” Imus’ iconic comedy bit/album. And then Olbermann told the fiction normally associated with it – that it was a real call made on-the-air.
When this bit first aired, Imus worked at WGAR in Cleveland. After he left, I also worked there. All we shared in common was program director John Lund, who hired us both.
That McDonalds guy… it’s Lund! That’s what John told me nearly 35 years ago. I was asking about the bit, thinking at the time it had been a real call, when John told me the backstory.
I didn’t think about it until years later when I was watching Woody Allen’s Bananas. Siding with the rebels in a broken down Central American setting, Allen is sent to get lunch for the troops.
Do you have
any grilled cheese sandwiches?
– Yes, sir.
– Well, let me have a thousand.
And… tuna fish… and
bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.
As far as I can tell, Imus’ album came out in 1972, a year after Allen’s movie. The scene’s are virtually the same.
The bit was funny. It just wasn’t original nor legitimate.
Keith Olbermann and I have corresponded in the past via email, but MSNBC has seen fit to ‘obscure’ his address. Since I can’t tell him, I’ll tell you.
After I wrote this, John Lund wrote me. He was there, so his timeline is much better than mine. And, if writing now, I would no longer imply the connection between 1200 Hamburgers and Woody Allen’s Bananas.
Regarding 1200 Hamburgers to Go… We did all phony phone calls as setups because it was illegal to put people on the air without getting their permission first…and back then we had that telephone beep every 10 seconds when we recorded. While the LP was released when Don got to NY in 1972, we conceived and recorded it early in his tenure at 1220/WGAR, certainly by spring of 1971 if not the previous fall. As with many of the cuts on the album, I wrote the bits and was the voice on a few. I wrote comedy for Don for several years, including bits for his TV show on a UHF station in Cleveland (sponsored by Ed Stinn Chevy)…and bits like this. Typically he conceived the premise, I wrote the script or outline, we rehearsed, then he would call me in my office from the studio to record the routine. To sound like a McDonald’s employee for that call, I spoke with a pencil in my mouth.