To the editor:
Many Gloucesterites, including me, plus a few people from over the bridge, resisted the lure of the third game of the World Series to attend a magical evening of theater at the Gloucester Stage Company on Oct. 26. I write, of course, in praise of “My Station in Life,” a seriocomic bioplay written by Ken Riaf based upon the late relationship between Simon Geller and Cape Ann.
Omitted from the stage for good artistic or dramatic reasons was the contradictory earliest phase of Simon Geller’s life with us. I first met Geller in about 1964, when he kindly afforded the Riverdale Explorers airtime each Saturday morning to present a half-hour program. He had an on-site engineer then, up in the old bank building on Main Street across from Sterling’s Drugs. In the mid-60s many others, Faye Pett with afternoon interviews, contemporary music run by a popular high schooler disc jockey, and the City Council meetings broadcast live, provided a soundtrack that was unique to our city.
Back then, Geller had intended a commercially viable radio station. He ran ads. To support a one-time broadcast of Student Government Day, he charged $50. Ads were $10 and I found Brown’s department store, W.T. Grant’s, Destino’s and a couple of others to buy those ads. The show went on. Realizing that I got these ads with a few hours of phone calls, Geller told me that a couple of them had not advertised with him earlier. He asked me if I wanted a job.
“I can’t pay you. You’d work for a commission,” he said.
Nothing came of it because my ability to sell ads on WVCA derived from a handful of businesses who were inclined to donate generously to high school groups.
I remember Geller. He was crusty, he was deadpan, he (especially later) barked in an inimitable voice nonetheless very closely imitated in “My Station in Life” by Ken Baltin. But he had a heart and, early, hoped to fill Cape Ann with its many voices, not only his own, and to support a station with lots of ads for chocolates “that might kill me but not you.” Good times reprised, thanks to the Gloucester Stage Company.