August 11th, 20014
My friend and colleague, Steve Post, died a week ago. He’d been very sick for a while with lung cancer, which he had a couple of times before in his life.
For those of you who knew his work on the air at WBAI, there is no need to describe it. For those who didn’t, he was one of the major “stars” of WBAI during its glory days from mid-to-late Sixties through the mid-Seventies.
Steve had a beautiful voice and he was a master at using the microphone—a true artist of the medium of broadcasting. His timing, phrasing, use of the mic as an instrument, even his pauses, were like listening to the audio equivalent of a great musician.
And it wasn’t just his style that set him apart from everyone else. He was razor sharp, educated (self-educated; never went to college) and had a hilarious/cynical sense of humor that was unique.
Steve also had a rare ability for a master of talk radio; he knew how to listen. If he had an entertaining guest on his show, he asked just the right questions and never over-rode or trampled on the answers. He was a great straight-man.
Like Jean Shepherd, Steve told wonderful sad/funny stories about his childhood as a “fat kid” growing up in the Bronx in the Fifties and early Sixties. He was passionate about politics, especially anti-war politics. Steve was gentle-hearted soul and hated any kind of emotional or physical violence.
I first started listening to Steve in the mid-Sixties, then later on I worked with him as assistant manager of WBAI. It was a ridiculous and hopeless task trying to run a big New York Radio station where almost everyone on the premises automatically despised authority and felt they had a right to express their opinion about anything—anytime. Also, most of the people there were volunteers so there was real limit to the amount of authority you had over them.
And—a perennial fact of life at WBAI—there was never enough money to pay the bills. Every other week either the phones or the transmitter might have been shut down for overdue payments.
Neither Steve nor I were cut out for management, but we gave it a shot and kept the place going as best we could.
After I left that job and went on the air in 1979, Steve and I stayed good friends—spending countless hours walking around the Upper West Side of Manhattan, sitting in coffee shops, talking about anything and everything…
Steve was pretty much like most of the great, original talents at WBAI—Lynn Samuels, James Irsay, Larry Josephson, Bob Fass… What you heard on the air was just exactly who they were. Except for the fact that they were all great, natural radio performers, they didn’t have polished, professional “personas”. And, of course, the usual commercial restraints imposed by other stations didn’t exist at WBAI so they were free to talk about anything for as long as they wanted and criticize any hypocrisy and injustice they observed in the world, government and corporate.
If a caller was funny or interesting, they’d stay on the line for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes.
At WBAI, radio was an art form, not loudspeaker to peddle unnecessary garbage to consumers. And Steve was just about its greatest practitioner. When you first came across him on the air, you felt a great relief inside: “There’s a guy,” you realized, “who feels just exactly the way I do!”
Later on in his radio career he was the morning host of a wonderful classical music show on WNYC in New York City. He announced the pieces of music and his short news reports, which he worked on with painstaking effort, were dry, scathing critiques of various sacred cows—by turns passionate and hilarious and all delivered in that great, beautiful, authoritative voice.
Typical Steve Post scenario… Steve was a big smoker and enjoyed eating and drinking. He was naturally strong but not in the best shape. So he suggested once that the two of us should join the local YMCA and shape up.
So we did… We’d go there, use various machines, jog around the indoor track for as long as we could stand it—then shower and cross the street to sit on a bench in Central Park.
Says Steve, “Well I feel great, that was a real work-out”. Then he grinned his perverse trickster’s grin, took out a pack of cigarettes and lit up.
Steve was/is a major influence on my work on the radio—both content and style. It was a maddening pleasure to work with him trying manage an unmanageable radio station that we both loved. And he was my good friend for decades.
Also, along with a handful of other prominent people at WBAI, he symbolized the crazy, beautiful revolutionary times of the Sixties. That was my youth—and I am reminded of my looming mortality when someone like Steve departs this world.
I’m very sad now and expect to be for a good long while.
Rest in peace, old pal.