With his quick wit and comically abrasive style, Rocky D is the love-him-or-hate-him counterpart to Todd at WTMA. His so-called “politically incorrect take on politics, pop culture, and the world” airs weekdays from 12-3 p.m.
Perhaps because of his experiences as a stand-up comic and rock ‘n’ roll DJ, his shifts in the main booth seem more like in-studio performances than formal announcer shifts. He conducts his show standing up the entire time, grabbing his boom mic with one hand, and occasionally cuing kooky sound effects from a touch-screen with the other.
His on-air producer and co-host Donna Darlin watches through the control room window just a few feet away, occasionally chiming in cheerfully, unfazed by Rocky’s brutish manner. “I find it odd that we have an incredibly wonderful chemistry,” says Darlin. “Angry women will sometimes call me during the show and say, ‘You need to control Rocky D more,’ and I laugh because nobody controls Rocky D.”
Despite the tumultuous flair, the host is surprisingly at ease and proficient with the mechanics of his gig.
“We aren’t scripted, and I don’t write questions down,” Rocky says of the show. “A College of Charleston student once told me that ‘frazzing’ was doing two or more things at once. I multitask seven or nine at one time, so I must be an über-frazzer!”
His fidgety approach and gruff demeanor may seem a bit intimidating or unapproachable to some, but he gladly welcomes any caller with a different point of view.
“Talk radio is the new millennium version of Top 40,” he says. “We’re here, talking about what’s on people’s minds. You can reach out and touch me. You can’t reach out and touch Rush Limbaugh — you can’t get anywhere near him. Almost all of our FM stations here are automated. And why not? The music comes in from somewhere else, so why not bring the voices in, too? There’s no local flavor hardly at all on the music stations.”
Rocky came up in Chicago, and he used to work in the Windy City’s NBC’s well-staffed rock station. They broadcasted live with no timed delay, every day and night. That fast-paced, live-on-the-mic experience obviously seasoned his announcing style and quick wit.
“Rocky D is just phenomenal,” says John Quincy, WTMA assistant program director. “A lot of people don’t like him, but he’s a true entertainer. He’s a very hard worker, and he puts a lot of preparation into his show. He’s definitely a character. Off the air, Rocky is certainly toned-down a lot from the Rocky on the air.”
There’s hardly anything toned-down about Rocky’s three-hour blast. While some local news/talk fans may tune him out to avoid Rocky’s irascible leaning, others tune in specifically for it.
Guests from the local Republican party, as well as national figures like Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, often stop by Rocky’s studio for live interviews. But Rocky also welcomes voices from the Left. Former state Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum (now the head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) and U.S. Rep. James Clyburn have both sat in the guest chair on the show.
“Why do they come in here? Because they want to get heard by other people,” Rocky says. “Even if they disagree with my point of view they still come in here if they want to talk to people. If they want to talk to the public, it doesn’t matter if we agree.”
While The Morning Buzz incorporates a variety of community affairs and the spirit of healthy conversation, Radio Free Rocky D regularly grabs hold of the political headlines, and the comments and calls can get pretty thorny. He usually rants and challenges his listeners to call in about issues in local neighborhoods, school board decisions, taxes, zoning, etc. On the national level, the host asserts there’s more hypocrisy on the Left than on the Right, in particular in matters of personal liberties and censorship.
“I’m the only radio show I know of that tells actual Obama jokes — and the guy’s funny,” he says. “Why can’t you make fun of Obama? He’s goofy, his ears stick out, he stammers when he doesn’t have a teleprompter. It’s funny stuff. People didn’t say a thing the hundreds of times I made fun of the way George Bush said the word ‘nuclear’ — and I also said he looked like Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp.”
He adds, “Making fun of people on the Left is like shooting fish in a barrel, but making fun of bizarre people when they do something bizarre, like Larry Craig, I’m all over it. I find that when a conservative screws up and does something way out of the mainstream, the other conservatives don’t back him up. But when a left-winger does something stupid, the other Lefties surround him and support him. What the hell’s up with that?”