‘Jersey Guy’ Ray Rossi recalls his WPLJ days as Bobby Valetine
Long before he was the "Jersey Guy" partnering with Craig Carton and Casey Bartholomew, Ray Rossi patrolled the WPLJ airwaves as "Bobby Valentine" Rossi, who did a "goodbye" show on WPLJ, which is going off the air this weekend, tells us how it all came about:
"Most DJs use 'air names' instead of their own names," Rossi said. "Usually to create an image. I never believed in it until I was hired at Z-100 when the station first came on the air.
Scott Shannon gave me the name 'Danny Hernandez.' I guess Ray Rossi was too ordinary for him.
So when I finally got the call from program director Larry Berger, he came up with an air name for me.Not that I wanted it, but it was either that or not work there.
So he comes up with the name 'Bobby Valentine,' saying that he came up with it by looking through the Manhattan phone book. He told me that I had the quintessential New York persona. I could either be Italian, Hispanic, or even Jewish, since I’d use Italian, Spanish, and even Yiddish expressions on the air.
So when he finds Bobby Valentine he said he found Italian Valentines, Latin Valentines, and even a Hyman Valentine.
So I guess that covered it.
The persona was great for Larry, but not so much for the guy who followed him. Gary Bryan.
Since he was from out of town, he never got the expressions I’d use, and it kind of got under his skin.
So one day in 1989 we started a contest where we were giving away five thousand dollars a day for playing the 'song of the day.' Nothing too original there, we’d play the song once in the morning on his show, and then when we’d play it again later in the day. You’d have to be the 95th caller when you heard it to win the five grand.
Billy Joel had just come out with the song, 'We Didn’t Start the Fire' and as such, was scheduled to come into the station to promote it, which was during my show.
That morning when I walked into the station, I greeted Gary by saying, 'Gary, I see we’re giving away five thousand ‘scaroles’ today.’
He didn’t know the meaning of ‘scaroles’…so he gives me a sneer and said, ‘Bobby Valentine, nobody knows what the bleep you’re talking about. What’s ‘scarole?''
I said, 'Gary, it’s a euphemism for money. “Scarole” is escarole, you know, a green leafy vegetable.'
He still didn’t get it.
So at around 11 that morning, Billy Joel drops by the station with the record promotion person. Gary and his sidekick hijack the show with me in there and Gary tells Billy about the contest, at which point he begins playing the 5 thousand dollar song. ('Only In My Dreams' by Debbie Gibson.)
The song finishes, and Gary tells Billy to take the 95th caller, which he does. On the line is a woman named Irene from Levittown.
Billy is now screaming into the phone, 'Irene, Irene, listen to me…it’s Billy Joel…and YOU JUST WON FIVE THOUSAND SCAROLES!'
Gary’s face dropped, looking first at me, then at Billy, then back at me. All the while me screaming at him,
'YA SEE, YA SEE, EVEN HE KNOWS WHAT SCAROLE IS!'
A few months later Bobby Valentine’s name was retired and I went back to being Ray Rossi, this time on Hot 97."
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