Discover the identity of the Porn Rock Couple. And find out who was at least partially responsible for all that thumping and dancing that emanated from your radio way back when. The year is 1977 and I'm on the air and on my way to Houston, Texas, and on my way to fame and fortune. With humility and a full blush, I give you another random chapter from my follow up memoir to Ice Cream Camelot, titled A Change Is Gonna Come. Please enjoy, link, like, comment and pass the love. Just don't ask... I may deny the whole thing!
Love At Work
© 2004, 2014
Her name was Julie and she possessed the legs of a goddess.
Poised behind a receptionist’s desk, her legs crossed and to one side, a glossy pink high heel dangled provocatively from a well manicured toe. I have been known to be enamored by beautiful eyes; charmed by a captivating smile, and a push over for a pretty face. For my attention to be drawn so sharply to a shapely pair of legs speaks volumes of the young woman’s charms. And charms Julie possessed in spades.
It was the fall of ’77. Elvis was dead and disco was rising. Nicole was engaged, Mom and Dad were divorcing and my sis and brother-in-law had moved their family to Syracuse. The station where I worked had been sold. And soon it would turn cold and snowy. My old nemesis change was once again having his way with me. I didn’t care. I’d long since discovered the cure for change: alcohol and apathy. Change was going to happen, especially to me. It was as sure as the dawn; inevitable as tomorrow. Staring change in the eye and spitting in his face, my best friend Bill and I packed up my restored ’56 De Soto and headed for warmer, if not greener pastures. We settled for Texas.
I had received a firm offer from a medium sized broadcasting company to join their radio staff in Houston. Bill accepted a position with Texas Instruments. His aunt and uncle live there which would give us a leg up in the area, plus a temporary home. It seemed everything was set. Except that I’d forgotten about change’s derisive side kick, irony.
The trip down was uneventful. We stopped in Joplin for a visit with my uncle and cousins. The both of us coming off of relationships, Bill and I also wanted to blow off some steam and do some partying. Joplin in the ‘70’s was a town wide open, if you knew where to look, and I had 20-20 vision. Three days later, we sobered up enough to pour ourselves into the old De Soto and head west on the Will Rogers Turnpike. A left onto I-45 and it was endless fields of bluebonnets and the heart of the Lone Star State.
We weren’t, however, the only ones on the road to Texas in 1977. The second oil crunch and its resulting recession sent literally tens of thousands of newly unemployed flocking to Texas, and Houston in particular in search of a fresh start. The locals were not happy. Blissfully ignorant of the situation, we rolled down I-45 on a warm morning in October. Somewhere north of our destination Bill switched on the car’s radio. “Let’s see if we can pick up some Houston stations,” he said, fiddling with the tuning dial.
A few minutes of static and then Willie Nelson’s unmistakable warble filled the car. “Looks like the only thing we can pick up is country,” I suggested. “That’s ok, maybe it’s a Houston station and we can catch some news.”
It was indeed a Houston station, Houston’s number one station. And it provided us with more than just the news. During a commercial break, the DJ, in full country accent and attitude, spoke of an ongoing contest. “And don’t forget the grand prize,” he proudly announced, “two all expense paid, one way tickets back to wherever you came from!”
Bill and I sat there stunned. Did we hear right? We looked at each other. Bill’s words echoed my own thoughts, “This is gonna be a fun place to live!”
Bill’s aunt and uncle were typical overfriendly, loud and brusque, albeit down to earth Texans. They welcomed us warmly into their home and did everything they could to help us make the knotty transition to southern living Texas style. Soon I was ready to meet the city and my new job head on.
My new employer was located in the top two floors of a very highdowntown high-rise. It towered over the surrounding buildings in an area known for its cloud piercing glass towers. Riding up in the elevator that Monday morning wearing a tie, slacks and my gray suede jacket I suddenly felt over dressed. Noting my fellow passengers, I realized business casual in this town meant starched jeans, boots and collared shirt. Ties and jackets were optional almost everywhere, and suits were reserved for the boardroom. Stripping off my tie, I nervously stepped out of the elevator and into a posh, modern reception area decorated in Texas chic: browns, tans, grays and leather; cowboy prints and armadillos. It was down home meets tacky.
“May I help you?”
I could feel her gaze examining me. As I looked up, the owner of the fabulous legs rose from her desk. “Yes,” I answered, finding the rest of her as delicious as her legs. “I have an appointment with the station manager.”
She gave me a smile of approval, flashing blindingly white teeth through full pink painted lips. “Oh, yes, you must be Billy.” There was just a hint of cute Texas twang in her soft voice. She stepped forward holding out a slender hand, each delicate finger proudly sporting a painstakingly manicured nail in bright pink; each one a stranger to a typewriter keyboard.
Her handshake was strong and positive, warm and comfortable. She stood a full three inches taller than me in her pink heels. The simple short sleeved blue dress, cinched at the waist with a wide pink belt revealed smooth cream colored skin adorned with a gold chain and a #1 pendant. Just then the phone buzzed. Gracefully slipping back behind the desk, she lifted the receiver. Flipping aside long naturally yellow hair revealed gold Texas shaped studs piercing her delicate ears. As she spoke, her slightly turned nose twitched and wiggled like a bunny’s. It was incredibly sexy.
“I’m sorry, where were we?” she asked, returning the phone to its cradle. Piercing Mediterranean blue eyes, guarded by pencil thin arched brows, smiled at me from behind wispy bangs. I caught myself staring, and for good reason. This woman was beautiful; stunning. She had the looks of a movie star, the air of money and the grace and poise of a sophisticate. Texans had a saying for such women: high maintenance. I wondered what she was doing behind a receptionist desk. I was to find out later that in Texas nearly everyone wears two hats; even if it’s only in their own mind.
“That’s ok. I’m Billy Neblett, or Billy James, on the air anyway. I’m joining the air staff.”
She laughed, letting the formality and her business tone drop. I liked the natural drawl. “Honey, right now you are the air staff. We’ve been running on auto-pilot for a few months now. The new format is on hold.” Auto pilot…? New format…? These words are red flags to any experienced radio person. I tried to collect my thoughts. Catching my reaction she grimaced. “Uh oh, you didn’t know that, did you?”
“Actually, I don’t know much about the station. A headhunter for the company waved an indecent amount of money at me and here I am.”
At that she sighed, nodded knowingly and crossed to a filing cabinet. “Well, don’t let it throw you. Mike… Mr. Jasen, the station manager will explain it all. He’s really a very nice man with way too much on his hands. I’m sure you’ll like it here. We’ll do all we can to make you feel at home.”
I was sure she was serious.
Handing me a pack of employment documents, she deftly punched a few buttons on the complicated looking phone panel. “By the way, my name is Julie. Make yourself comfy. I’ll let Mr. Jasen know you are here.”
Mike Jasen was a large, pleasant, amicable man, six foot two and fifty years old. Like me, he had been recently and reluctantly lured to Houston. His handshake was firm, his grey eyes honest; his laugh easy and sincere. Sporting an odd mix of Brooks Brother’s suit, Tony Lama boots and a western string tie, he tried his best to fit into his new position and surroundings. For an uncomfortable moment it struck me the new format may be country. If there was one thing Houston and I had in common it was the fact that neither of us needed a new country station.
“My wife says if I buy a cowboy hat she’ll divorce me and move back to San Diego,” Mike joked, relaxing behind the oversized desk. I liked him immediately.
Unlike most managers, Mike’s background was radio, not business or sales. It made him invaluable to a station that had been left to languish in apathy for too long. He kept himself open and available to air and support staff. His first unpleasant duty had been to fire nearly everyone and institute transitional, innocuous automated programming. This station was rebuilding itself and I would be in on the ground floor.
To my surprise and dismay I learned our entire staff consisted of Mike and myself; Julie, an engineer, one salesman and one overworked intern. I was made acting music director and put in charge of fleshing out the station’s new format and identity. Julie knew everything of the station’s operations and Mike wisely kept her around after the purge. I found her to be as intelligent and professional as she was beautiful. She provided valuable insight and information during the stations formative weeks and months. Julie introduced me to Houston and helped Bill and I find an apartment.
Working late into the night, Julie and I often hit local bars to unwind. We became friends and saw a lot of each other away from work. Over Amaretto Sours at Cooter’s night club I discovered the real Julie Jo Acker. “I’m from Dumas, a dusty speck on the north Texas plains, half way between Amarillo and Oklahoma. Daddy’s a cattle rancher.”
“And what’s a small town girl doing in the big bad city?”
“Football…” She giggled and snatched the cherry from my drink. “Football is the root of everything. In Texas, football is religion. Every boy plays; every girl cheers.” The drinks were starting to take a hold of both of us. “I didn’t play football… I’m…”
“A very pretty lady…”
She giggled again and twitched her nose. “That too… My brother was the town’s high school football hero and all-state at Texas A&M. I was a cheerleader and went to Baylor.”
Not only had Julie graduated from Baylor, but that same year she placed runner up in the Miss. Texas pageant. She escaped small town boredom by taking a job in Houston. Our relationship was close but plutonic. Julie remained somewhat aloof and a bit of a mystery. For the time it was an arrangement with which we were both comfortable and we savored each other’s company.
With a target date of January first for the premier of the new format, things got crazy as December approached. Julie and I hit upon the then unusual scheme of programming twenty-four hour seasonal music for a couple of weeks before Christmas. Running the idea by Mike he off handedly quipped, “Hell, no one’s listening to us with the crap we’re airing. Why not start Thanksgiving?”
“Are you serious?” Julie asked, reflecting my feelings.
He was serious.
“Thanksgiving is Thursday, Mike. It’s Tuesday afternoon,” I reminded him.
“Ok, so what’s the problem?”
“You know better than that. You know what all is involved.” There was more than a trace of annoyance in my voice.
“Well, we do have the library,” Julie naively suggested, quickly adding, “but that is a lot of programming; a lot of work.”
“It’s your call, Billy.” Mike played his position perfectly. “You’re the music director.”
“Music director, and program director, and board operator, all acting of course… I’m surprised you don’t have me cleaning the restrooms.”
“Don’t be silly, building maintenance takes care of that.” Mike grinned. “I know, but you’ve got the intern and Julie to help. We’re what, about a month away from the new format?”
“Exactly six weeks,” Julie answered.
“Right… what this station needs is some publicity, front page stuff to get the people thinking and talking about us.” His grin broadened. “First… the new format will greet Houston one minute after mid-night New Year’s Day. I want a countdown, Auld Lang Syne, and BAM!”
I liked the idea. By morning commute back to work January second every radio would be tuned to us. We’d be water cooler conversation all across Houston. “Ok, sounds good,” I agreed.
“Second,” Mike continued, “6 AM on Thursday, Thanksgiving we go twenty-four hour, commercial free Christmas music. The few sponsors we have left can give themselves a plug while wishing listeners happy holidays. On the 26th we change music again for a week, followed by the hits of 1977 all day New Year’s Eve. That ought to get us some attention.”
Yeah, I thought, but what kind?
Mike looked at the two of us. “What are your plans for Thanksgiving?”
“Nothing, really,” I replied, suspicious of the question.
“I’m not going home until Christmas,” Julie added.
Mike slapped the desk. “Perfect… you two pull this off and I’ll buy you Thanksgiving dinner at the Four Seasons.”
“Make it the Houstonian and you’ve got a deal,” Julie smugly countered.
“Ok, deal! And Billy, Julie, make it good. The station needs the attention.”
Julie spent Tuesday afternoon pulling all of the station’s Christmas music, while I busied myself writing up drop-ins and jingles. We corralled everyone we could, the salesman, sponsors, a couple of custodians, even some giddy bank employees from downstairs to get as many different voices as possible, and ran them through the production studio. That evening we worked past mid-night editing promos and holiday wishes, and re-dubbing old station jingles. That out of the way, our plan was to do a marathon the day before Thanksgiving and get as much music recorded and into the system as humanly possible.
By nine thirty Wednesday night Julie and I sat on the floor of production studio one surrounded by mountains of records and tapes. Mike stuck his head in and looked around, “Anybody home?”
I peeked over a stack of 45’s. “We’re here, I think. Right now I’m so exhausted I’m not real sure of anything.”
“You guys need a break,” Mike said, setting an oversized pizza box on the counter. “Here, I brought food, from Mario’s. Oh, by the way, tomorrow night, the Houstonian, 6:45, you two… I’ll be dining with the family.”
“Just be sure your gold card is there,” Julie called out, but Mike was gone.
I fetched us something to drink from my office. Walking back, Julie pulled me into the main on air studio. “I thought this would be nicer,” she said.
The studio was large and modern, newly redecorated with plush carpeting and sound proofing. One entire wall consisted of floor to ceiling windows, giving the room a breathtaking view of the city skyline and the Astrodome. Julie dimmed the lights, found an old blanket with the station’s call letters on it, and fashioned us a make shift picnic on the floor by the window. We dined on pepperoni and extra cheese pizza and wine coolers, with Houston at our feet.
Biting into a pizza bone, Julie shot me a curious look. “Why haven’t you made a move on me yet?” she asked matter of fact.
I was dumfounded. Thinking, I realized it was a good question. “That’s a good question. I don’t know.”
“Daddy says Yankees are slow,” she teased, “but my gracious. It’s not like you haven’t had the chances.”
She was right. Since meeting we’d spent nearly every day working side by side. We became friends. We went out together several times on unofficial dates. Julie lay on her side on the blanket with one leg propped up, her head resting in a slender palm supported by her elbow. From behind, the lights of the city cast a flaxen glow on her hair which was loose and fallen.
Suddenly she sat upright. “I guess Daddy was right!” She smiled and pulled her Baylor sweatshirt up over her head and off. Tossing it aside, she quickly unhooked and wiggled out of her pink bra. Freed from their restraints, her breasts stood out large and firm, her nipples erect. Watching, I became instantly turned on.
“Oh, you like that, huh?” Giving her body an enticing shake, Julie stood and unzipped her jeans. Turning her back to me, she seductively eased out of the tight fitting denims. She stood in front of the large window clad only in skimpy pink panties.
I needed no further encouragement.
We lay curled together on the blanket, the sun’s rays warming our naked bodies. Julie stirred luxuriantly and let out a long, low sigh. “I feel wonderful,” she purred. “I haven’t slept like that in ages.” She giggled girlishly, moving her face close to mine. “That’s probably because I haven’t screwed like that in ages.” Her hand ran across my body and we kissed.
“Why do I have the feeling I’ve opened a can of worms here?”
“More like Pandora’s Box, lover… I was exhausted last night. Just wait till I’m at full strength.” The thought was at once intriguing and scary. “Mmm… the sun feels so nice. What time is it?” she asked, her head resting on my chest.
I glanced up at the large wall clock. “Just seven…”
“Damn!” we both said in unison, looking at each other and then the control console.
Julie jumped up first. “You stay where you are, sweetie. I’m not done with you yet. I’ll be right back.”
As I watched, Julie padded naked across the studio to the control board. She skillfully flipped a couple of switches and made several adjustments to the on air controls. “Humm, naked radio… now there’s a format we need to explore.”
Julie looked up from her work. “I like the way you think.”
A legal ID followed by a jingle about being the first to wish Houston listeners a Merry Christmas poured from the studio air speakers. It was instantly followed by the opening crescendo of Phil Spector’s production masterpiece. Darlene Love began to plead, Christmas, Baby Please Come Home. The station was now twenty-four hour holiday music.
“Very nice,” I called out as Julie danced her way back to me. “Perfect segue, and only an hour late.”
She knelt down, swinging a shapely leg over me, straddling my body. “Thank you,” she said, wiggling on top of me, “so, where is my reward?”
As my hands touched her and our bodies came together, the room grew dim. We both turned to the window. The sight froze me in place.
Just outside the building, suspended in mid-air floated the Good Year Blimp. It hovered silently, level with our floor. Three faces were pressed against the windows of the pilot’s gondola. “Oh…” Julie chimed. Still straddling me, she flashed the peeping aviators a big smile and waved. I was certain I saw at least on happy figure return her friendly gesture. Several embarrassing moments later, the mammoth air ship moved stealthily away and the studio was once again bathed in sunlight.
I tried to speak. For the first time in my life was struck mute. Julie laughed out loud. “What’s wrong, lover, never see a blimp before?”
Slowly regaining my composure, I motioned towards the window. “But… the… they…”
“Oh, don’t worry. They do that all the time, floating around, peeking into office windows.” She leaned down, kissing me wildly.
Instantly the blimp was forgotten.
I awoke exhausted, spent, drained and with an incessant ringing in my head. A naked body began to stir next to me. It was Julie. She rolled over in the bed half on top of me, her soft hand moving across my stomach. “Oh, what are you trying to do… kill me?” I managed through a parched mouth.
She brushed a fold of golden locks from her sleepy eyes. “Relax, sweetie, it’s just the phone.” Reaching over she kissed my lips, “Besides, can you think of a better way to go?” Retrieving the hand set, Julie rolled back over, the long coiled cord stretching across my chest.
Blinking the sleep from my eyes and looking around I finally realized we were in Julie’s bedroom. The flowered pink comforter; the pale pink walls; the rose pink curtains; the dark pink rug, and the bright pink princess phone were a dead giveaway.
We had finally dressed and left the radio station some time after noon on Thanksgiving. Managing a couple of hours sleep, I showered, shaved and dressed in my black suit, black bow tie, white dinner jacket and a splash of Aqua di Silva. Like most things at the Houstonian, Thanksgiving was a formal affair. But while I was still feeling the effects of marathon sex, Julie looked amazing. Her hair was perfectly pinned and she was fresh and striking in a shimmering full length pink gown that hugged every curve of her incredible body. Making our dinner call with time to spare, we turned more than a few heads in the main dining room. Or maybe it was Julie’s deep plunging neck line. After an endless feast of food and drink, we strolled around Transco Tower’s alluring park and fountain.
It didn’t take much convincing for me to spend the night.
“Ok… yeah… he’s here…” From what I could make out Julie was having a hard time with whoever was on the phone. She turned, handing me the receiver, “Here, see if you can do something with him.”
“Mike, I think, he’s laughing so hard I can hardly make out what he’s saying.”
I propped myself up and took the phone. Julie slipped into a hot pink robe and left the room. She was right. Mike Jasen’s hardy laugh came through clear and loud. All I could get out of him was something about the newspaper. As I hung up, Julie returned. Now she too was laughing hysterically. Snatching up tissues to wipe the tear streaked mascara she sat on the edge of the bed, dropping a copy of the Houston Chronicle in my lap. It was open to Friday’s dining section. A sharp clear picture of a handsome, well attired couple having dinner graced the bottom of the page. The caption read:
Houston newcomer, radio Program Director Billy James and companion
Julie Jo Acker, Station Executive Assistant, celebrated their promotions
while enjoying the Thanksgiving fare last evening at the Houstonian Club.
I looked at Julie. She was still racked with fits of laughter. Sitting up in the bed I re-read the caption and gave the picture of the two of us a closer look. Ok, so Mike had set us up. What was the big deal? Julie continued to laugh and dab at her eyes. What was so funny? I didn’t get it.
“I don’t get it,” I said, giving Julie a perplexed look. Through her laughter she managed to hand me a copy of the Houston City Paper. There, in the corner of the page in the entertainment section, was a small, grainy photo of two naked bodies, the female straddling the male on what was obviously the floor of an air studio. The station’s call letters and logo were clearly emblazoned across the blanket the amorous couple shared. The headline above boldly proclaimed: Porn-Rock New Format?
Julie almost rolled off the bed in hysterics. I felt the bed, and the room, and my career crashing in on top of me. Seeing my reaction, Julie managed to compose herself somewhat. “What’s wrong, lover,” she asked, smiling and swallowing more laughter, “never see a blimp before?”
“What’s the matter? Look…!” I held up the paper.
“Yeah,” she said, shaking her head, still grinning, “it’s a shame it’s so grainy, isn’t it?”
I nervously examined the photo. She was right. While the station’s call letters could easily be made out, the figures were unidentifiable. Wild strands of blonde hair covered Julie’s pretty profile. Her hand and arm obscured my upturn face.
Julie was downright proud of her sudden, albeit anonymous fame. It was all I could do to keep her from calling a press conference to announce she was the Porn Rock Girl. Mike and I agreed a more subtle approach was best. Let the city wonder and speculate. Julie bought up a dozen copies of the edition for family back in Dumas. I made a mental note to do my best to avoid meeting any of her kin.
We decided to lay low for the weekend, least anyone start putting two and two together. Hanging out at Julie’s apartment was a mixed blessing, given her appetite for sex. She was insatiable. On Saturday night, to alleviate some cabin fever, and give my sore body a rest, we joined Mike and his wife for dinner at a small family run Mexican restaurant on Houston’s near north side. With flawless Spanish, Julie ordered us a satisfying spread of pozole, tamales, black beans and rice, pico de gallo and mole poblano. In faltering Spanish, I gave the bemused bartender a quick lesson on mixing Cactus Flower Margaritas. Over desert of camote and frozen ice cream, Mike confessed. After securing dinner reservations through one of our sponsors, he alerted the Chronicle. The paper dispatched a staff photographer to the exclusive inn.
The blimp, however, was an ironic coincidence. It was on its way to cover the city’s Thanksgiving Day festivities. It just happened to be carrying a free lance photographer. Any way you sliced it, the station was getting the attention Mike wanted. We were the talk of the town.
December blew by, taken up with getting the new format ready. Julie and I stole away to Galveston Island for a couple of days then she was off to Dumas and family for the holidays. Houston became a ghost town. It was amazing how many people from the rest of the country migrated here. And they all went home for the holidays. Even my friend Bill deserted me to be with his mom on Christmas. Somebody had to babysit the station. That somebody was me.
I sat in the darken air studio Christmas Eve, sipping rum spiced eggnog and looking out on the city. It was 8:40 PM and 81 degrees outside. I wondered what the Astrodome would look like covered with snow. I really didn’t mind too much being there. Being single with nothing else to do and no place to go, I was accustomed to working weekends and holidays, giving the married guys time with their families. It was just part of the job.
“Now how did I know I’d find you here?”
I recognized the soft, well trained voice of Misty, the station’s intern. She smiled and stepped into the room. From behind her back she produced a giant chocolate muffin with a single lit candle. Holding up a finger, I caught her just in time. “If you sing Happy Birthday you’re fired.”
“Fired from what? I work eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, and don’t get paid… including holidays I might add.”
Misty was barely 18 years old and had been interning since her junior year in high school. Upon graduation, she postponed plans for college to spend every waking minute here at the station. She lived, breathed, ate and slept radio. All she wanted was to be a DJ. She reminded me a lot of myself. She presented me with the thoughtful, makeshift birthday cake. I paused for a moment then blew out the candle. Her kiss to my cheek seemed curiously more than friendly. “Merry Birthday, Boss,” she said taking a stool next to me at the console, “Merry Birthday and Happy Christmas.”
We sat in silence for a while, watching the Houston night. The deep mellow voice of Bill Pinkney flowed from the studio air speakers as the Drifters began to dream of a White Christmas. Misty smiled, reached over and bumped up the volume a notch then relaxed back in the stool, her eyes closed.
“You know what I wish?” I asked as the music changed.
“Shhh…” Misty touched my arm gently, “you won’t get your wish if you tell.”
I looked over. She sat with her feet drawn up, her arms wrapped around her knees, head back and eyes closed, quietly singing along with Karen Carpenter. Tiny Christmas ornaments dangled from her pierced ears. Misty was a beautiful girl with dirty blonde hair and questioning hazel eyes that sparkled when she smiled. She also possessed a strong, steady melodic voice and a natural talent for radio. A mischievous grin crossed her face. “So, this is where you and Julie did it.”
I could feel my cheeks reddening. “What?”
“C’mon, everyone knows it was you two. It’s the best known secret in Houston, probably all of Texas by now.”
Straightening in her stool, Misty turned to me still grinning. “Easy, Boss,” she said, making an overt motion of checking me out. “I can’t say I blame her.”
“Yeah, well, thanks for the com