The Buzzard Movin’ on up….
WMMS was located at 5000 Euclid Avenue in the windowless “bunker” attached to the building. It was old, seedy, cramped and windowless. It fit the decay of the neighborhood. Cars were stolen every week from our lot behind the building on Prospect Avenue. The street was hooker haven day and night. They’d occasionally use the parking lot for a car quickie.
Murray Saul always went out to the parking lot to smoke a joint prior to delivering his Friday night Get Down. Sometime between 5:45 and 6:30 that afternoon Murray’s car was stolen, probably while he was delivering his “Get Down” live. Whoever stole the car must’ve had one hell of a contact high.
The following Friday night, Murray dropped this ad-libbed line into his “Get Down,” “You haven’t seen my car around with someone else driving it, have you?”
Despite the thefts, Milton Maltz refused to hire security until someone tried to steal the Michelin tires from his car – even though he was one of the few people with access to a small garage attached to the building.
Though office space was inadequate and studio equipment hadn’t been replaced since WHK installed it in 1949, the building had a funkiness we loved. It was a place where anyone could go out to the parking lot and smoke a joint during the day – but the station had outgrown it.
A number of locations were considered, including the transmitter site on Pleasant Valley Road in Seven Hills and I-271 corridor in Beachwood but being in downtown Cleveland seemed to make sense. It would make us part of the city, accessible to all areas, and minutes away from most of the downtown clubs.
The search ended with the Cleveland Plaza on Euclid Avenue and East 12th Street. Back then, it had hustle and bustle and real traffic, and it was one of the few spots in Cleveland that, with a little imagination, looked like a real downtown. Halle’s department store was still in business, and there were at least a dozen restaurants in walking distance. The Plaza itself was interesting, too. Previously the Statler and then the Statler-Hilton Hotel, it was once home to WGAR and WNCR, was in its last days as sort of a fleabag hotel, and it had some business tenants including the David & Lee modeling agency; sports and talent agent Ed Keating, who had some of the city’s most prominent broadcasters and sports figures as clients, and Nationwide Advertising, owned by Ted Stepien.
It was also the most sexually active building in downtown Cleveland. While a hotel, the rooms were used by prominent business leaders, politicians, and sports figures for trysts. Though they believed their actions were discreet, the elevator operators – some who had been there for decades – would fill us in as to who was screwing whom.
The move was relatively easy, considering the 15,000 albums and thousands of tapes involved. With everyone pitching in, we did it over a weekend, and our final broadcast from 5000 Euclid Avenue ended just before midnight Sunday.
Much more on the move downtown – and the notorious Joan Jett bathroom story that is still talked about to this day can be found in Chapter 14 of The Buzzard.