Dave FM traffic reporter Christopher “Crash” Clark was feeling frustrated during the winter storm earlier this month that crippled the city for days.
When Clark got on the air with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on air, Clark dug into him as if he were Mike Wallace of ”60 Minutes.”
“I was all fired up,” Clark admitted the day after. “I was speaking on behalf of all the Southerners as a former Northerner. It just boiled over.”
Normally, Clark is known for his happy-go-lucky demeanor, the dude you’d hang out with at the bar and throw back a beer or three. He was an integral part of the 99X Morning X team back in the 1990s into the early 2000s. After four years in Boston working with two other 99X alums Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenlieb, he was let go for budgetary reasons last year.
Dave FM, which already employs former 99X jocks such as morning hosts Jimmy Baron and Yvonne Monet, hired him last September, returning him to Atlanta radio. (He also does traffic for sister stations V-103 and WAOK-AM.)
“I felt Crash brought a strong element of energy and enthusiasm and gave the daypart a kick in the keister,” wrote Dave FM Program Director Scott Jameson.
Clark started his radio career by pure happenstance. A high school dropout, he was struggling in Miami as a waiter at a kosher restaurant. “I was a complete loser,” he said. “I had no direction.”
His older brother Tom, a jock at then-top 40 station Power 99 in 1989, invited Crash to Walt Disney World for a radio promotion as a photographer. On day, the inebriated pair grabbed two Chinese swords and spontaneously “battled” in front of other tourists at Epcot Center. People thought they were actors.
A Power 99 executive spied these shenanigans and was mesmerized.
“You’re crazier than your brother,” the executive said. “Do you want a job in radio?”
Clark moved to Atlanta and began doing traffic for Power 99.
While there, he became “Crash” Clark, courtesy of Vikki Locke, now at B98.5 and fan of “Bull Durham” actor Kevin Costner, whose film character name was Crash.
He eventually got a night jock job, spinning Color Me Badd and Milli Vanilli records. In October, 1992, with grunge getting hot, Power 99 became 99X. Clark was soon fired. Clark acknowledged he was immature and let the fame go to his head. “I was staying out too late and not showing up on time,” he said. “I was showing up at Rupert’s in company-paid limos.”
Around 1995, he got a job at Metro Traffic, which provided traffic services for radio stations including 99X and the new hip-hop station Hot 97.5. At Hot, the jocks teased him for sounding too “white.” So he created a new persona, “Crash D.” “It was a running joke,” he said. “A majority of people at Hot thought I was black.” (He did his traffic in a different building. so they did not see him in person.)
99X loved Clark’s unbridled goofiness and eventually brought him into the studio, where he became an effective fourth player on the team, usually talking about his drunken revelry the night before. “Little by little,” he said, “I developed a character.”
Those, Clark said, were his salad days. His reputation as a big beer consumer built into legendary proportions. “The first time you’re hung over, it’s magnified by 100,” he said. “I had friends who’d call in and say Crash is hung over. I wasn’t! It was a no-win situation. So ten beers became 20. It was funnier.”
Management, he said, encouraged him to act crazy – until he went too far. He was suspended a few times, fired a couple more, over the years. In 2005, 99X let him go one final time after he let two strangers get a bit too friendly in a bar bathroom to win concert tickets. “It was two in the morning,” he said. “The main client thought I was hysterical. I guess it was the bar owner who wasn’t happy.”
He loved his time in Boston with Toucher and Shertenlieb. “The show was a success from day one. It was just one fun time after another,” he said. “The audience up there was frighteningly loyal. They hooked on to us. Our first party, 1,500 people showed up at a bar.”
Clark came back to Atlanta after the Boston gig, where he has shown signs he has matured. Happily married a second time, he has found new life at a station geared to rock fans who now have families and kids.
“He’s mellowed, but he’s still Crash,” Baron said. “He’s not at home watching ‘Masterpiece Theatre.’ But we get the best parts of his personality put in a litte more adult environment. I think it encourages him to rely on humor other than just the drunken frat-boy thing of the past.”
By Rodney Ho, firstname.lastname@example.org, AJCRadioTV blog