When Eric Deters left 700 WLW early this past week, I didn’t comment on it even though many expected me to since I always feature WLW very highly in my own work. I had my suspicions with The Bulldog but kept my opinion to myself regarding the kind of material he put on the air. His termination from WLW did not come as a surprise to me. However, after I received an email from Eric which talks about people I like beyond just the realm of professionalism it is appropriate to comment now that the facts from that murky incident are cleared up.
What got the Bulldog into trouble at 700 WLW were videos like this one.
For those who don’t know who the Bulldog is here he is with Tracy Jones while on the air.
I have had the misfortune of terminating a lot of employees and it’s never fun. But you can often tell as an employer, even if you like the employee that must be terminated, that the day will come when you will have to do the deed. It’s hard to look a person in the face when you are their source of income, and tell them they are no longer needed by you. It is a rejection very similar to breaking up with someone that is in love with you. It is very hard to do.
For a long time I’ve known that this day was coming for Eric Deters at 700 WLW. In the email I received from the Bull Dog he indicated that he intended to bring financial hardship to the station, he spilled secrets on just about every host that works at the station, and he was very disrespectful to the management at the station. Worst of all, he called my buddy, Doc Thompson a dork. Since I know that I’m not the only person he sent this email to, context must be established. He reminded me of a woman that had just been dumped by a man she loves for another woman or worse yet, for no woman at all.
Here is the Bulldog in his famous cage fight. People that crave constant attention can be good personalities for something like radio, but at the same time be destructive to the employees around them because to them anyone that isn’t over-the-top flamboyant is boring, or otherwise, a dork.
Out of all the terminations I’ve been involved in, and it’s so many that I can’t count them on the hands, and toes of four people, there is a small percentage that become violent, because those employees build the illusion in their minds that they are the greatest employee to ever grace your presence. There are traits that you, as the employer can readily see while they are in your employment that indicates trouble ahead. The sooner you can deal with that trouble, the better. The longer it goes on, the worse it will be later.
Here Eric Deters does his stand-up comedy act at the Funnybone Comedy Club down at Newport on the Levee. There is a line between being ambitious, and arrogant that is difficult for a person of many talents to navigate. Eric has been struggling with that thin line and it was obvious to everyone but him.
It was only a couple of months ago that I ended up in a physical altercation with a former employee in the parking lot of a courthouse broken up by attorneys and court house appointed police. I was furious with this employee because I had extended a long rope of trust because like Eric Deters, he made himself very available and helped fill the gaps everyone in management must deal with, he was always there for the staffing problems in the odd hours, and even when he showed signs of trouble, in getting along with other employees, I was tempted to overlook those problems because he helped cover all my problematic staffing deficiencies. The conflict was over the crushing understanding that he wasn’t as good of an employee as he thought he was. It was all in his mind, and there was no place to go with that anger but to lash out. Conflict is the usual result, and the need for this extends beyond the fear of the law.
The employee in question took this reluctance by me to mean that he was invaluable. In his mind, he convinced himself that he is doing me a favor and his tasks were irreplaceable. I knew I had a problem with this employee based on how he interacted with other employees, and when I noticed he was taking liberties with the rules because he had developed a sense of entitlement that I would have to act soon. I didn’t address those problems as I would other employees because in my mind I was waiting for him to make that terrible error which would allow me to cleanly terminate his employment. This provides a clean separation that stands legal scrutiny and is necessary in this day and age with all the legal maneuvering that goes on. You hope as the employer that the employee will see that you haven’t taken an interest in the actions of their obligations because it is a kind of warning sign to them that they are on the cusp. But in some of these people, their egos take that kind hearted warning as an act of endorsement and they fail to see the truth because they build up in their minds an image of themselves that is of much higher value than reality reflects.
I could tell even from a distance that Eric was in one of those types of situations. In his email to me, he complained about management and how he had been overlooked for the 9-12 night spot and how he had been overlooked for the 3-6 spot with Tracy Jones. Eric was very upset that he was always ready on a dime to come in and cover for the hosts when they were off, so he felt that just by his work ethic he should have had a chance. In his anger he knocked the station for their ratings, their management decisions over the last year, a year when he had received many opportunities at the station he wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, and in general made a real butt of himself. He was shameful to say the least. Yet it was obvious to everyone that something was wrong with Eric Deters.
On June 1st, a few days after WLW surprisingly pulled Deters from the weekend spots, this video was put up. It tells the story of Eric Deters putting up the controversial video called “White Women and Pot” then realizing he went too far, called this guy and asked him to take the video down. Eric made several bad errors here, he crossed the line in the first place with the original video, but then he made it worse by calling up this guy and leaving a message on an answering machine that would end up being used against him. So as a radio personality on the powerful 700 WLW this was the kind of act that sealed the Bulldogs fate with management. It would have done it for me, even though I like Eric, this kind of behavior just pulls down the image of the radio station. I would have fired him too. There is that fine line of controversy, and putting into the hands of a predator, ammunition that can damage everything a radio station builds as a reputation, costs more than money, it costs credibility.
In this video, Eric made himself vulnerable by committing one error on top of another which snowballed into a tragedy. Ironically, in these tape recorded messages, Eric makes the case for himself why he can no longer work for 700 WLW, because it was just a matter of time before he stuck his foot in his mouth and he really did in this recorded message. WLW would not have been responsible if they hadn’t acted, even if they had to do so with a heavy heart.
I have listened to WLW for decades now. I have seen many radio personalities come and go. From what I can see, 700 WLW was doing their best to find a home for Eric out of pure loyalty. WLW as a business is first about the news, then about Reds baseball, and just behind those things is talk radio where hosts must fill the mind of the listener in that delicate art form of mind theater. Eric was a natural self-promoter, but lacked credibility, which a talk show host needs. Bill Cunningham for years walked that fine line carefully; his role is now a comedian. Nobody takes Cunningham very serious, and that’s the path he chose. He is the Jerry Springer of WLW. Doc Thompson has the difficult act of being the straight man for the station. Doc works hard to get to the facts, and he calls things as they are. In this next video, Doc gives a review of the Bulldog comedy routine while ironically doing an interview with an author who wrote a book about why celebrities crash and burn.
Speaking from experience, any time an employee that lacks natural talent but is rich in ambition confronts another employee of genuine talent, the first employee will seek to undermine the second with various forms of ass-kissing. That ass-kissing will win employment opportunities but it will not win respect. Shooting straight may not get the instant, easy ratings, but it will build the audience over time, and this is the path Doc Thompson has chosen. He spent most of his career in Cleveland but has also worked full-time in Lincoln, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque. He is a 5 time Marconi Award (the Academy Award of radio) winner for radio excellence. He’s at 700 WLW because he has to fill the role of Mike McConnell who played the straight man for a long time in Cincinnati. Doc is the real deal and a guy of genuine talent.
A man like Eric Deters made his bed and it is disgusting to attempt to bring down other radio personalities like Doc Thompson to cover the sins of his own doing. Doc’s criticism of Eric’s actions reflected my own opinion, that Eric was crossing the line in so many ways that he was embarrassing, not only to the station, but to himself. But the Bulldog was such a hard worker, and a guy that was always available for any shift of coverage which made it difficult for them to part ways with the Bulldog sooner. They did what they could to give Deters all the support they could afford to give. Behind the scenes they were probably doing what I was doing and that was scratching their heads wondering if Deters was even a stable enough individual to handle 50,000 Watts of responsibility.
In the end, Eric proved he couldn’t handle it. What every self promoter must understand is that you can sometimes cross the line, and when you realize it, you step back across it. What you don’t do is cross the line, then claim that there isn’t a line. And when you realize that you can’t convince people that the line isn’t there then try to back-track and erase the evidence. Bill Cunningham crossed that line often, but when he noticed it, he quickly corrected himself and would cover the flaw with humor. Because Deters was completely copying the extreme behavior of Bill Cunningham without the sense and humanity, the Bulldog wasn’t sure how to deal with the deeper and deeper grave he was digging for himself with his wild antics. The ultimate ending to living life over-the-top is you eventually go over.
But to call Doc Thompson names because he’s working on not just one station but two stations, 6 hours a day every day of the week and is very successful in the radio business, is preposterous. Doc’s ratings will be fine as he overcomes the shadow of Mike McConnell, whom he will surpass, because he’s more talented. The criticism of Doc is not justified. I wouldn’t spend as much time rendering Doc’s recordings at this site if I thought he was anything but excellent, and a credible, reliable personality that will not embarrass me with my loyalty at some future time, as the Bulldog has done with his fans.
Getting fired when the world was laid at a man’s feet for continued embarrassments is an incredible disservice to the fans that invest their time into that personality, and that is the unfortunate circumstance here. That station gave Eric Deters a platform that he wouldn’t have had otherwise, and he pays them back with ill-will due to actions of his own making. And that is sad.
I’ve had to fire employees for less than what Eric did. I’m sure it’s with a heavy heart, and without doubt the people I’ve fired spoke the same way to their family and friends, attempting to make me out to be the bad guy. But in the end, the guy who is still getting the checks is the one who knows best. Opinions are……………………well everyone has them. Only results matter and results come from the heart. Antics are like shots of caffeine. They may give you a boost, but you have to sustain the boost with an equal heart, otherwise it ends up becoming just another phony stunt on the back of a laugh less, thankless, comedian.