Paraquat 2nd draft
9.25 (3 p.m.) for your comments
Paraquat’s Blessed Life
Son of a Great Sportscaster, Part of Legendary KMET,
Married to TV Star and Now Facing the Challenge of a Lifetime
|“The best way to put it is this, if you heard a story that is like totally outrageous and bizarre about what may have happened at KMET, it’s probably true.” And Pat “Paraquat” Kelley should know. He was at the vortex at one of s half-dozen legendary L.A. radio stations in the last half century. Buttressed between the new world of free love in the seventies, and rebellion against anyone or anything that smacked of establishment, KMET smoked. It was the place to be if you wanted to know what was going on with the war, protests, free clinic, music and concerts. Paraquat dispensed the news to this generation in a way that had never been heard before and Friday was the Fish Report that was a ‘don’t miss’ feature at the “Mighty Met.”|
Born in 1950, Pat’s godfather was Dan Reeves who owned the LA Rams. The connection came because Pat’s father, Bob Kelley, was the legendary broadcast voice of the NFL Rams and baseball’s Angels.
Senior Kelley moved with the Rams in 1947 from Cleveland to Los Angeles. “My dad was one of the very first general managers of the Rams in Cleveland,” Pat learned when doing some research on his dad. Born in 1950, Pat grew up around sports and Hollywood figures and his home was filled with high profile personalities. “Actress Jane Russell would be over at the house sitting by the pool with Bob Waterfield who was the great quarterback for the Rams, No. 7. And Hamp Poole who was a great head coach. And these people could party. They’re all dead now and it’s not because they lived a long, healthy, and full life. They loved to party.”
|Bob Kelley died at age 49. “My dad lived a lot longer than he should have,” Pat said candidly. “He had a restaurant down on Ventura Blvd. called the Pump Room and he owned it with Bob Waterfield, Don Paul, the Ram player, and a guy named Roy Harlow. Roy’s nickname was The Gaffer, an old Marine guy, right? I thought I could party, but I couldn’t hold a candle to these people. They drank and they just hung out. My poor mom, God bless her for putting up with all the craziness.” (Bob Kelley pictured with Paraquat's brother, Rob, actually, Bob Kelley, Jr.)||
“My dad would leave home to do his sports program at KMPC, which was in the building that is now the Spaghetti Factory on Sunset Boulevard. Next door was a bar called The Hucksters. My dad and all the characters from KNXT/Channel 2 - Jerry Dunphy, Bill Keene and Gil Stratton – all used The Hucksters as a place to hang.”
It was not unusual for Paraquat’s father to be right in the middle of his cronies holding court at The Hucksters. “These guys were getting blind and Jim Healy would come by and remind my dad that he had to go on in five minutes. ‘Go ahead Jim, you go on for me.’ That’s how Healy got on the air, nine times out of ten. It was because my dad was in there having cocktails with the boys. Gil Stratton was up at the house about four or five years ago following a wake for a mutual friend. We reminisced about those great times in another era.”
Paraquat’s brother Rob, actually Bob Kelley, Jr., is a real estate agent in Central California and he’s also a commissioner. “He used to work with the Rams, as we all did,” remembered Paraquat. “From eight to twelve years of age we all worked as water boys or equipment assistants. Whatever behind the scenes jobs were needed, we did.”
Pat remembered one summer training camp at the University of Redlands. Bob Waterfield was the head coach. “It was 106 degrees outside. We would be issued keys for everything, right? And of course, the players were at our mercy. The players had a 10 o’clock curfew when everybody had to be in bed. They had two a day practices. Fifteen minutes after curfew, I’d knock on their doors of some of my buddies - Deacon Jones, Ollie Matson, and Dick Bass - they’d all line up and follow me across the street to a big indoor Olympic-size swimming pool. Those were mostly my friends on the Rams. You know, the black guys were just like big brothers. I love those guys. And to this day, Deacon Jones if I see him, the first thing that comes out of his mouth is Bandit. If you ever see Deacon Jones, ask him if he’s seen the Bandit lately and it will blow his mind. He used to come by KMET on Friday nights and sit in the newsroom with us when we did the Fish Report.”
Paraquat’s brother recently had dealings with Jane Russell during a fundraiser. She lives in Santa Maria. “She looked at my brother Rob and goes, ‘damn, you know what? I’m the only one that’s still alive from that whole group.’ And it’s true. They used to just party all the time.”
|Pat was only 16 when his father died in 1966, but he didn’t follow in his father’s broadcast steps right away. “My mother remarried a year or so after my dad died.” Pat sat straight up in his rocking chair when he recalled that time. “My mom married some guy, a complete asshole, who thought he would make a man out of me. He thought I should go to work so I took a job at Safeway as a box boy, and somehow I finagled my way into getting into the assistant produce manager position which paid like $2.22 an hour as opposed to, you know, a buck eighty. If I worked weekends, I made more. One Saturday I’m making double golden overtime trimming lettuce, and it was like a bolt of lighting from the sky that struck me - BOOM, it hit me, damn, I should get into radio.”|
Just out of high school, Pat’s mom suggested her son contact Steve Bailey at KMPC. Steve had just lost his delivery boy and Pat was hired as a utility helper. When he joined KMPC it was during the glory years with Gary Owens, Geoff Edwards, Jack Angel, Ira Cook, Dick Whittinghill and Roger Carroll.
What did a delivery boy do? “I kind of left it open so it sounded like I was teaching people how to deliver lines. [Laughter] At least that’s what I fanaticized. But the KMPC job was so lucky for me. I hounded Gary Owens. That poor man. He used to try to do a radio show and I would be on him like a frog on a dragon. He used to put signs up barring visitors now or ever in the booth and those signs were put up because of me! The late Mark Blinoff [KMPC pd], put those signs up, but I tore them down. I bothered Gary Owens in the worst way. But he was always very kind to me and he gave me direction and guidance and God knows, one thing led to another and kaboom, I ended up on the radio.”
Through his brother Rob, Paraquat met a man that would criss-cross throughout his life and end up one of his closest friends for the past three decades. “I was living in Hermosa Beach with my brother, Rob. He was a California Highway Patrolman, drove a motorcycle, and used to park that motorcycle in our garage on Hermosa Avenue. On the weekends he and his buddies would get dressed up in their uniforms, go to work, just park in the garage and wait for somebody to speed by, pull out of the garage, write them a ticket, come back and just hang out so they could watch football. And the guy that lived next door was John Felz who was a parking lot attendant near the airport. “I’m driving this KMPC delivery wagon and John was so impressed. He knew more about my dad, the Angels and my family, than I knew. He was amazing and eventually would sub for me when there was a conflict.” Felz took the part-time job and eventually became program director.
“Gary was wonderfully instrumental in me becoming whatever I am today. He was someone to look up to and just dream of being maybe someday,” said Pat in earnest. “And Steve Bailey was like a father to me and I was not an easy character to deal with. He should have just thrown my ass out after two days but he didn’t. But it was John Felz, of all the people, who took that little nugget, and turned it into something special and it would benefit me so much in the years to come. Whenever I’d be out of work, I’d call up John and he was always there for me. Felz is such a wonderful guy but not only that, he’s a terrifically creative and talented guy.”
Paraquat worked in Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and West Covina during his early career. “I did this Parade of Sports program on KGRB-West Covina. I’m attempting to get something going and I made a deal with the owner, Bob Burdett, to broker a five-minute sports program. He knew Bob Kelly and perhaps he thought the program would strike magic again. I called John because I didn’t have any wire machine and all that stuff. We would sit down and write these hysterical sports shows that made fun of sports. It was like nothing ever done before and it was a lot of fun. I would record them in my bedroom, alligator clip them and then send them down to the station. They would take the tape off the telephone and put it on the air. Pete Smith, one of the jocks at KMPC, was the announcer. I mean, it sounded big time.”
Paraquat has much praise for the role that Felz played in his career. “I always had a sick sense of humor but John was the guy that steered me towards the humorous side of reporting serious stuff like sports and whatever and just make fun of it. John deserves big time recognition.”
The transistion from go-fer (delivery boy) at KMPC to the beginning of his journey at legendary KMET started at a Dodger game. In 1977, Pat was working free-lance at KMPC and it was a Dodger playoff game that he had a fortuitous meeting with KMET news director, Ace Young. “KMPC sports director Fred Hessler sent me to the game with a tape recorder and told me to record the after-game press conference with Tommy Lasorda. He told me to not say anything and just leave the tape on his desk That was my assignment.”
Pat and Ace hit it off right away and would carpool to Chavez Ravine and hang together on the way to a Dodger game. They shared a love for the youth culture, sports and radio. One day on the way to the stadium, Pat’s KGRB 5-minute show came on the radio and Ace heard Pat’s bizarre sports program for the first time. He loved it. Ace got an aircheck and played it for L. David Moorhead, gm at KMET, and Pat was hired as a part-time announcer to fill in on the afternoon news. They had tried to fill that spot a half dozen times and nothing seemed to work.
|“I remember my very first day on the air at KMET,” said Pat. “I did my thing. I was nervous, but I remember getting off the air, and going into the hallway where Howard Bloom, general sales manager and the entire staff was applauding and slapping hands – they thought it was great. You know, I thought it sucked but they thought it was good and that was the beginning of Paraquat on KMET.”|
And how did the indelible trademark name Paraquat Kelley come about? For the first half-dozen months at the “Mighty Met,” he broadcast as Patrick Kelley. “I thought it was so cool,” said a proud Pat. When he started at KMET, the station was getting $60 for a one-minute spot that appeared in the news. “The way I used to do the news was like everybody did it - the top three stories and if you have time throw in the fourth. That’s how you did the news. I decided to flip it upside down - I started from the bottom up. I looked for the most bizarre and interesting stories there were and I’ve got to thank Ace Young for support. The FCC dictated that you had to have so much time dedicated to news or else you wouldn’t get your license renewed.”
What traditional stations called news and what KMET called news was not the same, but nevertheless, it was news. “News is something where you go, ‘wow, did you hear that?’ We decided to make the news a tune in feature rather than tune out. So we’d start off the news with something that was so bizarre you’d go, ‘What?’ How could you turn that off? My lead story might be about a guy that makes jewelry out of quail dung. Nobody was doing this kind of news in the seventies. If you were in your car, you’d have to stop, pull off the side of the road and listen to this guy. That’s how we did it.”
|Pat broadcast three news reports daily - a nooncast and then two reports in afternoon drive, always starting with the bizarre stories and if there was time, he used whatever UPI said was the lead. One day Pat was reading a story about the Drug Enforcement Agency and how the agency had determined that a percentage of the marijuana confiscated at the US/Mexican border contained the urbanize paraquat and should it be smoked by an unsuspecting person, it could cause irreparable lung damage. Pat sounded incredulous when he read the story. “Well, I took that story and added to it – ‘what? Somebody smokes pot that listens to KMET?’ And the story caught fire.”|
“We had Steven Broadinell, who was an attorney from Normal, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, as a guest. I mean, we hammered that thing into the ground. And I’ll tell you what, the people responded like you wouldn’t believe it. Jim Ladd picked up on the story and was ranting. He told the people to call the White House to complain about the paraquat program, which resulted in the White House switchboard closing down.”
KMET seemed to be the right station at the right time. They caught lightning in a rolled-up Mary Jane. Pat said the people at KMET were just a bunch of hippies that had the same goal in mind. “You know, it wasn’t about my show or your show. It was about KMET, man.
It was during this paraquat campaign that Pat got the name, Paraquat Kelley. “KLOS, our main competitor, couldn’t even do a story about paraquat without mentioning my name. It was a big issue back then, you know. So that kind of put the kibosh or whatever they called it on KLOS.”
It didn’t take long before that $60 a minute commercial had turned to be the highest when the spot in Paraquat’s newscast cost $600. “How stupid was that?” Pat asked rhetorically. “To this day, I don’t regret it, we had a purity of purpose at KMET, we all believed in the one thing, we just, we cared about our listeners. Not many of us are millionaires that left KMET, but still, we really cared about the people and the listener. Robert W. Morgan, the original morning Boss Jock at 93/KHJ and one of the biggest names in the history of LA Radio, confessed to John Felz that he listened to KMET and couldn’t turn it off because it was one of the stations where you never knew what was going to happen and it was a great place to hang out. To be a part of that, it was pretty cool.”
Paraquat did the news for four or five years. In 1977, if you made like $700 a month you were big. “KMET was like mega-bucks of every union station back then so part-time was pretty good. I was like $400 or something like that a week. If I could have, I would have paid them to have done it. If I could have written the checks what they paid me to do it, I would have. That’s how fun it was. And that’s how much I felt about my co-workers, Ladd, Jack Snyder, David Perry, Billy Juggs, Mary Turner and Rick Lewis.”
|As Paraquat got nostalgic about his time at KMET, he remembered an incident about two weeks after he got hired part- time. “My hair was short and I hadn’t blossomed into the Charles Manson mode yet with a beard. KMET was going to do California Jam, which was a big rock concert starring Ted Nugent and Heart at Ontario Motor Speedway. All employees had to be there. The gm, L. David Moorhead, called a meeting of the staff. Behind his back the staff called the Aramis wearing gm, the Hound. The staff didn’t like him for some reason but that’s neither here nor there. He was decent to me and I never had any problems with anybody. He arrives at our mandatory meeting late with his cigarette holder. Everybody’s wearing sunglasses and looking down like we’re not paying attention while he laid out the rules. He talked about the importance of the California Jam, gave everybody radio code names and he goes ‘I don’t mind if you smoke pot around here but blah, blah, blah, blah, whatever but if I catch anybody smoking pot on this three-day weekend, you’re out of here, okay?’ He got up and walked out.”|
Paraquat did the last news before the big weekend concert Friday and they had a helicopter pick him up at MetroMedia Square. “I’m not digging being up in a helicopter at all, but what the hell, I did it. And I did a traffic report the way they asked me to. Hound’s on the two-way radio ‘Pat come in,’ like all this crazy AM radio stuff and I did some lame traffic report, got off and the Hound said that’s the best God damn traffic report and that’s the way we should sound all the time. I’m just thinking, oh my God, you know, can’t I do anything wrong here? They land the helicopter backstage and it was a sea of humanity. I don’t know how people got there because the freeway had just stopped. People just said I’m not waiting to get to the off ramp and they just left their cars and walked. It was a nightmare. I get backstage where they land the helicopter and now I’ve got to find the air staff and there are three motor homes.”
“I go to the first one, there’s nobody there, go to the second, it’s vacant. To get to the last motor home I’ve got to climb over a fence. I didn’t mind I’m just so happy to be working at a station like this where hundreds of thousands of people have shown up for this concert. I open the door and sitting at the wheel of this motor home is the Hound and he’s just totally distraught like he’s lost his best friend. I go, ‘hey David, where is everybody?’ Without turning his head he points to the back of this motor home. I opened the accordion doors and a cloud of smoke billowed out. The entire staff was smoking pot. So that basically told you everything you needed to know about KMET in a nutshell. You know, we were the animals running the zoo and that’s just what it was.”
|Country KLAC shared facilities with sister station KMET. Was there a dope smoking environment at KMET? “Well, we had a place right off the studio. It was called the Paraquat Lounge, which was an air locked 8x8 room between the music library and the studio. The lighting reflecting from a purple light and the walls were graffiti laden. There was always something going on in there. Originally I think the room that was built for a different kind of smoking. Who knows. You know what I’m saying? But, you know, let’s just say things happened at KMET. The best way to put it is this, if you heard a story that is like totally outrageous and bizarre about what may have happened at KMET, it’s probably true.”|
Not only was the station a place where the on-air jocks congregated, but record artists would come by just to hang. “Jim Ladd is the hardest working person in radio. If you just listen you know what kind of work he puts into his show. Here is a guy who could live on his reputation for the next three lives, but he doesn’t. When a concert ended around midnight, you’re totally tweaked, we would all go back to the station to be with Ladd. When you started your car in the concert parking lot and roll down the window, all the radios are tuned to KMET. You could almost hear it without having the radio on driving all the way back to the station, that’s how great it was. When you walk into the station, he’s wearing his mirrored sunglasses. His on-air booth seemed so big. There was a big music wall behind him with double glass separating the visitor from the master. And the lights were always low. When you looked into the control room, it looked like you were looking into the soul of something.”
Was the Jim the leader of the pack? “No, we all were just pretty much the blind leading the blind all the way, it was perfect. We all checked with one another. We all listened to the station 24/7 so the station always had momentum If you weren’t on the air, somebody would be monitoring it for you to tell you what went on that day at the station. How cool was that?”
How do you compare the radio wars with KLOS? “Well, KLOS sounded more corporate. I mean they were obviously at KLOS, as talented as we were but they just didn’t have the rope.” Paraquat laughs. “We could do what we wanted as long as the general manager was entertaining clients, popping pills and having lunch with people. He wasn’t around much.”
In charge of the programming during much of the heyday at the “Mighty Met” was Sam Bellamy. “God bless her. She may have been the person in charge but that was the very first experience I ever had where a program director was not someone to hate or fear but was actually on your side totally. She would do anything she could for the people that worked for her and that made the difference at KMET. Sam would stand up to the sales department when the spots didn’t sound like KMET. She would say, ‘if you don’t like it, go put your spots somewhere else.’ She had complete control. When the gm objected to a particular song, she had it played more often. I mean she was, I mean, God bless her, and she was the one that took the bullet. She would take the heat for us. She certainly deserves a great share of the praise because boy, she was there, she was there for us and God knows when she called a staff meeting, we all showed up out of respect for her. Management had nothing to do with the sound of KMET. It was all Sam Bellamy. In all modesty she would say she had nothing to do with the success giving credit to the on-air staff, but she created a synergy, which is where everybody worked for the good of the station. It was like a commune. It was fantastic. There was no threat. She never said she was more important than anyone else. Sam was probably the number one fan of the radio station and that’s your program director, how about that?”
|Why did KMET end and KLOS still exists today? “Well, you know, that’s an interesting question. I think that KMET had a wonderful run. Things started getting a little funky with the ratings. I think we – some of us - bought into our own PR and we didn’t give it the Jim Ladd 100 percent try every time we were on the air. Some of us kind of started mailing it in. And I think that – in all truthfulness - KMET started off as the counterculture radio station and unfortunately for us, we became main stream. We became everything that we were trying not to be and we didn’t do that on our own, we just became too popular. It became so big that other stations started cloning it and it one day we were no longer the counterculture but it became main stream and we lost our way. There was a clone of us in San Diego and in San Francisco. There were KMET clones everywhere doing the hoo-yeahs. They even had a Paraquat Kelley in Boston.”|
As the impact of KMET seemed to diminish, management got frightened and they and made a programming change. “That’s when they let Sam go and then they went through a myriad of people that just let it die a slow, natural death. It’s unfortunate. And then they sold it.”
Paraquat was there at the end. He was the last one on the air as a disc jockey or as a radio personality at KMET. “I played the last two songs. It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll and Bob Seeger’s Beautiful Loser. I remember listening to that song because they called me up to the Sheraton Premiere to give me my last check. And I was the last one on the air. Howard Bloom wanted to give me the check. Cynthia called that day and said ‘Quat, you know, I could see the writing on the wall. Howard was being very strange.’ She said they wanted me to meet them at the Sheraton Premiere Hotel for I don’t know why but I’m not supposed to come in now. I told Cynthia that it was all over.”
Sensing that Paraquat would be the last voice on the legendary “Mighty Met,” he called the hotel and got hold of Howard Bloom. “I told him I knew it was over and I wanted to say good-bye. He tells me to not do something stupid but yes, I could say good-bye. So I said good-bye. It was touching. I was sobbing. But after I said my last few words, I just started It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll and I had my engineer, Joe Delavine, play Beautiful Loser.”
Paraquat left the station without any personal good-byes and headed for the Universal City hotel. His music was still playing. “I was in the Cahuenga Pass when Beautiful Loser came on right about where the Hollywood Bowl is. I just cried – oh – it just broke my heart. I knocked on their hotel room door a few seconds after the last song ended. They didn’t figure it would be me. They opened the door like they were planning to talk to somebody else and it was me. Frank Cody and Howard Bloom. They asked if they could get me something? I told them a six-pack of beer, a couple packs of Marlboros and make that right away. They gave me the final check. Cody was like totally disinterested in what was going on, like he had something better to do. He was just like aloof. Howard seemed to feel like Richard Nixon looked at the end of his presidency. You know what I’m saying? I had a wonderful friendship with Howard. He had to do what he had to do. He had a wife, he had a family, you know, he had to do what he had to do. And he’s not calling the shots. He could have said no, let’s keep KMET and let’s try to give it another try, but you know what, it was out of his hands so you know, he’s a wonderful – he was a good guy for me. But it was very touching man. That broke my heart.”
With the demise of KMET, Jim Ladd was the most upset because just a few months before I’d finally talked to Howard into bringing Jim back to KMET. I lobbied so hard for Jim because there is nobody that works harder than he does. He’s not doing it for the bucks, the glory or whatever. He’s just truly committed. They did hire Jim back from KLOS where he had burned a bridge big time. He told KLOS to shove it up their ass, and then BOOM, two months later gets fired. And that was painful for him so I believe he blamed Howard. And like I say, people have different, a different take on what may have caused this.
Randy Thomas, she was on last night before the format flip. She has since gone on to a very successful voiceover talent, in fact, she was the first female announcer for the Academy Awards tv show.
The end of a radio era came to an end on October 1, 1987, with the passing out of pink slips and final checks at the Sheraton Premiere Hotel. The station would morph into KTWV, Smooth Jazz, as The WAVE. The ultimate irony was going from high profile personalities to announcer-less format. It was a very personal day for Paraquat that would launch him into the next vignette in his life.
“It was a long drive from the Sheraton to our beach house in Malibu. My wife greeted me and asked what I was going to do. I said – using the old Roy Elwell line - I’m going to clean out my desk.” Paraquat got a fair severance package that would last for awhile. He was doing tv commercial work and some production.
“I was okay but she couldn’t handle that, right?” Paraquat asked rhetorically. “So probably three, four months after the betrayal at KMET as it’s called, the ultimate betrayal came at home when my wife asked me to move out. I said excuse me? I think this is my house, maybe you should move out. She goes okay I will and she did.”
A 15-month marriage had come to an end. They met in a Robert (Charles) Conrad acting class. “She was beautiful, there was no question about it, wonderful and she was a sweet person, too. Paraquat was 37, she was 22. It could have been a song.
|Later in 1987, a producer friend asked Paraquat if he was interested in a 2 on the Town segment on the Beatles. Perhaps there was a trip to London. The producer invited Paraquat to CBS Center to view the footage that had been shot so far. “I was in an edit bay when Melody Rogers, co-host of 2 on the Town, walked in. “Damn if she wasn’t bright and sunshiny.” Paraquat lights up as he talks about his wife-to-be.|
“I remember exactly what Melody was wearing – a vest, a pair of blue jeans, some boots and like a blue work shirt. She was so pretty and she was so damn nice. She knew more about me than I knew about me. That was pretty impressive. After she left, I asked the producer for her phone number. He goes ‘Kelly, screw you. She’s like my sister, you’re like my brother, and there’s no way this is going to happen. I bugged him for about two, three weeks and he never gave me her number. One day I’m sitting on the beach, unemployed as I usually am, with my shades on listening to music and I feel this presence hovering over me and I open up my eyes and it’s the guy from CBS and he goes ‘fuck you, fuck you Kelley’ and he throws me a wadded, crumbled up piece of paper, and hits me right in the chest with it. It’s her phone number. She had asked the producer to pass along her number.”
|Their first date was at the Saddlepeak Lodge in Malibu. “It was great,” remembered Paraquat. “Then we went to a place called the Screaming Clam Discotheque, which used to be by the Sea Lion. I’d never been to the Screaming Clam in my life but I knew the guy that owned it, right? I was like the major of Malibu in those days. I could go to any bar any time and never pay for a drink. I told the owner that I would be back on Saturday night with Melody Rogers from 2 on the Town, and he better treat me royally and he did. Melody is looking around like wow and I had a fleet of parking lot attendants coming up and welcoming us with flowers and violins. Oh, it was great. I tell Melody I had never been there and they are tripping all over themselves. We had wine, got acquainted and then I drove her to her home in Nichols Canyon. Then I drove back to my place in Malibu. Now this is somebody that should be dead but anyway, I made it back and you know, the next day she went to Turkey on assignment. So I’m stuck, I’m in love with a woman that’s on tv five nights a week – you know, next Monday Melody’s in Africa and I’m turning on tv watching her, going I should be with her right now. I was pinning away like a little child. When she returned from overseas I took her to Nickodell’s for lunch where, again, everyone knew me.”||
A year to the day they met, they were married at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Last June returned for dinner there and they remembered (or have an incredible data base) them from the wedding back in 1988.
Was it love at first sight for both of you? “I think it was love at first sight. Everything happens for a reason. First I was betrayed with this KMET thing and then my wife leaves me, right? But I look back in retrospect and it was the greatest thing that ever happened.
Paraquat has a new challenge. His body has betrayed him and has given him a new challenge. In early 2002 he was diagnosed with MS – Multiple Sclerosis. “It’s a fucking blessing in disguise and that’s exactly how I look at it,” said a resolved Paraquat.
He said the divorce from his first wife, as traumatic and horrible as it was at that time, was probably the worst thing that could happen to him. “It broke my heart and now, it turns out to be the best thing. And this MS is the same way. I mean, I don’t appear to be screwed up, I don’t think other than the fact that I can’t walk very well anymore but that’s only temporary.”
As Paraquat reflected on when he thought he experienced the first symptoms. He was an avid golfer and played practically every day for decades. In 1985 he was watching the pros play at Rivera Country Club when he noticed he was numb from his waist to his knees. Being very healthy he wrote off the temporary numbness to twisting something or pinching a nerve. In a few days it was gone.
From time to time Paraquat experienced similar symptoms with pains in his lower back. He wrote it off to something he must have done from years of being golf. By late 2002, the pain was such that he gave up golf. During the holidays of that year, he had trouble walking from party to another. He could barely make down the street and it wasn’t from the holiday cheer.
|Melody insisted that her husband go to a doctor. The doctor sends him to a neurologist and schedules him for an MRI. “I had no idea about the results, but I was happy it was over. That night we had dinner at Jim Ladd’s house. I could barely walk up the steps to his house. After waiting a couple of days over a weekend, the neurologist calls and matter-of-factly said the tests came back and tells me that it is MS. It was like he totally brushed over it. I asked him if it would shorten my life. He said absolutely not and that it was totally treatable. I asked him what he thought I had. He goes ‘my God, you do not know, you do not want to know what I thought you had.’ He thought I had ALS or an inoperable malignant brain tumor. He thought I was dead. When I walked out of the office he said he pounded his fist on his desk just going, damn, damn, damn because he thought I was cooked. So I had good news, it was just MS.”|
He called Melody with the diagnosis and she was very encouraging. “This is just another hurdle and we’ll do it together,” she said lovingly.
Paraquat has dealt with MS in an incredible positive fashion. “I have no anger and I have no regrets about my life. I’m a happy man. I’m just happy to be what I am and if this is it, this is it but it’s only going to get better. Since I’ve been diagnosed it hasn’t gotten worse, it may have gotten a little bit better and I’m doing everything I can to make it even better than that.”
He believes a positive outlook will affect the outcome. “There’s an old saying, your attitude determines your altitude. And I’m up there, man, so you don’t have to worry about me.”
Paraquat had been reluctant to go public with his MS. “I didn’t want to be the object of anybody’s sympathy. I’m felt like I was the invincible man - untouchable - and that’s the way I lived my whole life. If I could count the number of times when I should have been dead for just being the fool, drinking, driving my motorcycles, or skiing, I should be dead a hundred times over. Okay. I proved pretty much to myself that I’m immortal and now this but you know what? This hasn’t really changed my feeling about life at all.”
Pat acknowledged that not much is known about MS but he believes he may become the beacon of hope for other people. “I’m documenting this thing. I want to demonstrate to others about the experience of the human spirit and what you can create using your own mind. I believe when this book is finished, I will be healed. The book will be a wonderful beacon of hope for anybody else that has anything.”
His inspiration come from the philosophy of Judith Parker Harris. In 1985 she was diagnosed with MS, blind, paralyzed from the waist down, couldn’t walk and she totally healed herself using this program that she devised the elimination of internalizing anything that’s bad. When people get bad news, according to Harris, people stuff it down and it impacts you physically.
Part of Paraquat’s desire to go public with MS is to rid himself of any negative thoughts he was holding on to and to allow his body to rebel the disease with positive thoughts and energy.
“Deepak Chopra declares that you are the essence of chemical reactions and when something impacts you adversely, mentally, it has an affect on the cells control your whole body”, stated Pat. “I’m going to be living proof that it does work.”
Did you ever smoke dope? “I wouldn’t say I’ve never smoked dope but you know what? I am not a pot smoker and I never was. I may have smoked pot once or twice when I was at KMET taking a hit, it just wasn’t my thing you know.” Pat paused to allow the statement to sink in. “Now the heroin is something else,” he laughs. “No, I’m just joking. No, I just wasn’t into it and that’s not what I’m trying to do with this. This is, you know, this is a blessing, I mean it really is.
Many people would rush to a support group, but not Paraquat. “I don’t want to sit around and listen to other people complain about their lot in life. Somebody filmed a documentary about people with MS and he asked me to narrate it. I said I’d be happy to and I saw the first three minutes of the damn thing and I just turned it off. I said you know what? This isn’t for me. It appeared to me to have been presented from the victim’s standpoint. I’m not a victim. You know what, there are only solutions, there are no problems, didn’t John Lennon say that? There are no problems, only solutions. Well, that’s the truth though, you know, I’m not a victim. I’m a lucky person.”
A number of personalities have MS and are leading active lives - Montel Williams, Teri Garr, Neil ?, and of course Richard Pryor who is in horrible shape. “I suppose there are different types of MS. It’s just a matter of your immune system that attacks itself. It’s an autoimmune disease and you have these cells attack other healthy cells. It causes lesions and like wounds that heal but as they start to heal they’re attacked again by healthy cells and it causes lesions and these lesions are on the myeloid shaft, which is this thing that surrounds the spine. Listen to me like I know what I’m talking about – and the messages from your brain are transmitted down the myeloid shaft or whatever and the message gets disrupted and this is what you get.”
Pat’s doctor aren’t sure what causes MS so they can’t him if it was anything that I did to myself. I will turn it around totally. I will be back 100 percent, and then people can come to me and I’ll just give them the formula or the book. You know they can have it for free if they have a prescription from their doctor.
Does Pat have a highlight to his ubiquitous life and career? “When I was struck by lightening that one day at Safeway and I wanted to be in radio, that’s when I just put it in my mind. I set out on a mind course to not only be in radio, but that I was going to be a success and be huge. Radio ended, We tried tv shows and all kinds of stuff. Melody and I have been very fortunate to have been successful in two fields- broadcasting and real estate.
In 1996, Pat returned from WNEW-New York where he was living in Benny Goodman’s old house in Connecticut. He knew his radio journey had come to an end. “We really loved living in Connecticut. It was a fantastic house. Melody loved it. We flew her 1,300 pound horse back via Fed Ex to be with us. We had a great time back there but when we moved back I just had my full. The business had changed to the point where it wasn’t what I wanted to deal with anymore.”
Pat’s brother Rob used to be a builder up in Central California where he was a contractor. “I remember my mom calling to say that Rob had passed his real estate exam and he started doing very well. So I said to Melody that we should do that. At that moment it was like the bolt of lightning in that Safeway store that led me to radio and I envisioned the day when we would be at some brokerage in Beverly Hills and we would be selling multimillion dollar houses in the hills. You know what? It happened. Now it didn’t happen because we’re lucky or because I was Paraquat Kelley and Melody didn’t happen to get on CBS with 2 on the Town because she was good looking and she was charming. We both worked our asses off and we worked so hard to build a real estate business. That’s how it happened. There are no free lunches. All of our success came because we worked hard at what we did.
When Jim Ladd was presented with his Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame, the night before there was a roast for Jim at the Comedy Factory. When Pat took the stage to deliver some hilarious stories, it was the first time that many of his colleagues saw him with a cane and needing a little bit of assistance to get up the steps to the stage. When he got to the podium, the audience was hushed. “Thank God all the drugs I took in the 80s haven’t hurt me.” The silence was broken and the crowd laughed and cheered.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that you do eventually become everything you made fun of growing up and this is what I am.” Pat became reflective of the medium he loved so much. “By far and away, Jim Ladd is the best thing on the radio in this city but I think the best person on the radio and this may come out of left field – is Don Imus. Here’s a guy that is a total person. This guy lived in a laundry mat on Vine Street behind one of the dryers to keep warm at night because he was destitute trying to get into this radio thing. He befriended Robert W. Morgan and they became wonderful friends. Morgan is a friend of mine. You know he was a wonderful guy. But Imus never bought into the bullshit nor did Jim Ladd and those two guys have one thing in common that I admire - they work at their craft. You listen to Imus and it may sound like it’s just off the cuff nonsense but believe me, man, I would hate to wonder how much preparation goes into that show. That guy works his butt off. To me in radio, Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern probably make more money, but I have nothing but the utmost respect for Don Imus and Jim Ladd. I don’t even know who number three is. Oh, number three might have been Jonathan Brandmeier. I listened to his show on ‘Arrow’ and I thought there’s another guy that does a well prepared and look where he is. So I hope I haven’t cursed Jim and Don, you know what I mean?”
“Jim Ladd is probably my greatest friend from those years. He’s just a wonderful guy and ever since my thing, he’s been the man that’s, you know, that’s been the most wonderful supporter. He and Steve Edwards – I’ve got two guys I can count on my, you know, that have been there for me since my thing, my diagnoses so to speak.”