Like the deaths of Eric the Actor or Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf before it, another person made obscurely famous by the Howard Stern show lost his life over the weekend. Kevin Metheny, the infamous former Stern nemesis who famously taught Stern the proper way to pronounce the call letters “WNBC,” (w NNNNNnn… bc) has died at age 60. Stern’s former programmer at WNBC in New York, where Metheny started in 1980, he was immortalized, or at least Meme’d, by Stern, who nicknamed him “Pig Virus” in his book Private Parts and “Pig Vomit” in the movie. Metheny died of a heart attack Friday, according to the New York Daily News.
Metheny, 60, had been program director of KGO and KSFO in San Francisco since June.
“Like everyone in the talk radio industry, I knew and respected Kevin Metheny as a friend and as a fierce competitor,” said Tom Tradup, vice president of news and talk programming for the Salem network. “His infectious humor disarmed both rivals and, often, management. In an industry with a dwindling number or larger-than-life, creative geniuses Kevin will be sorely missed.”
I can’t believe I lived in the same city as Pig Vomit and I didn’t even know it. So many questions.
“He was not afraid to put his fingerprint on a station or on a personality,” said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, a radio trade publication. “Sometimes it was for good and sometimes it didn’t always work out that well. But he was undoubtedly one of the major talk radio programmers of the modern era.”
One area of contention was Mr. Metheny’s insistence that Stern and other on-air personalities emphasize the “N” when delivering the WNBC call letters. Harrison said the idea was a deceptively innovative way to differentiate WNBC from rival WABC for listeners. Mr. Metheny was, in essence, rebranding and positioning the station through one simple letter. […]
Mr. Metheny was hired as program director at WGN-AM [in Chicago] in December 2008, one week after its parent company, Chicago-based Tribune Co., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. He was brought to the station by Randy Michaels, a former radio executive who rose to become CEO of Tribune Co. during the protracted bankruptcy. […]
Mr. Metheny’s attempts to advise long-time WGN-AM midday hosts Kathy O’Malley and Judy Markey on the kind of show he wanted from them ultimately resulted in their sudden exit from the station in May 2009. [RedEyeChicago]
“Pig Virus landed on his feet again,” Stern said in 2008. “I don’t spend my day thinking about Pig Virus, but it is amazing how guys we know who are pretty unoriginal keep landing on their feet. … Pig Virus really undermined everything I tried to do at NBC and hated me. And then after he got bounced from NBC and the other places he worked, he started programming radio stations and tried to replicate what I did on the radio.
“He was just so mean and vicious,” Stern continued. “Not only was he against everything I was doing, which was saving his radio station, he couldn’t live with the fact that I was so talented. He couldn’t live with the fact that I had these abilities.” [THR]
It’s hard to know how much of Stern’s hatred was genuine and how much was shtick. I’ve certainly had bosses I despise (eat sh*t, Sandra at College Loan Corporation!), and at the very least, Stern was smart for tapping into that universal human capacity for spite. And what a bittersweet spite present it would be for a former employee to make you famous, but only as a grating Paul Giamatti character. That’s way better than the time I stole a five gallon water jug.