On the Air with SCOTT and TODD

8:14 pm Profiles

ABC Ink
By Dawn Shurmaitis

WPLJ “Morning Show” co-hosts Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill have a unique talent for convincing loyal listeners to do really weird things. One morning, they pulled a prank on a New Jersey man linked up to the radio show during a signature phone “scam.” By the end of the call,, the DJs had the man so panic stricken with a bogus tale of bacterial water contamination he screamed to his wife to “get out of the shower immediately” while thousands listened in.

It’s the kind of viewer connection Scott and Todd pray for: incredibly silly and awfully funny. “That’s the one you take home to momma. That’s the big show with Scott and Todd,” Shannon says from the New York studios of WPLJ-FM.

The four-hour morning show is a smooth blend of music, bits, parody songs, viewer calls, news, weather, sports and traffic updates. Each morning, as a testament to the show’s popularity, callers light up the phones. They dial in to win concert tickets, request a song, beg for a favorite character. Rounding out the team is sidekick Naomi DiClemente and traffic reporter Joe Nolan. “Every day is crazy. Every day is different,” DiClemente says. “The guys tease me because I have all the corny jokes.”

WPLJ General Manager Mitch Dolan knew he had a hit on his hands from the first show, which aired in 1991. “The level of the playing field is so high in New York City you have to have something special to cut through,” Dolan says. “Over the years, they’ve really connected with their audience.”

The co-hosts cull most of their material from the news. An item on 550 Japanese students who suffered seizures while watching a favorite cartoon seems tailor-made for their particular form of on-air lunacy. Rounding out a typical morning: cutting comments on everyone from Christie Brinkley and Camilla Parker-Bowles to an escaped lion and a sex change bigamist. Classic antics include the Clinton Wiener Song, the Tyson Diary and the G.I. Jane Boycott. The DJs can find good humor in anything — even a UPS strike.

It’s still dark at 4 a.m. when the team arrives at the studio. To keep everyone awake, the studio is kept refrigerator cold. Shannon downs soda to spike his caffeine level while Pettengill goes for soothing hot chocolate. Although they didn’t know each other until three hours before they got the co-hosting gig, Shannon and Pettengill share an early love of radio. Shannon, the senior member of the crew, was an Army brat who traveled the world. His first memory of radio was his dad listening to Arthur Godfrey. “I was fascinated by people who talked on the radio,” says Shannon, who doubles as WPLJ program director. “I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else.”

A high-school drop-out, Shannon worked nothing but radio from his early Army days. His life-long love of rock and roll is evident today in his extensive record collection. His personal prize? A gold record from Elvis Presley.

Pettengill grew up outside Albany, N.Y. Back then, he was a big Imus fan. “I liked the irreverence. It’s what attracted me to radio,” he says. “He was one of the first guys to say out loud what people think but never say.” Pettengill landed his first radio job at age 13, at a local station that paid him in records. Today, he lives in N.J. with his wife and two young daughters.

Known for parody songs like “Jersey Girl”(whose lyrics include the classic line “My boyfriend Guido wears a speedo), Pettengill also enjoys performing phone scams with unwary listeners. When he’s not catching up on his sleep, Pettengill is working on a novel titled “It’s a Movie — The Book.”

His favorite story? The woman who cried when she won tickets for her kids to see the teen band Hanson. “It meant something to this woman. She even wrote me a note telling me what a difference I made in her Christmas.”

 

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