`Viva la Barbare!' aims to get co-host rehired.
Imagine a world where you no longer had Al Pacino, Sean Connery, Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, William Shatner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Randy Travis and Jonathan Harris (aka Dr. Zachary Smith from "Lost in Space") to wake up to?
For fans of "The Hill-Man Morning Show," that terrifying scenario happened on the morning of Sept. 26 when they turned their radio dial to WAAF FM to find that longtime co-host Kevin Barbare was no longer a part of the show's no-holds-barred lunacy and off-the-cuff banter.
Not only were listeners shocked, Barbare was equally if not more shocked.
"One of the reasons why they hired me, one of the reasons that I was so popular, is because I am very quick-witted and very able to do things and get them done fast," Barbare said. "I was there for almost 20 years and just let go. It was like I never worked there."
Barbare, the very funny and versatile on-air personality on the popular morning show, was responsible for all the parody songs, killer celebrity impressions, phony phone calls and fake movie trailers that had plenty of Bay Staters spitting up their cereal through their nose and laughing through their regular commute.
In recognition of fans' support to get him back on WAAF, a "Viva la Barbare!" party, featuring live music and comedy from Brian Richard and Don Boulger, respectively, will be held at 9 p.m. tonight at Peppercorn's Grille and Tavern, 455 Park Ave., Worcester. Steve Donovan (of WXLO FM's "Jen & Steve in the Morning" program, which actually competes against "The Hill-Man Morning Show") will serve as the event's MC. Admission is free.
As a show of appreciation, Barbare, who lives in Worcester and is also the co-creator of the popular "Rock and Shock" event, is going to give out to the first 100 patrons free comedy CDs with some of his classic and soon-to-be-classic bits.
In 1993, Barbare, who previously worked for WROQ in his hometown of Greenville, S.C., joined "The Hill-Man Morning Show" to provide comedic content with his wide range of musical and celebrity impressions as co-host.
"The Hill-Man Morning Show," which also features its namesake, host Greg Hill, sports director Lyndon Byers (aka L.B.), on-air personality and producer Anthony Parziale (aka "Spaz") and news director Danielle Murr, is WAAF's most popular current program, as well as one of its longest running.
"We were all a group and we all worked together. We all had different work ethics but the listeners saw us as five necessary entities to complete the show because we all provided a completely different personality," Barbare said. "I don't think the show should lose any of us."
On Sept, 25, Barbare got an email from his program director (who happened to be the same person who hired him back in 1993) to see him after the show. He thought he was going in there to sign a new contract. He thought wrong.
"I went in thinking that they're probably going to offer me no raise because of the current state of things, but they are going to re-sign me," Barbare said. "And, he (the program director) said, the company has eliminated our position and, unfortunately, it's effective immediately."
The week before he got the ax, Barbare did a song parody spoofing Lady Gaga's well-publicized weight-gain. It was called "Stuff My Face" (done to the tune of "Poker Face"). Not only did it get multiple requests and hits, this fan favorite turned out to be another instant Barbare-conceived "Hill-Man" classic.
"Our ratings were good and one of the reasons why our ratings were good was because listeners overwhelmingly said they wanted a funnier morning show and they wanted more funny," Barbare said. The announcement that his services were no longer needed took Barbare totally by surprise.
"I was just shocked, first of all. And, of course, I kind of went into a panic, because I wasn't prepared to lose a job," Barbare recalled. "I had no inkling ... and I had to think about my kids and my apartment. I really didn't know what to say. I was visibly upset."
Barbare was not the only one upset. So too were his loyal fans, so much so that they started a rigorous campaign to get him back. "The Hill-Man Morning Show" and the radio station's brass were immediately bombarded with frantic text messages, irate phone calls and angry emails about Barbare's abrupt departure.
In addition, several Facebook petitioning campaigns (including "Bring Back Kevin Barbare" and "Boycott WAAF until they bring back Kevin Barbare") started up, all to the chagrin of his former bosses.
"The higher-up people where I used to work think that I'm behind it. I swear to you, I have nothing to do with any of this. They tried to have it taken down. They tried to have me taken down," Barbare said. "So that's one thing that made this a lot less depressing for me is the amount of fans' support that has come out."
Viva la Barbare!
When: 9 p.m. tonight
Where: Peppercorn's Grille and Tavern, 455 Park Ave., Worcester
How much: free.
CUTLINE: Kevin Barbare