As with most pirates, WFAT existed to fill a missing niche in the New York radio market at the time: the total lack lack of any locally originated, AM, late-night, open topic talk shows. Everywhere you turned on the AM dial you heard Larry King - and that was pretty much it. WFAT achieved legendary status as a pirate station due to its pro sound and killer signal that could be heard across much of the eastern U.S. (the luck of having a fantastic antenna location) and acquired listeners very
quickly that grew with each broadcast. In some ways, that may have been its undoing.Jim had gotten wise to the fact that they were under FCC surveillance. He began getting strange interference on his TV and tuned to hear what it was. It was the FCC agents talking to each other on their walkie talkies. Yep, the FCC - causing interference. There's a joke in there somewhere.
In fact, WFAT had been under investigation for months. The guys would find out later that by sheer luck, they would miss nights when the FCC was trying to monitor them and go on nights when they weren't. However, knowing that the heat was on, they decided to do one more "goodbye for now show" and lie low for a while.WFAT signed on April 14th, 1979 to say goodbye - at least until things calmed down a little. As they were preparing to wrap up the show. Jim noticed the courtyard below filling up with official-looking vehicles, out of which FCC agents began running into the building. "Hal" and "Larry" announced that the FCC was on the way up, and immediately pulled the plug on the show, dismantling the transmitter and cutting the long wire antenna. The FCC agents were not fooled.
After the bust, the guys sent out a letter t
o the listeners that were on the mailing list explaining what had happened. As word spread about what had happened to WFAT, there was a great deal of interest what Hank and Jim were doing. They were interviewed by many publications, as well as a flurry of TV and Radio appearances. There was even a screenplay developed that might be a movie today, had the writer not fumbled the ball. It wasn’t long before they were back on the air via FM as WILD, a low power outlet at 91.5 under the new names of Hank Hayes and Jim Nazuim. Since the FCC was monitoring the AM dial, FM seemed like the logical place to set up a new shop. Since the itch to do AM (where the signal is much more powerful) never goes away, they also did a small amount of AM shows as WQXQ and WBUM.
By 1980, the guys were in a new location, doing semi-regular broadcasts at 91.5 FM (or “91 and a half” as it was being called) as the newly-christened WHOT-FM, sporting a new sounding Top-40/Oldies format that relied on the time-honored (and mostly still ignored) radio traditions of high-personality on-air DJs, jingles, and (of course) reverb! Much as WFAT spawned from the lack of New York-originated talk programming at the time, WHOT grew from a distinct lack of fun, high-personality radio on the air in the 80s.
WHOT never interfered with the licensed WNYE at 91.5. They would either wait until WNYE signed off at midnight - or simply broadcast at 91.9 until WNYE signed off, then “slide down” to 91.5. They would even occasionally pop up on AM at 1630 as WGUT, using the monikers "Hugh Hughes" and "Gus Guts". This was to keep the AM and FM entities “separate”, keeping WHOT safe - just in case any FCC monitoring stations were listening. The stations, however, sounded identical.
WHOT-FM - June 10, 1989By 1985, WHOT’s listenership was growing in leaps and bounds, thanks in no small part to a power boost (one of several HOT would get over the years) and an increase in broadcast hours. Then, during the early-morning hours of November 26th when suddenly there was a pounding on the door. Jim looked through the peephole to see two FCC agents demanding entry to the building. WHOT signed off abruptly, and refused to answer the door. After an hour or so of knocking, the FCC agents gave up. After spending some time off the air, WHOT relocated temporarily to a different address (thanks to a listener who himself would run a pirate later - none other than Johnny Lightning of WJPL fame!) to get through the holidays. WHOT got through the New Year’s Show of ‘85, and as impossible as it sounds, the FCC showed up AGAIN at the “new” location early in 1986! Again, having no warrant, their entry was refused. WHOT had now been “busted” twice in two different locations within the last three months - without any actual "bust". It was time to really lay low.
We waited a few weeks to see what the FCC’s next move would be, and amazingly, nothing was happening. There weren’t any further “visits”, no calls, nothing. It was very quiet. The only thing that happened was the delivery of an official "cease and desist"-type letter. One thing was for sure…the FCC knew where we were and what we were doing, so we had to assume that it was only a matter of time before the hammer came down for good. We had two options: stay off the air and say “goodbye” to WHOT forever, or since the end was inevitable, go out in a blaze of glory.