A*C*E History

The Association of Clandestine radio Enthusiasts

The A*C*E began its existence as a radio listeners club in 1982, with a monthly newsletter of radio news, loggings of SW pirates during the past month and QSL information. The loggings column Dialogs featured contributions from listeners with data on stations, frequencies and program content. The Directory was a listing of QSL information, mail drop addresses, and running totals of how many QSLs club members had accumulated. Other monthly columns about numbers stations, pirate station profiles, and feature articles were part of the magazine. Many distinguished pirate radio hobbyists were involved in the A*C*E over it's 20+ years of existence.

The A*C*E was one of the first hobby BBS systems back in the 1980s, and transitioned into the ANARC BBS in the late 1980s as a hub for hobby clubs in the pre-internet era.

A*C*E HQ listening post

The official History of The A*C*E

the Association of Clandestine radio Enthusiasts

March 1982 – September 2005

The Association of Clandestine radio Enthusiasts was formed to replace the Free Radio Campaign – USA, which had ceased publishing in 1981. The ACE was founded by Darren S. Leno, of Moorpark, MN, who served as President and Publisher, and Ms. Lani Pettit, of Iowa. Originally, the cost of membership was a mere $6.95 per year.

The complimentary first issue was mailed in March of 1982, with the first regular issue mailed to the original 21 members in May. Among the Charter Members at that time were John T. Arthur (#6), Gregg R. Bares, Scott L. McClellan, Ms Lani Pettit, and Terry Provance (#9).

Notable during the first year: Podney Sixe began a Europe report in May, Kirk Baxter took over editing the Loggings column (later “DiaLogs”) and Lani Pettit began the “Spy Center” column in September, The ACE was “overwhelmingly” accepted into ANARC as an associate member in October, and JTA’s first “Veried Response” (QSL) column appeared in November along with an occasional Special Features column edited by Scott McClellan. The February, 1983, issue saw the beginning of “Media Scan”, penned by Tim Corcoran. At some point in ’83, Vince Pinto began contributing an occasional “Tech Topics” column which was later called “Technicalities” and edited by Bill Martin. Following that spurt of growth, things settled down for a bit…

Tim Corcoran resigned from Media Scan as of the April 1984 issue, and the feature was folded into Veried Response beginning in June as no one else offered to edit the column. At some point in 1984 Kirk Baxter established the first radio-oriented dial-up RBBS system, the ACE BBS. This BBS served as the ANARC BBS as well.

The next major changes came in 1985. First, the publishing job was handed off to Keith Thibodeaux, of Baton Rouge, LA, since Darren Leno’s college education was taking more of his time. The July issue introduced the membership to several new names: Andrew O’Brien and George Zeller came onboard to create a Clandestine column, and Keith Hill began “Pirate Talk” featuring profiles of pirates and pirate stations. Keith Thibodeaux announced in the November issue that the December issue would be his last as Publisher. However, in December it was announced that Kirk Baxter would take the new position of ACE President, taking some of the workload off Keith. In fact, Thibodeaux would continue as publisher through the April 1987 edition.

Sometime in 85-86 Ralph Martinez became Art Editor, contributing comical drawings and cover art, and attempting (without success) to come up with an ACE logo. He apparently had other things to do by late 1988 and disappeared without a trace. Jim Garrity also contributed several feature articles relevant to pirate radio during the 1985 through 1987 time period.

Beginning with the September, 1987, issue, the Publisher became William Martin, of Wilmington, DE, who put out the newsletter through July of 1988. When he no longer had the time to work on the publication, Keith Thibodeaux reclaimed the post. Also in the July issue it was announced that Clandestine editor Andrew O’Brien was off on a year-long world tour, and Lani Pettit was looking for someone to take over the Spy Center so she could devote more time to her genealogy interests.

The August issue heralded much change: Publishing was back in Baton Rouge, LA, Lani Pettit resigned as Spy Center editor, and George Zeller took over the entire Clandestine column with Andrew O’Brien still off on his jaunt. Bill Martin continued his technical and FOIA articles. Harry Helms began writing Covert Corner in October.

January 1989 saw the first in a string of articles by Don Bishop on industry and enforcement subjects, and the beginning of “Eleven Meter Hobbyist”, penned by Bud Stacey. Bud’s column lasted about three issues. Don continued to contribute informative articles until he was busted for transmitting continuous Voice of Laryngitis programs from his car on a trip from Kansas City to Denver on October 6, 1991.

Apparently putting out a double issue for March/April ’89 was too much for Keith Thibodeaux; starting with the May Supplemental issue, Kirk Baxter became Publisher - a post he would hold for several years. In July a college kid named Andrew Yoder started “DX Clipboard”, featuring news and information. September saw Havana Moon pick up where Lani Pettit left off, with his “Los Numeros Update” and Kristin Kaye added her “Last Word” to the column beginning in July, 1990; both disappeared without a trace after March, 1993. In September, 1990, Chris Smolinski appeared with plans for a folded dipole antenna and, from December until May, 1992, he edited DiaLogs. From May through November, Kirk Baxter filled in as DiaLogs editor, then a new editor, Steve Rogovich, took the helm.

Starting with the September, 1993, issue, Rob Keeney came on board to assist with the publishing duties.

Harry Helms “Covert Corner” ended in February, 1994, and Zeller added numbers and oddments to “Clandestine Profile”. Helms returned in April with a “Features” column. In March, Bud Stacey returned with “Micro’casting”, which covered Part 15 (and other) AM and FM broadcasting, with a touch of TV tossed in to confuse the readers.

With the September, 1994, issue “DiaLogs” changed hands again – this time to Kirk Trummel, who only continued through the March, 1995, issue. Nick Grace took over in April. Two new feature columns: “The Flipside”, by Michael Folk, and “Free Radio Forum”, by John Cruzan began in May. Both columns lasted a few months at best, and then disappeared. The June issue brought news that Rob Keeney could no longer publish due to time limitations. Yolanda Lewis and Scott Gentry began handling the publishing duties in August. In the December DiaLogs, Nick Grace announced of a Free Radio Championship to be run over the Holidays, offering certificates to the top three winners in both North America and Europe. Unfortunately, not so much as a list of participants was ever released.

Beginning with the July, 1996, DiaLogs editing fell into the capable hands of Joe Filipkowski.

After more than 11 years as ACE President, Kirk Baxter handed the job off to Pat Murphy in February, 1997, and HQ moved to Norfolk, VA. Custom-printed ACE T-shirts were first offered to the membership in April, 1997. Yolanda Lewis and Scott Gentry stepped down as publishers after the April issue; beginning with the May, 1997, edition Steve Rogovich took the reins.

It was during this time that Pat was a guest on the Art Bell Coast to Coast program for over 2-hours to talk about Pirate Radio and not only increased membership but got over 2,000 letters inquiring about the ACE and Pirate Radio. (that program is available at: http://shortwavepirate.info/wordpress/?page_id=20 )

June, 1997, saw the beginning of two new feature columns: “Covert Comms” with Tom Sevart, and “Tech Topix” with Howard Lyon. Tech Topix only appeared maybe half a dozen times but contained very good information; the column listing disappeared from the back cover with the September 1998 issue.

In April, 2000, Pat announced that due to his new job he absolutely had to step down, so charter member John T. Arthur offered to become Interim Managing Editor and President until someone stepped up to take over, and began publishing with the May issue. In June, Chris Lobdell replaced John as Veried Response editor. Joe Filipkowski asked for someone to replace him in the November issue. Lee Reynolds answered the call and began with the January, 2001, edition.

Harry Helms came forward to handle the publishing duties effective with the June, 2001, issue, while HQ stayed in Belfast, NY, with JTA. Frederick Moe began “Random Transmissions” (a column for odds and ends) in May, 2002. December, 2002, saw the departure of Tom Sevart (Covert Comms) and the pending departure of Harry Helms (Publisher) due to time constraints. Publishing moved back to Belfast, NY, with the February, 2003, issue, and Covert Comms was saved by Chris Smolinski.

Bud Stacey resigned from Micro’casting with the March, 2003, issue – again, due to time constraints and lack of input from the membership. No one offered to replace him, so the column was discontinued. In a shocking development, longtime columnist George Zeller resigned from his Clandestine Profile column in April, primarily citing lack of interest by the membership. Chris Lobdell resigned as VR editor as of December, 2003, and JTA began editing it again in January of 2004. Also in January, an Advisory Panel was established consisting of two long-time members: Pat Murphy and Lee Reynolds. Clandestine Profile was revived in May, 2004, by Vincent Havrilko, who was stationed in Okinawa at the time. Covert Comms appeared rather erratically for several months, and disappeared (again) completely as of August, 2004. Chris Smolinski returned in November with “The RF Zone”, to be all about antennas and feed lines, but that turned out to be a one-shot.

John Arthur worked valiantly and hard, but he was up against an ever increasing power called "the internet" and subscriptions for not just The ACE but most hobby publications had declined significantly across the board in the radio hobby world. The fact was, internet sites were immediate and print publications were at a minimum, a month behind.

So citing gradually dwindling numbers of reporters, Lee Reynolds resigned as DiaLogs editor in his September, 2005, column. More and more people were getting all their pirate information via the Internet; fewer and fewer people were joining the Association and supporting the columns. This effectively ended The ACE as a source of Free Radio information. A form letter to this effect was mailed to the membership in November, and The A*C*E, as a print publication, was no more than a memory.

It was a lot of fun and one hellova ride while it lasted!

For over 23 years The ACE was the primary source of Pirate Radio information and blazed some unexplored paths. Anybody who was anybody in the pirate radio hobby was, at one time or another, a member of The ACE. The ACE brought together a very diverse and unusual group of people who all shared the love of listening to Pirate Radio in the pre-internet age of the 80's and 90's. The ACE counted amongst its members, Doctors, Lawyers, Legislators, the unemployed and the unemployable, people from all walks, backgrounds, educations, and job descriptions. Most of the Pirate Operators and Maildrop Operators of the time were members and supporters.

Now The ACE is proud to host the North American Shortwave Pirate Radio Hall of Fame, to honor the Pirates and the people who have made this hobby of listening to Pirate Radio, what one past-President recently stated at Winterfest, "the most fun you can have with your clothes on!"


Darren S. Leno, March 1982 - December 1985

Kirk G. Baxter, December 1985 - February 1997

Patrick (Pat) M. Murphy, February 1997 - April 2000

John T. Arthur, May 2000, September 2005