Michael Dukakis was the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in the 1988 election vs. George H.W. Bush.
This excerpt from "The Radio Producer's Handbook" details the single worst moment of my broadcasting career. It shaped me for years to come...
Depending on the number of shows on your station, the secret in-studio phone number (commonly called the hotline) may not exactly be a secret. During the 1988 presidential election, Michael Dukakis was in Chicago attending a fundraiser. One of the writers of this book (OK—it was Rick) had unsuccessfully attempted to get him on the show he was producing.
As the traffic reporter was discussing the traffic created by the Dukakis motorcade, the hotline rang. It was someone claiming to be in the limo with Dukakis. He said that Dukakis wanted to get on the air to let Chicago know he was sorry for the traffic delay. Because Rick had made several calls to the Dukakis campaign, he believed the caller.
The hosts (Steve Dahl & Garry Meier) were pleasantly flattered that a presidential candidate would be calling the show, and they believed it too. However, about three seconds into the Dukakis call it became obvious that isn’t wasn’t Dukakis. It was a hoax. If Rick had insisted on speaking to Dukakis himself on the phone before he told the host, the entire situation could have been avoided.
I was lucky that Steve & Garry made a bit out of my stupidity that day. The show wasn't ruined (only my reputation was). However, that moment also turned me into a different producer. I vowed never to let anything like that ever happen again.
About a month later when Steve & Garry were at a live broadcast somewhere, the hotline rang again. I was back at the studio running the controls.
"Hey, who's this?" the caller asked.
"Who's this?" I challenged.
"It's Jim Belushi," he said.
"No, really. It's me. Jim Belushi."
"Yeah, and I'm Michael Dukakis."
I hung up on him. He sounded like an imposter to me.
About twenty minutes later I was listening off the air to Steve and Garry during a commercial break. (The sound still came back to the studio, but it wasn't going over the air).
"Hey Garry," Steve said. "Look, it's Jim Belushi."
"Hey guys," Belushi said. "I tried to call you at the station to find out the address of this place, and some guy hung up on me."
I got much better with experience, but every time I hear someone mention the names Michael Dukakis or Jim Belushi the hair still stands up on my neck.
And it's been nearly twenty years.