Thu, 21 February 2013
Lorenzo Raffa is a legend in his own mind.
Lorenzo hopes that's not what people perceive, but that's his favorite quip when someone mentions that they've heard him at some point on WMPG in the last quarter century. Lorenzo (or Lo, Zo, Renz, or Renzo, the only current nicknames come from clipping off a syllable or two) grew up loving radio, and being raised in the New York City suburbs in the 1960's He got to hear some of the best soundwaves ever broadcast: MusicRadio WABeatle
Flash forward to Waterville in the late-seventies/early-eighties (Lorenzo never really felt at home in New York; Maine seemed a much better fit for this neohippie), there was WBLM, Today widely considered the Snidley Whiplash of local commercial radio. 'BLM back then was the real deal. Have a request? pick up the phone and chat with the DJ. As much fun as Cousin Brucie was, there were many gatekeepers between you and your cuz.
Lorenzo was born in Dobbs Ferry, NY (a Westchester County suburb outside of New York City) on June 17, 1957. Lorenzo has almost an obsession about his birthday, as listeners to The Lorenzo Commentaries can attest. Celebrities such as Barry Manilow, Joe Piscapo, M. C. Escher, Newt Gingrich and Venus Williams share the date, as Lorenzo will tell you ad nauseum.
Lorenzo was the first born to his parents Janet and Larry (yes, the Anglisized version of Lorenzo, but please don't call him Junior), a year and a half later in Hastings brother Donald joined them, and after buying a house in Haverstraw, a village in nearby Rockland County, sister Nancy made the family complete.
Larry, a post-Korean War vet, was a plumber, active in the union. Janet, also known as Jenny, from a German family in upstate New York was a stay-at-home mom and housewife who loved reading and bingo. It was an idyllic suburban family, whose happiness was altered only by Jenny's declining health, suffering from emphysema, and passing away when Lorenzo was 15.
Fifteen was a big year year for Lorenzo. His mother's passing hit him hard, his father, while a great provider, had no idea how to be a suddenly single parent. Lorenzo met his first love Terre at North Rockland High School, soon after that Larry met a divorced woman, Marilyn, with 3 sons in their father, a successful psychiatrist's, custody. When the doctor passed away suddenly of a brain aneurism, Larry and Marilyn quickly got married to gain custody, which retrospectively may not have been a move benefitting anyone involved; however, the deed was done, custody was achieved, and the two families, virtually strangers, became one, with Lorenzo and siblings moving across the Hudson to White Plains. Lorenzo and Don spent their first year in the new home on rollaway beds in the former Doctor's office, under Marilyn's orders to keep the environment as as it was found. No Alice Cooper posters here! For Lorenzo and Terre it might as well been worlds away; shortly after that Lorenzo was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Being 15 sucked.
Life did get better, Lorenzo and Terre would be reunited in time (more on that later). High school was a welcome change from the hell that was middle school. Lorenzo , who would grow to six feet by age 12, but had little or no athletic ability or interest (putting to rest the "you should be a basketball player" comments by strangers and family members).
At White Plains High Lorenzo played tuba in the concert band, Sousaphone in the marching band (to this day, even after sitting through 100+ games Lorenzo has no idea how football is played), and stage crew, where one could be involved in theater without memorizing lines. Being different was finally OK.
After a year at Mercy, a local commuter college in hometown Dobbs Ferry (or, as Lorenzo is fond of calling it, 13th Grade), he decided it was time to move on from New York, a place that never quite seemed the right fit. Waterville, Maine came first, discovered when father Larry couldn't find a local plumbing work in the Ford/Carter era recession, finally finding work building a New England paper mill. Then the short lived Lorenzo/Terre reunion in Manitou Springs, Colorado, followed by stints in Texas and Alabama, and finally back to New York to crash with family.
The "lost years" continues: Lorenzo met a free-spirited woman who called herself Sunshyne, and in a month long whirlwind romance they eloped as the eighties began. To say it was a rocky marriage would understate it. Daughters Crystl (now known as simply as Crys) and Faye were born in quick succession.
Lorenzo craved the serenity he found years back in Maine, and for the most part found it in Portland; he was able to slip into the stay-at-home-Dad role. This was the time Lorenzo discovered the then 50 watt WMPG discovering a "become involved" flyer at Cumberland Electronics. After a phone call and a two hour training "Emotionally Bankrupt & Morally in Debt", a Thursday afternoon formatless program where Lorenzo joyfully recreated the free form radio of his youth. The show had a six year run, and off the air he would go on to become volunteer Music Director (CDs started to trickle in at this point), Promotions Director (coming up with a regular snarky 2"x3" ad in the Casco Bay Weekly in this pre-Twitter world), and a volunteer board member, a role that continues today.
When preschool rolled around, and days were freed up, finally getting a degree seemed like a good plan, and Lorenzo enrolled at USM, majoring in Communications. One thing the move to Maine didn't fix was Lorenzo and Sunshyne's rocky marriage. They spent as much time apart as they were together; it was during one of the separation that Lorenzo met Lynn, a divorced mother of two, also attending USM as a nontraditional student. The attraction was immediate, but was not to be. Not yet.
Although no longer in love, Lorenzo assisted Sunshyne as her health declined; with the worst sense of déjà vu: COPD, emphysema, and oxygen tanks existed alongside smoldering cigarettes. It was a difficult couple of years ending with Sunshyne dying before her time, but during this Lorenzo finally found his career direction and started working with people with physical and developmentally disabilities, a profession to this day Lorenzo likes to say where "I don't wake up dreading the day."
As the new millennium dawned, Lorenzo found himself a single father, but thankfully reunited with Lynn, truly his soulmate. Married a couple years later by Lynn's daughter Heather, Lorenzo's wedding ring reads simply "lobsters" because "lobsters mate for life."
Which brings us to today. For nearly a decade, Lorenzo has produced a weekly short feature entitled, appropriately, The Lorenzo Commentaries, heard on WMPG Thursday mornings at 7:45 on Steve Hirshon's Hukkin a Chainek. The RenzComm's format is as varied as Emotionally Bankrupt & Emotionally in Debt's was in its day: it might be his views on popular culture and life in general, interviews (Paula Poundstone, Harry Shearer, Guster's Adam Gardner), and all out studio productions (does adding sleigh bells to "Eve of Distruction", "99 Problems", "Girlfriend in a Coma", and "Hurt" make them holiday songs?). Lorenzo refers to the Lorenzo Commentaries as "cheaper than therapy and more fun." The RenzComm is one the the few WMPG shows podcast and can be found at thelorenzocommentaries.
Another source of pride for Lorenzo on WMPG is Radio Open Mic, created when Lorenzo guest hosted Some Folk some years ago without a scheduled guest; he invited all comers to the studio, many came, and a tradition was born. There have been eight or so since, and the last few have been presented in front of an audience, live and unedited on WMPG! Another edition is in the works, because the shows been legendary, which brings us back to...
Lorenzo Raffa is a legend in his own mind.
There's Nothing To Do Today - Soupy Sales (Spy With a Pie)
As We Go Along - Monkees (Head Soundtrack)
Deacon Blues - Steely Dan (Aja)
Better Things - Kinks (Give the People What They Want)
Roll With the Flow - Michael Nesmith (...and the Hits Just Keep On Coming)
Jesus, etc. - Wilco (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
I'm So Tired-Nellie McKay
Rocket Man- Samuel James ( And For the Dark Road Ahead)
Category:general -- posted at: 11:54pm EDT