Thursday, December 30, 2010

Joel Jenista, RIP

I remember where I was when The Hardline did their extensive interview with overnight board op Joel Jenista when he revealed his battle with Lou Gehrig's disease.  I was leaving downtown on the ramp to the Dallas North Tollway.  Sadly ironic, I thought, that Joel was facing a disease named after one of our greatest sports figures.

Here is what I remember of that interview.  I may be misremembering some of what was reported, and I will welcome correction from anyone with better recall.

Joel had suffered two choking episodes resulting from his increasing lack of control over his ability to swallow.  In one of them -- I don't know if it was the first or second, but I believe it was the second -- he was in very dire straits, and an overnight DJ from the sister station -- I don't remember what it was called at the time, but it may have been The Bone -- noticed his distress and rushed into the control room and administered the Heimlich Maneuver, likely saving Joel's life.  The DJ, whose name I have forgotten, was also in the interview (or was that a different segment? -- I'm sorry, my recollection is not firm on this point).  These incidents took place prior to Joel's disclosure of his illness.

Mike and Corby handled it beautifully, with sensitivity and even with a little humor, in which Joel participated and, I think, even appreciated.  My most vivid recollection of this interview was a remark he made about The Musers.  Since he was the overnight guy, he would be on the board when The Musers arrived to get ready for their show.  (He might have even worked the board for some or all of their show -- don't recall.)   I don't recall the circumstances, but he recounted some incident that was a result of his growing disability -- which he had not disclosed at that point -- and that Craig had teased him.  He took a fairly sharp shot at Junior in the Hardline interview, something to the effect that "Craig had to make a joke about it."  In the months since, I've thought -- you might know:  The Ticket finds a way to generate a bear trap Junior could not have had the slightest idea he was stepping into.

(This reminded me of a similar episode from my years in Chicago, when Walter Payton appeared in public clearly having lost a great deal of weight.  He repeatedly denied that he was in poor health.  A popular local sports anchor known for his playful sense of humor, Mark Giangreco, made some joking remark about it on the air, and shortly thereafter Payton's true condition was revealed.  Giangreco apologized profusely, but one had to have some sympathy for him (having taken Payton at his word), and I have some for Junior.  Shortly after his Hardline appearance, I recall a similarly tasteful interview with Joel on The Musers, and all seemed to have been forgiven.)

The Hardline interview concluded with Joel saying that he would work as long as he could.  It was a great segment.  Dramatic and inspirational -- and heartbreaking.

That's all I know.  Joel did work for quite awhile longer, and could be heard contributing on-air from time to time, not sounding much if any worse than he had on The Hardline.  Eventually those appearances ceased, and it became clear that his duties at The Ticket had come to an end.

The only confirmation I have on his death comes from a posting by VSBB on The UnTicket, which does not report the date of his passing.  And, as always, thanks to The UnTicket for bringing us the news.

I hope you will indulge me a brief musing on our relationship with The Ticket.

We love The Ticket.  The individual hosts and producers and Cumulo-Ticket overlords can drive us crazy from time to time, but we have come to feel that each and every one of them is a part of our lives, and they let us know that we are a part of theirs.  We care about them despite all -- that, indeed, is My Ticket Confession.  I'd wager that there isn't a single one of us who hasn't wondered from time to time how we would react of one of these stars suffered some horrible accident or was diagnosed with some fatal illness.  (I've worried in these posts about Greg Williams, not only his drug use but his gun collections and his sad family history; see Greggo . . . Hey, Greggo.)   What would become of our favorite showgram?  How would the nonstop-funloving Ticket handle it?

We didn't lose a big star, but we've plainly lost a great soul and a great, tough man.  (There is a temptation to call these battles "brave," but if anyone had a choice they wouldn't fight an awful battle like that one.)  He toiled in the backwaters of The Ticket -- that overnight gig must have been lonely, keeping the torch lit during the hours when the P1 Nation was tuned out.  But he soldiered on, and must have done it quite well.  We owe him a debt of gratitude for his yeoman service to the channel we love.

Perhaps tonight he is a star of a different sort.

I haven't heard mention of Joel's death on the station today -- I thought it might be reported on a Ticker, but nothing today during BaD's fill-in for The Hardline.  But I'm sure thatThe Ticket will handle it with respect and the proper attention to Joel's memory.

If anyone in the Confessor Nation knew Joel, or can correct my recollection or add to it, I'd be grateful if you would leave a comment.

Rest in well-earned peace, Joel.

30 comments:

Scott said...

RIP Joel. I caught his work once in a while when an early morning was required at work. He will be missed.

cancer monkey said...

I heard about his death from Big Dick's twitter feed today. I vaguely remember the Hardline interview. I can't confirm or deny any of your recollections though.

Tweet:

“@RichardHunter: 4those ofU that knew him my good friend Joel Jenista passed away this morning after battle w/ALS-most eccentric board op my show ever had:)
Twittelator • 12/30/10 11:48 AM"

whocareswalt said...

I got to meet Joel on the Wild Ass Circus years ago (before he'd announced having ALS)
An absolutely sweet guy, very very nice. This is incredibly sad news.

Douglas Sutherland said...

I wish I heard that interview. He was a true unsung hero at The Ticket. I never had the pleasure of meeting him but I know people spoke very highly of him. It's very sad to hear of his passing and I imagine the Musers or Hardline will pay tribute to him. I'm surprised Bob didn't say anything since I imagine he knew him well thanks to his night gig some time ago and his many postgame shows.
RIP Joel.

ap said...

Plainsman, do you recall when that interview happened? I have a pretty decent favor owed to me by someone, and I would like to claim it in exchange for the audio of this interview. All I really need is the approximate date.

The Plainsman said...

AP, I do not recall. However, I did a little Google sleuthing and found one of the Ticket publications where there was an interview with Jeff Catlin, where he said that Joel had "recently" advised the station that he had ALS. The date of that publication was February 8, 2008. I'll keep looking.

Jer said...

Thank you for the kind words about Joel. (By the way, his last name is spelled Jenista- it was misspelled on NBC5's website and that seems to be the spelling that's caught on). Joel was a hell of a guy, and kept going as long as his body would physically allow him to. He was also a former Marine who served his country proudly. He was never afraid to let fly with his Hot Political Opinions, especially during the 5:30-6:00 segment with the Musers, which was part of his regular shift. It's really been great to see the outpouring of support from P1s for a guy who wasn't a "star", but definitely an integral part of the station for many many years. He will definitely be missed by everyone who knew him.

The Plainsman said...

Big Strong, thanks for checking in from The Ticket. And especially thanks for the correction, which I will fix (in case future readers wonder what Jer is talking about).

He must have been quite a guy. We all wish for colleagues like that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this entry. It was really touching. I am an early morning listener and so have heard Joel many times over the years. I do recall in his recounting the story of his illness that for quite awhile, he did not know he had ALS. He started noticing a lack of cooperation from his body (absent a better description), and then he began getting tested. In fact, I had thought at least one of his choking incidents came before he knew anything was wrong, but I may not be remembering correctly. Thanks for all you do to further strengthen the bond of the ticket community. I feel fortunate to be part of this lightning in a bottle we call the little ticket.

The Plainsman said...

"Lightning in a bottle." That's perfect.

Which is one reason I maintain this site -- to remind us what an extraordinary romance we have with the entire Ticket team.

Douglas Sutherland said...

Does anybody remember the Ticket promo he did? I want to say it was early 2007. I can't for the life of me remember what it was about though.

Brad said...

I heard that interview as well... and I recall it as you did. I was sorry to hear about Joel's condition then - and even sorrier to hear of his passing tonight. I feel like I have lost a member of my extended family.

Anonymous said...

I wish he could see this outpouring of support. I think he might be surprised at the volume and depth. Gordo used to make fun of him, too, particularly as his vocal cords starting "relaxing" and his tongue got "fatter" and a bit QCar-like. But in Gordo's defense, no one knew of Joel's illness at that time. The second the hosts found out, they handled it with deep reverence and respect... And a dose of humor in their melancholy, like only the sweet-strong ticket can.

Friend of Joel's said...

Joel was such a gentle, quirky, lovable guy. Thanks for this line, "He was a great soul, and a great, tough man." He had the kind of toughness that just is without having to exert itself... toughness expressed best in pure sweetness. He will be missed.

UP Guatemala said...

I listened to that interview and even called in to Joel that night to tell him how much I appreciated his courage in going on the air with his illness. I chimed in to him from time to time to see how he was, he always seemed to remember me by name and I believe he genuinely appreciated the calls. I never got the chance to meet him but I feel like I knew him from our conversations. Stay Hard Joel, you will be missed.

Anonymous said...

I am Joel's sister. Thank you all for your kind words. I was especially touched by the remark "Perhaps he is a star of a different sort." Last night, when I returned home after saying goodbye to my brother, I saw a shooting star that was so low I thought at first it was a firework. I thought then, and am certain after reading your post now, that it was fron Joel.

p.s. I believe the radio segment you are referencing was late 2007, although I did not hear the actual segment myself.

The Plainsman said...

Thank you for joining us and sharing that striking image. Our heartfelt condolences.

You know, it's funny. I wasn't a late night listener or P1 WAC fan and did not know of Joel until that Hardline interview. And after that one, and the Muser interview, I seldom heard him.

But for reasons I can't explain, his story and interview stayed with me -- I think it was that matter-of-fact voice of his -- and when I heard that Joel had died, it really grabbed me. I knew I had to get to the keyboard and set up a little tent where those who felt the same way I did could gather.

Anonymous said...

I remember when the Hardline set up a (short-lived) series of debates between the *conservative* Mark Followill and the *progressive* Joel Jinesta. I can only recall two of such debates. And if memory serves, neither were anything to write home about. The premise of the bit (I believe) was along the lines of the old SNL "Point-Counterpoint" skit. (Which was a goof on Buckley's "Firing Line".) Whatever the case... you made a difference, Joel Jinesta.

The Plainsman said...

Anonymous, thanks for taking us back. That's a good one. must have way predated my arrival in Dallas.

(Minor point of historical clarification: If I recall correctly -- always subject to doubt -- The Dan Ackroyd/Jane Curtin ("Jane, you ignorant slut") bits on "Saturday Night Live" were a takeoff on James J. Kilpatrick and Shana Alexander on "60 Minutes.")

Doug: I do remember that Ticket promo. But the substance of it is long gone.

The Plainsman said...

Does anyone know whether Joel's passing has been mentioned on The Ticket?

It's possible they are waiting for regular programming to resume before deciding how to handle it. Just wondering if anyone's caught a reference to it.

Anonymous said...

Plainsman,

Thanks for the historical clarification. I erroneously assumed it was based on "Firing Line."

Bob and Dan mentioned Joel's passing on WTDS yesterday. They spoke very highly of him and played the moment of silence/Jub interruption/9-11 bit in his honor. And I believe Grubes even gave a "stay hard, Joel!" salute.

Douglas Sutherland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Douglas Sutherland said...

Apologies, missed the post above mine so I gave the same info. They gave him a "moment of silence" but even after Bob and maybe a few others muttered "great dude." I hope the Musers do an 810 on him when they get back.

neti pot said...

99% sure that Joel interview with the Hardline was in August 2007. It wasn't long before Carter's death.

The Plainsman said...

I'm so pleased that BaD Radio acknowledged Joel's passing before too much time passed. Good show.

Big Anthony said...

Also Rich & Doocy talked about it as did the 10-12 fill in on Friday

Anonymous said...

The Musers discussed Joel's passing during this morning's Observation Deck segment at 6:35.

Anonymous said...

Greetings, I worked at the little ticket during the susquhanna years 99-04. I must say that Joel was great to work with and very proud of his gig. The job of the overnight board op is pretty thankless and so is the pay usually. As a remote tech taking the musers on the road, Joel was always my first contact at 3am at whatever questionable location chris chris had over promised some golf course. I digress. At a freezing broadcast location Joel was a friendly voice on the talk back/IFB. He was an example of taking pride in your work. He was one of the best board ops I ever worked with. Whatever it is that you do. Be the best. On a side note, psycho Dave Martin is coming to work at Salem. Saw him interview and he looks good, if still a little crazy. Less bitter than expo, for sure!

Joel is operating the dual-line Comrex on that 1700 transmitter in the sky. Rip buddy

The Plainsman said...

Anonymous, thanks for a great behind-the-scenes report. We sometimes forget all the work that has to go on behind the scenes in advance of those early-morning showgrams. I'm sure Joel probably appreciated the company from the field.

Those of us who only knew him after he took ill have a hard time picturing him as the leftist firebrand and expert speedfinger board op that people who knew him have portrayed. Your recollection is most appreciated. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

FYI: This was posted on facebook today.

In Memory Of Joel Jenista
18 January · 19:00 - 22:00
Location The Texas Theatre
Created by: Devin Pike
More info The Asian Film Festival of Dallas, the Texas Theatre, Well Go USA and Red Carpet Crash present a night in honor of Joel Jenista - Tuesday, January 18 at 7:00 pm.

Joel Jenista, a member of Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket (KTCK-AM)'s staff and ardent supporter of the North Texas film and music scene, lost his battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) in the final week of 2010.

Joel was a dear friend and ardent supporter of AFFD from the very beginning. He was a huge fan of martial arts movies, and we are honored to remember him with a time of sharing, and the fantastic film "Ip Man."

FREE TO THE PUBLIC. All donations received will go to MDA-ALS Division (if bringing a check, please make it out to MDA-ALS Division).

7:00 pm - Welcome
7:30 pm - Open Forum to remember Joel
8:00 pm- Free Screening of "Ip Man"

To learn more about ALS, or to make a donation in honor of Joel, please visit http://www.ALS-MDA.org/

For more information on this event or the Asian Film Festival of Dallas, please visit http://AFFD.org/

-Anon B