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.