Bob as Jake Wheeler
Bob as Jake Wheeler

Listen Up, Bob Segarini Has A Confession To Make

The following is a self-authored account of Bob Segarini’s colourful and often chaotic life. Wildly creative, light and bright, sometimes his own worst enemy, ever-amusing—well, Bob can do the talking from here.

One Rock Star's Journey into Unemployment

I use the term "Rock Star" loosely here. I mean, at best, I was a Minor League Rock Star, the equivalent of being a utility outfielder for the Turlock Turtles, hoping to be called up to the Bigs (in this case the Akron Ohio Tire Fire) so I could use my skills to hit a World Series Grand Slam for the win and get carried around the bases by my teammates without dropping me on my head.

Unlike the doctor who delivered me ...

I was San Francisco born to a couple whose aversion to children left me cooling my adorable little heels in a nun-run baby boutique for six months until I was adopted by an Immigrant grocer and his English/Cree wife and whisked away to Stockton California (Where Dreams Go To Die) and given much love, a crib, and a bedside Emerson table radio which was the only thing that could shut me up and lull me to sleep since the state made it illegal to give children under five a shot of tequila and a Sandoz at bedtime the year before.

Like any Italian boy, (I was light-skinned enough to pass for white), I grew up pampered, spoiled, and entitled, which, in later years, would turn out to be my cross to bear, my Kryptonite, my Billy Squire fashion sense and dance moves.

For almost four decades, everything went my way. No matter how impossible, no matter what my goal, they were achieved and surpassed. No matter how bad the odds, the cards would be dealt, and everything would come up Millhouse.

It seemed I had more than a horseshoe up my ass ...

...I had the whole horse.

My Childhood Was A Whirlwind Of Accomplishments

By two years of age, I was tap dancing at County Fairs.

A few years later and I was dazzling after dinner guests with a rousing interpretation of Lady of Spain on the accordion that damn near outweighed me.

By 13, I was playing the guitar and singing at lunchtime at Stockton Jr. High from a fire escape overlooking the outdoor lunch area. Girls liked me. Bullies decided not to kill me with wedgies, and teachers forgave my dog for all the homework he ate.

Joined my first band at 15.

Formed my own band at 18.

Had regional hit records and toured non stop from Vancouver to San Diego, got a Major Label deal (RCA), started touring from New York to L.A., played the Whisky, the Fillmore, Moved over to Elektra Records, did NBC in New York, played Carnegie Hall, co-wrote with Harry Nilsson, moved to Montreal, more records, more bands, Moved to Toronto, A&M Records, Bomb Records, CBS/Epic Records, Anthem Records. Juno nominated for producing my first solo LP. It just went on and on. Like I am right now.

And then it stopped.

Sorry.

I do talk too much.

I was born after the Great Generation ended (the generation that survived the Great Depression and took credit for winning World War Two), and before the Baby Boomer Generation began.

I am a man without a Generation.

Like the Boomers, I learned how to ride a tricycle and eat solid food during the Korean War, was part of the Youth Explosion, was labelled a teenager (and occasionally a Juvenile Delinquent), and was inspired by and then contributed to the spread of both rock, AND roll, much to the amusement of my family and some of my peers.

Other than hearing the freshly minted epithet, "Turn that Shit Down!", nothing of consequence when it comes to my descent into obscurity occurred until the mid-sixties and them damn hippies.

Drugs.

We had no idea they were bad for you.

Not a clue.

...and for almost two decades, they weren't. ...and everybody did them and shared them and enjoyed them, and some still do. But let me tell you, Bub ...spending time on Pleasure Island WILL result in turning some of you into donkeys.

They helped turn me into a Jackass.

Big Hair, Shoulder Pads, 8-Balls, and Booze Cans - The '80s

My playing and recording career wound down during the first 12 months of 1980, and, after fulfilling the remainder of my obligations with two extremely talented sets of musicians, and found myself without a recording contract or a band for the first time since 1961.

I had recently begun getting some work by auditioning to do voice over work, but other than that, I had NO idea as to what to do going forward.

The Universe, sensing I am just going to sit at the dining room table drinking beer every day, decides to roll its eyes, take pity on my stalled ambition, and give me a leg up.

Over the years I have been asked many times how I got into radio.

I wish I could have said I studied, applied at stations, worked on honing the technical and communication skills it takes to get hired, find a little station in a tertiary market that would take a chance with me, and work my ass off to rise in the ranks and make something of myself.

Do the work.

Appreciate the opportunity.

Be grateful for the chance ...

...and show gratitude by surpassing their expectations and delivering what they want from you.

I never got the chance.

Instead, I answered the phone one morning, hung up on the caller because I thought it was a prank, got called back, ended up with the 10 pm to 2 am slot on the most respected radio station in Toronto in the biggest market in Canada.

Suddenly I was The Iceman - Radio DJ!

Okay, I know you all have things to do and this is going on way too long, so, it's time for an

Online Print Montage

Motorhead guests on my show for a 10-minute interview.

We do three hours instead, ignore the playlist and play lots of early rock and roll and R&B records.

Fired the next day for doing three hours, ignoring the playlist and playing lots of early rock and roll and R&B records.

I argued that it was great radio.

They correctly boot my ass out the door.

It took me years to realize that not only they were right, but that I had once again made a decision that wasn't mine to make ...and didn't learn a damn thing.

Hired within 24 hours by the station's biggest rival.

I did all nights and then am promoted to afternoon drive.

A station full of rebels and like-minded musos where anything went, and the workplace was positive, fun, wild at times, and spilled out into the streets and our everyday lives.

Asked to become one of the producers of MuchMusic.

Ask my radio boss if I can change shifts so I can do both.

When told no, I left to learn TV, not realizing I was being disloyal, ungrateful, disrespecting someone who had become a good friend, and, yet again ...not understanding or learning anything from my actions.

Producing TV is boring.

I feel like I am being wasted.

Then, miraculously, I am transferred to CITY-TV to host the all-night movie show on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. I am made responsible for an hour and 20 minutes of television every week, the amount of time that supplements the movies and commercials.

No budget.

Locked off camera.

Me alone.

Once again I bend the rules, make decisions, and soon, there are four of us; we're creating content, having a ball, and being left alone by the powers that be.

Until a 4 am confrontation that shouldn't have happened ended up with me being angry and escalating a misunderstanding into a standoff that resulted in me not coming back to work the next day.

...or ever again.

I turned to drugs.

I lost my home.

My wife.

My career.

And my health.

I spent 10 years down the rabbit hole and another three convincing myself I didn't want to get high anymore.

I succeeded.

...but the reputation I had been stamped with, even though I have since done good work in both music and media, hangs on me to this day.

The turning point was on my 50th birthday.

My wife called from California.

She had found someone and was filing for divorce.

I was living in a room in a ramshackle house that had been converted into four tiny apartments. Living on welfare with no prospects. Ended up in the fetal position and finally going to sleep on a borrowed futon on the floor.

That's the day I started to grow up.

Twenty Four Years Seem Like A Lot Until You're Suddenly Looking At The Twenty-Fifth

Years ago I asked my daughter how she turned out so great.

"Easy", she said, smiling, "I  just watched what you did and didn't do any of it".

I had a manager/agent who told a mutual friend, "Bob is a very talented guy, but he is a fiscal moron".

I still am.

Putting together an Ikea bookcase or filling out a form, working with numbers, and manual labour are not included in my limited skill set.

I wish they DID ...but they DON'T.

There have been a lot of great jobs and times in the past 24 years, a return to broadcasting both terrestrial and satellite, and help from various organizations, friends, and family that have helped me keep a roof over my head and food on the table since the work has dried up and I live on a pension and income supplement that keeps me under the poverty line.

Now looking for work, so I don't NEED to be a charity case, something I do not like and have been working to eliminate, I find myself in a situation I am sure many others of my age are dealing with.

Since the Mike Harris government made some changes to social insurance, I can only be paid X amount that will not add enough to what I get from the government to exceed the amount I am allowed to make without having the excess deducted from my income supplement.

In other words, I can make a LITTLE money, but not too much. Otherwise, I need a paycheque that is hefty enough that they can have their income supplement back.

That's not going to happen.

In the fields where my skill set still works, there is little or no chance that I will find any work. Ageism is real and nowhere is it more evident than in the arts and pop culture related areas.

I'm okay with that. I would love to re-launch the BobCast, and my blog contains enough source material for a book or two, a TV series, and at least two movies.

(Does anyone have the phone number for Netflix's office here in Toronto?)

So, yeah. If I had an agent, a music placement person, and access to investors, editors, etc., I am confident I can generate an income that would be more than enough to make a decent living from.

I looked into being a Wal-Mart greeter and was told to get a few more teeth and let a dermatologist run roughshod over my face, and then, maybe.

McDonald's has a seniors program, but with collapsed discs and equilibrium problems, they expressed concern about me ending up face down in the fry cooker.

I would be a good fit writing copy for an ad agency, but there are so many qualifiers, that being the best copywriter in the world won't do you any good unless you did five years here and three years there and have a degree in Literature, a dog, own your own thesaurus and went to the Harvard School of Witty Cut Lines.

Hindsight is 20/20, and unless you want to drive yourself crazy getting caught up in woulda, coulda, shoulda, it's best to own your mistakes, accept responsibility for your problems, and avoid making the same mistakes again.

Or just do what my daughter did.

Look at what I did ......and don't do it.

Robert Segarini for FYIMusic News

Stay in touch and read more about Bob's life, past and present, on his Don't Believe A Word I Say blog.

Bob can be contacted by email by writing: segarini@rogers.com

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