Two Sundays ago, on April 22, Ralph Barbieri went on CBS 5 San Francisco (KPIX) with sports anchor Dennis O’Donnell. O’Donnell talked with the Hawaiian shirt-wearing Razor for about nine minutes, but I didn’t hear about the interview until the next morning. I emailed O’Donnell and others at CBS to see if I could access to the video because it wasn’t available on the site, and three days later they got back to me with this link to the interview.
Many of you may have seen this video, but for those who haven’t you can either watch it or read the interview, which I transcribed in its entirety below. In transcribing the conversation I put some of the more interesting points throughout the first 7 minutes or so in bold. Near the end, where O’Donnell pressed Barbieri on whether he wants to work at 95.7 FM, is where things really got interesting.
Whether or not The Razor will ever be on “The Game” is unknown (and doubtful in the eyes of some), but it sure sounds like Barbieri and his lawyer, Angela Alioto, are ready for a lawsuit. It was mentioned twice during the course of this interview that Alioto was present, although she never made it on camera.
O’Donnell: Ralph after working for 15 years with Tom Tolbert, what was going through your mind when you heard Tom say those words?
Barbieri: That was the week I was gone. You were in Hawaii, enjoying yourself. If you were here you could help me out.
O’Donnell: You’re celebrating with the shirt, thank you very much.
Barbieri: I was shocked. I didn’t hear it live, but so many people told me about it so I finally got it on the internet. I wish I could have seen him at the time, because I’ve not seen Tom be anything close to that emotional, ever. Italians, we cry all the time. Tom is, whatever, he doesn’t even know, I think Germanic or English or something like that. Not a real emotional person. I was really moved. I have not been able to listen to that whole thing without crying myself.
O’Donnell: How disappointed are you about the departure from KNBR. I know part of the reason you are upset is because they didn’t give you an opportunity to say goodbye, Ralph, but that’s not without precedent. Cumulus did the same with several quality talk show hosts at KGO, but Cumulus is not alone in setting that precedent. That’s a directive of many companies in our business, and it’s unfortunate, but why do you think you should have been the exception?
Barbieri: Well, first of all, I’m more upset with getting fired because I’m 66 and I have Parkinson’s. That’s the most important thing. But I’m also very upset at the way that it happened. Because as I said, it was about … I was in the office with Bill Bungeroth, who in my opinion, is a bully who has come here in the true Cumulus sense to … (he) talks like a military guy, ‘We’re going to get a beachhead up here, and then we’re not let ‘em get any of our turf!’ And Lee Hammer, who I’m very disappointed, because Lee in my opinion has turned into a weasel where he will shake your hand, and in my opinion, stab you in the back with the other one. So these two guys, I know, have not wanted me there for a while. They obviously had been planning this for some time, because they had a nice stack of papers there, all ready. As I said, I was in the office about seven minutes, so I divided it up to four years a minute. I know that you’re right, this has been done. But for 28 years you’d just think human nature would kick in or some kind of common sense would kick in. I mean it’s ‘give her your card key when you’re gone, you’re terminated, this is it, this is the last day that you’ll be at KNBR. Look at these items, get back to us when you can get back to us,’ and that’s it. I didn’t want a parade or anything, but the HR person escorted me. Not having been fired for about 30 years or so, it was just a real bad feeling. I’m seeing Tom on the air as I walk by and I can’t even say goodbye to him.
O’Donnell: From the station’s perspective, in defense of the station, it wouldn’t be wise to allow a former employee to go on the air to air grievances against the station that employs him…
Barbieri: Of course, of course…
O’Donnell: So this is a common practice, it’s not exclusive to Cumulus.
Barbieri: They could’ve let me tape something.
O’Donnell: That’s a good point. Let me show you the quote Cumulus released. We reached out to KNBR for this broadcast and they did not respond.
(Screen shows the following statement)
“The simple fact is that Ralph refused to honor some of the most basic terms of his contract. As a result, KNBR exercised its right to terminate the contract. Ralph does not disclose that KNBR offered him a contract to continue his pay and benefits for the next six months. His response to that offer was to make disparaging statements about KNBR in the press.”
Bill Bungeroth, Cumulus
O’Donnell: First of all, that you did not honor the most basic terms of your contract. What do they mean?
Barbieri: I don’t know what they’re talking about.
O’Donnell: Did you arrive late to work?
Barbieri: They said that I was fired for being late. That was it.
O’Donnell: Okay. And the disparaging remarks, that’s probably well on the record at this point.
Barbieri: Just to mention … I don’t want to get into details of things too specifically because we’re going to be having a long haul with this. We’re definitely going to file a lawsuit. But the late thing was, at February 1st, just two months and change ago, I got a $10,000 bonus for being a good little soldier and amongst other things, being on time and doing other things, so something happened since February 1st that got them to go from giving me a bonus to firing me.
O’Donnell: I don’t want to spend too much time in the details of it, because I know there could be a pending lawsuit. Your attorney is in studio tonight.
Barbieri: Can I say just one other thing about the comment that you had up there? When he said I was offered six months contract, the contract – and anybody can read it if they want to – it’s not a contract, per se, it’s called a “letter agreement” and basically it’s a contract not to be employed, not to work there, but just to keep my mouth shut and not say anything bad about ‘em. I don’t know what they’re afraid of if they’re not doing anything bad, but anyway, it’s a one-month. (For) one month it’s solid, and immediately after one month the company can rescind the contract unilaterally. Does that sound like a six-month deal to you?
O’Donnell: And you were coming off years where you were signing four years at a time, right? Essentially, that’s what your deal was.
Barbieri: Right. Or three, or two.
O’Donnell: Let me get into the basis of you being 28 years. I know you have a message for the audience that you felt bad that you weren’t able to give on KNBR radio.
Barbieri: I don’t want to get real maudlin or anything, but I just owe the audience so much. And the funny part about it, Dennis, is that not all of them loved me, you know. It was about half of them loved me and half of them hated me, but ironically when people have heard about this kind of treatment I’ve been accorded, I’ve gotten more fans than I think that I had before. One other little sidelight, during the … I could talk about the Giants parade for years. We were lucky enough to be in the parade. And here’s these, some people estimated a million people, and everywhere you go, down the intersection you can see them 20 rows back. And there was one guy, one little guy, sitting on the curb, by himself, with a little homemade sign that said, “Ralph sucks”. Can you imagine that? In the middle of the Giants parade. Yes! Alright.
O’Donnell: That’s a sign of respect.
Barbieri: But I mean seriously, I just want to thank everybody so much for listening for all these years and for all the cards and letters. I didn’t get any voicemail anymore, because they cut off my voicemail by the time I had got into the garage. Lost about 20 messages there. But it’s been so wonderful, people have found a way to get through to me one way or another. Hopefully I’ll be able to meet with some of the folks personally at some point in time, but I can’t thank people enough. I’m the only guy at KNBR or almost at any other talk station that, I didn’t want to do anything but what I was doing. I didn’t want to be on national TV, I didn’t want to be syndicated, I didn’t want to … I just wanted to be a talk show host, fortunately in my hometown of San Francisco.
***Here’s where it gets interesting.***
O’Donnell: We’re out of time. Would you want to work at 95.7?
Barbieri: I don’t want to work … until I get back from Europe. I’m going to Europe with Tate for the whole month of July.
O’Donnell: You’re dodging the question. Do you want to work at 95.7?
Barbieri: I’ve never even talked with anyone at 95.7.
O’Donnell: See, I’m being Ralph. You’re dodging the question, I’m going to give it to you again. You want to keep doing talk radio, right?
Barbieri: KNBR was concerned about 95.7.
O’Donnell: Are they?
Barbieri: They were and they have been, yeah. That’s one of the things that has made them a little bit crazy…
O’Donnell: Sounds like you’re negotiating a contract with them already. Hey Ralph, you’ve done a great job over the years.
Barbieri: Dennis, thank you very much for doing this for me, cause I’ll tell you the truth, there were other people I talked to who went ‘Ah, maybe we’ll do it maybe we won’t do it,’ maybe a little hot potato or something like that, but you’ve always been a standup guy and I appreciate that.
O’Donnell: It’s a touchy subject with a lot of conflict of interest but you know, like I say, longevity and 28 years in the business counts for something. So Ralph Barbieri, thanks for coming in.
Barbieri: I hope it does. Angela Alioto’s here. We’ll be having a long relationship with KNBR, and it won’t be pleasant.