John DeBella walks around Independence Mall after 6 PM with money sticking out of his pockets trying to get mugged. Alas, there are no takers. Our old pal Joe Paone posted this to FB with the commenting that this is ”the most amusing, relevant thing John DeBella’s done in a quarter century.” Yep.
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RELATED: John DeBella has been a hippie and a punk. A winner and a loser. A hero and a villain. And now he just wants to be a nice guy. As if to prove it, he is going to start welling up in T-minus-three seconds. “I can’t remember a time when I have been this happy,” says the former WMMR icon of his return to morning radio on WMGK. Those great big googly eyes start glistening. A furrow forms on his infinite forehead. He looks away, biting on his lip to stanch the quivering. “I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I got behind the microphone,” he says before changing the subject to avert an impending full-blown blubber. “I’m an emotional son of a bitch. I cry too easily.”
You can call him a lot of things, but one thing you can’t call John DeBella is chicken. He has devoted his life to radio, which is–to paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson–a cruel and shallow money trench, a long and plastic hallway where pimps and thieves run free, and good men die like dogs. For a time DeBella turned wackiness into a cash cow and tapped a big vein in that money trench. But the worm turned, as it always does in radio, and he died like a dog. Twice. It’s only a slight exaggeration to call what happened to him a high-tech lynching, and while there are many sides to this story — and this is only one of them –t his much is certain: Many he called friends left him twisting in the wind.
And now he has come back for more. He has eaten more than his share of humble pie. He has grown fat on crow. And he has come here today, to the lobby of the Four Seasons, to say that he is grateful for the chance to dive back into the shark tank, knowing full well there is blood in the water. And he knows that nobody–save Pierre Robert, God bless his tie-dyed soul–will throw him a lifeline if he starts going down again. Then he breaks into that laugh — a nervous, rapid-fire raccoon chuckle — that punctuates every other sentence. There is a pleading, a neediness in that laugh, beseeching all who hear it to please come join him in this moment of complete and utter hilarity. His story is one part comedy–wacky and zany, or “zacky and wany,” as he likes to call it. And two parts tragedy — which are less so. Much less. MORE