By John Montone, 1010 WINS
It was a slow news day during a slow news month, and we needed a story with legs.
Well, we got what we were wishing for.
The city declared war on those dirty, scurrying, four-legged vermin carriers. Rats! And nothing gets the 1010 WINS morning team more excited than a good “rat tale.”
Editor Maloney dispatched me to Washington Heights, where the city would launch its offensive in “rat reservoirs,” places in parks and sewers where rats have easy access to food and water which allows them to reproduce like rabbits.
Newsman Harris and I dusted off our trusty lines, his about rats being a problem in Gotham since Peter Stuyvesant was hopping around on his peg leg and yours truly ending my reports with, “John Montone, 1010 WINS on Rat Patrol.”
The fine citizens of 152nd street were quite eager to help me make the story sing, providing me with quotes about rats the size of small dogs.
“They must be eating rice and beans,” said one fellow and a woman told of the rodents invading her apartment building. A sanitation worker said he had to kick and shake garbage bags for fear the rats would jump up and bite him. Even a rather aloof gentleman who claimed to be unaware of rat infestation contributed, responding to my question about a war on rats by quipping, “Are they going after the politicians, is that what you refer to as rats?”
It’s not only rats that serve as newsroom slump-busters.
All manner of strange, exotic and potentially dangerous creatures make for great “Man On The Street” interviews.
When several coyotes were spotted in Central Park we made mention that these undomesticated canines were omnivores with voracious appetites. I locked out my report, “John Montone, 1010 WINS…in the dark…made of meat.”
Last year we had some fun with a reported snakehead sighting up in the little lake at the north end of the park known as the Harlem Meer.
“There’s a monster in the Meer,” I said, and while reporting that the snakehead was able to live on land as well as in water and often dined on small animals, I caused a woman walking her poodle to pick it up and make a beeline to Fifth Avenue.
But our best evil-creature-lurking-in-the-wilds-of-the-city story ever was, “Swamp Thing.”
Our newsroom received calls during the night from near the Brooklyn-Queens border about an unspecified animal wailing or growling in the bushes. No one actually saw the beast, but some claim to have detected violent movements in the underbrush.
When I arrived in the pre-dawn gloom a few folks with nocturnal natures were still out. They listened as I described what others had told us. And then one man nodded and said, “That’s the Swamp Thing.” And we had a story…with legs.