Mike allowed me into the live studio (after the boss went home, of course) and patiently took the time to answer my millions of questions about the operation of the station. He made the board run with incredible precision, juggling two "live" turntables, lots of cart tapes with commercials, harps, ID's, did a wonderful job with rip 'n read news hot off the RPI teletypes, and managed to keep up with the phones as well! I was fascinated that one person could multitask like that; and of course, Mike smoked cigarettes much of the time, and listeners never knew, but coughed mightily in mid-sentence but due to precise mic switching the public never heard that, and he instantly recovered his excellent voice. Mike left the station during a fairly friendly dispute with The Boss (Bob Chandler) with whom Mike was a close friend; and he suggested to Bob that they could remain good friends, OR he could continue on at the station, but not both. Mike left, and it was he who delivered the eulogies to Connie B. Gay as well as Bob Chandler at their funerals. I did recover a few letters from Mike a while back and the source of his "not working well" with BC was simply a matter of "timing." Leading from one song to the next, Mike and I very much agreed that a segment of time - 2 seconds, a fraction more, or less, was sensible and professional for serious listeners; in other words, Mike liked to let the leading song end, and give the brain a second to "reset" before the next song was slammed into play. BC did not like that. Mike told me this was their main dispute! It was all split-second stuff; Mike wasn't delaying more than an extra fraction of a second from song to song; but it WAS varied according to the music itself. BC didn't like that. That, according to Mike, led to the "I quit, we're still friends, or I stay and we're not going to maintain that friendship. They took their announcing/DJ duties VERY seriously. Sadly there were "lesser" announcers whose board operations weren't real great, and they often truncated song starts, or missed endings (didn't know how to judge a "terminal phrase" by listening, and some ran music on top of harps and harps on top of music. Ah, but Bob Chandler was always listening; his VW had stereo FM and if the announcer needed correction, he'd head for a phone and make the call.
On one occasion I got Mike Handley in "just a bit" of trouble; I had ridden the D.C. Transit bus to Silver Spring to watch and listen to Mike's board operations; though summer sunset was late I decided to get going home again in Rockville. The music being played at 8pm was I guess "MD" for Medium Down, laid back and mellow. OF COURSE I switched on the radio - MD music playing, Mike still on the board (they had to pull albums from shelves, clean them, put them away after a track was played on the EMT Gotham turntables, and the albums had to be put away. This along with the "rip and read" news for on the hour and half-hour, many commercials and signature harps all on Cartmaster cart tapes, answering the phone, taking transmitter readings and keeping the final output tube of WGAY-FM from catching fire (it creeped up in power, announcer had to knock it down with a flip lever switch when passing by the remote control panels on the way to the "teletype room" - lots to do. I get home, switch on Mike Handley's broadcast and BOOM - in the midst of quiet music, Percy Faith's "The Duck." "Oh s**t I thought, he's going to get a call from always-listening BC. I called him and said "that selection COULD NOT be on that card, that's more for rousing morning drivetime." "Yup, just wanted to see if you might pay attention and hear it. Of course, Percy Faith, everyone at the station knew I was a Percy Faith aficinado. Moments later the 2nd line rang and I said "bet that's Bob Chandler" and Mike said "I bet it is too." It was. Great guilty memory, I was afraid it would get Mike into trouble - and it did just a little, BC had a few cursive comments evidently and they rolled right off Mike's back.
I had lost touch with Mike, but eventually heard from him via email (of course) from Iceland, where he did remote (very remote!) work as a freelancer. The business dried up, however, and he did come back to the USA mainland and network employment. I have a few Mike Handley stories and will sift them out from my email. All good wishes to his family and friends who will miss him - Bill Halvorsen
Bill notes: I've long wondered what became of the NAB open reel tapes of Matinee At One and the maintenance tapes (used from midnight Sunday to 6am Monday when engineer Delbert Keeling was doing work on the transmitter and board)... and in going through emails from Mike Handley I found this excerpt that sadly tells us that they're just plain gone:
A friend of mine did an extensive
search for the MATINÉE AT ONE tapes a couple years ago. I finally talked
with a woman at Greater
Media who said she finally stuck them in a barn (humidity and all) and they have
since disappeared or been cleaned out. (Mike Handley)