- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

Count Doug “the Greaseman” Tracht as a proponent of the newer, tougher FCC.

The morning-show host, who returned to the District’s elite airwaves in October via WMET-AM (1160), chastises peers who can’t get through an air shift without spewing blue.

“I don’t have a problem playing by the rules,” says Mr. Tracht, a veritable District institution and a man rarely at a loss for something “schweet” to say. “In recent years, you’ve seen people with a lack of talent say horrible things. It garners a listenership, much like if we had public executions on the Mall — but is that necessarily talent?”

The Greaseman never got burned by a multimillion-dollar fine like the self-proclaimed “King of All Media,” Howard Stern.

It’s hard to slap a fine on terms such as “doodads” and “hydraulics.”

However, he suffered a fate far worse than Federal Communications Commission sanctions — the industry’s wrath following a stupefyingly tasteless attempt at humor.

On Feb. 24, 1999, as the morning host for WARW-FM (94.7), Mr. Tracht played part of a song by black singer Lauryn Hill and said, “No wonder people drag them behind trucks,” a crude — and cruel — reference to James Byrd Jr., a Texas man who had been dragged to death behind a truck.

A lengthy apology tour followed, which led to Mr. Tracht’s modest return to the District market. He began buying airtime out of his own pocket on low-watt WZHF (1390 AM) in Arlington in order to regain a toehold locally. In 2002, he climbed up to WGOP-AM (700), where he worked before getting hired by WMET.

For a time it seemed as if Mr. Tracht would never resume his morning shenanigans, at least not on a station with mass exposure.

His ascent to WMET and its 50,000 watts caps a career rebirth that seemed unlikely after his sudden fall from grace. It’s a testament to his singular comic approach. Is there another radio personality in the region — or elsewhere — who sounds anything like Nino Greasemanelli?

Mr. Tracht’s shtick slipped into conversation during a recent lunch to chat up his new gig.

He’s a hearty 55, with a “bulky” (a favorite on-air adjective) frame built in part from a meat-heavy diet and the occasional bone-dry martini.

Mr. Tracht answers questions about his career troubles with patience but with little interest in rehashing old charges he is a racist.

The Bronx, N.Y., native remembers hearing amateurish disc jockeys on the radio stations his father favored and wondering how they had found their way onto the air. Turns out they were college students who had leveraged their position to wangle airtime. Intrigued, Mr. Tracht applied to Ithaca College in upstate New York and soon found himself behind the microphone.

“When I did, it just flowed,” he says. “It always came easily to me.”

Back then, he called himself Dougie T and tried to “out-cook” the competition.

“One day, I said, ‘We’re cooking with heavy grease.’ Somebody called me the ‘Greaseman’ because of it … and a character evolved just from using the name,” he says.

Talkers Magazine Editor Michael Harrison isn’t surprised Mr. Tracht is back on the air.

“I never think anybody in radio is down for the count,” says Mr. Harrison, who adds that the radio personality most likely won’t return to the level of fame he found in the 1980s.

Modern radio personalities are pressured to be edgy and spontaneous for hours at a time. “There’s a great chance something can be said in the heat of the moment that’s unfortunate,” says Mr. Harrison, who calls Mr. Tracht a smart and talented broadcaster.

“Stupid things come out of the mouths of smart people in this environment.”

The Greaseman circa late 2005 knows enough not to make waves on-air.

“There are a million guys on the air pontificating,” Mr. Tracht says. “I like to talk about the news of the day but to do it in a wacky way.”

You won’t hear him expound upon racial hot buttons or other sensitive areas of identity politics.

Fans must settle for Mr. Tracht’s colorful stories, in which the punch lines often are beside the point. The tales let Mr. Tracht bend and twist his voice while strafing listeners with a fusillade of descriptive humor.

“If you turn me loose, I can get the job done,” he says of his radio life.

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