This is a tale of two cities, a tale of a disc jockey named Tom Joyner who does a morning radio show in Dallas and an afternoon one in Chicago. It’s the best of gigs (two concurrent $1 million-plus contracts, running six and five years respectively). It’s the worst of gigs (when Joyner’s not on the air, he’s in the air, flying 8,000 miles a week). In Dallas, where he lives with his wife and two sons, Joyner has the 5:30 to 9 a.m. slot on KKDA-FM (K104). In Chicago it’s the 2 to 6 p.m. slot on WGCI-FM. Both stations play urban contemporary music. Joyner’s double life began last Oct. 14. “When they repealed the Texas blue laws,” says Joyner, “allowing wives to go shopping on Sundays, I had to get a second job.”
Sexist jokes aside, Joyner was offered the lucrative Chicago job while already working in Dallas. “I got to thinking,” he says. “Dallas and Chicago are in the same time zone. There was plenty of time between the morning and afternoon shows, so….” So, he did a little research. He discovered that there are almost hourly flights between the cities. In 1984 bad weather made the journey impossible on only three occasions. A travel agent found Joyner a $30,000 fare that would guarantee him a round-trip seat for five years. Joyner’s doctor told him the schedule wouldn’t be physically damaging, assuming the work wasn’t too stressful. Joyner then saw a nutritionist who advised him that frequent air travel led to dehydration so he should drink plenty of liquids.
Now came the toughest part: convincing his wife of 16 years, Dora. Unlike her husband, Dora is anxious about flying. “Sure,” she says, “I have an uneasy feeling about him doing so much flying, but he’s never worried about it. So I’ve tried to accept it. He’s worked a long time for this opportunity, so he won me over.” As proof of her acceptance, Dora meets Tom at the airport every morning and sends him off to Chicago with a goodbye kiss and a high-carbohydrate vegetarian lunch.
Both Big D and the Windy City vie for Joyner’s affections. When the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears were pitted against each other earlier this season, Joyner got off the hook by saying he was pulling for the Cow-bears. Joyner is no newcomer to Chicago, having worked at three other radio stations there before he was hired away by K104 in 1983. Since joining K104 in Dallas, Joyner’s show has risen to the No. 2 spot in its time slot. At the time WGCI tried to woo Joyner, he was hammering out a new contract with KKDA. “I negotiated each contract separately,” says Joyner, who waited two months before letting his employers know what he had done. Surprisingly, neither contract has an exclusivity clause. Although K104 station owner Hymen Childs has refused comment, Marv Dyson, president and general manager of WGCI, has stated his position. “At first,” he says, “I didn’t believe it. Then I got pretty hot. Then I decided to take a ‘let’s try it’ approach.” That approach includes a coming promotion, in which listeners can win a jackpot by guessing the first day Joyner won’t make it to work.
Although Joyner has about 250 weeks left on his contracts, the Tuskegee, Ala. native says he’s not worried about burnout. “I’m not an air traffic controller,” he points out, “nor am I out digging ditches eight hours a day. I talk and play records. No big deal.” With weekends free, Joyner says that his health has actually improved. “I don’t have time to do a lot of hanging out,” he says. “I’m eating better, making sure I get my rest. I feel great. I’m movin’, groovin’ and having a blast.” To judge by the ratings, so are his listeners, who are willing to love him despite his brazen bigamy.