THERE’s A SCENE in Swingers where Jon Favreau’s heartsick hipster, Mikey, barricades himself in his apartment to wallow in a post-breakup depression. A buddy stops by to check on him and finds the shades drawn, laundry scattered on the floor, and Mikey low on appetite and looking like he hasn’t showered for days. When asked if that tableau resembles the one Gargano witnessed with his pal in the weeks following Mikey Miss’s public flameout and swift unemployment, Gargano can’t help but chuckle. “Exactly, cuz,” he says. “Exactly.”
Just like when his mother died, Missanelli went off the grid — “laying low,” as he’d call it, for a couple months, taking his daughter on a vacation to St. Martin, playing golf at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club, and not doing much else. WIP never encouraged him to seek counseling for his temper, despite rumors to that effect, and Missanelli denies taking any anger management courses on his own. Eventually, though, he admits that after a few months of wallowing last year, he heeded the advice of a lawyer friend and signed up for a Landmark Education seminar in New York. Based on a program designed by a Philadelphia used-car salesman in the ’70s, the three-day Landmark session — descended from “est” — is pure New Age self-help: disrupting the “vicious circle” of behaviors that limit success, ending patterns of self-justification, and achieving “breakthroughs” by reinventing one’s personal philosophy.
That Zen-like release of ego served Missanelli well during a brief stint co-hosting a syndicated ESPN radio show in New York with Stephen A. Smith, whose oversize personality demands a wingman, not an equal. But the competitive kid from Bristol still wanted another shot at his hometown market, and a chance for redemption. WIP general manager Marc Rayfield says that Missanelli asked him for one more chance, but the station wouldn’t take him back again. Missanelli also began talking with WPEN, which offered him an opportunity to take on his old station — and Eskin in particular. “That’s one of the things that sold me,” he says. “The chance to go up against him. I relish it.”
There was never a fistfight or nuclear blowup between Eskin and Missanelli that led to their mutual dislike. From the start, the two were just a study in contrasts: the jock-journalist with a law degree vs. the self-professed “king” of sports radio with a jones for insulting male listeners and asking women who phone in what they’re cooking for dinner, or whether their laundry is done. The contrasts are just as stark away from the microphone — to this day, Missanelli still counts a handful of WIP hosts as his pals, including Cataldi, whom he nearly assaulted. None of them would call Eskin, ever the loner, a friend.