Is Josh Innes Destroying Philly Sports Radio?
The following is a typical day on the air with Josh Innes, the new afternoon-drive host on 94 WIP, Philadelphia sports-talk radio’s long-running leader. If you don’t like sports radio — or sports, period — bear with me for a minute. The Josh Innes Show rarely goes where you’d expect.
It’s late July in the station’s studio overlooking 4th and Market, and Innes is praising Jonathan Papelbon, the crotch-grabbing closer the Phillies just traded, to almost no one’s dismay. Innes says he appreciated Pap’s big-mouthed jackassery, especially in a town where “there’s nobody interesting who plays sports.” His co-hosts — Spike Eskin, WIP’s program director and son of Howard, and ex-Eagles lineman Hollis Thomas — disagree that the pitcher’s honesty about his lousy team was a good thing. Spike tries to run the old “Would you tell your girlfriend her new dress looks horrible?” scenario.
“I would tell her,” Innes says.
Hollis, the show’s resident ladies’ man, chimes in: “If you were planning to get it on later, would you tell her?”
“Dude,” Innes counters. “I can’t get it on. I can’t get it up. She’s on a new birth control pill. She’s like the desert, and I have low testosterone. So there’s no chance.”
A little sex talk on sports radio is par for the course, but sharing the intimate details of one’s bedroom dysfunction isn’t part of the mas macho playbook these guys usually follow. Later, a caller named Ed begs the Phillies to keep their ace, Cole Hamels. He mentions he’s 85.
“Let me ask you a question,” Innes says. “When you were 10 years old, how much was a loaf of bread? I’m serious.” When Ed tries to steer his otherwise dirt-dull conversation back to baseball, Innes redirects, asking about his favorite TV shows as a kid (“A little Dobie Gillis?”) and old Hollywood.
“Did you go see The Wizard of Oz?”
“Yeah,” Ed says.
“What was it like to see a movie in color?”
“It was strange!”
Innes has only been in Philadelphia since January 2013, but aside from Sixers tankmaster-general Sam Hinkie, there’s no one across the local sports landscape who’s more divisive. That’s partly because you’re as likely to hear the 29-year-old Innes sing along to the theme of The Greatest American Hero or talk about his new Adderall prescription or debate whether a hot dog is a sandwich as to hear him discuss guys who throw balls for a living. Since Innes was promoted to afternoons in February, WIP has topped its rival, 97.5 The Fanatic, in the ratings for the first time in that slot in five years. Along with adoration from his fans, Innes inspires a venomous reaction — for talking about himself too much, for not being a Philly guy, for not understanding our teams, for not being funny, for actually being, well, sort of an asshole. All of that is fine with him. “I don’t take calls from people who want to tell me I’m great,” he says. “That’s boring. I embrace the hate.”
Some of the ill will comes from his competition at The Fanatic, the only other sports station in town — particularly Anthony Gargano and Mike Missanelli, who both used to work at WIP. At The Fanatic, Missanelli has managed to beat three different WIP shows. Now Missanelli is in a ratings dogfight, and both sides are playing dirty. Police have been called. Fisticuffs nearly broke out. A gynecologist challenged Innes to a rumble. (More on that later.) At his own shop, Innes allegedly drove a former co-host into early retirement and routinely mocks his station manager. Not since Howard Stern has there been such an unpredictable, love-him-or-hate-him voice on the radio in this city.
Who else would do this? Earlier in the afternoon, Innes co-hosted the first hour of his show with an African-American listener from West Philly named Quaz, who was “auditioning” for a role on the show. Within minutes, Quaz and Innes were standing up, bouncing back and forth to a hip-hop track.
“You gonna tell me how to do the Cupid Shuffle?” Josh asked. “Is that still a thing the brothers do, the Cupid Shuffle? You at a black wedding, you doing the Cupid Shuffle?”
“Damn right,” Quaz said. “Everybody can do that.”
“I’m fat,” Innes said, still bobbing to the music. “I’m already tired.”
“One question,” Quaz asked regarding his potential as a WIP employee. “Y’all do background checks?”
“What did you go to the pokey for?” Innes replied. “Keep it 100 … you kill somebody? You didn’t pay child support? How many baby mamas you got?”
“I have two,” said Quaz. They were both on their feet and grooving.
“Two? You have to wrap that rascal, dogg.”
“Nah, the second one is the gem. Twenty years in, dogg.”
“That’s good for you, man. Did you guys meet in jail?”
By the end of the hour, though he had no shot at a job and had endured a barrage of racial jokes from a white guy he’d just met, Quaz bro-hugged Innes and laughed with him. “I could have been a square,” Innes explains after Quaz leaves, “but you jump in. I grew up playing basketball, so I was the one white guy, and they liked when I was being goofy and stupid. I would start rapping on the bus, like Ludacris. I don’t take myself too seriously.”
Minutes later, on the air, Innes admits to sending a woman a cell-phone pic of his genitals. “Like an acorn in a Brillo patch,” he says. “It’s not attractive at all.”
There’s something evolutionary happening here — the young guy, plugged in and allergic to the status quo, taking on and pissing off middle-aged rivals who’ve been in the game for almost as long as he’s been alive. His arrival feels like the natural order of things: the millennialization of sports-talk radio. Innes’s rapid ascension and his ratings suggest this kid from Louisiana could be the future of how we talk about sports — and much more — in Philadelphia. It also suggests we may be on the fast track to hell.
YEAH, I’M A fucking clown. That’s embarrassing.”
A week after my studio visit, Innes and his girlfriend of almost five years, Jilly, are sharing a platter of ribs and sausage from Bull’s BBQ, just beyond the outfield at Citizens Bank Park. Innes did his show today from WIP’s remote studio here, and now they’re taking in a miserable Phillies game. They’re also discussing the Twitter soliloquy Innes delivered the night before: 68 tweets over nearly an hour on his favorite subject — himself — for no reason he could articulate. Jilly, a spunky blond radio vet who’s now on WIP’s sister music station, 96.5 AMP, is unsurprised by anything her boyfriend does anymore. On today’s show, Innes’s producer delivered dramatic readings from his Twitter rant while Innes squirmed. Some highlights:
9:37 PM: There are a lot of doubters. There are ppl who say “oh, this guy doesn’t talk sports”. …blah blah blah
9:45 PM: What those ppl don’t realize is that all I care about is radio. It’s all I’ve ever cared about since I’m 13 years old.
9:58 PM: You look at this big city and you think that someone believed in you enough to give you a chance … I bawled
9:59 PM: I wore a fucking suit to work the first day. Showed up at 4 AM. In a fucking suit!! Who does that?
10:00 PM: I wear flip flops to work now … for the record
True to form, Innes is wearing flip-flops, cargo shorts, and a red Ferris Bueller’s Day Off “Save Ferris” t-shirt that’s become, like seemingly everything in his life, material for his show. (After being photographed in the same shirt and getting hectored online about needing new clothes, he decided to wear it as often as possible in public. Essentially, Innes created a meme for himself.) Here’s a description Innes would appreciate — in the gay community, he’d be considered a bear. At six-foot-three, 280 pounds, with a light beard, a full head of curly hair, and a belly sculpted by Chik-fil-A and Subway foot-longs, he’s imposing but not intimidating — the big joker at the Animal House frat on campus, rather than the jock. On-air and off, he refers to himself as overweight and unattractive, combining self-deprecation that plays well on radio with genuine insecurity. At least, that’s the impression he leaves. “He’s a remarkably talented broadcaster,” says David Barron, a writer for the Houston Chronicle who covers sports radio and followed Innes at his previous station. “He is a performer, and I think he’s very calculated about what he says about himself. How honest is he about getting to the real, unfiltered Josh Innes? I’m not sure.”
To get close to an answer about who Innes is off the air, and to figure out how he ended up doing drive-time here, in the country’s fourth-largest media market, it helps to look back. What’s indisputable is that Innes is a longtime radio nerd. “I watch old air-checks of radio guys from the ’80s,” he tells me. “I would imagine Chip Kelly is watching old game film right now. I have the same level of obsession with radio as he probably does with football. It’s sick.”
Growing up in Baton Rouge, Innes was steeped in radio culture through his father, Scott, a popular rock and country radio deejay in the South and Midwest and later the voice of Scooby-Doo. By the time Innes was a teenager, he’d caught the broadcast bug, recording baseball games with his own play-by-play commentary, complete with fake crowd noise he’d pump in. “My friends, at first, thought it was really cool, when I was like, 14,” he says. “We’d hang out and play fake radio. Year by year, they’d get less interested. They’re like, ‘Josh, we’re trying to get laid.’ And I’m like, ‘All right, I’m just going to do an air-check, I’ll get in touch with you guys later.’”
In high school, his dad scored him local gigs, including one calling the second period for the Baton Rouge Kingfish hockey team. Innes, who knew almost nothing about the sport, studied rosters during class and practiced to NHL video games. More opportunities followed, and after two years at LSU, Innes dropped out and took a full-time job at a talk station, running the boards for The Sean Hannity Show and getting an hour of airtime himself. Around 2009, while shopping his demo tape, he sent a networking email to Gavin Spittle, the program director at 610 KILT, a middling sports station in Houston. Innes’s radio-geek obsessiveness paid off. “He just had a really strong working knowledge of the business,” says Spittle, who hired him. “That put him ahead of the curve among guys his own age. We met, and after listening to his stuff, I knew he had the potential to be an extraordinary talent.” Innes began as the stunt-pulling sidekick on KILT’s morning show, getting his chest waxed and wearing a dress. By the time he left for Philadelphia three years later, his afternoon show was the highest-rated talk show, sports or otherwise, in Houston.
Broadcasting is hardwired in Innes, but his unique perspective on life — and his willingness to cross the line into TMI territory — could be traced to what he describes as his “fucked-up family.” Innes’s parents divorced when he was 10, and after a year living with his mother and sister at his grandmother’s house in Missouri, he moved in with his dad down South. As we sit in left field, half watching the Dodgers beat up on the Phils, Innes describes his complex relationship with his father: “He’ll send me Facebook messages at like one in the morning that say, ‘Love ya buddy, miss you.’ But if I call him during the day, he has no interest in talking.” (Innes prefers to drunk-dial his dad instead. One recent late-night call was a serenade of Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.”) Innes tells me he’ll feel like a success when he’s earning more than his dad did at the height of his career: $140,000 a year. He’s already close to that number at WIP.
Here is where I apologize to you, reader, for falling short in providing the full experience of talking with Scott Innes. It’s something that words alone can’t fully translate — the conversational equivalent of riding a mechanical bull and trying to hold on while it whips around. Over the course of an hour, the elder Innes is in full-voiced performance mode, ping-ponging from the time his son pissed on sports broadcasting legend Jack Buck (to be fair, Josh was an infant), to the way he “set the world on fire” in Houston, to the time Josh got into a heated argument with impressionist Frank Caliendo for calling his act stale, to the little-known fact that Josh was the child’s voice on the tear-jerking early-’90s version of “The Wind Beneath My Wings” aimed at Gulf War veterans. He compares his son to Jim Carrey — “You don’t harness him. You let him go” — and says it’s good for Josh to feel like he has something to prove in Philadelphia: “I give him this advice all the time — you want to be the underdog. You want to be Rocky, not Apollo Creed. And speaking as the voice of one of the most beloved cartoon characters of all time, people love the underdog. Scooby dooby doo!” (Yes, he said that last bit as Scooby-Doo.)
A theme that’s raised often when one is talking about Josh Innes, or with Josh Innes, is the similarity between his on-air persona and that of Howard Stern, someone he’s long idolized. “This is weird, but if one day Howard Stern was like, ‘I heard one of your things, and it was really fucking funny,’ I might be a happier person,” Innes says. Like Stern, Innes airs his dirty laundry for your listening enjoyment — his limp sex life, growing up as a geek, clashing with program directors, his relationship with a father who casts a long shadow in his life. Innes’s current boss, operations manager Andy Bloom, helped bring Stern to Philly in 1986, back when 94.1 WIP was the rock station WYSP. Innes and Bloom both listen to old Stern shows for inspiration. As with most topics, Innes has a quick response to those who say he’s a Stern imitator: “He’s brilliant. I’d rather be a Stern rip-off than an Anthony Gargano or a Mike Missanelli rip-off, because at least that guy’s accomplished something.”
Until this year, The Fanatic cut against the grain by broadcasting ESPN’s nationally syndicated Mike & Mike Show in the mornings. Ratings were decent, but the show’s national perspective never truly resonated here. Now, with Gargano in the a.m., the station promotes itself as “Philly Guys Talking Philly Sports” — a direct shot at Innes. “They’re just wannabe hard-ass gangster dipshits,” Innes says of his rivals, who’ve directly expressed their dislike of him. “Missanelli is a dipshit. They’ve changed their branding to be ‘We’re all from Philly.’ They’re afraid of me. My dream is to have that shitty station become Mexican radio in two years. Or religious. Or Mexican religious. Missanelli said that if I’m still beating him in a year, he’ll retire. I’m holding him to that.”
That’s something else Innes has in common with Stern, whose campaign against Philly deejay John DeBella drove the latter out of the business for several years — the desire to not only beat but also bury his competition.
THE ONLY TIME Josh Innes and Mike Missanelli met was at Eagles training camp this past August. Innes saw Chickie’s & Pete’s owner Pete Ciarrocchi on the sidelines and walked over to say hello. After a minute, Innes realized Missanelli was the guy standing next to him. This was a bit uncomfortable, since Innes makes daily references to “Bitchanelli” on the air and delights in punking Missanelli’s show — something Missanelli takes perhaps a bit too seriously. When Innes sent flowers to The Fanatic studio as a consolation for its loss in the ratings, the police were notified. Innes called Missanelli’s hotline on the air, and The Fanatic had its lawyers call WIP’s lawyers with warnings of an FCC violation. Insiders at The Fanatic also charge Andy Bloom with harassing Missanelli’s producer (and Bloom’s former assistant at WIP), Jason Myrtetus, with a 1 a.m. text message that said, “The heat is just starting to get turned up … make sure you duck.” Bloom insists the note was a joke, not a threat. “Mike has been known to hit producers,” he says. “I’ve never hit anybody.” (WIP fired Missanelli in 2006 after he got physical with a producer during a show.)
Innes says the training-camp confrontation was benign at first, with Missanelli disputing their ratings (since taking over in the afternoon, Innes has won in most demographics, including the key “men ages 25 to 54”) and doubting whether Innes can hold his audience during football season, when Eagles talk dominates daily. The tone changed when Missanelli said Innes wouldn’t criticize him to his face. “I took my sunglasses off,” Innes says, “and said, ‘Your show fucking sucks.’ He steps up in my face and people broke us up. But that motherfucker wasn’t going to hit me. If I hit him, my career is over. If he hits me, he’s podcasting.”
Missanelli (who writes for Phillymag.com) declined numerous requests to talk for this story. On the air, he described Innes as a “possum” who “backed up like a scared French army,” and suggested Innes soiled himself at the threat of physical confrontation. The peak of surreality arrived the next day, when Missanelli’s brother, a gynecologist with a number of local hospitals, called the Innes show and challenged the host to fight him in a parking lot. (“Don’t ever get in a situation where I’m near you,” warned John Missanelli, D.O.)
This circus is straight out of Stern’s tactical plan — new guy in town doesn’t just challenge his rival; he goes straight to the nuclear option. Innes also stirred up trouble at his own station. Word got back to Innes that Gargano, who was then still at WIP, had told Bloom that Innes wouldn’t succeed in Philadelphia. How can a guy talk Philly sports if he never saw an Allen Iverson crossover or sat in the Spectrum? So Innes began to mock Gargano and his persona as “the Cuz” — an affable South Philly backslapper who’ll buy you a drink and talk Iggles — on the air. Gargano was not amused. One day at the studio, he stood nearly nose-to-nose with Innes, assuring the newcomer he heard all the shit-talking. Not long after, unhappy with his contract and the direction of the station, Gargano left WIP and joined The Fanatic. Now Innes does an unflattering impression of the Cuz with a bad Italian accent and a cringe-worthy “hot sports take” of the day. (Gargano also declined to speak for this story.)
“Polarizing” is the first word Gavin Spittle, Innes’s boss in Houston, uses to describe his protégé, and this brand of radio — aggressive, freewheeling, edgy, with frequent detours all over the pop-culture map — isn’t what we’re used to hearing. At least, not in a while. When WIP (then 610 AM) became the city’s first all-sports station in the late 1980s, hosts like Tom Brookshier, Angelo Cataldi and Tony Bruno often veered off into “guy talk,” something Cataldi turned into a low art form with the creation of Wing Bowl. In an ironic twist, back in 2003, Missanelli was part of a new format on WYSP dubbed “Rock & Jock,” a combination of sports chatter and music that’s not far removed from what Innes is now doing. That experiment failed miserably, since Missanelli wasn’t comfortable introducing Red Hot Chili Peppers songs and his funny sidekicks weren’t funny. Innes is no innovator — something he admits repeatedly — but his combination of Cataldi’s breadth of topics, Howard Eskin’s willingness to challenge callers and Howard Stern’s shamelessness and quick wit is unique here.
Those traits add up to an alpha dog who sucks the air out of a room, which is problematic for some who’ve tried to share a mic with Innes. In Houston, he was paired with Rich Lord, who’d been with the station since the ’90s. When Lord didn’t approve of Innes’s antics — giving out Houston Rockets tickets to homeless people, for example — he’d say so on their show. Innes claims Lord threatened to punch him twice, once on the air and once off. “I just thought he was lazy,” Innes says of his former co-host. “When people get away with it because they have a name in a market, it pisses me off.” (You’re sensing a theme here. Lord didn’t return calls for comment.) Innes wanted out, but CBS Radio, which owns KILT and WIP, didn’t want to reward an “insubordinate,” as Innes describes their perception of him, with a new gig. Bloom, seeing Innes was on the trading block, snatched him away. “He’s the next generation of sports-talk radio,” Bloom says. “He’s shaken the market up. I don’t think that’s debatable.”
Innes was quick to flip apple carts at WIP, where the departure of Gargano led to Innes’s promotion from the night shift a bit earlier than planned. A week after this past Super Bowl, he was paired with newly rehired Tony Bruno, and their show took off in the ratings. Six months later, Bruno abruptly announced his retirement from terrestrial radio. Sports blogs and Twitter nearly melted down. Did Innes drive one of the founding fathers of Philly sports talk out of the business?
Bruno admits Innes crosses lines that he wouldn’t but insists they never fought, on-air or off. “My biggest concern was that people said we want to hear you on the show, but you’re not even on the show,” Bruno says. “Josh did whatever he wanted to do. It was Josh’s show. He’s a strong enough personality that he doesn’t need a co-host.” Innes has nothing but praise for Bruno, but it’s clear the veteran, like Gargano, saw where WIP was headed. “Josh is a really talented guy, and he’s earned it,” Bruno says. “He’s the future, and I’m not.” Bruno’s only beef, say the host and his attorney, is ratings-bonus money that WIP owes him. (Bloom says Bruno, against his advice, was working without a contract, but adds, “I’m not saying a bad word about Tony. We wanted him to stay.”)
Missanelli has said that Innes’s early success is like the opening of a restaurant — even if the food is lousy, it will still draw a crowd until word gets out. Someone who disagrees is Merrill Reese, the voice of the Eagles on WIP and the city’s most respected sports broadcaster. One would think he’d be offended by Innes, who’s talked at length about taping Britney Spears videos on his VCR for the purposes of self-pleasure and seeing sexually explicit R-rated movies with his dad as a kid. “Not at all,” says Reese. “I think he’s a great talent — fresh, original, and all the requisite broadcast skills. He has a nice voice and perfect diction. He tests the edges of your emotional scale.”
The most recent ratings suggest Missanelli could have a point about Innes’s longevity. Over the course of a month in late summer, Missanelli closed the gap, then beat Innes over a two-week span. Mikey Miss is also right that the real test for Innes is this Eagles season, when listeners will want more football talk and less drinking Johnnie Walker shots. But Reese dismisses the notion that Innes doesn’t know Philly sports well enough to succeed here: “He may not say, ‘Back in the Vermeil era,’ but to be honest with you, I don’t go much further beyond the Andy Reid era. You want to be current.” As for Innes’s abrasive nature, Reese says that’s part of radio: “I’m sure I get ripped by people at the other station on occasion. A lot of what he does is sarcastic. He’s glib, and it works. I think he’s going to be a fixture in this market for a long time.”
MOST PEOPLE WHO agreed to speak on the record about Josh Innes and the gladiator pit that is Philadelphia sports radio have some skin in this game. One guy who doesn’t is ND Kalu, a familiar name to Eagles fans. The defensive end was drafted by the Birds and spent a total of five years here before finishing his career in Houston. After football, he ended up at KILT, the same shop that once hired Innes, and now hosts a show called In the Trenches on a rival station there. The first time he worked with Innes was the day after New Year’s in 2011. “It was basically the scrubs,” Kalu recalls. “They had us on for eight hours. And to this day, that was the most enjoyable radio I’ve done. We just talked and cut up, and the callers were having fun. This was a guy who was beyond his 20-some-odd years. I had respect for his knowledge of sports. And when he sang every word of ‘Just A Friend’ by Biz Markie, I knew this wasn’t your average white dude.”
Over the course of 30-some co-hosting gigs with Innes, Kalu was never bothered by his humor, even when it crossed into racial territory. (When Innes asked where all the black people go to church in Houston, Kalu shot back, “We don’t all call each other on Sundays.”) The ex-Eagle still remembers driving home as Innes discussed golfer John Daly, whose hard-drinking, chain-smoking style makes him a rebel in his conservative sport. “Josh said if John Daly was black, he’d be labeled a thug,” Kalu says. “He did, like, an hour on it. For a young guy in Houston, getting calls like he’s an n-lover — that took balls. I pulled into my driveway and just sat there for 20 minutes, listening.”
Kalu admits that Innes can be difficult to get along with, especially for older hosts. “But let’s be real — there’s a lot of jealousy,” he says. “Within three months, he was the most polarizing figure here. You have this kid from Louisiana and he’s getting all the attention. Program directors love him, even when he’s causing trouble. He knows that negative publicity is good publicity. That’s why he retweets negative comments that people send him. He’s playing them like a fiddle.”
Kalu isn’t afraid to reveal sports-talk radio’s dirty little secret, one that’s especially true in this town where one station has dominated — save for Missanelli’s afternoon success — and an Eagles preseason game is debated more fiercely than mayoral elections. “One of the things I noticed going from the locker room to behind the mic,” Kalu says, “the egos in radio are way bigger. To talk sports all day, you should consider that a blessing. A lot of these radio guys think they’re bigger than the games.”
To localize his point, consider some of the drama that occurred in the course of reporting this story. No one at The Fanatic would talk on the record, yet one staffer sent email after email full of trash talk and gossip. A host at one station wouldn’t agree to an interview because he feels I’ve disrespected his career in the past, although I’ve never written anything disparaging about him. Another veteran sounds like if he has to work in this business much longer, he’s going to draw a bath, plug in a toaster, and try to knock it into the water with his big toe.
In contrast, perhaps the only thing Josh Innes takes seriously, to an almost pathological extent, is creating “good radio.” “This is the thing I’ve learned about radio here, which I’m trying to change,” Innes says. “Everything is about the past here. Who’s your favorite this, what about the 2003 this. We’ve got to be forward-thinking. If you base someone’s talents on whether or not they know the 1980 Eagles, then — well, then that’s not me.”
Like Stern, Innes will wear on you. Some days, he’ll be so self-indulgent or veer so far off the rails or exhibit such bad taste that you’ll likely switch stations. But he’s not afraid to call Philly fans (let’s admit, a notoriously close-minded bunch on the whole) on their bullshit, or poke some of his self-important media colleagues in the eye. Radio doesn’t drive the sports conversation the way it did a decade ago. It reacts to social media, and often relies on it for direction. That’s the world Innes, he of the late-night Twitter rants, is acutely tuned into. And anyone who’s intent on dragging this city kicking and screaming into the future is worth listening to — at least, until he starts talking about his genitals. And maybe even then.
ON A FRIDAY in late August, it’s a tough crowd at Chickie’s & Pete’s for the contest Innes is promoting with Bud Light, a new sponsor. “Our image as a station was like my dad — 50-year-olds talking about Franklin Field,” explains WIP account manager Matt Ciciretti. “Josh has more social-media presence and activity than all of our day parts combined. He is a breath of fresh air. I can sell him to a whole new set of advertisers.” Ciciretti tells Innes he has to ask patrons if they’re “up for whatever,” to use the beer brand’s catchphrase. “Like sodomy?” Innes replies. It could be a very long evening.
After doing a shot of Rumple Minze with a fan, Innes zeroes in on a table of three guys who claim to be of legal drinking age but look like their voices haven’t changed yet. Within minutes, they’re trashing Missanelli and inviting Innes to join their Jägerbomb-drinking Wiffle-ball league.
“That’s the most bro’d-out thing ever,” Innes says with a laugh. “Are you up for whatever happens next?” he asks over the bar’s PA system. The Bros have won a trip to see an Eagles preseason game in Green Bay — or, as Innes describes it, the land of “cheese, brats and serial killers.”
The beer promo is over, and Jilly is ready to head home to their place in Roxborough. But Innes is still drinking with the Bros. He steers their enthusiastic leader to the catwalk above the bar for an impromptu Frank Sinatra sing-off with another WIP host, earning a round of applause from the crowd. The Bros beg Innes to join them at Harrahs casino in Chester. It’s an otherwise boring night saved by Innes and his ability to turn a sleepy scene into a New Orleans street parade. David Barron, the Houston reporter, sounded downright wistful when recalling the Innes era he covered: “Josh is never not entertaining. Sometimes he’d make you laugh. Sometimes you’d roll your eyes. But you never knew what he was going to do. Radio isn’t as much fun without him.”
Originally published as “The Flamethrower” in the October 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.