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Posted: 1:00 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013

Atlanta's WQXI inspiration for famous 'WKRP in Cincinnati' turkey drop episode 

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Les Nessman Turkeys Away
Les Nessman (played by Richard Sanders) in a classic "WKRP in Cincinnati" episode featuring turkeys that fall from the sky but unfortunately, do not fly.

By Rodney Ho

I hope all of you are having a great Thanksgiving. In honor of Atlanta radio on this fine day, I am reminding folks of a certain age about the classic episode of 'WKRP in Cincinnati" featuring the dreaded turkey drop, inspired by antics at the classic local top 40 station 790/WQXI-AM known as "Quixie in Dixie" in the day. (Now it's 790/The Zone but uses the same call letters.)

For a Thanksgiving Day giveaway promotion, the station's hapless general manager Arthur "Big Guy" Carlson thought it would be a great idea to give away turkeys by throwing them out of a helicopter. The turkeys come crashing down as reporter Les Nessman is seen providing play by play.  (We fortunately do not see the turkeys themselves.) Noting they are hitting the ground "likes bags of cement," Nessman cites the old Hindenberg line, "Oh, the humanity!"

Later, covered in turkey feathres, a dazed Carlson returns to the station and utteres the line that goes down in infamy: "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

The show was created by former Atlanta ad executive Hugh Wilson, who based some of the characters and antics from QXI, a powerhouse Atlanta top 40 station back when AM radio ruled.

This disaster was inspired by a much less horrific turkey giveaway WQXI general manager Jerry Blum had conjured up in the early 1970s.

Fans still recite that "as God as my witness" line to Wilson to this day. “I didn’t realize people would remember it a quarter century later!” he told me in 2011.

Watch those final minutes here off YouTube:

Previous "WKRP" stories I've written:

9/18/13: 35 years of "WKRP" celebrated

8/19/11 Interview with Loni Anderson prior to DragonCon

Rodney Ho

About Rodney Ho

I cover local radio and TV for both the print and online editions. I write a blog on the same topics.

Connect with Rodney Ho on:FacebookTwitter

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