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By Deirdra Funcheon
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In the economic slump following September 11, the job fell through, and Biganski's life took a turn for the worse. He jokingly describes it as his "E! Hollywood Crash."
"Tricom stopped paying me on time, and it got to the point where I had a thousand dollars in the bank," he says. Then, in October, he received the news that his long-estranged father had passed away in Connecticut. When Biganski arrived to settle the estate, he was traumatized by the awkward experiences of reentering the house where he had lived until he was 7 years old and encountering his father's family as a stranger. Finally, there was the inheritance; he received, by his friends' estimates, $100,000. He felt guilty that his father's death had rescued him from financial ruin.
Biganski colorfully describes the year of depression that followed as "all the miseries you could imagine." He stopped broadcasting Blackout's Box Live.His friends, James Jacoby and Stacy Hummel, confirm that Biganski was down for a time but say that by the summer of 2002, he was his boisterous self again, and Blackout's Box Livewas back on the air.
Blackout's studio is located in a beige slope-roofed house on a typical suburban street. He lives with Stacy Hummel, a slim, quiet type with brown hair who works as a graphic designer, and Robert Shapiro, who owns Maestro Video Productions, a company that films weddings. Hummel contributes to the layout and visual content of Blackout.com, and Shapiro plays Pharris, Blackout's heavy-set, deep-voiced cohost, who is the butt of many on-air jokes. The three roommates are part of a large network of friends who come over to chill in the coffee-shop atmosphere of the house.
Try to pull up to Blackout's house at 9 p.m. on a Thursday and the driveway is so packed with cars that you have to park in front of the neighbor's place. The unkempt lawn creeps over the edges of the sidewalk on an otherwise-manicured block; tiki torches on either side of the front walk remain from last summer's house party blowout. Inside, ten men and women in their late 20s hang out on the L-shaped couch in the large central room, plucking at guitars and watching animated movies. Another group is on the back porch talking in an intimate circle and smoking cigarettes.
By 9:30, Blackout's Box Live is on the air. The dim studio is lighted by candles; a plastic black vase of dyed daisies is on the coffee table; and Blackout, dressed in khaki pants and a linen shirt, is watching the listener count on his monitor. His energy fluctuates with the numbers, and right now, the screen says 70 listeners. That's a decent-sized audience.
Steely as Howard Stern behind the mic, Blackout floats through jokes and pop-culture topics but very often delves deeply into political arguments and philosophical tangents. Listeners and fans call in on 1-800-GO-ON-AIR to join the conversation and make crank requests.
Blackout's friends and guests have gathered around the four microphones set up in front of the beige- and white-striped studio couches. The key players are Pharris, the homophobic, teeny bopper-obsessed pop-trivia nut; Charmagne, the Blackout's Box sex doctor; and James, a.k.a Galador, the red-bearded bespectacled sci-fi junkie. Those who arrived early enough to nab one of the five sets of headphones from the coffee table are listening to the voice of a caller who says his name is Wade. Though he frequents Blackout.com bulletin boards, this is the first time he's actually spoken on the air, and everyone looks freaked out by what they are hearing.
After several minutes, Blackout recaps the conversation: "For those of you who've just tuned in, you are listening to Blackout's Boxon Live 365. We are on the air with Wade from Pensacola. He's a new listener, and we think he might be a killer: He's 24; he works cleaning at Burger King; he's a virgin; and he lives with his folks. Average listener of Blackout.com. I present very, uh, high-brow material."
Wade responds in a slow provincial tone when Blackout asks him about working at Burger King: "The people were nice, are nice."
Pharris, who is leaning back in the corner of the big couch with his thick arms folded behind his head, gets a strange expression on his face. His girth shifts forward as he sits up and says, "All right, here's the deal. He said the people were nice, are nice. I think he killed the people at Burger King."
Wade responds, "Man, you just make everything up, don't you?"
Pharris looks around the studio. "I really get the impression that this is the kind of dude we don't want to fuck around with too much. He lives in the state, and I think he's kind of nutty. No offense."
Blackout turns Pharris' microphone off and says, "Yeah, well, that's not messing around with him at all. He's going to take that really well. I'm going to have to start giving out everyone's addresses so that we all have an equal chance if Wade comes down here."
Pharris dramatically tosses his headphones on the table and walks out of the studio.