With the Nets debut in Brooklyn, this was a banner year in the professional life of Joe Causi. He was named WCBS-FM nighttime jock after Ron Parker moved to middays, when health factors caused veteran Bob Shannon to retire.
Causi has been with the station since its return from the “jockless” Jack format in 2007. Most notably, he was the host of a reworked Saturday Night five-hour block, updated with 70s music.
Of course, the personality who uses the on-air moniker “Brooklyn’s Own” had to be on the short list of our interview subjects.
Causi is a Bensonhurst native, whose boyhood house still stands. The 97-year old edifice remains in the family, now home to Causi’s brother.
“My whole life was four blocks,” Causi remembers. “You didn’t have to go out of a four-block radius.”
As late as high school, Causi remained in the insular community. He traveled only three blocks to Lafayette High School.
Transitioning from teenager to adult, Causi watched as Bay Ridge and John Travolta shined in Saturday Night Fever. “Everybody wanted to be like him, dress like him, act like him, dance like him,” Causi recalls. “I’ll never forget the first time me and my friends, we all got in the car and went to Bay Parkway and 65th Street. We all went to get Hustle lessons because if you went to a club and you weren’t dancing, you were the geek now.”
Causi went on to play the dance favorites of the day on WKTU/Disco 92, although by 1979 the station had added R&B and New Wave to the mix. He was part of a morning show through the early 1980s.
But Causi’s music includes deeper tracks than typically heard on ‘KTU. He was a fan of several radio friendly, but equally talented bands such as Executive Suite, The Detriot Emeralds, and Brooklyn-based Calhoun. “If you’re into dance music, you know those bands,” Causi says.
Although WCBS-FM does “Brooklyn-themed” weekends or “Hall of Fames,” Causi says he’d like to focus on the dance artists from Brooklyn for his Saturday night show. “I could fill a whole day,” Causi jokes.
Causi, who also is known as the “Supreme Cugine,” left the friendly confines of Brooklyn for Staten Island after getting married. Causi had already been commuting to school across the Verrazano Bridge.
After attending Staten Island College, Causi enrolled in Announcer Training Studios in Times Square. During that time, the spacious Jimmy’s Music World opened down the street.
“In the record store they the idea of having an in-house radio station,” Causi says. “A DJ in the store… and they did shifts. And you would talk-up records, and do a radio show.”
Store executives auditioned the 100 students, with three chosen for the dayparts. Causi was one of those three students selected. “I did that after school every day,” Causi says. “… I did that all summer long.”
He parlayed that invaluable summertime experience into an actual radio gig in, of all places, Hibbing, Minnesota. Causi credits his fifth-grade music teacher for helping him get that job. But in the ultimate “fish out of water” scenerio, Causi bolted within eight months.
“Maybe four, five times a year it’s the coldest part of the country,” Causi says. “I couldn’t take it anymore. I would have rather gone to Rikers Island.”
Causi didn’t use his “Brooklyn’s Own” nickname in Minnesota, but has always made sure to crack the mic with his real name. “Your name is given to you for a reason,” Causi says. “I’d never change my name. If they tell me to change my name, I’d walk off.”
Causi headed home, working at a pair of small stations in New Jersey. The timing was perfect for Causi, when cutbacks caused him to lose his job in Elizabeth. Just two days following the layoff, he got a call from highly rated WKTU looking for an overnight jock. “Brooklyn’s Own” was New York bound. He joined the morning show two months later.
“I think I had more numbers in the morning than [Howard] Stern did,” Causi contends. “We were like in double digits in the morning.” Causi has brought his longtime popularity to CBS-FM.
“In seven books, I’ve been number one every week with the people meters,” Causi says. “Thank God, everything is going good here.”
Causi is heard six nights a week, plus spins an hour of old school dance classics early Sunday after his Saturday night 70s show. That hour is taped, along with the station’s overnights that Causi previously did. “Technology is good, but it hurts everybody in the long run,” Causi says.
“Good” for Causi has been his constant interaction with fans. In this political season, Causi can seem at times like he’s campaigning for Brooklyn borough president. “I love going in front of people. That’s my forte,” Causi says. “I love shaking hands, kissing babies. I do because I enjoy it.”
So “Brooklyn’s Own” has a huge following in public and on the air. As for the self-granted title, it was simply an homage to his home. “At that time, Brooklyn was all over the world,” Causi says. “It was all over the TV, all over the radio with Saturday Night Fever. That’s why I just jumped aboard the Brooklyn bandwagon.”