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According to both, the "Corby Conundrum" deepened their chasm.
Sensing the show needed a tune-up in '99, Rhyner suggested bringing in a third voice. Williams pushed for Corby Davidson, who had lost his foothold at the station in the wake of The Chris Arnold Show going kaput.
"When Greggo first mentioned him, I didn't know him," Rhyner admits. "Then when I met him I couldn't stand him. But eventually he was right. It worked."
Or did it?
Of all the sensitive issues between them—from women to drugs to habitual lying—none is more polarizing than Davidson. In short, Williams believes Rhyner steered conversations toward Corby and away from him in an effort to re-route the show's flowchart. Rhyner calls it jealousy.
"He orchestrated a game of freeze-out against me," Williams says. "It was like keep-away, between him and Corby and Danny [Balis, The Hardline producer]. For whatever reason I wasn't utilized like I once was. I still don't know why."
Rhyner denies choreographing any such manipulation but admits that a "natural order of things" commenced with the rising of Williams' insecurity and Davidson's competence.
"Look, all the mics were open all the time," Rhyner says. "There was never an intentional stressing of Corby over Greggo. As bad as the thing was, I'd never do that to the guy. I'd do it an honorable way if it needed done. But the truth is, he just wouldn't get involved. He became withdrawn, and everybody noticed."
The fib that broke Rhyner's back came in the summer of '04, when Williams went into the hospital for what he said was gall bladder surgery. When he returned to work 10 days later, he had dropped 20 pounds. Diet and exercise, he claimed, though he refused to talk about it in detail, on or off the air.
For a station founded on "full disclosure," someone seemed to be hiding something.
Tipped off by multiple anonymous e-mails, Rhyner finally had his answer: Lap-Band surgery.
"That finally made me see the futility of it all with him," Rhyner says. "Lying to me about that? What would I care? Had he told me the truth all along we probably wouldn't be here right now. But at that point, I was done."
At a lunch in Houston during the baseball All-Star Game, Rhyner confronted his longtime partner. After multiple denials, Williams ducked his head in shame. "I was very embarrassed to get that surgery," Williams says. "Plus, at the time, I thought I could get away with anything."
Even his on-the-air ripping of home-run king Barry Bonds for taking steroids, then joining his Uptown crew that same night for a couple bumps of go-go powder.
Rhyner had tolerated Williams' lies, seen the womanizing, endured the depression, witnessed the mental breakdown and experienced—also in '04—Williams' traumatic detox from an addiction to the painkiller Lorcet, prescribed to treat a bad back.
But then his partner's behavior turned even more troubling.
Last June, Williams showed up to a pre-show meeting with "allergies"—allergies that lasted five months.
"I've known the guy 20 years, and if he's allergic to something I'd have known it by then," Rhyner says. "But he was so loaded up he just assumed we'd all be naïve."
Williams sniffled incessantly and sweated profusely. In meetings he was nervously and endlessly chatty. He radically changed his dress, from boots and button-downs to loud paisley shirts. At a staff dinner last July at Cowboys' training camp in San Antonio, Williams' nose began bleeding onto a restaurant table.
"We'd confront him about drugs, about cocaine," Rhyner says. "But it was always 'allergies.'"
Friends, too, grew concerned.
"I had suspicions, because he was forgetting stuff and not showing up where he was supposed to be," says Boggs, the longtime Ticket promotions assistant who earned his "T-Bar" moniker supplying The Hardline with VIP passes to topless bars. "But you never want to think the worst of your best friend. He thought he could do drugs every once in a while and control it. But that's just his stupidity. He's too addictive."
Says Williams, "It occurred to me to come clean when they'd ask. But I just kept on. I thought I was bulletproof to anyone and everyone about everything. That's what addicts do. They use. They deny. I was trying to pull a fast one on everybody, but the only person I was fooling was myself."
There was a sudden two-day absence later in July when Rhyner says Williams answered his inquest with, "Well, if you must know, I had a stroke." And on August 23—The Ticket's "Fight Night" at the Village Country Club—suspicions earned substance when, according to Rhyner, Davidson walked into the bathroom and found Williams kneeling over a line of blow on the toilet seat.
"I don't remember that exactly," Williams says, "but I'm certainly not denying it happened."
He then put on his headphones and re-joined the on-air round table while under the influence, a career-ending violation under most codes of conduct.
"Including mine," says Williams.
For Williams, who often chastised Dallas' fair-weather sports fans as the "cocaine and boob-job crowd," this was more than a bump in the road.