By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
It all started while hanging out in May '07 at a Saturday night house party with his new, eclectic Uptown friends. Though he hadn't taken the drug since a one-time experiment in '81, he downed a couple drinks, was offered cocaine and dove in nose-first under the illogical reasoning of: "Sure, why not?"
Two bumps—snorted off his car key—and Williams was hooked, he says. "I was euphoric, energetic. I called the next weekend for more, and from there it was a steady climb."
For the next five months he altered personas: Greggo by day; Wacko at night.
"I never did it daily, but I was addicted," he says. "If I hadn't been confronted I might have never stopped until something really bad happened."
Worse, even, than losing his job.
On Friday, October 12, Williams claims he innocently overslept. In between his workout and lunch, he dozed off and didn't arrive for The Hardline's remote at Addison's Blackfinn Restaurant and Saloon until the middle of the first segment. During a commercial break Catlin called and ordered Williams to immediately take a drug test.
"I can't take a drug test right now," Williams told his boss.
At 9 a.m. the following Monday at the station's offices across from Reverchon Park, Williams met Catlin and Dan Bennett, vice president at Cumulus Radio, which owns The Ticket. "They knew, and I knew I couldn't deny it anymore," Williams says. "I told them I couldn't take the test...because I couldn't pass it."
Unaware he had uttered his last word on the Ticket, Williams underwent four days of rehab in Arlington, followed over the next month by Narcotics Anonymous meetings and four more days as an outpatient in Dallas. "My motivation for going through it all was getting clean and going back to work. The Ticket was my carrot," he says.
But while Williams was planning his return, his co-workers were committed to proceeding without him. At a remote broadcast in late November, Boggs says, he overheard Davidson express the fear that The Hardline would no longer be able to use Williams' drops (short, recorded quips) because "that's half our show."
"It was really sickening," Boggs says. "Greggo was being told he still had a job, but these guys were already talking about him in the past tense."
Indeed, in his mind, Rhyner already had burned his last segment with Williams.
"When my contract was up, if he came back I was leaving," Rhyner says. "He had just become a drain on everybody, especially me. He threw pity parties for himself, he didn't participate in the show and he was high on the show more often than not. The show was just better without him. He was unsalvageable....He became intoxicated with his fame and developed a sense of entitlement that would stun a mastodon."
On the morning of November 21—the day before Thanksgiving—Williams went to Cumulus' 16th-floor offices and walked into a scene right out of 12 Angry Men.
Perhaps he should have seen it coming. When Williams arrived for the 10:30 meeting, there in the lobby was Rhyner. The two hadn't spoken since October 12. They took separate elevators.
On one side of the imposing conference room, sitting in a semicircle, were the brains and brawn of Dallas' most popular talk-radio station: Bennett, Catlin, Rhyner, Davidson, Balis, Miller, George Dunham, Gordon Keith, Dan McDowell, Bob Sturm, Donovan Lewis and Tom Gribble. (10 a.m.-noon host Norm Hitzges and assistant program director Mark Friedman were on the air.)
"I'm almost happy I wasn't able to be there," Hitzges says. "Some days it would take a genius to tell Greggo was struggling because, to me, his work didn't suffer."
Nevertheless, there sat Williams in the bull's-eye of the storm.
"It was without question the tensest thing I've ever been a part of at The Ticket," Rhyner says. "Months and years of frustration and venom came down on him."
Williams felt he was being ambushed, the attack occurring just 48 hours after he had completed out-patient rehab and 24 since he signed a "last chance" contract stipulating a $100,000 pay cut, no bonuses and random drug testing.
"I knew the meeting was going to be unpleasant," Williams says. "But I looked at it as part of the healing process. I was facing the music. I signed that contract without batting an eye, and I was assured point-blank by Dan and by Cat and by human resources that my job was safe. At no time did I think there was a chance I was going to be fired."
After Bennett opened the meeting, Williams made his plea for clemency.
"I'm sorry," he told the group. "I've made some really big mistakes."
Because most in that room refused interview requests, detailing exactly who said what is difficult. By several accounts, Dunham expressed the most empathy and disappointment, Miller and Davidson talked of mistrust and broken bonds, and Rhyner landed the fiercest verbal haymakers, bludgeoning Williams for his drug use but more so for his lying. At one point, Rhyner told Williams he should be "institutionalized."
"I guess the meeting was a last-ditch effort to try to save things," Rhyner says. "But it was clear early on that no one wanted him back."