Local author Jim Dent penned award-winning stories while living a nefarious night life. Channel 8 sports anchor Dale Hansen has been known to have a drink between the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts. Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban has admitted to smoking pot in college. Even I was enthusiastically and embarrassingly over-served at ESPN Radio host Randy Galloway’s recent 500th show celebration.
But no Metroplex media personality has lost more by coloring outside the lines than former Ticket co-host Greg Williams.
I became friendly – though we’ve never been “friends” – with Greggo in the early ‘90s, when we continually bumped into one another at sporting events, him as Galloway’s gopher for WBAP 820 AM and me as a writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. We’d hang out as part of a group at Cowboys’ training camp in Austin or have a drink or two at a media party or post-game. We’d swap stories, but never phone numbers.
Though I admired, and was probably a little jealous of his success later at The Ticket, I didn't initially “get” the whole Hammer thing. I mean, on any given Sunday I could head down to Joshua or Rio Vista and hear the same back-porch witticism from any number of my country-fried cousins. But whatever. Whether accident or acumen, Williams carved out a wildly successful niche in our media market.
Which, of course, makes his demise all the more tragic.
As an occasional guest on The Ticket and given a peek at the station’s uncanny camaraderie, I’d been considering a Dallas Observer cover story on the inner workings of The Hardline. Then came Greggo’s mysterious, abrupt disappearance last October and a major detour.
Instead of writing about how it all worked so well, I was suddenly investigating how it all fell apart.
After six weeks of unreturned phone calls, Williams finally called and I began writing about his situation. While sitting in Williams’ vacant chair one afternoon on The Hardline, I broached the idea of a Ticket tell-all to his longtime partner, Mike Rhyner.
I finally sat down with Rhyner in early April at Snookie’s on Oak Lawn, and eventually persuaded Williams to tell his tale at a Memorial Day party at his house on Lake Granbury.
Almost to a fault, they were wide open and unyieldingly honest.
Rhyner talks of his utter disgust for his former sidekick; Williams details his cocaine use and the ensuing web of lies intended to hide it.
What I uncovered were two men, who once forged an unprecedented radio kinship, now divided as an estranged couple beyond repair. Rhyner, who for years – like you do with best friends who double as business partners – extended Williams a line of credit past his means, is totally and equivocally done.
“He admitted his problem, great,” Rhyner says. “But we had a show to do and it was best to do it without him. Everyone agreed on that. I don’t have problems with second chances, but he was given five or six or seven. He just became more interested in vacation days and money and lake houses and drugs than the job. He lost complete sight of what got him here and I couldn’t stand to be around him, much less work beside him.”
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Williams, who proves first pathetic, then sympathetic, is haunted more by lost friendships than the void of fame and fortune.
“A lot of those guys confronted me about drugs and I emphatically denied it,” Williams says. “I lied right to their faces. But, still, this proves I’m a horrible judge of character. I would’ve lost a lot of money, because I would’ve bet against all these guys turning their back on me like this.”
Whether you perceive Rhyner as an unforgiving friend who should’ve tried harder to keep his buddy from destroying himself, or you see Williams as a destructive business partner who irresponsibly shit on the company product, there’s no ignoring the brutality of the break-up.
For those of you keeping score, my 6,500-word opus hits Dallas Observer racks in about 48 hours. -- Richie Whitt