Longform

The Hard Lie

Page 5 of 8

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.

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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.

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.)

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Richie Whitt
Contact: Richie Whitt