Longform

The Hard Lie

Page 6 of 8

"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."

Rhyner says three times Williams volunteered to resign, but Williams disagrees. "I might've said something like, 'If you guys really feel this way maybe it's best I move on down the road.' But did I quit? Never."

Though Williams claims he was taking only anti-depressants, Rhyner thought Williams' speech was slow, his body language sluggish. "I think he was messed up."

Williams counters that he was embarrassed, nervous, "but otherwise I was sharp as a tack."

After the 90-minute grilling Williams went home, convinced he'd survived the firing squad and prepared to return to work the following Monday.

"Looking back," he says, "I went into that meeting a dead man walking."

On Friday, Bennett told Williams not to show up for work Monday, and it became evident The Ticket was working toward a conclusion rather than a resolution. On Tuesday, Bennett called to say, according to Williams, a "parting of the ways would be the best thing for everyone" and to offer—after 14 years—one month's severance pay.

Enter attorneys. And a dark month in station history in which Williams' co-workers publicly danced on his grave, privately ignored his desperate phone calls and alienated listeners with a lack of information about their vanished host. Because of legal ramifications and health-care privacy laws, the station was gagged in what it could say on the air about Williams.

Yet The Hardline began turning Williams into a punch line, referring to him as "He who must not be named" and returning to the broadcast from commercial breaks with Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" and Eric Clapton's "Cocaine."

"I lost a lot of respect for The Ticket with the way they kept playing Greggo's drops and making fun of him," DeWeed says. "Greg's good people. He won't stoop to the mudslinging. Through all this, he's learned who his true friends are and hardly any of them work at The Ticket."

While his disgruntled fans demanded answers and created a "Where's Greggo?" Web site, Williams clung to life.

"There were days when Greggo wouldn't get out of bed," Boggs says. "He'd just lay there crying in the dark, saying there was nothing worth living for."

And on that December night, Williams almost ended it all. Almost.

Says Rosenbaum, "I didn't think he'd commit suicide, but when he'd just lay there in the fetal position, it crept into the back of my mind. There were days when he told me not to come to his place. He said his body ached. Said his hair hurt. You could hear sheer terror in his voice."

His career and well-being in limbo, Williams retreated to his condo in Colorado. Near Christmas he drove his car through an icy patch and into a snow bank, suffering a gash on his head that required 21 stitches. At the hospital, however, his Cumulus insurance card was declined, forcing him to pay the $3,200 bill out of his pocket.

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Richie Whitt
Contact: Richie Whitt