After that, there was a short audition on K-TWIN, then another meeting with Seeman and 1500 ESPN program director Brad Lane about the station’s morning show, which was auditioning for Zulgad’s on-air partner and needed to boost ratings.
This time Dubay seemed ready: “I said, ‘This is my job. And if it’s not, then it’s time for me to become a garbage man.’ ”
Getting the job
Dubay was given a one-week tryout. On the first day he talked much too quickly, as if he were trying to stuff years of pent-up opinions into one show. Seeman actually turned it off.
But Dubay got better. “By the end of the week, Jeff was back,” Seeman said.
And so a deal was struck. Dubay got a one-year contract with protections for the station built in. The station, with low ratings in the 9-to-noon time slot dominated in local sports talk by Allen, took a risk to get a known commodity.
“He understands this is his second chance, probably his only chance,” Seeman said.
Every day, Dubay’s alarm goes off at 5 a.m. Trying to regain his financial footing, he has been staying with a succession of friends. He catches a bus downtown, then hops on another to the station, arriving by 7 a.m.
“He has as much or more passion than I do,” Zulgad said. “That is vital. When you talk sports three, four hours a day, you can’t fake it.”
Zulgad usually guides the broadcast, but he allows Dubay to rant. Recently, Dubay basically wrote off the entire nation of Canada for the way it roots against U.S. hockey.
“He’s an underdog story,” Zulgad said. “He has a talent, by being an everyman, to translate that onto the air. And that’s not easy. He doesn’t have that off-switch, that filter, and people love that.”
The fun returns
Dubay will still stutter as he’s about to make an emotional point. His voice still speeds up and rises in pitch as that point is made.
“I was basically led to believe what the station needed was a host with personality,” Dubay said. “They needed a big, dumb rube idiot to come in and maybe stir it up a little. At some point, folks want a stupid one-liner. Enter Dubay.”
Said Seeman: “No way you go through what he went through, the bottom he hit, and not be different. But I don’t think his radio presence has changed a lot. He still has lots of opinions, still talks fast. He’s Jeff Dubay.”
Dubay says the support has been overwhelming. Allen, also the Vikings’ play-by-play announcer, sent a text before Dubay took to the air for the first time after signing his deal. “I’m happy he has resurrected his career,” Allen said. “And I’m hopeful he’ll be able to handle prosperity well.”
Allen and Dubay — “PA and Dubay” — were among the most popular on-air duos in the Cities and have gone their separate ways since Dubay’s much-publicized troubles. Allen had to reconfigure his show, which has remained strong as KFAN moved from AM to FM.
Dubay’s problems drove him in a different social direction. That direction is still shaky. Dubay, who hopes to have an apartment by March, is filing for bankruptcy and has tax issues to clear up. But he says he can see a happy ending.
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