When I used to bartend at an Amsterdam, NY cocktail lounge in the mid 1970’s one of my regular customers was a resident of the former Amsterdam YMCA on Division Street and he happened to also be a former patient at the state psychiatric hospital in Marcy, NY. At least twice a week he’d be involved in a bar argument about one topic or another and someone knowledgeable about his past would lash out with the retort “What do you know? You’re crazy!” My old customer would always use the same answer to this insensitive charge. “I got a piece of paper that say’s I’m not crazy! Do you?”
A few years later I was bartending at an Amsterdam disco (yes there was once a disco in Amsterdam) when two kids I’d never seen before came in dressed like John Travolta’s character in the movie Saturday Night Fever. After a really poor attempt at trying to imitate Travolta on the dance floor, they lit a pack of firecrackers right under the swirling disco ball, causing the crowd to panic. These two individuals were then attacked by the angry crowd, forcing them to flee the scene. One of the other customers told me that one of the fire cracking disco dancers was a kid she knew from school. She said “His name is Todd Pettengill and he’s crazy!” Since I did not know him or know of him back then, the only thing that registered was the “he’s crazy” accusation and the “I got a piece of paper that say’s I’m not…” retort which I by then had come to automatically associate with it.
So a few years later I’m driving to work from Amsterdam to Schenectady listening to the radio and I hear a guy doing things on the air I never heard any one else do before. He did a phone prank on a woman and then this whole bit where he made believe he was the Mayor of Albany. It is not easy to make me laugh and by the time I pulled into the driveway of my Schenectady office, I had tears coming out of my eyes and was about to pee my pants. My office manager asked me what was so funny and I told her about the guy on the radio and she responded instantly, “Oh that’s Todd Pettengill. He’s crazy.”
That’s when I became a fan of Todd Pettengill. He was born in Amsterdam in 1966 and got his first radio job at WCSS in Amsterdam when he was just 13, an after school on-air show for which the underaged future star was paid in record albums because he was to young to earn a paycheck. By the time he was 18 years old, he was a star on Albany, NY FM station WFLY earning the highest Arbitron ratings ever in the history of the Capitol District radio market. FLY did everything possible to try and keep Pettengill, even making him vice president of the parent company but this talented “kid” had bigger plans.
He went to a station in Philly and from there to the Big Apple becoming the youngest morning show host on New York City radio at the age of 25, when he began an amazing 23 year run on the Scott and Todd show at New York City’s WPLJ with his long time co-host Scott Shannon. In 1993 he started a whole new career when he replaced Sean Mooney as the backstage interviewer of Vince McMahon’s Worldwide Wrestling Federation television and pay-per-view productions. He became a wrestling-associated national superstar by hosting spinoff productions like WWF Mania, WWF Live Wire and WWF Action Zone and creating special jingles for McMahon’s top fighters similar to the way Billy Crystal spoofed the best picture nominees at the Oscars. As good as he was in this role, Todd gave it up in 1997 because the workload of holding two such demanding full time jobs was a bit too much on his family life. Todd married his wife Carrie in 1987 and the couple have two grown daughters.
As for professional recognition Pettengill has been named Billboard Magazine Major Market Air personality of the year six times and Radio and Records Major Market Air personality of the year four times.
Pettengill is still making radio magic at WPLJ but with a new partner. Scott Shannon left the show in 2014 and now Todd partners with Jayde Donovan. You can listen to this brilliant talent from Amsterdam do his daily show online at http://www.plj.com. Oh and if I ever do get to meet him I’m going to ask if he has one of those papers that proves….
This former Amsterdam Rugmaker baseball pitcher was also born on April 18.