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Gloritone drummer Scott Hessel is an avid sports fan. A regular at Phoenix Suns games and an avowed ESPN junkie, Hessel is familiar with the old notion of "taking one for the team." And it's fortunate, because that's exactly what the trapsman did last Friday during an unbelievably outlandish appearance on the nationally syndicated Howard Stern Show.
While most bands have difficulty getting their drummers even to put up fliers for a gig, Hessel took it upon himself to travel to New York City and do what most would find unthinkable -- specifically, eat a banana split out of another man's ass -- in an effort to get one of the group's songs played on the shock jock's popular radio program. And if the stunt itself sounds bizarre, the response to it has been even more surreal.
It's late afternoon on Monday when Scott Hessel answers the phone. He returned to the Valley on a cross-country red eye the previous night, and you can hear the tumult, triumph and fatigue of the past three days in his craggy voice.
The musician's unusual escapade began innocently enough. As part of a planned trip to the Big Apple, a mutual friend of Hessel and Stern producer Gary Dell'Abate arranged for a tour of the show's offices. While there had been no mention of an appearance on the program, in his mind Hessel was already scheming. A longtime devotee of the controversial and highly rated morning talk fest, Hessel was well aware of the impact a single airing of Gloritone's music on the show -- a favorite of music biz movers and shakers -- could have on its career.
"It was always in the back of my mind that I should somehow try and get on and get our music played. Of course, when I first thought that, I never imagined it would go this far," he says.
Hessel and his friend sat down and brainstormed, trying to figure out exactly what kind of outrageous stunt it might take to get on with Stern. Hessel's suggestion that he eat a worm or cockroach ("Survivor-style," as he puts it) was quickly dismissed by Dell'Abate.
"He was like, 'Oh, we're well beyond that.' So we started compiling a list of even weirder stuff that I could do," says Hessel. "I don't know who stuck it on there, but the very last thing on the list read, 'Eat a banana split out of someone's butt.'"
The idea immediately struck Dell'Abate as worthy, and the producer arranged for show intern Benji Bronk to serve as the guinea pig; when Bronk balked at the stunt, Stern regular Lee "Crazy Cabbie" Mroszak -- a corpulent Desert Storm veteran and nighttime radio producer -- volunteered.
Confirming the appearance on Thursday afternoon, Dell'Abate made no guarantees to Hessel about how long the song would get played or what the reaction to it would be like. The appearance would be a definite risk for Gloritone, a band that had only recently parted ways with its RCA-affiliated imprint, Kneeling Elephant. If things turned out disastrous -- as is often the case with Stern and unknown musical hopefuls -- it might have been a death knell for the band's future career prospects.
With this in mind, Hessel flew to NYC Thursday night and made his way to the WXRK studios in Manhattan, the Stern show's flagship station, the next morning.
After spending a few nervous hours in the green room, Hessel was quickly ushered into the studio just after 9:30 a.m., where he was greeted by a ready and waiting Crazy Cabbie, half naked and lying on a plastic mat on the floor.
"So I get in there, and the guy was big and kind of hairy, and he's already dropped his pants. It was a disturbing, disturbing scenario. Then, all of a sudden, the reality of the situation starts to hit me and I'm thinking, 'What am I doing here? What the hell have I gotten into?'"
Despite the last-minute panic attack, Hessel somehow managed to survive the next few torturous minutes, focusing instead on the ultimate purpose of his visit.
"I wasn't going to go in there and mince around. I was trying to do a couple things. One, I wanted to get the song played. And two, I wanted to make it so outrageous and so funny that it would get on the TV show as well. Since then I've had second thoughts about that," he says, breaking into a coarse laugh. "But at the time it was like, 'Man, I just gotta play this to the hilt.'"
With the stage set and the human confection ready to be devoured, it was Hessel's turn to ante up.
"So I lean down, and it's absolutely disgusting," he recalls. "This was not like a banana split that you see at Baskin-Robbins. It's like some sliced bananas on top of his upper butt crack area, some ice cream that they'd thrown that had slid down his butt crack and gone through his pants. I was just ill, thinking, 'I can't believe I'm doing this.'