UTICA-ROME -- A recent "human billboard" stunt during Bill Keeler's morning show on 92.7 The Drive (WXUR) was quickly brought to a halt after a National Grid employee witnessed the gag and called the police. It's a story that could serve as a good lesson to any other stations considering similar stunts.
As reported on Thursday by Utica Daily News, an online newspaper owned by Keeler, staffers were in the midst of strapping personality Fred Dunleavy to a utility pole along Seneca Turnpike in New Hartford, when a passing National Grid employee pulled over and chased everyone away.
The utility company worker then called the cops. And rightfully so... as the story goes on to report utility poles are the private property of National Grid. A local police sergeant told Utica Daily News there are also safety concerns: had there been a power surge or other electrical mishap, the "human billboard" could have interfered with the pole's ability to safely ground such a shock.
In other words, Dunleavy could have been at risk of being shocked or electrocuted; or his presence could have caused a shock to find another way to the ground, causing damage other equipment in the process. The police noted there are three transformers perched on the pole to which Dunleavy was being strapped.
In the article, Keeler says his crew went "to great lengths to make sure the person hanging from there is safe," but he goes on to acknowledge the pole is private property and "we have to keep off it."
Show producer Justin Cortese said the stunt had been done in the past, including once just a day earlier, in Yorkville. But there were never any complaints until the Seneca Turnpike incident.
New Hartford Police told reporters National Grid did not want to pursue criminal charges, but was more focused on warning the Keeler in the Morning crew about the private property issue and the safety concerns involved with strapping a person to a utility pole.