Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Once upon a time in TV Land, there was a hip cat named Johnny Caravella, who was best known to the viewing audience at home as Dr. Johnny Fever.

To know more about the man, I'm turning to Jerome Holst, cathode companero and the caretaker of "TV Acres" (link to the left, fellow babies) who has an excellent profile of Johnny available among the TV character biographies on his site:

FEVER, Johnny
(WKRP in Cincinnati)
Suite 1412, Ninth Floor
Flimm Building
Cincinnati, OH

Johnny is a morning disk jockey at WKRP radio station 1530 on the AM dial. He is divorced, scruffy, spaced-out and likes to make ”special” brownies. His real name is Johnny Caravella. However, Johnny has also been known as Johnny Duke, Johnny Style, Johnny Midnight, Johnny Cool, Johnny Sunshine, Heavy Early, and Rip Tide.

Before his gig at WKRP, Johnny worked in Los Angeles, but he got fired for using a dirty word on the air. As Johnny recalled "I used the word 'booger' on the air. I was making about a hundred grand a year down there. Then one day I said "booger," a bunch of bozos called the station, and the next thing I know I'm in Amarillo hosting a garden show."

Johnny's first broadcast at WKRP began something like this:

“All right, Cincinnati, it's time for this town to get down! You've got Johnny - Doctor Johnny Fever, and I am burnin' up in here - Whoah! We all in critical condition, babies, but you can tell me where it hurts, cuz I got the healing prescription here from the big KRP musical medicine cabinet. Now I am talking about your 50,000 watts intensive care unit, babies! So just sit right back now, relax! Open your ears real wide and say, 'Give it to me straight, Doctor, I can take it!' Oh, I almost forgot, fellow babies... BOOGER!!!"

For a short time, Johnny left WKRP [where he earned $17,500 a year] for job in California, but got fired again and returned to WKRP to work the late-night graveyard shift. When the new morning guy got canned, Johnny returned to the morning drive slot. He opened his program thusly:

"All right, Cincinnati shape up cause it's time for your morning check up. The Doctor is on duty. I have just returned from personally supervising an extensive research project involving West Coast vegetable worship cults and the cure's here babies. That's right. Doctor Johnny Fever is back and I'm on call every morning on WKRP in Cincinnati!"

One night Johnny had a little too much to drink and he offered this verbose volley to his listening audience: "All right fellow babies, that was the Doors, and this is sort of Johnny Fever, kind of doctor. And after... nine drinks, Venus Flytrap is catatonic, and I, myself, have personally just seen a giant pig. He is currently painting the walls of our lobby."

When Johnny was not zonked out, he dispensed this kind of advice: "Strap yourselves down, babies, 'cause you got the Fever - Dr. Johnny Fever on the mighty 'KRP in Cincinnati, where it's 9:05 in the morning, so if you're not at work, don't go. You're late, and they'll just yell at you!"

Besides playing rock and roll on the air, Johnny had to read public service announcements and ad spots from the station's sponsors. Ads like "Remember, Red Wigglers, the Cadillac of worms. Available in fine worm shops everywhere." When not making money for the station's sponsors, Johnny earned his own extra money by adopting the persona Rip Tide, the host of a TV disco dance show [whose sleazy personality almost took over Johnny’s own easy-going persona].

After Johnny received $24,000 in a legal settlement, instead of feeding his gambling habit, he invested in a condominium at “Gone With The Wind Estates.” The women in Johnny’s life included his old girlfriend Buffy from California; Paula, his first ex-wife; Johnny’s grown daughter Laurie Caravella; and Jennifer Marlowe, the gorgeous, sophisticated blonde receptionist at WKRP that Johnny found fascinating.

Johnny later moved to Greenwich Village in New York City to write a book on Rock and Roll. But, when Moss Steiger, the midnight to 6:00 A.M. disk jockey fell off the roof of the Flimm Building, Johnny returned to WKRP to fill the vacancy.

If you go looking for Johnny, he can probably be found sleeping on the floor behind a couch, or in a cubby hole somewhere at WKRP radio station. Johnny's philosophy on life: "When everybody's out to get you, paranoia is just good thinking."

Johnny Caravella has not been seen in Toobworld since 1993, when he appeared in an episode of 'The New WKRP In Cincinnatti' ("Fever In The Morning"). At least, he has not been seen as Dr. Johnny Fever since then. Considering the many aliases that he held over the years, there may have been sightings of him in other TV shows under other names.

(Although I will automatically rule out his appearance as the duplicitous racetrack announcer in the most recent episode of 'Psych' ["And Down The Stretch, It's Murder"]. Although the line of work would have suited Johnny, and it would have placed him back in California, the timeline doesn't jibe, as the announcer had been working the racetrack near Santa Barbara for about a quarter of a century.)

There has been a character, however, who could be Johnny Caravella and who could serve as a good splainin as to why we haven't seen him in so many years. He is known simply as "The Chemist" and showed up in the last two episodes of the off-beat and bizarre HBO series 'John From Cincinnatti' ("His Visit: Day Eight" & "His Visit: Day Nine").

We need only look to Johnny's philosophy on paranoia to understand why he's been lying low south of the border in Mexico. But it could be that he returned to California after his 1993 re-emergence in Cincinnatti and dabbled in a sideline that was highly profitable but hardly legal. This is how he came by the moniker of "The Chemist".

During that time in Mexico, however, Johnny had plenty of time to reflect and to contemplate his place in the universe, which put him in good stead to return to Imperial Beach, California, where events of a potentially cosmic nature were unfolding among those in the surfing community. The show has now been officially cancelled by HBO unfortunately, so we'll never know how "The Chemist" would have become further embroiled in the lives of the Yost family and that of the "prophet" John Monad, also from "Cincinatti". (Although it's pretty clear - if anything was about this show! - that their Cincinnattis were two wildly different places.)

"The Chemist" was also known as Erlemeyer, but that hardly negates the connection to Johnny Fever, considering how many other nom de toobs he held over the years. It might even play into another TV show, 'The X-Files', in which a pivotal episode early on in the show's run was entitled "The Ehrlenmeyer Flask". It could be that during that time when Johnny was "personally supervising an extensive research project involving West Coast vegetable worship cults", he stumbled upon knowledge of alien interference in our lives. (Perhaps he even worked that area of knowledge on the radio, a la Art Bell.)

And just maybe, my fellow babies, he decided to adopt the name connected to the alien fetus as his latest alias, corrupting it slightly in order to protect himself from closer scrutiny by 'Men In Black'.

As TV critic Alan Sepinwall of the Star-Ledger said, "it's not hard to connect the dots between Johnny Fever and Erlemeyer". especially after The Chemist said that he liked to remain "eligible" in reference to the old days when he dropped acid. And Johnny had that penchant for making "special" brownies".

But whether Erlemeyer the Chemist was actually Dr. Johnny Fever, we'll never know since HBO has sentenced the series to a one-season lifetime. But as far as Toobworld is concerned, the Chemist of 'John From Cincinnatti' was Johnny in Cincinnatti.....

[My thanks to JHolst of "TV Acres" for the Johnny Fever profile.]

Toby OB

"Believe me, I smoked more reefer
Than Carter made little liver pills
Bill Jacks (?)
'John From Cincinnatti'

(awaiting verification)

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