Ron Bennington: It doesn’t seem like… a healthy thing that you and your shrink is working on.
Fez Whatley: No, Todd’s not healthy at all.
Ron Bennington: No, I’m not talking about Todd. I am talking about the fact that to say the character I’ve created at work is good and the person I am is completely bad. And when my character does bad things that’s Todd doing it.
In a nutshell, that exchange on the Ron and Fez Show between Ron Bennington and Fez Whatley sums up the personal status of Fez on this long-running program heard on SiriusXM Satellite Radio (The Opie & Anthony Channel, channel 103).
The conversation reprinted above took place on the air November 1, 2013. In effect, Fez Whatley - the invented radio persona of the real Todd Hillier - is in the process of separating from the real person. And the real person who was once only Todd Hillier, has decided that his character, Fez Whatley, is a better representation of the human being he started out as. A lengthy version of this broadcast is available on YouTube under “Fez Whatley vs Todd Hillier (The Battle of the Psychos)”
I have to admit up front: I’m a little late to this party. I just started really spending time listening to Ron and Fez on SiriusXM's Opie & Anthony Channel a few weeks ago. I’ve known of them for years but only consciously and coincidentally began to tune in right about the time when the show was reaching critical mass. The last several weeks have been a trainwreck of sorts, with Fez pulling back from his own show, seldom speaking, leaving an ever-increasing burden on and his partner, Ron, to work through what could only be described as an ongoing, public therapy session talking about his future, the show’s status, his friend Fez, and all issues that are Ron & Fez.
It seems Bennington has held up quite well during this period, though listeners have often heard the frustration in his voice – and often the hurt the situation has caused – while the radio show has continued forward with usually just 50% of the primary participants actually performing. To his credit, Bennington continues to be an excellent interviewer and has a great sense of wry humor. Yet, it’s obvious the man is working under a stressful situation where a longtime friend and working companion is suffering from a variety of issues which might include depression, paranoia, and schizophrenia. Those are simply my opinions based on what I’ve read and heard.
As for Fez Whatley, aka Todd Hillier, it is painfully obvious to callers and listeners that he, too, has reached a personal breaking point, or point of no return, where action is inevitable. Everyone is waiting to hear how – or if – the show will go forward. Whatley has suffered a series of personal and medical issues beginning in 2005 including several heart attacks, a diabetes diagnoses, the death of his father, and an announcement in 2012 that he was gay. Late this week, Whatley reached a new low and broke down crying on the air.
As a listener, I feel like I have accidentally walked into a neighbor’s living room and the people who live there are staging an intervention for a family member. The feelings are so raw and real on this radio show right now, it’s hard not to want to listen to see what will happen next – even though “next” is quickly becoming a fleeting possibility.
This might be the greatest radio bit ever - if it wasn’t also one of the most tragic radio personnel problems imaginable.
For more, listen to this YouTube video: Fez’s Thanksgiving Breakdown.
For an even better summary of how it came to a head this week, check out this audio from Opie & Anthony.