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Tripp, Peter

Category: Performer

Peter Tripp (1926 - 2000) was a Top-40 countdown radio personality in the USA from the mid-1950s. He would have remained a somewhat unknown radio personality but for the fact that, in order to boost his career, he decided in 1959 to participate in an attempted 'wakeathon' in which he would work on the radio non-stop without sleep.

He clearly needed something as at KUDL he adopted the nickname "The Bald Kid In The Third Row", (apparently a description made by a parent upon spotting him among many rows of new-borns in a hospital shortly after his birth) not a name which trips off the tongue [sorry for the pun]. At WHB, he restyled himself as "The Curly-headed Kid In The Third Row"; because he wasn't bald. The logic here defeats me. Such is the magic of radio in the USA.

Anyway back to the wakeathon. For much of the stunt, he sat in a glass booth in Times Square. He was broadcasting for WMGM in New York City at the time and he 'lasted' [just] for 201 hours.

After a few days he began to hallucinate, and for the last 66 hours the observing scientists and doctors gave him drugs to help him stay awake. So although the observation I have provided for him mentions sleep deprivation, he was 'helped' by amphetamines.

Unfortunately the stunt damaged his brain – the combination of drugs and lack of sleep affected him mentally and Tripp suffered psychologically, after the stunt, he began to think 'he was an imposter of himself'! His career soon suffered a massive downturn when he was involved in the payola scandal of 1960. Like several other disc jockeys he had been playing particular records in return for gifts from record companies. Indicted only weeks after his stunt, it emerged that he had accepted $36,050 in bribes. Despite his claim that he "never took a dime from anyone", he was found guilty on a charge of commercial bribery, receiving a $500 fine and a six-month suspended sentence.

Even his wakeathon record did not endure for long. Other DJs had quickly attempted to beat it (such publicity stunts being common in radio broadcasting at the time) and Dave Hunter, in Jacksonville, Florida, soon claimed success (225 hours). Six years after Tripp's record, it was smashed by high school student Randy Gardner, who lasted 11 days [see separate entry].

Tripp died at the age of 73 following a stroke, leaving two sons and two daughters. His four marriages all ended in divorce.

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