INTERVIEW: Go behind the scenes as the Z100 goes from ‘worst to first’

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Pictured: Legendary radio personality Scott Shannon appears in Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York. Photo courtesy of Worst to First / Provided by Emma Griffiths PR with permission.


Worst to First: The True Story of the Z100 New York, the new documentary written, directed and produced by Mitchell Stuart, traces the meteoric rise of popular radio station Z100. One of the central figures in the film, which is now available on demand and on cable, is Scott Shannon, the legendary radio personality who helped take the station from “New Jersey swamps” to the top, to the top , at the top of the radio. world. Along the way, viewers hear from so many other important figures in the history of the station and the music industry in general, including Elvis Duran, Jon Bon Jovi, Nile Rodgers, Clive Davis, Debbie Gibson and Joan Jett.

“I had no choice,” Stuart said of his commitment to the project. “I’ll take you back to around 2003. I have a start-up business, and we were doing pretty well, and we were going in the right direction. Then 9/11 happens, and 9/11 hit everyone in so many different personal ways. And if you’re a New Yorker, believe me, everyone has a 9/11 story, but the flip side was trying to keep your business going because you’re employing people. And people are counting on you.

Around this time, Stuart received a call from a friend who asked if he would be interested in filming behind-the-scenes footage at Madison Square Garden for Z100’s annual party, known as the Jingle Ball. The financial offer, the director said, didn’t really make him a millionaire (he joked that he lost money on the deal), but he was able to verify something about the to-do list: go behind the scenes at the Garden.

“All New Yorkers want to do this,” he said. “It’s a big moment in your life, and while I was backstage meeting the fans going to a Z100 Jingle Ball concert, I realized how much the station means to people. I thought back to when I first listened to music on the radio when I was a kid. Wow, it hasn’t changed. This is amazing. It’s a bit before the internet. So people love this station and get hooked. identify with the station. You’ve seen mothers who listened to the station for the first time bring their daughters to their first concert, so I was blown away.

After the project, Stuart made many lasting friendships, including Duran, who currently hosts the morning show Z100. Skip many years forward, and Stuart got a call from Shannon’s agent with news of a documentary about Z100’s debut. Would he be interested in joining the project?

“I said, ‘Only if I could tell the truth,'” Stuart said. “I’ve done a lot of documentaries. I don’t want to do infomercials. He’ll go where he goes, won’t he. Once I started thinking about it, the full circle moment came back to me, wow, what a great way to get back to Z100. I wasn’t going to let anyone else tell this story. … I was a new set of eyes for the story, and the story led me to where we went, to the 74 days where Scott Shannon and his band took the Z100 literally from worst to first.

When Stuart and his team started asking people if they wanted to be interviewed for the film, he was pleasantly surprised that the majority of them said yes. Patty Steele? In. Jim Kerr? In. Cathy Donovan? In. Gary Fisher? In.

“They all wanted to be part of this story because they felt like they were a band,” Stuart said. “They did something together that will probably never be repeated. … It was really important to me to have the people behind the scenes because it’s as much their story as it is Scott’s. And then you reached out to artists, and it was remarkable. I would say about 75% of the artists we contacted said yes. Others wanted it, but you have to remember COVID hit in the middle of us making the movie. So it was very difficult to get people in because they were properly quarantined and didn’t want to expose themselves to a crew or didn’t want to be filmed just on Zoom or whatever, which of course is understandable. And 35% of the film, roughly, was made with me, directing from my home in the Catskills with local crews.

He added: “People really felt the Z100 was part of their career that they wanted to revisit and come full circle.”

By John Soltes / Editor / [email protected]

Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York, written, directed and produced by Mitchell Stuart, is now streaming on demand and on cable. Click here for more information.

Joan Jett is one of the musical artists featured in Worst to First: The True Story of the Z100 New York. Photo courtesy of Worst to First / Provided by Emma Griffiths PR with permission.
Mitchell Stuart is the writer, director and producer of Worst to First: The True Story of the Z100 New York. Photo courtesy of Worst to First / Provided by Emma Griffiths PR with permission.

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