He was born in Brooklyn and raised in a small apartment in Forest Hills, Queens. This was before Vic Jacobs slept under the same roof as Allen Ginsberg, before he ran with the water buffalo in Thailand, before he became The Brick, feelin' you Los Angeles. This was the 1950s, and he was the son of Hungarian Jews. His father ran a little neighborhood bar. He played basketball in the parks of Forest Hills.
"I was the Svengali, if you will, or the muse, of Ernie Grunfeld," he says. "I was the king of the park."
Ernie Grunfeld, Vic Jacobs' neighbor, would go onto a 10-year career in the NBA and a long afterlife in the shiny conference rooms of a basketball executive.
But Vic Jacobs was not made for conference rooms. He went to college upstate in Cortland, New York. He fell in with a poet named Paul Blackburn, who had a great big beard and smoked Gauloises cigarettes by the case.
Blackburn was a friend of the beats and brought his friends to Cortland. Ginsberg and Joel Oppenheimer and all the rest. Ginsberg would stay in the house where Jacobs lived. "Holy holy holy holy," Jacobs remembered. Allen Ginsberg taught him how to write. Stream of conscious.
He traveled on one school break to Negril, Jamaica. "There's no electricity, no plumbing, but there's so much pot. And I'm hearing this music for the first time ever, the reggae music coming out of huts. And I said this is freaking utopia man. All this pot and this music. People inviting you in and just smoking."
But poetry was not enough for Vic Jacobs, Vic Jacobs wanted to be on television. He needed to entertain.
Paul Blackburn died, and Vic left Cortland for Cornell University. He was was cut by the basketball team. Not a team player, the coach said. So Vic went across town and snuck into creative writing seminars at Ithaca College where Rod Serling was teaching. He learned the Twilight Zone. You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension…
Vic Jacobs got his degree in television. He didn't have a day of practical experience, but he got his degree. "I wanted to be a sports guy, because growing up I thought there was a great void," he says. "No one was communicating to me. To me it was all boring and mundane stuff. No one was getting the passion."
For a year after college, Vic Jacobs sold telephones. He lived in the apartment in Forest Hills, Queens, until one day, he had saved enough money to buy a ticket to Papeete, Tahiti.
On the island of Moorea, he played his first overseas rock n' roll show, performing "Satisfaction" with the local Tahitian band at a bar called the One Chicken Inn. From Tahiti, he went to Samoa (American and Western), Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, India a couple times, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, maybe a few other countries. Along the way, he would drop by local television stations and ask about jobs on the air. Nothing stuck until, finally, he landed in Guam.
He was exchanging money when he befriended an American sailor stationed on the island. He was going to go on to the rock islands of Palau, and after that to Hawaii. Come stay at my house a while, the sailor said. This was 1976 or '77 or thereabouts.
"I stayed with them for a month, heard the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album, played it like 10,000 times. I hadn't heard music in years because I was in Asia, years through Asia, not really hearing anything from American pop culture. I was out of it. I was immersed in this traveling hippie Asian thing. Beaches and smoking and running with the water buffalo in Koh Samui in southern Thailand and stuff like that. And just crazy, crazy adventurer hippie stuff. Golden triangle. Smoking opium with the Chinese hill tribes, stuff like that with a lot of international hippies and people with M-16s and drug palaces, and sort of like a hippie surreal psychedelic dream kind of trip.
"I was lucky I wasn't killed. Thinking back, I went through a lot of dangerous situations. You don't think about it because you're young and you're high and you're open and free and you're empty."
He landed a job at the Guam Reef Hotel as assistant beverage manager. He lied and told them he knew the bar business, but the truth was he never once set foot behind his father's bar. He met some folks from Guam Cable TV. Despite not having a single day of experience, Vic Jacobs became their sports anchor.
He covered cockfighting, sailfishing, and the local American football league team. In 1979, he covered the South Pacific Games in Fiji. He put together clips that he could send out to American stations when he got home. Then, slowly, he worked his way back to New York through Europe. He had been gone for five years.
Vic Jacobs was not made for conference rooms, but he is sitting in one now, in Burbank, California wearing a t-shirt with his face on it and baggy blue jeans. The t-shirt is yellow and it says "Get Empty," "Clear Your Mind," and "The Great Path Has No Path."
The office belongs to I Heart Media, the national radio monolith formerly called Clear Channel that pays Vic's bills. He has been on the radio in Los Angeles for more than 25 years now. He has been loved and hated and misunderstood.
He is 62 years old, and his beard gives him the look of a vagrant Hassidic rabbi. He has a look: fur hats, ponchos, sunglasses, the occasional stalk of bamboo. But what Vic the Brick Jacobs really has is a voice, a sort of rhythmic quasi-spiritual way of talking, like if Wolfman Jack was a Buddhist from Forest Hills, Queens.
You might call what he does performance art. He plays an exaggerated version of himself, delivering unrelenting positivity and Zen-infused madness. At first, you can't tell if he's serious. His radio delivery is part Eastern proverbs, part Catskills corn. He invents his own language. The Staples Center is the Downtown Hoops Dojo. Vin Scully is The Enlightened One.
But the thing about Vic the Brick Jacobs is that it's all real. The haikus and the Spanglish. He writes his emails in all capital letters. His life is written by an acid-tripping novelist.
Vic Jacobs returned to the apartment in Forest Hills, Queens. He returned to the basketball courts. Ernie Grunfeld was a Kansas City King, and Vic Jacobs worked in a Lebanese restaurant down the street. He had hundreds of copies of his reel made. He sent tapes to markets across the country. Every market, the smallest market, with hand written letters attached to them.
He was already, he admits, a little bit weird. The news directors thought so.
"You're a circus act," one wrote. "Go back to Guam," another wrote.
And Vic Jacobs wrote back. "'I suck? You're a freaking news director in Minot, North Dakota, look at you. Look at you.'"
But he didn't care. He knew he was onto something. He knew he had separated himself from the pack.
"No one was doing sports entertainment, doing a schtick and yet it's them."
And then Dave Brown called. Dave Brown, from KBIM, Roswell New Mexico, had grown up in Guam.
"I said, 'You know, it's funny, Dave, I'm going to be in Roswell in about three days. Can I stop by and just say hello?' 'Sure Vic, come on in'."
So Vic Jacobs left New York City. He boarded a Greyhound bus, left his girlfriend and mother at the station, and three days later he was in Roswell, New Mexico. First it was weekends on the sports desk and weekdays behind the camera. Then it was weekdays on the sports desk.
It was in Roswell, New Mexico that Vic Jacobs became Vic the Brick Jacobs. There were props. There were sound effects. One night, he threw a styrofoam brick at the camera.
And then it was Austin, Texas, where Vic the Brick opened his broadcast, "Live from the nation's capitol," and wore custom hats featuring replicas of local stadiums; where Bobby Knight attacked him on camera; where before Texas-Arkansas football games, he broadcast from a meat locker with a chainsaw in his hand, a dead hog hanging beside him.
In Austin, Vic the Brick sang with a few bands on Sixth Street and MC'd shows for an obscure but legendary punk act called Dino Lee and the White Trash Review. He was clean-shaven then, except for a mustache.
In Austin, Texas, Vic the Brick brought Bevo the longhorn steer into the studios of KTTV. When Bevo's sedatives wore off, he pissed all over the studio floor, the station manager emerged from his office, and Vic the Brick was fired. They protested for months outside the station. But Vic was gone. He played some basketball. He traveled through Europe.
He went to where all the outcasts and weirdos finally end up: California.
Vic the Brick doesn't have his own show. He floats between shows, floats across Los Angeles. Staples Center, Dodger Stadium, the station in Burbank. In the mornings, he raps with Big Boy, LA's iconic hip hop DJ, who just jumped ship from Power 106 to I Heart media's new station Real 92.3. Midday he's on with Bill Reiter and Leeann Tweeden.
In the afternoons he's in studio with Petros Papadakis and Matt Smith, the hosts of the AM 570 LA Sports' drive-time fixture the Petros and Money Show. Vic the Brick sits before a gong (it is his gong) and listens to a clip of a show he co-hosted with Karl Malone during the 1998-99 NBA lockout.
Malone is carrying on very seriously about the fact that although alligators can shut their mouths with a great deal of force, they actually have very little strength when it comes to opening them.
Afterwards, Vic says that Malone was beautiful radio. He was fresh.
"Sports radio is definitely not journalism. It can be, but the purest form, I think, is crazy funky entertainment. It's the release for the sports fan."
In the summer of 1986, a sports anchor in Fresno, California was mad as hell. He owned a couple of video stores that had been robbed, and he decided to do something about it. He took his unloaded rifle into the studio one day and a security camera image of the robber. He held the photo up to the camera and said "With help from you, me, and the police, we can proclaim open season on crime."
He pointed his rifle at the camera and pulled the trigger so that it clicked.
Vic the Brick was out in California looking for a job, and that was the job he got. He took over in Fresno and was there for a couple years. He was weird enough that Sports Illustrated did a story on him. So bad, he's good, the magazine wrote. "The first punk sportscaster in the conservative San Joaquin Valley." Then he got picked up by channel 13 in LA. He straightened out his act a little, but not too much.
He was a "rock n' roll lounge lizard sportscaster," he told the Times. But a new station boss came in and didn't like his spiked hair, didn't like his bolo tie, didn't like his props. So Vic the Brick took his act to radio.
He spent seven years beside Rick Dees doing sports at KIIS FM. In 1997, he bounced over to AM 1150, a new all sports station, and hosted his own show after Jim Rome. During the 1998-99 lockout, he co-hosted with Karl Malone, and called himself the John Stockton of radio.
He started a band called MWA, the Meshugenahs with Attitude. He played "Satisfaction." He befriended Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers and brought him onto the Chabad Telethon with some actual Hassidic rabbis dancing alongside them as Vic recited a haiku written by his wife Yuko Sakamoto and they played "Time Has Come Today." They flipped the lyrics to "L'chaim has come today."
Vic the Brick Jacobs was not made for conference rooms so he keeps moving, from one part of the I Heart Media Offices to the next. Cubicles and offices and elevators. Everywhere he goes, the people know him, and even when they don't know him, he still knows them. Feelin' you. Everywhere.
He is taking his message to the people these days, to the digital sphere, tweeting haikus and selling shirts like the one he is wearing on a new website
He is in Burbank, California and at Chavez Ravine and the Downtown Hoops Dojo. He is coming at you through the radio waves with samurai wisdom and unstoppable enthusiasm, not so much a homer as a radical optimist and not so much a journalist as a guru.
You don't listen to talk radio for the news. You listen for the sense of belonging. Whether the subject is sports or religion or politics, talk radio is a communal act. The host is only there to project feelings the listeners already have. Sometimes it's fear, oftentimes it's hatred and insecurity. But sometimes it's love. Feelin' you.