UCSB’s radio station played quirky and independent music from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to honor and memorialize long-time DJ Tom Borghi, who died of cancer Monday.
KCSB-FM 91.9 staffers said they planned to run the six-hour broadcast, during which DJs played the eclectic music Borghi loved, to entertain him while he was still alive. However, the program turned into a memorial when he died the day before it was to run. Better known to KCSB listeners as “Gene Pool” on his Wednesday night radio show Past Life Nightmares, Borghi, 53, was diagnosed with lung cancer a year and a half ago, but continued his eight-year career at KCSB until Spring Quarter of 2004.
KCSB Development Coordinator Ted Coe said KCSB was a perfect fit for Borghi because the station provided him with a surrogate family and supported his passion for independent radio.
“It was really classic free-form radio,” Coe said. “He played some classic rock and loved stuff you wouldn’t normally hear on commercial radio. He played new wave, blues, humor… he loved Frank Zappa, garage bands, polka… he was all over the place. He just loved being at KCSB. He didn’t really have a family, wasn’t married, had no kids – he found a home at KCSB.”
Borghi lived in Santa Paula and worked in Ventura as an optician, driving to UCSB once a week for his radio show. Borghi spent his last days in the same care facility as his mother, for whom he was the sole caretaker.
“A bunch of us brought him sweets and programs on CDs,” Coe said. “I brought him the Ramones movie that was playing on campus. It was appropriate because they have a lot of songs about being institutionalized – ‘I Want To Be Sedated’ – and that type of thing. With his sarcastic sense of humor, he appreciated that.”
Bryan Brown, the radio station’s chief engineer, said he remembered Borghi for the witty and humorous promotional spots Borghi did for KCSB’s annual pledge drive, which Brown said truly captured Borghi’s personality.
“The best thing to listen to are his membership drive promos,” Brown said. “They were incredibly creative and quirky. He was very unimposing and not a very striking guy but he had a personality that was so unique. He was very dry and sarcastic but it didn’t put you off – it was an inviting sort of dry sarcastic wit.”
KCSB adviser Elizabeth Robinson said Borghi was also selfless and kind.
“He’d do things like take a quarter off so a student could have the [time] spot,” Robinson said. “Some older people and community members are not terribly respectful of student managers, but that was not true of Tom – he took everybody very seriously.”
Borghi is survived by his mother, Grace, and brother, Mike.
This is the second loss KCSB has suffered in the last two years. Programmer Michael Petrini died in an accident Aug. 30 at his landscaping job.