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Sports Media

A ‘winning’ moment for 98.5

Hustling Hub host scores with Sheen

Charlie Sheen was smokin’ during his radio appearance. Charlie Sheen was smokin’ during his radio appearance. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)
By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / April 15, 2011

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The popular attitude toward actor and addled pop culture phenomenon Charlie Sheen seems to be one extreme or the other:

He is, as his T-shirt-ready catchphrase claims, “winning.’’

Or: Who cares? The guy is a loser.

Tuesday night, Sheen came to Agganis Arena for the latest wobbly leg of his “Torpedo of Truth’’ tour. While reviews were, to be kind, mixed, what happened afterward on the local airwaves was beyond entertaining and approached unforgettable.

With a little bit of luck and a lot of hustle, 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Rich Shertenlieb, cohost of the morning drive “Toucher and Rich’’ program with Fred Toettcher, got Sheen to come to the station’s Brighton studios for a spontaneous hour-and-a-half interview that lasted until 2 a.m.

The buzz still hadn’t abated as of yesterday afternoon. Shertenlieb said the “Toucher and Rich’’ twitter account was picking up a new follower every 30 seconds or so since Sheen tweeted about the interview. The program’s coup was mentioned in USA Today, as well on “Entertainment Tonight,’’ “Extra,’’ ABC News, and even Telemundo.

“There’s a newspaper in India that mentioned it, too,’’ Shertenlieb said. “But they’re huge ‘Toucher and Rich’ fans over there anyways.’’

Shertenlieb said the idea began as little more than a whim. But once it was percolating in his mind, it required plenty of savvy.

“I’ve been kind of obsessed with this tour and how it’s been going, as a lot of people have, so I went online early Tuesday morning to see how sales were going and realized I could get a ticket in the front row,’’ Shertenlieb said. “So I said, ‘All right,’ had the pipe dream to get him on with us, made up a sign, put it in my pocket, and went to the box office a little later and asked what I could get. I ended up getting the farthest seat to the left in the front for 89 bucks.’’

When Sheen began taking questions from the audience 10 minutes into the show, Shertenlieb saw his opportunity. Unfolding his sign asking Sheen to come on the program, he was handed the microphone and introduced himself. The crowd reacted with a rousing ovation, which Shertenlieb believes is what convinced Sheen that the offer was legitimate.

Following the show, Shertenlieb was invited backstage — “past a bunch of strippers and fat dudes in bowling shirts’’ — and worked out the logistics. Sheen’s people said he would arrive at the studio in an hour. He was there in an hour and a half.

“He’s kind of erratic, obviously, and has a reputation for doing some strange crap on this tour, so I thought just maybe he would do it,’’ Shertenlieb said. “And by the end, it was almost like he wanted to give us something that people would talk about, this quest to make news.’’

Sheen called several famous numbers on his cell phone, including his brother Emilio Estevez, who didn’t answer, and former Met Lenny Dykstra, who did, albeit semi-coherently.

“That was surreal,’’ said Shertenleib, “because to me it’s the first time in a while where he hasn’t been Captain Catchphrase or trying to sell T-shirts, but just a dude talking. That Charlie Sheen is the Charlie Sheen people originally liked.

“You forget that he’s more than just a few catchphrases. He’s an unbelievably honest dude who has the lifestyle of a maniac at times and is unapologetic about it. It’s completely fascinating.

“And other than that he smoked, I think, an entire pack of cigarettes, he was completely lucid.’’

The reaction, according to Shertenlieb and Toettcher, has been overwhelmingly positive, despite Sheen’s polarizing persona.

“It was nice to get publicity like this for something that wasn’t considered wrong,’’ said Toettcher. “It’s usually negative when you get a lot of national press and this was positive.’’

Added Shertenlieb, “I’m waiting to get hit by a bus or something because we’ve been getting such good publicity on this that it doesn’t feel right.’’

More mike time Your opinion of WEEI’s addition of Mike Adams to “The Big Show with Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley’’ probably depends upon your affinity for 1970s Red Sox trivia and the occasional one-liner.

But from a business and personnel perspective? It makes total sense. Adams’s “Planet Mikey’’ evening program is often preempted by the Red Sox as well as the Celtics this time of year, so moving him into that seat gives him more airtime. And he is already on the payroll.

WEEI vice president of programming Jason Wolfe and Entercom New England vice president and marketing manager Julie Kahn noted in February that there would likely be a “third chair’’ added to the program in some role. In an e-mail yesterday, Wolfe said Adams was a planned addition and that this is step one in a plan to roll out other programming elements.

But industry sources believed that spot would be held for a rotating group of former “Big Show’’ cohosts and guests — Steve Buckley, Sean McAdam, and Ian Browne on the Red Sox, Joe Haggerty on the Bruins, Tom Curran and Steve DeOssie on the Patriots, and others — who were left in limbo by the Ordway-Holley pairing.

While Buckley remains in the mix at WEEI, cohosting the 9 a.m. “Sports Sunday’’ program with Dale Arnold, McAdam, Browne, and Haggerty departed for 98.5 The Sports Hub. There has also been interest expressed at the rival station in Curran.

Banner season The success or failure of the Celtics’ season will begin to be determined Sunday, when they play Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Knicks. But the franchise’s television home, Comcast SportsNet New England, is already assured of a season to remember, having averaged a 4.7 household rating during its 70 game telecasts this season, a bump of 54 percent from last year and a record for the 30 years the games have aired on CSNNE and its previous incarnations. The network will air Games 1-3 as well as 5 and 6 if necessary. Game 4 is exclusive to Ch. 5, while Game 7 is to be determined . . . If the rest of ESPN’s “The Year of the Quarterback’’ is as compelling as “The Brady 6,’’ the documentary that provided new insight into Tom Brady and the six quarterbacks (including fledgling goat farmer Giovanni Carmazzi) chosen ahead of him in the 2000 NFL draft, then this project will prove as praiseworthy as the outstanding “30 for 30’’ series.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.