In this episode of the Wait Wait… Veterinarian and former bouncer for the Rolling Stones Kevin Fitzgerald answers questions about the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), which provided steroids and growth hormones to athletes.
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PETER SAGAL, HOST: In August of 2007, we did our show in Boulder, Colorado, and a former bouncer for the Rolling Stones turned large animal veterinarian named Kevin Fitzgerald came by to play Not My Job.
Now just about everybody can remember a moment when a trusted father figure turned to you and said son, or daughter, you’ve got to make something of your life. But in these stories, it isn’t usually Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. But that is who set Kevin Fitzgerald on his life path, and thus chastened, he went on to become the world’s only former rock-‘n’-roll bouncer/veterinarian/star of Animal Planet. He is a proud Denver native. We are pleased to have him with us today. Kevin Fitzgerald, welcome to WAIT WAIT…DON’T TELL ME!
SAGAL: So first of all, is that story true? Was it, in fact, Keith Richards who said to you, in effect, go to veterinary school, young man – or whatever?
KEVIN FITZGERALD: Well, Keith was in charge of the bouncers. So at the end of the tour, he’d take care of you, you know? And he’d say, OK, we’ll pay you – and whatever was happening. At the end of the ’78 tour, he said, man, you know you’ve been with ’69, ’72, ’75, ’78, why don’t you do something? You know, this isn’t going to last forever. You know, they knew that the public was fickle.
SAGAL: He was so wrong about that, it turns out.
FITZGERALD: I know. They never knew they’d still, you know. And he goes, you know, you can’t be a bouncer when you’re 50. Why don’t I help you go to school, do something. You know, get a grip. You know, do – so I flew back to Denver, and my brother picked me up from the airport. And I said, man, Keith told me I should get a grip on my life.
SAGAL: And you took that seriously?
FITZGERALD: Well, you know, he’s the hippest guy in the world. When he says something, you listen.
SAGAL: Sure, absolutely.
FITZGERALD: And he’s so nice. And he was right. So he helped me, and here I am, you know.
SAGAL: There you are. Well let me ask this, you were a rock-‘n’-roll bouncer for a long time. That’s essentially the guy who protects the band from the rowdy fans, in essence, right?
FITZGERALD: Yeah, you know, you just – the people would come over the top, and you’d thump heads, you know.
SAGAL: Oh, yeah.
SAGAL: You thumped a lot of heads in your time?
FITZGERALD: No, no, the good thing was if you could talk to them, you’d say, look man, you’re going to have breakfast on the county. Ninety-nine out of a hundred times, you’d talk to them. You’d say, go back, you know, be good; don’t be naughty.
SAGAL: You’d actually say that? In the middle of a rock and roll concert, some guy drunk or high on whatever, starts rushing the stage and you’d say, don’t be naughty. And they’re like, OK.
SAGAL: Because I have a 7-year-old daughter; she doesn’t go for that. You know, she just keeps going.
FITZGERALD: It’s a good story now.
FITZGERALD: That’s the way I’d like to remember it, you know.
SAGAL: All right, I see. And then – but that’s interesting enough. You did that for a long time, and then you went into veterinary medicine. Was it like, all right, finally, I want to deal with real animals. What was the connection? How did you make that transition?
FITZGERALD: Well, I always liked science, and liked animals, and liked people. You know, I think to be a good veterinarian, you have to like people. And so it’s been a great thing for me.
FITZGERALD: You know, the music was great for teaching about, you know, human nature. but I couldn’t do any do any instruments or play anything. I ilke to sing. I’d rather sing than eat, but most people would rather hear me eat.
SAGAL: So you were a frustrated musician yourself?
FITZGERALD: No, but that way you got to be a little boy from Denver and get to travel with bands (unintelligible) see the world, you know. It was great.
SAGAL: Yeah, sure, I understand.
SAGAL: Wow. And when you’re working with animals, because of course, as people have seen on your various Animal Planet specials, including “Emergency Room Vet.”
FITZGERALD: “Emergency Vets,” yeah.
SAGAL: “Emergency Vets.” I mean, you’ve dealt with some exotic animals in trouble. Did dealing with crazed rock stars train you for that? I mean, were you like, hey, I helped Ozzie Osborne down, you know, down from a bad trip. I can deal with this piranha, or whatever it is.
FITZGERALD: Yeah. I worked for the Grateful Dead; what can happen in here?
SAGAL: So, and in fact, as we’ve seen on television – but even other things – working here at a veterinary hospital near Denver, you’ve dealt with some pretty bizarre animals. I mean, not just your dogs and cats but a lot of exotic creatures.
FITZGERALD: Well, sadly, for better or worse, the animals go in fads. You know, last year hedgehogs and, you know, sugar gliders. Ten years ago, pot belly pigs and right now, it’s spiders, you know.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Wait a minute, last year was hedgehogs?
FITZGERALD: Yeah, they just legalized wallabies here in Colorado for pet stores.
POUNDSTONE: No. Whoa.
FITZGERALD: Yeah. I didn’t know it happened. On Christmas Day, you know, I always work Christmas and let the married people be with their families, and then I get St. Patrick’s Day off.
FITZGERALD: And then a little wallaby got out of his house and he’s…
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: On Christmas?
FITZGERALD: Yeah, the people – dogs were chasing it, and…
SAGAL: All right, stop for a second. I thought, until this very moment, I thought a wallaby was a kind of shoe, so you need to help me out.
SAGAL: A wallaby is what exactly?
FITZGERALD: A shoe, gesundheit.
POUNDSTONE: It is a shoe, but if a dog’s chasing it, it can go fast.
FITZGERALD: So this little wallaby – he’s a little, kind of a kangaroo, a smaller one. And he gets out in Capitol Hill in Denver, and he’s running down the street. And two dogs start chasing him and mauling him. And this policeman that, I take care of his dog, he sees the little thing, and he didn’t know what it was. It was so sweet and innocent.
But he wants to save it and help it. So he takes his jacket off and shoos it into the back of his squad car and brings it to me. So he’s walking up the walk and I say: Hey, John, is your schnauzer sick? And he goes no, I think I got a mutant rabbit.
SAGAL: Really? I got to tell you because I think I saw one of those. And I didn’t know if I had just been inhaling the Boulder air too much.
FITZGERALD: But they shouldn’t sell them. Right now, they’re selling these giant spiders, you know, hobo spiders, wolf spiders, giant tarantulas. And this guy – being veterinarians, we’re not supposed to be afraid of any animals. And I’m afraid of spiders. They creep me out the way they move. They got hair and saliva. That’s wrong. A bug shouldn’t have hair on it.
FITZGERALD: I mean, that just goes without saying.
SAGAL: Yeah, I know.
FITZGERALD: So this guy comes, and he’s got this plastic shoebox and this giant spider. He goes: Be really careful. It got out a year ago; it bit my roommate in the face, and he had to have his head drained. I was like, oh. I was like, get a phonebook, you know.
FITZGERALD: But that’s not a practice builder – dropping a phone book on your patients. Even I know that.
POUNDSTONE: That’s when you got to call your cop friend back.
FITZGERALD: So I read where it takes one second to be nice and two seconds to be mean so we should be nice to each other. And so, I said, well, sir, what’s wrong with him? He goes, well, he’s just not himself.
FITZGERALD: Not his perky spider self? He called in late for work? No, he hasn’t eaten in several weeks and yesterday, his leg fell off.
FITZGERALD: I’m trying to think of something learned to tell this guy and get him out of there, right? So I said, you know, in my experience, sir, when the leg falls off, they’re obviously ill.
FITZGERALD: It sounded good, right? I remembered that, you know, the Museum of Natural History in City Park has old Dr. Licht over there, the spider expert. And I said, go see Dr. Licht, he’s going to help you. About an hour later, the phone rings and it’s Licht. And he goes Dr. Fitzgerald, Dr. Licht. And I go, hey. He goes, did you send Mr. Montgomery over here with this big-ass spider?
FITZGERALD: I go, yeah. He goes, did you tell him in your opinion when the leg fell off, they’re obviously ill?
FITZGERALD: If you would have taken time to examine him, you would have seen he was, in fact, dead.
SAGAL: Do you, yourself, have animals? Do you have pets?
FITZGERALD: I’m between pets right now. I’m waiting for a good one.
SAGAL: Really? You’re just not ready to settle down.
FITZGERALD: Yeah, you know, the commitment.
FITZGERALD: No, no, it’s…
POUNDSTONE: I can get you a handcuffed wallaby.
SAGAL: Well, Kevin Fitzgerald, we’re delighted to have you with us today. We have asked you here to play a game we’re calling…
CARL KASELL: Now Hold Still While I Inject This Bovine Steroid Into Your Buttocks.
SAGAL: Actually, that strikes me, that could be something you know something about. But…
SAGAL: Now that Barry Bonds is the all-time home-run champion, we thought it’d be a good time to ask you three questions taken from the book about his good friends at BALCO, that’s the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, the guys who Bonds swears did not really give him steroids, at least not that he knew about.
We have three questions about BALCO from the book “Game of Shadows.” Answer two correctly, you’ll win a chance for one of our listeners to win our prize, namely to have Carl’s voice injected directly into their buttocks.
SAGAL: Because that’s Carl’s secret; that’s how he achieves that deep, resonant tone.
SAGAL: That’s your secret.
KASELL: You had to tell.
SAGAL: Yeah. Also, of course, his voice on your home answering machine. Carl, who is Kevin Fitzgerald playing for?
KASELL: Peter, Kevin is playing for Charlie and Regina Bruce of Denver, Colorado.
SAGAL: Now, Barry got his alleged supplements from a man named Victor Conte, head of BALCO. But before he became the so-called steroid Svengali, he had moderate success as which of the following? A, a street caricature artist known as Vincent Von Picasso down on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf; B, a rock bass player in the Bay Area funk band Tower of Power; or C, a used car salesman twice named the Northern California Salesman of the Year?
FITZGERALD: I think he was in Tower of Power.
SAGAL: You think he was?
FITZGERALD: Well, I did a thing with Little Feat, and the Tower of Power horn section were there. I think the guy played for Tower of Power.
SAGAL: You’re right, he did. Very good, well done.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: This may be the first time in the history of this game that anyone used actual knowledge to answer a question correctly.
SAGAL: All right, next question. Not everyone thinks that Conte is a villain. In fact, one associate once publicly compared his work supplying allegedly illegal steroids to various athletes to the work of whom? A, physicist Stephen Hawking; B, nun and soon-to-be saint Mother Teresa; or C, former surgeon general C. Everett Koop?
FITZGERALD: Mother Teresa.
SAGAL: You’re exactly right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Did you know that? Because you were like, oh that’s what it is. Did you know that?
FITZGERALD: No, I mean, she’s so nice.
SAGAL: OK. Yeah, according to the book “Game of Shadows,” this flattery came from BALCO’s, quote, “medical doctor” – a guy named Dr. Brian Goldman who yes, did in fact work alongside Mother Teresa for a year. But one thing you should know: He reportedly did not get along with her. So that might have been a more biting comparison than you might think.
POUNDSTONE: People don’t realize she was not as nice as people thought.
FITZGERALD: She spoke highly of you.
POUNDSTONE: Well, I’ll tell you something. This…
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I don’t know, if you’re working with Mother Teresa, and you can’t get along with her, I just think you have some workplace issues.
SAGAL: Last question: After giving up on his music career – of course – Conte decided to become an amateur nutritionist. He founded BALCO, selling supplements to athletes – professional and amateur. Which of these was one of Conte’s early products? A, Zap your zits with zinc – that’s exactly what it sounds like, a scheme to market zinc supplements as an acne medication; B, man’s best friend, an early erectile dysfunction drug that contained near-toxic amounts of artificial testosterone; or C, home run derby bubble gum – chewing gum just like the big leaguers chew, with low levels of anabolic steroids just like the big leaguers use.
FITZGERALD: Man, I think using, you know, Krazy Glue and a wood-burning kit, zap your zits with zinc. Yeah, I think zinc. Yeah, I’m going to say that. Zap your zits. You can’t say it.
SAGAL: I just want to say this before I give you the right answer. I want your mind. I want to be able to just feel my way, in the way that you have, to the truth because you’re right. It was zap your zits with zinc.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: I’m sorry, what was that about Krazy Glue? I just – what?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And a wood burning kit, yeah.
SAGAL: And a wood-burning kit. And you’re like, oh, well then it must be the right answer. I’m like, it worked for you – but how did that work? What was that about?
FITZGERALD: We had this girl at my school, you know, and she – that’s what she would use. You know, she said Krazy Glue on them would make them go away. And we just looked like idiots, my brother and I.
FITZGERALD: But she was pretty, and we did what she told us.
SAGAL: Of course you did.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What was the wood-burning kit for?
FITZGERALD: Some of the really bad ones.
SAGAL: Well that girl must have been gorgeous, man. That’s all I got to say.
SAGAL: No, it was zap your zits with zinc. Conte wrote a scientific paper extolling the benefits of zinc on the skin after one of his customers, an Olympic swimmer, said that after using the supplements his acne disappeared. Unfortunately for Conte, the idea did not catch on. So…
FITZGERALD: Because it was at the end of the counter, with all the Z products.
SAGAL: Yeah, exactly.
SAGAL: People just do it alphabetically. It occurs to me, it’s a shame you didn’t have that Krazy Glue when the spider came in. You could have sent the guy home happy.
FITZGERALD: Just fix it.
SAGAL: Yeah. Well, apparently, what happened was Conte, you know, a lot of his herbal and supplements like that didn’t work, so he decided to start selling far more effective medications. Carl, how did Kevin Fitzgerald do on our quiz?
KASELL: He was amazing, Peter, three correct answers. So Kevin wins for Charlie and Regina Bruce, congratulations.
SAGAL: Well done.
FITZGERALD: Thank you.
SAGAL: Well done. That was like Zen mastery. That was crazy.
POUNDSTONE: It was. It was unbelievable.
SAGAL: Colorado’s own Kevin Fitzgerald, veterinarian, is the star of Animal Planet’s “Emergency Vet Interns” and of course, a one time rock and roll bouncer. Kevin Fitzgerald, thank you for joining us. It was great fun. Thank you for being here.
FITZGERALD: Thank you.
SAGAL: Well done.
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