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Former Radio Star Jon Robinson Hits Rock Bottom, Comes Clean with Life off-air

11753822_BG1As you know, industry people are incredibly proud and it’s humiliating when you lose everything you once had and it’s easy to understand why someone would go into hiding. Facing foreclosure and a life that spiraled out of control has come clean to tell his story because he states: “I don’t want to be a , anymore.” Former TV anchor, radio host and stadium announcer Jon Robinson, 49, is now jobless. His Gastonia home is in foreclosure. He expects to move into a homeless shelter.


Robinson admits to living double life.

Jon was a High school basketball star who went to play for Lefty Driesell at the University of Maryland . Morning host on WBT-AM. on Channel 3. Stadium announcer for the Carolina Panthers and a Cancer survivor. He was most recently, host on WKQC-FM (“K” 104.7),.

While Robinson was appealing to suburban soccer moms he admits he was baffled that the listeners loved him even though he was not facing his personal demons. “I was lying the whole time and the crazy thing is people loved me for it. What I really wanted to say is, ‘I shot heroin last night and smoked and watched eight hours of porn.’ “I’m a fraud.”

Robinson, 49, is now jobless. His Gastonia, (SC) home is in foreclosure. He took out the last $1,400 of his savings this month, $300 of it earmarked to pay off a drug debt and is now broke. As a last resort, Robinson expects to move into a homeless shelter.

His appearance is gaunt, awash with despair and he admits to considering suicide. It is a stunning contrast to who he once was (see promo shot) He doesn’t want pity, money or sympathy. He agreed to tell his story, he , because he is tired of living a lie.

“Only reason I’m doing this is so people will know. I don’t want to be a fraud, anymore. I want people to know what I am.” What Jon Robinson is: A cocaine and heroin addict in a spiral of self-destruction. “I’m skid row.”

Wanting a father figure

Robinson’s parents split up when he was 6. He has had little contact with his father since.

He was 10 years old and playing with friends on Paramount Circle in Gastonia when a man pulled up and asked if any of them wanted to go to the YMCA to shoot hoops. Robinson went.

Within weeks, Robinson says, the man was coaching him in basketball and serving as the father figure he craved. He was also a pedophile who molested Robinson until he was 15, even as he trained him to be a basketball star, Robinson says.

In 1977, Robinson played on the Gastonia Hunter Huss High team that won the state championship with future pro player Eric “Sleepy” Floyd. In 1978, Robinson went to Maryland on full scholarship.

It was in his freshman year, Robinson says, that he got a disturbing call. Someone had accused the at the Y of molesting a child.

“He hurt a lot of people in Gastonia. I carried that guilt for a long time … If I had said something, I could have kept that from happening to them. But I was going to keep that secret to the grave.”

In 1980, the coach pleaded guilty in Gaston County to taking indecent liberties with six boys in Gastonia and served four years of a 20-year sentence. In 1985, he pleaded guilty to child molestation charges in Anderson, S.C., involving four boys, and served 13 years of a 25-year sentence.

Four weeks ago, he was convicted in Asheville on federal child pornography charges. His name is Albert Charles Burgess Jr., now 60 years old. Because he is awaiting sentencing, federal judge Graham Mullen would not permit the Observer to interview him in the McDowell County Detention Center, where he is being held. He faces up to 40 years on the latest conviction.

Delving into drugs

Robinson was 12 when he started drinking beer and smoking marijuana. Soon he was snorting Dilaudid, a narcotic analgesic that was the OxyContin of its day. At 16, he tried cocaine. By 18, he was free-basing it.

He was a sophomore at Maryland when he tried heroin. “I loved it,” Robinson says.

His drug use continued through college, though never on game days. He played for four years as a reserve guard, scoring about 400 points in his collegiate career. He graduated in 1983 and started climbing the ladder in a Charlotte-area radio career, secretly maintaining his addiction.

In 1992, he joined WBT-AM in the high-profile morning drive time slot. Intimidated by the job and the station’s reputation, he stayed clean about six months. Then he started bingeing again. Some mornings he couldn’t come to work. “Migraines,” he’d tell co-host Don Russell.

After his wife gave birth to his first son in 1994, Robinson says he stopped using for a while. He went to Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He called his sponsor every day. He’d call others when he felt cravings.

But gradually, he drifted back to it.

“You think you can use and be OK. You think, ‘I’m OK. I can hand le it. … Once I started, I couldn’t stop. That was 1998. I’ve been using ever since, hot and heavy.”

His first marriage ended as Robinson’s behavior grew erratic. He started a relationship with a stripper, smoked crack in his garage and told his wife he didn’t love her.

“That’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life. She’s good as gold.”

Moving to television

In 1997, Robinson moved to WBTV (Channel 3) and rose through the ranks, often sitting in as anchor. To all outward appearances, he was a rising star.

Jon Robinson had everything – looks, voice, charisma,” says longtime WBTV reporter Steve Crump. “Based on his talent, he was the envy of a lot of people … Heart of gold. Polite prankster. … He just had this ability, when the red light on the camera went on, here was somebody who was your friend. He endeared a lot of viewers to him.”

At WBTV, Robinson says, he quit using heroin, but continued with cocaine. He kept up outward appearances.

“Addicts have an amazing ability to compartmentalize, and I was one of those,” he says. “It takes a lot of hard work to do it. It takes a lot of energy, a lot of hiding.”

Angry at being passed over for a promotion, he left WBTV in 2004 and went to WCBD, the NBC affiliate in Charleston, as evening anchor. He quickly joined the city’s upper-crust drug culture.

“It is a party-hard-and -heavy town. It was the worst place for me to be – I used every day.”

He says one night he smoked crack between the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts. He later looked at the tape. Although he could tell he was jumpy on air, no one else seemed to notice.

One night in 2006, after drinking and snorting cocaine, he got into a 2 a.m. street fight on Bay Street. Management heard about it. He was out of work within two months.

Back to Charlotte

Robinson returned to Charlotte in 2006 and land ed a morning host job on the struggling WDYT-AM.

In April 2008, he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his throat. At first, he was given a 20 percent chance of survival, but subsequent exams showed it had not spread and his odds were far better.

Doctors attacked with a 45-day regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. He stayed away from illicit drugs then because doctors prescribed morphine for the pain. While he was recovering, the station laid him off in a round of budget cuts.

Now remarried, Robinson had a 22-month-old son who feared for his father’s health. “He would lay in bed with me and pat my hand and say, ‘It’s OK, daddy.'”

On the last day of chemotherapy, in July 2008, his wife threw a backyard party for him. He has a picture from that day, with him mugging victoriously with 45 red and white balloons.

“I looked like a champion – like, ‘look at me, I’m strong.’ And my boys were over here. And all I could think about is how I wanted to go get some crack.”

A new start in radio

In December 2008, he returned to the air, as morning host on K104.7. Its morning show audience surged 40 percent in Robinson’s first three months. “Mad Mamas in Minivans,” a women’s sound-off segment, was one of the show’s attractions.

Behind the scenes, Robinson’s life was falling apart. He’d miss shifts. There was turbulence on the home front. Fearing for their safety, his wife took their son and went to Ohio to live awhile with a relative.

In May, Robinson entered rehab at Behavioral Health Center/First Step at Union Regional Medical Center in Monroe. He stayed 28 days.

After he was discharged, his wife returned from Ohio, planning to reconcile.

“My son and I came back under the impression he was sober, only to find out he’d been using drugs on a regular basis a week after he’d gotten out of rehab. I am terrified of him, and I am trying to protect my 3-year-old son and myself,” Amand a Robinson wrote in a restraining order she obtained after a household scuffle Aug. 15.

Under the terms of the order, Robinson was not to have any contact with her for a year. But she complained that he had telephoned and texted on Oct. 21 and Robinson admits he violated the order by doing so.

He was arrested at the CBS Radio studios on South Boulevard when he finished his air shift Oct. 23, a Friday. He was held without bond in the Mecklenburg County Jail for two days.

On Oct. 25, he missed his Sunday duty as stadium announcer for the Carolina Panthers, a job he had held since the franchise started in 1995. He is no longer with the team.

Reliving childhood abuse

Robinson’s estranged wife, Amand a Robinson, 29, says she believes the sex abuse he suffered as a child was a factor in his undoing.

“When something is taken away from you that is yours – your innocence – it’s almost like taking a part of your being, your soul,” she says. “There’s this little boy still inside Jon who never got any healing a long time ago.”

Two years ago, she rode with Robinson when he drove up to Hendersonville to confront his old coach. They sat in the rain outside Charles Burgess’ apartment for hours, but never saw him.

Robinson says he was having nightmares that Burgess was coming to prey on his own children.

“He would be in the house without me knowing it. He’d walk out with my son and say, ‘He’s mine now.’ I couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t get up and move or save him. Every night he was in the house, he had my son.”

During rehab, Robinson got some counseling on sex abuse. He doesn’t want to go into therapy for it, he says. Too painful.

“I will not sit down with a counselor and relive what happened to me as a boy. That’s really weird, especially when all these people tell me that’s what will save my life.”

Voice on the radio

Amand a Robinson says she still cares about her husband . She would listen to him on the radio and says she could tell by his voice whether he had been using drugs. She sees little chance for reconciliation.

“Every little girl’s dream is to get married and have a family and grow old together … I never in a million years thought this is where our life would take us. I didn’t get married to get divorced or to become an early widow …

“He’s not the same person, anymore. He doesn’t even know himself. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love anybody else.”

Hope for addicts

Charles Odell, executive director of the Dilworth Center for Chemical Dependency, has worked with alcoholics and addicts since 1983. He has not been involved in Robinson’s treatment.

Recovery rates for people who abuse cocaine and heroin are better than is commonly believed, he says. About 70 percent of patients who successfully complete initial treatment – inpatient or outpatient – stay clean for two years or more.

“If you can get two years sobriety, you can get 20,” says Odell. “Those first two years are the most challenging.”

For most addicts, success comes through abstinence and dedication to group support programs like Narcotics Anonymous.

Guilt, shame, remorse, resentment and depression tend to wash on to the families of drug users, Odell says. And even when someone is in successful recovery, family members live with anxiety the drug use will return, that the bomb will drop again.

“People get well. People get well all the time. I’ve seen hard cases get well,” Odell says, but he adds it can be a long struggle.

“If it’s 50 miles into the woods, it’s 50 miles back.”

An accelerating spiral

After his October arrest, Robinson quit going to work.

“I just completely came unglued. And part of it was intentional. I wanted to get away from this guy I had become.

“I wanted them to fire me. I think they should have … but they’ve been nothing but good to me.”

Supervisors at CBS Radio kept him on the payroll until his contract expired at the end of November.

Friends and relatives have reached out to him, but Robinson says he doesn’t expect to get better until he hits bottom. And he’s not sure where that is.

“I’ve called bottom a gazillion times. There’s always a trap door to fall through,” he says.

“I’m not going to promise I’m going to get clean. That’s not the happy ending here. I don’t think there is a happy ending to this deal.

“I love my sons and that’s the hardest part. I couldn’t get clean for them. I couldn’t beat the demons.”

Last Monday, fearing Robinson was a danger to himself, a relative had him hospitalized against his will for evaluation. He was released Thursday, after 72 hours.

He told his family he would start going back to Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

He told them he would try again to get out of the shadows.

CEO of RF Focus, Radio and Music Industry Veteran. Radio DJ, Programmer, Musician and Voice Talent. Graduated from Performing Arts in Buffalo, N.Y. and worked at the legendary KKBT (92.3 The Beat) during its nationwide heyday in the early 90s. Also worked for Stevie Wonder at KJLH.


  1. I worked with Jon in 1987 at LITE 102 and thought the world of him. John was working with Paul Franklin (later known as Big Paul) at the time – a great guy that passed away too soon. I saw Jon around town every couple of years and he could not have been any nicer. Always a warm and friendly guy.
    I hate this for Jon and will keep him in my prayers and ask that everyone reading this also put Jon in your prayers! Thanks!

  2. Life itself brings many personal demons that deceive even the brightest minds. Many will never concede that they need spiritual help or admit they are in a spiritual war. To win that kind of warfare requires true repentance and confession out of a pure heart. That heart that is available by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Having tried all else if Jon can just confess that he needs a Savior, the Lord will send the appropiate witness that will show him the way of savation.

  3. Jon – I don’t know you and I’m not coming to say “I knew John, or I worked w Jon, or Jon was my friend from high school.” Your addiction and I are, well were very close friends. After reading your article my heart ached for you. I cried tears for your children. You say you can’t “even do it for them”. I thought the same for myself at one point in time. You can. You can. You can. Dig deep. Do it for the child inside yourself that never had the chance, be the man that shows them the right way. I am so sorry you are going through this, but there comes a point were you have to step into reality and stop the selfishness. You CAN do this!! I’m praying for you Jon. ~Emily

  4. I smoked crack for a year and a half…spent 100k and luckily did not lose it all. It was a disaster.

    I “dabbled” in doing coke (maybe 3 or 4 times a year…at parties) and before a party I went to buy some powder coke…with no intention of ever doing crack…Well, the dealer put a baggie in hand (a half gram) and I gave him $50. When I got in the car…it was not powder, it was rock!

    Well, I went back to him but he was gone and of course, there was a no return policy! So, what did I do? I took a Coors Light can and poked about 20 pinholes in a small area and made a pipe (just like I had done for reefer in college)…I placed part of this huge, yellowish rock on the can and slowly heated in and inhaled the smoke…It was shear
    fantasy, bliss…amazing! In 30 minutes the $5o rock was gone…I went back and bought a “yard” or $100 piece (that night)…I never made it to the party as I sat in my car in a Harris Teeter parking and smoked my crack.

    I could not go home and wanted more but I had to go as I told my wife I would be in by 1:00…The next day…I was at the dealer’s door. Again $50…again I went back for $100 more…Later that day, I went to the bank and got $200 more and went back. I missed work and sat in my car at a park and smoked.

    Later when I went home I suddenly went to my storage room…the room where I would spend the next year while smoking…I would tell my wife I was going to smoke a few cigarettes and tinker (I live 250 yards from the country club! of all things)…It was a horror…In one day I was hooked and without the grace of God and some intestinal fortitude I had left I would be dead or in jail today. But I stopped, 8 years ago…There is not a day that goes by where I do think about. It was the hardest thing I ever quit…but it is doable.

    Good luck Jon. We actually had the same Spanish teacher, Mrs. Falls at Huss! I miss you at the games Stickley is a joke!

    Give it all you have and get your life back, I did and if that happens then anyone can make it happen!

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