DURBAN - “A finer gentleman you won’t meet,” that’s how East Coast Radio DJ Damon Beard described his long time friend and colleague Johan von Bargen, who died on Tuesday.
Von Bargen, who kept ECR listeners in tune with the latest happenings on the road for 33 years and was known as “The Traffic Guy” or “JVB”, had been battling cancer.
As a tribute to him, ECR asked their listeners, o Friday, to toot their hooters in traffic for a minute after the 7am Newswatch bulletin and to tag their videos shared on via social media sites with #JVBTribute.
JVB started reporting on the traffic when the station was previously named Radio Port Natal. At that time he worked for the Durban’s metro police (formerly Durban city police).
Suggesting an alternate route from the top of his head whenever there was a snarl up indicated JVB’s intimate knowledge of local roads, said Beard.
“JVB was a master when it came to traffic reporting. He didn’t need maps, he was completely dedicated and hugely passionate about being ‘The Traffic Guy’.”
Beard pointed out that while JVB was serious about his work, he also had a “wicked sense of humour”.
When Beard joined ECR, he worked as a news anchor on Daryl Ilbury’s weekday breakfast show.
“First thing JVB said when he met me was, ‘hard to find good help anywhere these days!’
He then sniggered, told me how he liked his coffee and said ‘now go and read over your news bulletin so you don’t mess it up’.
We got on immediately.”
Beard recalled how JVB would tell crude jokes off-air and got him panicked by saying that he was going to share it on-air.
“Then he’d say if we got fired, he’ll tell management that I told him the joke and forced him to say it.
About DJ's poking fun at JVB, Beard said: “JVB had a comeback for everything. He loved to be ragged but he was just too quick and if you were going to tackle him on or off air, you needed to know he’d come right back at you.”
Beard said he and JVB loved aeroplanes and they would often meet at Virginia Airport for a coffee.
“We would spend hours watching the planes and just chatting,” said Beard.
“No matter how busy he was, he was always there if you needed someone to talk to or just needed some of his brilliant advice.
“When I went to a function, it was always JVB who was the topic of conversation. People adored him.”
Beard recalled: “I remember a radio campaign many years ago where JVB was dressed as a superhero in black leather.
That was him to a T. Everybody’s hero.”