Peter Tripp, a popular disc jockey in New York in the late 1950's whose career peaked when he stayed awake for more than eight days as a stunt but later plunged when he was found guilty of accepting thousands of dollars in payola, died Jan. 31 in a hospital in Northridge, Calif. He was 73. The cause of death was a stroke, said Richard W. Fatherley of Kansas City, Kan., a friend.
Mr. Tripp's career was indelibly tarnished by the 1960 payola scandal, in which the better-known Alan Freed and several other disc jockeys and radio station employees were indicted on charges of accepting money from record companies in exchange for playing their records.
Mr. Tripp attracted just as much national attention, though, for his sleepless promotional gimmick a year earlier.
He spent 201 hours and 10 minutes awake, much of it sitting in a glass booth in Times Square, spinning records and bantering into his microphone three hours a day.
When Mr. Tripp began to fall asleep, nurses shook him; doctors joked with him, played games with him and gave him tests to take. After a few days, he began to hallucinate, seeing cobwebs, mice, kittens; looking through drawers for money that wasn't there; insisting that a technician had dropped a hot electrode into his shoe.
His last 66 hours awake were spent under the influence of drugs administered by the doctors and scientists observing him. Asked at the end of his stunt what he wanted the most, Mr. Tripp said, not surprisingly, that he wanted to sleep, which he then did for 13 hours and 13 minutes.
Peter Tripp was born on June 11, 1926, in Port Chester, N.Y., and started his career in radio at WEXL in Royal Oak, Mich., in 1947.
In 1953 he moved to KUDL in Kansas City, Mo., where he called himself the "Bald Kid in the Third Row," based on a remark one of his parents had made upon spotting him among the infants in the hospital after he was born.
He later moved to WHB, also in Kansas City, and started the Top 40 format for the station; he rebilled himself the "Curly-Headed Kid in the Third Row." And in 1955, he got a program on WMGM in New York called "Your Hits of the Week."
It was a golden time for rock 'n' roll disc jockeys, an era when figures like the Big Bopper often reached greater stardom than the musicians whose records they played.
It was also a time of quirky publicity-grabbing, like record-playing marathons and Mr. Tripp's staying-awake stunt.
In fact, just after he set what was called a world record for sleeplessness, several other disc jockeys immediately tried to best him; one of them, Dave Hunter, in Jacksonville, Fla., reportedly did less than a week later, not sleeping for 225 hours.
But Mr. Tripp was indicted a few weeks after his stunt on a charge that he had accepted $36,050 in payola. He was found guilty of commercial bribery, fined $500 and given a six-month suspended sentence.
Mr. Tripp left WMGM, all but penniless, his lawyer said, and bounced around the radio business as a journeyman disc jockey, taking spots at KYA in San Francisco, KGFJ in Los Angeles and WOHO in Toledo, Ohio.
In 1967 Mr. Tripp left radio for good, moved back to Los Angeles and took a national sales training job with Slim Gym and founded DynaGym exercise products.
He also freelanced as a motivational writer and speaker and worked as a stockbroker and in investment marketing. Later, he retired in Palm Springs, Calif.
Mr. Tripp, who spent his last years in West Hills, Calif., was married and divorced four times. He is survived by two sons, Peter Jr., of West Hills and Jeffrey, of Levittown, N.Y.; two daughters, Terri Lanciault of Guilford, N.Y., and Candi Tripp of Holtsville, N.Y.; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.