Former WFAN host Craig Carton speaks in intimate detail about his rise, fall and personal demons in an HBO documentary, "Wild Card: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth," set to premiere on Oct. 7.
The film includes interviews with Carton’s former colleagues and others but primarily is built around the words of Carton himself, from journals he kept during his year in federal prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and interviews since his release in June.
Among the subjects he discusses are the sexual abuse he endured as an 11-year-old at summer camp, his gambling addiction, suicidal thoughts shortly before his arrest in 2017 and his relationship with former co-host Boomer Esiason.
Esiason references a negative email he received from Carton after the arrest that "made me puke, actually, it was just so pathetic."
Carton apparently believed Esiason was not being supportive enough of him, considering the two had spoken of being "foxhole guys."
But Esiason said he had told Carton, "I’ll be in your foxhole, as long as you don’t bring a hand grenade in the foxhole with you."
That hand grenade was a complicated scheme that attracted the attention of the FBI and cost Carton his radio job. Gregg Giannotti replaced him on the WFAN morning show in January 2018 and has been there since.
Carton describes his downfall in great detail, including what he calls "the single biggest mistake I’ve made in my entire life."
That was when he accepted $2 million from a hedge fund that thought it was investing in his company that sold secondary market concert tickets. But Carton initially used $950,000 of that money to pay off gambling debts.
Carton discusses how an $80,000 blackjack triumph in 2014 that paid off a dare/bet from Esiason accelerated a lifelong taste for gambling and soon got out of control, with him winning and losing vast sums.
"That’s where the craziness began," Esiason says of the on-air dare, in which Carton vowed to take $10,000 of Esiason’s money and turn it into $25,000 in Atlantic City. He ended up doing $55,000 better than that.
With things spiraling and the FBI closing in, Carton describes being alone on a chairlift in Whistler, British Columbia, during a vacation with his wife in August 2017 and contemplating jumping into the abyss.
He called a friend and former producer, Charod Williams, to talk him down the mountain to safety. Carton was arrested soon after, on Sept. 6, 2017.
Esiason was the first person Carton called upon being released from prison last June, and the two are back on good terms.
Carton writes in a journal entry, "Being here makes the decisions and risks I took so unfathomably stupid. Why wasn’t being No. 1 on the radio good enough? Why wasn’t my family more important than my selfish desires?"
He says in an interview that he now realizes business is not his strength, rather, "I’m good at one thing, and that’s hosting a radio show."
Carton is a radio free agent now, and several outlets, including WFAN, have potential interest in him. The credits for the documentary begin with, "Craig has negotiated a radio comeback." But nothing has been announced yet.