I’ve been covering Atlanta radio for a decade, through the rise of top 40 Q100 and gospel station Praise, the fall of 99X and deaths of Lite 94.9, Smooth Jazz 107.5 and 96rock. Revenues rose, then fell sharply. Syndicated shows by the likes of Rickey Smiley, Elvis Duran and Steve Harvey popped up. There have been plenty of big stories but in celebration of my ten years here, I’ve compiled the top 12 most unusual radio-related stories. I couldn’t make any of them up. Some are sad, some are funny, some are just plain odd.
12. Ralph From Ben Hill’s comeback gets shortchanged: Ralph From Ben Hill was a brazen presence on WGST-AM in the late 1970s and 1980s as a regular caller. The station hired him in 1989 for his own show, where he espoused a volatile mix of black nationalism and social conservatism before getting canned in 1994. In late 2001, he was embarking on a comeback at WAOK-AM, which was news/talk at the time. One week in, though, he sounded incoherent on air, battling terrible headaches. Doctors found a blood clot in his brain and he was never the same, unable to get back on radio on a regular basis again. It was sad and the timing most unfortunate. I have not heard if he’s still around. Anybody know?
11. Crash Clark loses his job at 99X over a stunt that hit the toilet: The party-lovin’ Crash Clark had gotten himself in trouble plenty of times over the years at 99X but in 2005, he allowed a couple of fans at a bar at a remote get a bit too close in a bathroom to win 311 tickets. The owners of the bar were not pleased and he was out. After a stint in Boston, he is back at Dave FM and V-103 as the traffic guy. (Clark once went ballistic on me after he started working with a Boston radio station where he talked about his finances and I reported it to his fans in Atlanta. Curse words were liberally used. But we’ve since made up.)
10. Former Kicks morning host Moby gets attacked by a lion. I will simply reprint what I wrote back in 2003 in Peach Buzz. This did sound ridiculous at the time, but he sent me a photo and it was an ugly bite! The scar is a point of pride, he said to me recently at the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame. (In 2008, he also got bitten by a snake. No joke! And more later about his short stint at Z93.)
Some people would love to feed Z93 morning radio host Moby to the lions. But he said he was literally bitten by one Sunday.
Moby insisted to Buzz that this is not a belated April Fool’s joke. While volunteering at a local zoo (not Zoo Atlanta), he said he petted a 700-pound lioness, which sank her teeth into his right arm. He was earlier told that the animal would let go if he popped her in the nose, but instead he pulled away, causing a major gash that required 25 stitches from a Northside Hospital doctor.
He later identified the locale as the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega. The gash required 25 stitches but didn’t cause any serious damage.
9. Why you’ll never see Kate McCarthy & Jordan Graye in the same room: In 2007, B98.5’s Jordan Graye was given a second shift at 97.1/The River. But she created a fictional name while on the River. “There were arguments about having her use the same name because she sounds good on both stations,” said Chris Miller, program director at the time. “In the end, we decided on a different name to keep each station distinctive and not cause confusion.” Kate was retired earlier this year. “Jordan and Kate will never lose each other!” wrote Graye via Facebook, tongue firmly in cheek. “BFF (although, she does get on my nerves a little)…. I betcha Kate turns up somewhere.”
8. Porsche Foxx gets caught with a DUI, loses her job, comes back, loses her job again: Former V-103’s former mid-day host Porsche Foxx had a powerful presence on air. But she had to fight her own demons. In December, 2004, DeKalb County police arrested her and charged her with driving under the influence, possession of marijuana and a suspended license. Six weeks later, V-103 let her go. A few weeks later, her house went up in flames. Police deemed it an accident. She entered alcohol rehab. In 2007, V-103 re-hired her. “It’s been two and a half years, ” she told Frank Ski and Wanda Smith at the time. ” I’m a better woman today. I’m more resilient. I make better decisions.” Less than two years later, she was let go again. Foxx at the time gave me some sort of convoluted explanation about V-103 not being sympathetic to her about a medical problem.
7. Merry Christmas — you’re fired! Jeffree Charles was working at a local R&B station in 2001 as a DJ. At the holiday party, he sang Christmas carols and told the staff he was proud of everyone after 9/11. His boss fired him after the party. Awkward! (It wasn’t because of his singing. It was pre-planned.) He is now focused on his music career. Check him out at www.jeffreecharles.com.
6. Kimmer tussles with a protester: 640/WGST-AM’s popular afternoon host and Marine veteran Kim “The Kimmer” Peterson, after a Veterans Day parade in 2005, said a man Will Jones with a sign “Bush did 9/11″ spit on him. The Kimmer got out of the car and the pair tussled briefly. Jones filed an arrest warrant against the Kimmer. The case was eventually thrown out. Jones said Peterson attacked him and injured his shoulder. “I feel sorry for him, ” Peterson said on the air later in the day after the case was dropped. “I really do. I hope this is the end of it.”
5. Moby becomes the highest paid traffic guy in town. Yes, we’re back to Moby. Country jock James “Moby” Carney, after he lost his job at Kicks 101.5, nabbed a morning host position at Z93 in the fall of 2002. Though he was a rock jock for years in Houston and Dallas, he was known in Atlanta as a country guy. The rock fans at Z93 didn’t embrace him. Management wanted him out. But they had signed him to a contract which required them to keep him on air in the mornings. They moved him to traffic duties in hopes he’d be so disgusted, he’d leave on his volition. Instead, Moby dug in his heels. He did traffic from a separate office while not identifying himself on air. But Moby was getting paid well into the six figures to tell us how tangled Spaghetti Junction was. After nine months doing traffic, he eventually negotiated a settlement with Z93 that got him out of his contract and the two sides finally parted ways.
4. Steve Barnes sues his old employer for defamation. Barnes, a 99X morning host for a decade, stepped down in 2003. Three years later, he came out with a film “No Witness” starring Corey Feldman. As a joke, 99X’s Fred Toucher, Jimmy Baron and Leslie Fram held a free screening of the film at a local restaurant and mocked it on air. Toucher also made fun of Barnes on his website (notably calling him “Captain Back Acne.”) At the time, Barnes said he was amused: “It’s beautiful, it’s free publicity. I’ve done nothing to those people. It makes me laugh. I’ll have to send them a thank-you note.” But he really wasn’t amused: he later, filing a civil lawsuit in federal court alleging that 99X defamed him and engaged in copyright infringement. The case was eventually settled out of court.
3. Curses! V-103’s on-air host Elle Duncan chews producer Nina Brown out on air! Last year, the two women got into an argument over a pot-luck sweet potato pie. Brown, a producer, left the mike live while Duncan was yelling at her, despite access to a delay button. Someone sent me a clip of it. “Stop with that s*** too Nina, like you’re so [bleepin'] holier than thou!” Duncan is heard saying. A few seconds later, co-host Ryan Cameron went on air as if nothing had happened. Duncan was suspended but remains at V-103. Brown lost her job, eventually moving to 11Alive.
2. Q100 and the Bert Show shut down I-20: Q100 and Six Flags Over Georgia had a great promotion idea during spring break 2007. They offered free admission to the park from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on what the station dubbed “Ditch Day.” But word spread like wildfire. When the gates opened at 6, the event hit its capacity of 10,000 to 15,000 people within 15 minutes. Nearby I-20 backed up through three counties, and surface streets west of Atlanta were frozen . Eager to get into the amusement park, kids bailed out of idling cars on the highway and walked in the pre-dawn chill to the park — only to be turned away because the park was full. The promotion created a big mess but also showed the power of the radio station.
1. The Regular Guys get fired twice – and they are still around! In 2004, after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl mess, the Regular Guys decided to mock the Federal Communications Commission crackdown on indecency by taping a porn star Devin Lane talking dirty and airing it backwards. While they taped her, a live mic was left on so you could hear her explicit commentary over a Honda ad. After the show, the Regular Guys were suspended. In 2005, they were re-hired but the show was let go yet again 18 months later when Larry Wachs taped and aired bathroom conversations of Yogi & Panda, a morning show on Hispanic sister station Viva 105.7. Yogi & Panda sued, claiming their privacy was breached. The case was eventually thrown out of court. In 2008, Rock 100.5 hired the Regular Guys, who have since managed to stay out of trouble.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk