By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
Avoid writing about Denver radio for a few months and look what happens: hirings, firings, format shifts and random bloodletting. Let's try to catch up, shall we?
Hilary Schmidt, among the brightest DJs on the local scene over the past couple of years, is gone; after stints with the late 92X, KBPI-FM/106.7 and KTCL-FM/93.3, she's now on the air at XTRA-FM, an outlet that services San Diego but is officially licensed to Tijuana, Mexico. There she joins fellow 92X alums Bryan Schock and Malcolm, who serve as XTRA's program director and music director, respectively. What adds irony value to this shift is the fact that XTRA is the property of Jacor, a Cincinnati-based company that owns KBPI and a slew of other major stations in Denver and northern Colorado and is largely responsible for running the 92X format out of town. In response to 92X's ratings success, Jacor (in the person of KBPI operations director Jack Evans, who now oversees XTRA and other Jacor stations in Southern California) transformed KBPI to a modern-rock format that mimicked the sound of its smaller adversary. The owners of 92X ultimately changed styles, most recently to a Spanish-language approach.
As you know, the scrap between KBPI and 92X went far beyond friendly competition. On Thanksgiving Day, 1995, KBPI personnel went so far as to place a turkey on Schock's lawn alongside a sign that read, "Unlike this bird, your goose is cooked. This will be your last Thanksgiving in Colorado." Schock responded by obtaining a temporary restraining order against KBPI program director Bob Richards and filing complaints accusing Richards of trespassing and harassment. The charges were later dropped. (For details, see Feedback, December 13 and 20, 1995.)
Despite these incidents, Richards finds nothing strange about he and Schock being fellow Jacor employees. "It might seem that way to the casual observer," he says, "but when you consider that there are a bunch of companies like Jacor out there right now, this kind of thing is happening everywhere. The bottom line is, I never had a lack of respect for Brian or Malcolm--and San Diego is a perfect fit for them." Still, he concedes, the move has raised a few eyebrows. "Malcolm called not long ago, saying he was going to be in town and wanted to go skiing," he notes. "So I asked my promotions director to get him a couple of lift tickets, and she said, 'Man, a couple of years ago, I never thought I'd hear you say that.'"
Another 92X veteran, Rockfish, remains at KBPI, helming the morning shift. Unfortunately, the quality of his work, which was strong, has gone from good to miserable since his teaming with humor-challenged stand-up comic Rick Kerns. The program now emphasizes sexist routines such as "Win-a-Girl Wednesday" over music--which is about what you would expect now that KBPI has decided to go after KALC-FM/106, aka Alice. (Current KBPI television commercials feature the clever phrase "Alice sucks.") With Kerns and Rockfish in a contest with Alice's Jamie White to see which of them can fit more juvenile sexual innuendos into a single broadcast, the listening options for those of us who don't find the mere mention of the word "penis" hilarious are shrinking fast. While switching between these two broadcasts during a recent commute, I lost so many I.Q. points that by the time I arrived at my destination, I could barely remember my name.
The morning show at KBCO-FM/97.3 (a Jacor station) has also undergone surgery. Rick Ashton, a standup who was matched with the grating Kerry Gray at KBCO last year, has been excised. KBCO program director Dave Benson, who took over from Mike O'Connor (now at KRFX-FM/103.5, the Fox), is not exactly forthcoming with details about Ashton's departure; he'll say only that "Rick's contract was up in March, and we just decided to experiment and see what else might work for the morning show." That comment might raise hopes among some of you that Gray, who recently got into trouble during a guest stint on KOA-AM/850 for suggesting that Jesus Christ was gay, might soon be handed his scalp, but Benson rejects that possibility. "We really enjoy Kerry as the centerpiece of the show, and there are no plans to change that," he claims.
Other prominent victims of the morning-show shuffle include Pete MacKay and Mauri Szatkowski, who had been the a.m. drive-time jocks at KXPK-FM/96.5, the Peak, for nearly three years. MacKay and Szatkowski made a fine combination--they were amusing without being moronic, informative without being dull--so of course they were doomed. Their replacements, longtime Peak personality Jackie Selby and part-timer-turned-main-man Chuck Woodford, have not embraced stupidity as a lifestyle yet, but you never know. After all, new Peak program director Gary Schoenwetter, who replaced Doug Clifton (now at Jones Intercable) earlier this year, promises some changes in focus at the Peak. "We want to add more fun elements to the station, and more of a sense of unpredictability coming from the music, the personalities and some of the events," he says ominously. However, he rushes to reassure Peak fans that radical alterations are not in the offing. "We're not going to do nothing but Korn and Nine Inch Nails, but we won't be doing nothing but Tracy Chapman and Duncan Sheik, either," he pledges. "We're going to be a little bit more adventurous with the music, getting on bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Morphine right away rather than waiting, as we might have done in the past. And we're also talking about finding a way to put more local music into the mix, which is something Jackie has been very dedicated about."