Revenge of the Monkey Boy

Sports-talk radio host Scott Hastings is riding the Broncos—and his wild image—all the way to the bank.

"I don't want to exclude anybody," Hastings says. "Sports is always going to be the basis of our show, but the sports audience is only a relatively small part of the big audience out there. I'm not trying to be insensitive, but I want to push the edge of things. Radio is theater of the mind, and if I take you to the gutter and you see there's a turd there, that doesn't mean I said there was a turd in the gutter. You're the one who saw it. I'm just the one who took you there."

And he does so quite often. During one show, Wargin is showing off ultrasound pictures of her developing fetus. "Look," she says. "They got a shot of his scrotum and his wee-wee."

"Whoa!" Hastings interrupts. "'His scrotum and his wee-wee?' First you use a medical term and then you say 'wee-wee'? Why did you do that?"

Caged animals: "Monkey Boy" Scott Hastings and Susie Wargin on Sports Zoo.
Caged animals: "Monkey Boy" Scott Hastings and Susie Wargin on Sports Zoo.
Caged animals: "Monkey Boy" Scott Hastings and Susie Wargin on Sports Zoo.
David Rehor
Caged animals: "Monkey Boy" Scott Hastings and Susie Wargin on Sports Zoo.

"I don't know," Wargin answers, collapsing in laughter.

"Then again, how do some words get to be medical terms in the first place?" Hastings asks. "Like, who's the first one who called that a scrotum? Or gonads -- who was the guy who named them that?" He pauses before adding, "At least he didn't call them Hastings."

Despite the presence of Wargin, who also does a regular shift on hard-rocking KBPI-FM, Sports Zoo is very much a boys' club even when Logan isn't on the scene. (The head coach of Arvada West High's football team, Logan puts the Zoo on the back burner for most of the late summer and fall.) Just prior to the start of one recent program, Hastings sits in the middle of a clotted staging area outside KOA's downtown studio, his long legs splayed out like tree roots while Zoo producer Sokalsky, technical producer Ashley Sarrazin and a slew of interns scamper back and forth over them. Their male bonding has a hands-on quality; there's lots of butt-slapping and hair-mussing, and at one point, an intern jumps onto the back of a buddy and rides him past cubicles lined with award plaques and crammed with boxes, books, stacks of old 45s and a very prominent case of Henry Weinhard's Blackberry Wheat beer. In the tradition of middle-school jocks everywhere, these dudes attempt to prove how not gay they are by engaging in locker-room lampoons of homosexuality. At one point, Hastings asks Sarrazin if he needs a hug; later he offers to let Sokalsky sit on his lap.

Most talk-show hosts use the hour or so leading up to a broadcast to map out the program to come, but not Hastings. He and Sokalsky usually chat each morning, and Hastings may assemble some topics gleaned from newspapers and the like; Sokalsky also puts together a daily idea list larded with sports info and pop-culture data. But Hastings often ignores it. "I don't know if it's insecurity or what," he allows, "but I'll have three or four things ready to go, and then I'll be sitting in front of the mike ready to start, and I'll think, 'That's not funny.' And so I'll just say the first thing that pops into my head."

That's what happens when Hastings, holding a plastic cup into which he regularly spits juice from his omnipresent chewing tobacco, suddenly challenges Sokalsky, a onetime producer for ESPN radio who announces his dimensions as "5' 7", 145 pounds," to try to set a world's record by slamming thirty espressos in an hour. As if on cue, a doctor phones to say that by doing so, Sokalsky could wind up with an irregular heartbeat, which essentially puts an end to the scheme. Yet oddly diverting blabber about caffeine addiction and the like fills most of the next hour, and it's followed by chat about microwaveable plates, hating tomatoes and other ephemera that's spontaneously knitted together in a Seinfeld-ian demonstration of how to create a show out of nothing.

The arrival of comic Richard Jeni imposes some structure. A veteran of movies such as The Mask and the ultra-flop TV series "Platypus Man," Jeni is present to plug a local appearance, and he does so by rolling out twenty minutes of carefully memorized material. Hastings joins in by suggesting himself as the lead in a sitcom about (that theme again) a gay NBA player. Potential titles: "Posting Up Richard," "What a Swish," "Two Guys, a Ball and Some Dribbling" and, inevitably, "Rim Job."

After giving Hastings the name of a strip joint in Tampa Bay, where the Broncos are playing that weekend, Jeni does a bit about using Dick Clark's urine as a health drink and then departs, leaving Hastings with a difficult transition. "This is the hardest thing in this show," he notes off-mike during a news update. "Everybody out there's either laughing really hard or they're pissed off because he said 'urine.' And we need to get all of them back." Then, and only then, does he focus on the Broncos -- and he is rewarded when several callers respond with vigorous arguments for or against replacing Brian Griese with Chris Miller, a onetime Pro Bowl QB attempting a comeback with the Broncos after a series of concussions prompted his temporary retirement from the NFL. (Miller led the team to its win in San Diego.)

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