By Joel Warner
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Most award-winning radio programs have something in common: respectability. So imagine the surprise of local media pros when the Best Evening Show prize doled out at the 1999 A.I.R. (Achievements In Radio) Awards ceremony held November 16 at the Gothic Theatre went to RoverRadio, arguably one of the least respectable shows heard in our fair city. Yet on a deeper level, the honor makes at least a modicum of sense -- because in a radio environment where creativity is about as rare as raw meat, RoverRadio, which airs Monday through Friday from 7 p.m. to midnight on the Peak, has imagination to spare. And what nasty imagination it is.
Consider the following story.
When teen sensation Britney Spears was on stage at Denver's Paramount Theatre in early August, Rover MacDaniels, RoverRadio's 24-year-old host, claimed he gave $400 to intrepid producer Erik O'Connor (nicknamed Squat, because he doesn't like to urinate standing up) along with instructions to bribe his way into Spears's hotel room and steal a pair of her panties. After doling out just $70 of that total to a corruptible hotel employee, O'Connor was subsequently admitted to the space and came away with a green thong. Days later, Rover cut these dainties into pieces, tossing some of the scraps off the roof of the Tabor Center (the Peak's broadcast home) to a crowd waiting below and allowing willing listeners to eat the rest.
Of course, no bribery or panty-theft ever actually occurred, and many of the other details from this tale are fantasies, too -- but you'll never get either MacDaniels or O'Connor to admit it. So dedicated are they to maintaining this illusion that they produced a faux audio report, credited to the TV show Extra, about the entire incident. The item, which can be downloaded at www.roverradio.com, is an artful bit of mockumentary complete with so many canny touches (for instance, Erik O'Connor is misidentified as "Ed O'Connor," an error the two perpetrators presumably would never have made) that it almost doesn't matter that it's entirely bogus.
MacDaniels has staged plenty of routines like this one since arriving at the Peak this past spring, but his current stunt is arguably his most elaborate. In early November, e-cams were set up in his apartment and in the Peak studio, thereby affording computer users visiting the Peak's Web site (www.thepeak.com) and his own cyber-address the opportunity to watch live-streaming video of what he describes as "99 percent of my life." (His bathroom is off-limits, but that's about it.) He concedes that there have been plenty of moments when the action has lagged -- "I never thought I was that boring, but when you think of people watching you every minute, I guess a lot of the time, I am." However, he's made regular efforts to liven things up. During the experiment, which is scheduled to end December 5 but may be extended by several days to compensate for intermittent server problems, he's enjoyed a couple of visits from a Los Angeles porn starlet who calls herself Raylene and mamboed horizontally with her in view of at least one lens. "We didn't make a big deal of it," he says. "She has sex in front of cameras enough, so it was kind of a normal thing. But she's a little more open about walking around naked than I am. One time I was sitting around in my boxers and noticed my balls were hanging out. That was kind of embarrassing."
Such shtick isn't universally beloved: For every listener who sees Rover (real first name: Shane) as a budding radio wonder, another is certain he's nothing more than a younger version of veteran shock jock Howard Stern, whose nationally syndicated program also airs on the Peak. Those who hold the latter opinion can cite oodles of evidence. In August, MacDaniels hosted "World Pudding Wrestling," in which females apparently untroubled by questions of self-respect (including several bisexual women eager to smooch for the enjoyment of horny dudes) grappled in a jumbo tub of gooey chocolate dessert. And on November 29, he's set to accompany a contest winner and three buddies on the "Ultimate Guys Night Out," consisting of a ride in a limo laden with beer and exotic dancers, a steak dinner, box seats for the taping of W.C.W. Monday Nitro at the Pepsi Center and a visit to a strip joint.
Yet just when it seems plain that MacDaniels is another severe case of arrested development, he comes up with a gag that rises well above crotch level. On October 5, for example, shortly after the announcement that AMFM, the Texas conglomerate that owns the Peak and five other Denver radio stations, had been swallowed up by Clear Channel, another corporate behemoth, MacDaniels declared on the air that the Peak was conducting marketing tests for new sounds. Moments later he introduced "El Peako," a parody of a Spanish-language format complete with Ricky Martin songs and Spanish exchanges between "Roverio" and O'Connor, newly christened "Rechoncho." On successive nights, he shifted to "Peak-ing Duck," a Chinese station, and a rap approach dubbed "96.5 Da Peak." The bit hit close to home, but Peak program director Mike Stern (no relation to Howard) didn't mind. According to him, "That was the tension-breaker in the building -- the first time since the sale that the staff was able to laugh out loud and say, 'It's getting a little weird around here, but we'll ride it out and see what happens.' There was no backlash at all -- just people calling up their friends and going, 'Turn on the radio. You've got to hear this.'"