By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Last September 15, listeners to the Alice morning team of Jamie White, Frosty Stillwell and Frank Kramer discovered, to their great displeasure, that the squad had been reduced by two-thirds: Stillwell and Kramer were absent and unaccounted for, and White was in the company of Danny Bonaduce, of Partridge Family fame -- and she didn't seem particularly happy about it. (Would you be?) She referred to the exchange over the airwaves as "a forced decision" that tore her away from partners she loved, called corporate radio "a whore job," and generally treated Bonaduce like something she'd scraped off her shoe ("Station to Station," September 23, 1999). "I don't even really know him," she said. "Maybe someday we'll be funny."
Apparently, addicts of Alice (aka KALC-FM/105.9) believe that day has come. The program, which moved to Los Angeles in early 1998 and is now satellited into Denver, was number one in the local 18- to 34-year-old demographic before the change, and while the latest Arbitrons won't be out for a while yet, ratings trends suggest that its successor, The Jamie and Danny Show, is likely to land in the same slot even though 70 percent of the innumerable calls and e-mails received by Alice program director Jim Lawson during the transition period were negative. But the machinations that led to the switch -- the subject of frenzied gossip among radio insiders and just plain folks for months now -- have remained a fairly well-kept secret.
Stillwell and Kramer, who are still under contract to radio conglomerate AMFM but aren't on the air here or anywhere else, haven't done much to alter this situation: Neither responded to Westword's requests to address the topic, meaning that their only public comments thus far are notes they posted on a Web site (www.jamiefrostyfrank.cjb.net/index.html) largely dedicated to protesting their firing. (On September 30, Kramer wrote, "I could be better, but that's a long story, and if I told you, I wouldn't get paid"; On October 2, Stillwell typed, "Yes, there is a lot to the story, but we can't say much.")
White, who's not exactly known as the quiet, demure type, isn't nearly so shy. She eagerly spills detail after detail about the September sackings, portraying herself as a pawn in a power play whose size is a good indication that she's playing in the big leagues now.
According to White, her first inkling that Bonaduce was in her future came approximately a year before their pairing, when Stillwell saw a rumor about it on Denver Radio on the Net (www.denverradio.net), broadcast chronicler Rob Hatch's indispensible Web site, and asked her about it. White then went to Ken Christensen, vice president and general manager of KYSR/Star 98, the show's L.A. base of operations, to get the scoop. "He told me, 'There's nothing to it. Don't worry about it. It's something that Jimmy de Castro [vice chairman of the board and CEO of AMFM] has thrown around, but we're not going to change the show, because we like it -- and it's doing huge,'" she says.
He had a point: In less than a year, The Jamie, Frosty and Frank Show had established itself as the second-most-popular English-language radio show in the enormous SoCal market -- an impressive achievement given that Star 98's drive-time ratings had been doing the sewer backstroke prior to the trio's arrival. So White says she accepted Christensen's reassurances and put the entire matter out of her mind until June 1999, when de Castro flew to town to meet with her. Over drinks at the Four Seasons, he gave White what she calls "a huge pitch" to partner with Bonaduce, who had just moved back to L.A. from New York, where he'd been deejaying for an AMFM station dubbed Big 105.
White's response? "I said no, absolutely no. I'm not going to do that to the boys. And he said, 'Are you really great friends with those guys?' And I said, 'Well, no, I don't hang out with them every day. But I like them, I respect them, and I've been with them for six years, so it's not going to happen.' And Jimmy looked me in the eye and told me I was making the biggest mistake of my life. He said, 'It seems like you have some business savvy. Unfortunately, you don't have it today.'"
Why was it good business to break up a radio triumvirate ruling the roost in Denver and rising quickly in Los Angeles? AMFM's de Castro was unavailable for comment, but Christensen claims that "the ratings in L.A. had made progress, but they were flattening out. So we started wondering if there was anybody we could pair Jamie with that could push the ratings even higher. And since Danny was under contract, his name came up -- and everyone thought it was a great idea."
After that, the word on the grapevine was that Stillwell, Kramer and White would be guillotined in order to make room for Bonaduce, who by that time had even appeared as a guest on the show. Instead, White, who says she kept Kramer informed of developments every step of the way, returned from her summer vacation to discover that Christensen wanted her and Bonaduce to join him for dinner to talk things over. By all accounts, the encounter didn't go well: As White tells it, "I was a bitch, and Danny was a jerk. We hated each other. After it was over, I called Ken's voice mail and told him, 'You can take Danny Bonaduce and shove him up your ass. I quit.'"