By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Things have been awfully muddy the past week or two over at KBPI -- but when haven't they been?
Ever since the FM rocker became part of the Jacor kingdom (which transitioned seamlessly into the corporate coffers of Texas-based Clear Channel), the station has courted an outrageous image with the endless lust of a virginal lotto winner in a stadium full of two-dollar whores. Yet after morning-show DJs Willie B. (aka Stephen Meade) and D-Mak (Darren McKee) led a parade of four-wheeling galoots (some of them on-duty National Guardsmen) onto private property near Nederland, thereby transforming a sizable tract into something that looked worse than Grandma's goulash, Clear Channel-Denver exec Don Howe immediately went into his time-honored spinmeister routine. Following the September 23 incident, he put on his sincere face for the local TV cameras, insisting that the so-called mudfest wasn't a KBPI-sponsored event; rather, Willie and D-Mak had merely been casually discussing their weekend plans in front of an open microphone the previous Friday, not realizing that a bunch of mouth-breathers with big-ass SUVs might want to join them. Predictably, he avoided noting that these supposedly offhand remarks featured information about the rendezvous location.
Numerous parties disputed Howe's contentions, including landowner Tom Hendricks, who charged that excursion info had been on the KBPI Web site (Howe said the offending data had nothing to do with KBPI, but was found through a search engine on KBPI's home page), and a caller to Peter Boyles's KHOW talk show who insisted that Willie had publicly pumped the bash over the course of several days. KBPI could have proven these last claims wrong by disseminating tapes of the broadcasts, but conveniently, station spokesmen reported that there weren't any. Denver's Video Monitoring Service, a business that records television and radio broadcasts for resale, didn't have the evidence in question, either; a VMS rep reveals that the company had only started recording the KBPI morning show on September 27, four days after the mud had flown. Interesting timing, hmmm?
Sources inside KBPI (the kind that request anonymity) maintain that the disfigured acreage wasn't the pristine wetland that's been portrayed in the press, but rather a well-known mudding spot; further, they hint that Hendricks is taking advantage of the situation to get the station to pay for the cleanup of destruction that's been years in the making -- assertions Hendricks has vigorously denied. But no matter whose story is accurate, KBPI looks as if it'll dodge any significant legal repercussions. The U.S. Forest Service absolved the outlet of direct responsibility for the damages and fined Willie and D-Mak only $50 apiece -- a punishment that's hardly guaranteed to make them act like good lads from now on. As for Howe, he told Boyles (whose radio home is also owned by Clear Channel) that KBPI would help pay to repair Hendricks's property, then touted environmentally sensitive fundraising in which his firm had previously engaged, and otherwise shed enough tears to satisfy a bayou's worth of crocodiles, not to mention the entire public-relations department. However, the real indication of how seriously Howe takes this matter can be seen in the way he's dealt with personnel under his command. Neither Willie nor D-Mak were disciplined in any substantial way for their actions, and KBPI program director Bob Richards, who's supposedly accountable for what went down, has just been promoted: He's now in charge of both KBPI and the new KISS signal, at 95.7 FM. That'll really teach him a lesson.
Then again, hypocrisy of this sort is par for the course at KBPI. Willie B. has made headlines before, largely as a result of a Freudian jones for shenanigans utilizing creatures a step or two down the evolutionary ladder from him -- technically speaking, anyhow. He's currently awaiting trial on an animal-cruelty beef relating to a February stunt in which he directed an intern to heave a chicken out a three-story window. (The caper evolved from his proposed alteration to Groundhog Day; he wanted to send one of the furry mammals across a busy roadway, with its survival or death determining if there would be six more weeks of winter.) The episode marked Willie's second investigation by animal control officers: In 1997 he aired a tape of what he claimed was a cat in a dishwasher (it was later judged a phony). Nevertheless, Willie has never received substantial chastisement for either of these stunts, nor was he called on the carpet three years ago after telling listeners that he'd give free Marilyn Manson tickets to anyone who brought a golf cart to KBPI's studio, an offer that goaded three impressionable stupes into trying to steal one. Indeed, Willie is so beloved by management that they've got him appearing on both the morning and evening shifts, giving him more airtime than virtually any other jock in the city. Maybe if he shoots a dog, they'll put him on 24 hours a day.
Another example of KBPI's style? In 1996, morning personalities Dean Myers, Rog Beaty and Joey Teehan stirred indignation after Teehan and a listener burst into an Arapahoe County mosque and blared the national anthem -- a jab at ex-Denver Nugget Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a Muslim who preferred not to stand while the anthem was playing. The three were briefly suspended, then sent packing to Phoenix, where the figurative heat (although not the literal kind) was lower. But in 1999, Teehan, whose behavior KBPI management had pretended to deplore, was brought back to the station as part of a new a.m. team -- and he'd no doubt still be in this prominent time period if his ratings hadn't reeked.