By Michael Roberts
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Torres says oversights like this help explain why he turns to local Hispanic publications such as El Semanario and La Voz for community news and often skips the mainstream dailies. While the forum at the Rocky gave him reason to believe this won't always be the case, he's not ready to declare the policy dead quite yet.
"I think the meeting was very beneficial, and I'm glad the NAHJ decided to do it here," Torres says. "If the people at the Rocky are serious, I think they'll find that our community is fascinating -- but they've got to make the commitment. We've asked them and cajoled them to cover us, but we're not going to beg. I'm the one who gets to decide if I'm going to put my fifty cents in the newspaper box, and if I don't want to, I won't."
Up in the airwaves: Because Monday, May 5, was the day before Denver's mayoral election, most of those who tuned into Channel 9's late newscast probably expected that a report about the candidates' final campaign pushes would be first on deck. Instead, viewers were updated about John Hickenlooper and company only after hearing the tale of a fictional kitten named Richard whose imaginary flight over greater Lakewood sent Alice radio listeners into a panic. The next morning, the Rocky Mountain News gave prominent play to the same incident, pairing it with an article focusing upon classic-rocker Ted Nugent, who used racial slurs on the Fox A.M. program overseen by Rick Lewis and Michael Floorwax.
Who says radio is a dying medium?
Lewis suggests that the Rocky's Nuge piece, penned by Mark Brown, may have been "a bit sensationalized," but the version of events he and Floorwax provide is awfully close to Brown's. After tossing out the words "Japs" and "gooks" in reference to guitars manufactured in Japan, Nugent "told us a story where he used the N-word probably three or four times," Lewis says. "He was trying to prove a point."
"About semantics, apparently," Floorwax interjects. "I don't know where he was going with it."
"The story he told was about someone telling him he played guitar like a black guy -- except he used the N-word," Lewis goes on. "It was uncomfortable, and we had to cut him off." Indeed, the duo tried on a couple of occasions to steer Nugent into safer waters, and when he stubbornly plunged into even choppier seas, they brought the conversation to a quick conclusion.
An ardent hunter who eats what he kills (and he kills plenty), Nugent has had political correctness in his sites for ages. In "Ted's World," a July 27, 1994, interview with Westword, he referred to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton as a "toxic cunt," adding, "The bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro." Later, in discussing his views about drug laws, he said, "Should a kid going to a Grateful Dead concert who's caught with sugar-cube-encrusted LSD go to prison for life with no parole? Of course not. But should that guy get caned? Yeah. And should he go to prison in an overcrowded cell where a huge, unclean black man will fuck him in the ass every night? Yeah."
Nonetheless, Lewis and Floorwax say Nugent has never unleashed such extreme opinions when guesting on their show, as he's done several times annually for the past ten years or so. "We usually just talk about rock and roll," Floorwax maintains.
They'll have more to discuss on July 27, when the DJs' band, the Groove Hawgs, is set to share the bill with Nugent on the second day of Hawgfest, a concert in Winter Park. Since a photo of the guitarist remains on a portion of the Fox's Web site promoting the gig, the lineup appears solid for now. Even so, Floorwax isn't relishing his next conversation with the Motor City Madman: "I'm not too interested in talking to him right now. I'm still taken aback by what happened. I feel emotional about it."
Given that Lewis and Floorwax were once widely considered to be shock jocks, such sensitivity may seem surprising -- although Floorwax doesn't think it should be. "We're not interested in shocking anybody. There's enough shock in the world already. We're just trying to make people laugh, so it's too bad that we get lumped in with this other stuff -- with people who don't have earned opinions and who don't think."
Which brings us back to Alice, whose interim program director, Mark Edwards, swears that no one involved in the station's kitten hoax anticipated the reaction they received. "We didn't have a clue that the volume of calls and the outpouring from people would be the way it was," he says.
At least Edwards, whose main gig is as program director for Alice's sister station, KOSI, has an excuse for this unrealistic expectation; he's only been on the job since this past November. For those with more experience in the market, like Greg Thunder and Bo Reynolds, whose morning show played host to the stunt, the experiences of KBPI personality Willie B. (real name: Stephen Meade) should have served as a warning. He was brought up on animal-cruelty charges in 2000 for instructing a station intern to drop a live chicken out of a three-story window -- a gag that upset many listeners, including some who might have casually eaten such a bird under other circumstances. This marked the second time Willie had come to the attention of animal-control officers: Three years before, he was investigated after purportedly broadcasting the sounds made by a cat in a dishwasher.