The Mouths That Roar
On Tuesday, April 2, KBPI disc jockeys Dean Myers and Roger Beaty--better known as Dean and Rog--demonstrated how well they'd learned their lesson.
As every local able to turn on a radio knows, Myers and Beaty, who can be found weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. at 106.7 FM, were suspended following a prank staged March 19. The stunt, in which KBPI's Joey Teehan and two others barged into the Colorado Islamic Center and blared the national anthem in a jaw-droppingly asinine sendup of Denver Nugget Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, drew blistering criticism from the media, the Colorado Council of Churches and nearly everyone else with an IQ over forty. But rather than fire those parties directly involved, KBPI management--no doubt gleeful over the publicity bonanza--negotiated a settlement with representatives of the Colorado Muslim Society that reportedly involved the station's promise not to lampoon religion, race or gender in a patently objectionable manner.
Dean and Rog pretty much stuck to this pledge on April 1, their first day back in the saddle. Their apologies were straightforward, by their standards. But by day two of their comeback, it became abundantly clear that their recent experiences hadn't made them much kinder or gentler. They had a big laugh over the on-field death of umpire John McSherry; after imitating Colorado Rockies broadcaster Wayne Hagin announcing McSherry's death a la a home-run call, Rog snickered, "Yeah, I'm really going to miss him." Later the duo used a visit by Wesley Willis, a chronic schizophrenic recently signed to a contract by American Records, as an excuse to launch into a torrent of insulting remarks about Willis's hygiene habits and mental stability.
Perhaps the boys considered these bits relatively subdued: After all, they didn't make fun of Mother Teresa for breaking her collarbone. But in the final analysis, nothing has really changed. The twosome remain Denver's most agonizing radio voices.
Unfortunately, other jocks are giving them a run for their money. There are plenty of estimable yakkers in these parts, including KTLK's Peter Boyles and KTCL's Brett Saunders. Even KBPI has a staffer deserving of praise: Rockfish, formerly with the now-defunct 92X. But these talents are often overshadowed by their noisier, more grating peers. The area's airwaves are brimming with the sound of radio pros whose lame shticks mirror the lack of creativity that's endemic throughout the market.
Below is our roster of the region's worst offenders--the ten DJs (or DJ teams) other than Dean and Rog who most regularly have us lunging for the "off" switch. Those ranked at the bottom of the list are periodically bothersome; the ones at the top seem almost preternaturally abrasive.
For anyone who enjoys torture, these are the folks who can provide it for you. But if you value your brain, you may want to steer clear of the following:
10. Steve Kelley
KOA's morning-drive show is filled with practical information: news, weather and traffic updates. But impresario Kelley often makes gathering these factoids a genuine chore. Sometimes he's bland enough to ignore, but on other occasions, he crosses the line by mocking minorities and gays and by blathering in a numbingly predictable way about pet topics such as Christianity and abortion. If he says something rude, he usually apologizes for it immediately afterward, but the damage is done. He's a male Kathie Lee Gifford. What an achievement.
9. Dave Granger
Granger has one funny routine: "Magic 8-Ball Weather," in which he delivers the weather forecast, then consults a Magic 8-Ball to determine its accuracy. However, he spends the rest of his time yammering like a pre-adolescent on glue about whatever pops into his head--which is seldom very interesting. Somehow, this hey-dude patter didn't seem as shrill when KTCL was programming tunes that more closely bordered modern rock's cutting edge; you could chalk up his anti-intellectualism to a misguided attempt to appear hip. But now that the outlet's playlist runs the gamut from Joan Osborne to Tori Amos, Granger is a man out of place. Where might he fit in better? We haven't a clue.
8. Sandy Travis, Chuck Leary and Amy Jo Alberts
The banter shoveled out by the Waking Crew is somewhat less cringe-worthy than that regurgitated by several others, but in most instances, it's still not funny. This brand of humor makes Hee-Haw seem avant-garde by comparison. (One recent morning, Alberts read a story about a male cannibal who consumed the flesh of his victim--but rather than condemning the killer, she complimented him for at least being able to cook.) Travis's response to the tepid skits is generally an emphysemic wheeze of a laugh that may have drivers checking their tires for a slow leak.
employees might appear on an index like this one. But with the station's current emphasis on so-called world-class rock, the powers that be have created a morning segment that replaces KBCO's trademark mellowness with fast talk, dopey gags and a certain sense of desperation. Ashton, trained as a stand-up comic, is a big part of the problem; many of his quips fly in the face of the signal's humanistic traditions. (Earlier this month, he joked about decking Muhammad Ali now that he's in such feeble health.) But Gray keeps up with him stroke for stroke. There's something to be said for their refusal to kowtow to cliched Boulderisms. But if this is the alternative, give us tie-dyed T-shirts and Earth shoes.
6. (tie) Mark Speers and Laurie Michaels
Larry Ulibarri, Eric Ferguson and Robbyn Hart
They sport slightly different styles, but the morning teams at Jammin' 92 and the Mix are equally tough to tolerate. Speers and Michaels, who once anchored the lineup at KS-104, try to create a party atmosphere each day around sunrise, but even early in their shift, the strain is apparent; Michaels laughs too hard at Speers's flaccid double entendres, most of which are seemingly cribbed from Three's Company. There's an element of this smarmy dumbness in the Mix's stew as well. Ulibarri and Ferguson play prototypical males (i.e., oversexed and obsessed with body parts), while Hart reacts with either amusement or disgust. A typical gambit involved Hart musing about strip clubs, which precipitated the organization of a field trip to the Diamond Cabaret with around fifty particularly bored and gullible listeners. The result set back the cause of equality between the sexes to the Ice Age.
4. Rick Lewis and Michael Floorwax
You've got to give Dean and Rog a modicum of credit. They've been around for many a year, but they haven't lost their teeth; they're as galling as ever. This is not the situation with Lewis and Floorwax. Once the standard by which every other radio putz was measured, they're in danger of becoming too safe for their own good. Why? It may have something to do with the Fox's classic-rock approach, which is getting more and more difficult to distinguish from the oldies and nostalgia formats spewed by competitors. But more likely the fault lies with Lewis and Floorwax themselves. Since they've barely changed their style in more than half a decade, they now seem about as outrageous as vanilla ice cream. They register so impressively here mainly because of pathetic, patience-testing interviews like a chat with Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders conducted a couple of weeks back. Sanders clearly felt that the DJs' paltry jests were as droll as a case of flesh-eating disease. You couldn't help but agree with him.
3. Willie B. Hung
Hung was among the first hard-rock jocks in Colorado to recognize that metal was on the way to the scrap heap, at least from a commercial standpoint; he was lobbying the fat cats at the late KAZY to replace songs by Winger with screeds from Rage Against the Machine long before it was popular to do so. But his musical acumen is offset by his irksome persona. Between cuts, he practically shouts hackneyed surfer lingo interspersed with paeans to partying, sexing and getting crazy that might embarrass Andrew "Dice" Clay. He may have a good ear, but he's got a bad, bad mouth.
2. George Weber
Even people who disagree with talk-show hosts such as KOA's Mike Rosen and KTLK's Boyles tend to respect them anyway, if only because they appear to possess consistent belief systems. Not so Weber, whose ideology switches back and forth like a tulip in a hurricane. He tends to take whichever side of an issue is apt to enrage the largest percentage of his audience. His positions seem less important to him than do the arguments that they provoke--spats he encourages with snide comments and the deft use of a switch on his control board that prevents callers from responding to him unless it strikes his fancy. People on opposing sides of the political spectrum have differing views about talk radio, but on Weber most concur: He's dreadful.
1. Frosty Stillwell, Frank Kramer and Jamie White
Tuning in to Frosty, Frank and Jamie is like being trapped at a gathering with the three most repellent people you've ever met. It's unfair to single out White for the majority of criticism, but it's tempting nonetheless. In a recent interview, she said that she was a little bit on the obnoxious side, but that's like arguing that Mussolini was politically somewhat to the right of center. She's stunningly aggravating--the perfect match for Frosty and Frank, who take the lowest-common-denominator relationship chatter also offered up by the Mix to hitherto-undreamt-of heights of stupidity. (An example: Last week, the triumvirate got a big chuckle from a bogus story about a woman whose three young children died horribly within moments of each other. Afterward, White claimed that she fears being stricken with lockjaw while performing oral sex--and then delivered the morning's news.) They may not quite measure up to the consistent awfulness of Dean and Rog, but they're getting closer every day. And if that doesn't frighten you, nothing will.
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