JOCKS OF ALL TIRADES
Disc jockeys Rick Lewis and Michael Floorwax have become radio stars in part because of their apparent willingness to say practically anything about practically anyone. But two Aurora women aren't laughing. They've sued the DJs and their home station, classic-rock outlet KRFX-FM/103.5 (aka the Fox), charging the pair with intentionally and recklessly inflicting emotional distress on them by, among other things, referring to them as "slaves" and "dogs."
Filed in February 1994, the suit is set to be adjudicated in Denver County Court beginning on August 1. Until that time, none of the parties involved are talking about the case. Lewis and Floorwax, currently among the most popular and highest-paid radio personalities in Denver, declare through their attorney that they did nothing wrong. But the pair had plenty to say in early 1993, when the incidents that led to the legal action allegedly took place, according to court documents filed on behalf of plaintiffs Cheryl Aich and Debbie Barlow.
The suit states that Barlow won a contest sponsored by the Fox and Denver's Professional Travel Corporation; the prize was an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Tucson, Arizona, where the Colorado Rockies were participating in their first spring training sessions. In addition to airplane tickets, hotel accommodations and the use of a rental car, Barlow and her companion (Aich) earned the right to attend a Rockies exhibition game, as well as unspecified functions in the company of Lewis and Floorwax, who were to broadcast live from Arizona during the trip.
Barlow and Aich met Lewis and Floorwax for the first time when they visited the Fox offices to pick up their prizes, and they claim that the performers were cordial to them. That changed, the complaint asserts, when the women arrived at Stapleton Airport to catch the flight bound for Tucson. Barlow and Aich say that Lewis and Floorwax were so rude to them, as well as to other members of their entourage, that they decided not to accompany the DJs to any of the scheduled functions and to otherwise avoid them as much as possible.
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According to the suit, however, the women's decision to keep their distance from the jocks didn't prevent them from becoming objects of ridicule. A friend and co-worker of one plaintiff claimed that Lewis and Floorwax, during a March 22, 1993, broadcast, referred to the "contest winners" as "the slaves" and "dogs" and suggested that the Fox should in the future require contest entrants to submit photographs before being considered for prizes. The suit contends that these and other derogatory remarks continued during the Lewis and Floorwax show (6 to 10 a.m. weekday mornings) for a full week, even after the station-sponsored group returned to Colorado. So many of the women's acquaintances allegedly heard this running gag that Barlow and Aich say they couldn't go anywhere without being reminded of it. Their suit asks for punitive damages, attorney fees and costs, and any other relief the court deems appropriate.
In their answer to the suit, Lewis, Floorwax and the Fox deny the two women's allegations. Attorney Sean Gallagher, representing the defendants, argues that no statements made by Lewis and Floorwax could reasonably be considered defamatory (Barlow and Aich do not accuse the DJs of defamation) and that "any statements made by the defendants of and concerning the plaintiffs were substantially true."
Plaintiffs Barlow and Aich decline to comment on the case, and their attorney, Sandra Shwayder-Sanchez, states only that "we feel that the proper forum for responding to Mr. Lewis and Mr. Floorwax is the courtroom." Beyond denying any wrongdoing, Gallagher, speaking for his clients, says that Lewis, Floorwax and Fox representatives do not wish to discuss the matter before the trial date, either.
While being interviewed by Westword in July 1993, however, Lewis and Floorwax addressed accusations by detractors who believe their broadcasting personas are repugnant and misogynistic.
"People either love us or hate us, and I'd rather it be that way," Lewis said. "If they're not divided like that, you're probably not doing anything that has any impact at all. Occasionally humor offends people, but our purpose is not to offend people. It's strictly entertainment. We never do anything that we think will be offensive to somebody, but we understand that when we're doing humor, there's going to be times when somebody's going to be offended."
About complaints that the duo has an anti-female bias, Lewis said, "Whenever you have two guys doing a show, you're going to have a male slant on topics, and there might be some women who feel that's offensive. But we try to keep this in mind. And we try to do stuff that women will appreciate as well." One of these so-called women's topics, Floorwax announced, was a feature he called "Vibro Thursday," while Lewis noted that they had hosted a program in which women revealed "what men are doing wrong during sex." They also admitted that there were times while on the air that they had gone too far, but their examples did not include mention of the programs from Tucson.
Of course, according to their answer to the complaint, everything they said about Barlow and Aich was true.
"The station believes that Lewis and Floorwax did nothing wrong and intends to vigorously defend them in this matter," says Gallagher. "We are looking forward to defending ourselves at the upcoming trial.
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