Parents Beware

Fred Harper

An unsigned news short in the May 9 Rocky Mountain News reported that Jamie White and Danny Bonaduce, co-stars of the aptly named morning-radio program The Jamie & Danny Show, were slated to debut July 9 on KISS-FM, 95.7 on your dial, "after months of speculation that they'd end up on KTCL." But the expectation that they were KTCL-bound was based on far more than sheer guesswork.

White and Bonaduce were staples on Alice (KALC-FM/105.9) until last fall, when the station silenced their double, triple and quadruple entendres in a strategic effort to undermine Clear Channel, which wound up with ownership of the broadcast through a corporate takeover. Last October 26, KTCL -- a Clear Channel property, as is KISS -- began airing prerecorded inserts touting the impending arrival of Jamie and Danny, and a couple of months later, the station went even further, declaring that White and Bonaduce would start dishing the dirt beginning January 2.

The reason they didn't probably made some lawyers awfully happy. Emmis Communications, Alice's owner, filed suit against Clear Channel to block the broadcast, claiming that a six-month no-compete clause in the contracts of White and Bonaduce prevented them from appearing on another station until July. At first, Clear Channel seemed eager for a fight; in this space on December 21, director of FM programming Mike O'Connor said a court battle would be "a best-case scenario for us, because that would generate the kind of publicity that money couldn't buy." But on December 28, just before a scheduled hearing on the matter, Clear Channel backed down and agreed not to challenge the clause, which, after all, is nearly indistinguishable from those that Clear Channel uses on a regular basis.

Early this year, KTCL retaliated by running promos portraying the folks at Alice as crybabies -- a salvo every bit as mature as subsequent KTCL commercials referring to once-svelte ex-MTV jock Nina Blackwood, the featured personality on the Peak, Alice's sister station, as "Nina Fatwood." (Yeah, I remember junior high, too.) KISS played the same kinds of games during its introductory promotions, which were dominated by attacks on (irony alert) White and Bonaduce. The former was needled by an impressionist whose grating laugh turned into a donkey's brays, while the latter was told, "Sorry, Danny, this isn't a Partridge Family reunion."

Maybe not, but it's pretty damn close.

A more immediate concern, though, involves the compatibility of The Jamie & Danny Show with KISS's musical mix. The program and KTCL, which specializes in modern rock, were hardly an ideal match, yet because the station had shifted away from the hard-alternative style after the like-sounding Peak embraced an "'80s and Beyond" format, thereby attracting somewhat older listeners, it might have worked. And KISS? When it replaced smooth-jazz K-High at the 95.7 frequency last September, Don Howe, Clear Channel-Denver's vice president and general manager, described it as a CHR, or contemporary hit radio, that would focus on Total Request Live faves such as Britney Spears and 'N Sync. These artists appeal to young, often pre-teen, listeners whose moms and dads would probably disapprove of the material in which White trucks; she uses the word "penis" as frequently as most of us say "the" or "and." Unleashing her on such an audience would be like inviting porn hedgehog Ron Jeremy to speak at an elementary school on career day.

O'Connor doesn't entirely disagree with this supposition, but he also believes it's a little out of date. According to him, KISS is moving away from pure CHR and toward an approach more in line with the modern adult-contemporary format White and Bonaduce were accustomed to at Alice. "KISS was originally designed to be very young, but we're adjusting," he says. "Now we're trying to be the soccer-mom station."

The architect of these changes is new KISS program director Jim Lawson, who worked with White and Bonaduce while serving the same function at Alice -- suddenly his primary competitor. "My initial conversations with Jamie and Danny brought a great comfort level on their part," says Lawson, whose friendly, low-key manner has not yet revved up to typical Clear Channel intensity. "They seemed glad to know I'd be involved in putting the show on in Denver, since I knew how it operated, and they were comfortable it would be executed correctly."

When Lawson was brought aboard in mid-March, KISS was where it is now -- in the doldrums. He feels that the outlet's mediocre ratings, which remain significantly lower than those garnered by K-High, are easy to explain. "It's a brand-new station, and it wasn't really marketed; they didn't have the money to market it. That's why people really don't know what it is." Moreover, the relative handful of folks tuning into KISS were too young to attract advertisers, who most prize those between 18 and 34 -- an age range that largely mirrors the audience of The Jamie & Danny Show. And KISS's power rating is much more impressive than what KTCL has to offer. "KTCL's signal is hampered because it's coming from Fort Collins," Lawson says, "whereas KISS-FM is 100,000 watts off Lookout Mountain. That gives KISS a substantially better chance for success, and with the kind of money that Jamie and Danny make, that's important."  

A lesser consideration was the response of longtime KTCL fans, who reacted to the prospect of a White and Bonaduce invasion with considerable dismay. "A number of old-line music fans who didn't want to hear a talk show in the morning really beat me up," O'Connor says. "I got hammered." Hence, the KTCL morning show will continue to be helmed by Sabrina Saunders, and the station as a whole is expected to remain much the same, as well. The only new feature on the agenda is Rewind Lunch, a one-hour feature slated to run at noon, Monday through Friday; it launched on May 21. The star of the program, which originates in Los Angeles but will have a small amount of material tailored specifically for Denver (it's called a "similar-cast"), is Martha Quinn, another ex-MTV VJ, who's described in a hilariously overwritten Clear Channel press release as "one of the most knowledgeable musicologists in the country." (Move over, Alan Lomax.) Quinn is also a lot closer to her '80s size than is Blackwood, but O'Connor insists that she won't be advertised as "the slimmer alternative to Nina Blackwood. We're out of the Nina-is-fat business."

In the meantime, get ready for a flood of White hype. Clear Channel's passing out plenty of CDs teasing her return with the line, "The bitch is back," and Lawson says a major campaign will be rolled out next month. Until then, he's doing his best to keep KISS's young fans without panicking their guardians. "We don't want to drive away teen audiences during the day and at night -- and if 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys have huge records, we'll still play them," he notes. "We just won't be targeting them anymore."

If that's true, someone should tell the people at Clear Channel talker KHOW. The station is currently featuring cross-promotional spots urging grownups to click on KISS to find out "what your kids are listening to."

Like White describing the male anatomy, perhaps?

Moore for the money: For as long as most of us can remember, the popular-music coverage in the Denver Post has been woefully lame -- staid, out of touch and virtually oblivious to the work of all but the most successful local performers. But of late, the paper's reporting has improved dramatically, and John Moore is the reason.

Moore isn't new to the Post. After attending school at Regis University and the University of Colorado, he got a job there as a sports department agate clerk in 1986 and was soon writing the occasional story in addition to his other tasks. He stayed for two years, after which he skipped around to jobs in New York City, Dallas and Raleigh, North Carolina. But he returned to the Post in 1993, when the paper was gearing up to cover the Colorado Rockies. Moore was eventually promoted to deputy sports editor in charge of the night operation, an exciting position, albeit one with lousy hours. Then, last summer, he received a call from the Washington Post, which was looking for a nighttime sports editor and was willing to pay handsomely for one. As Moore tells it, he didn't want to leave Denver, but he also needed a change. Fortunately, the Post's editor, Glenn Guzzo, had a suggestion. "He told me, 'We're looking to beef up our entertainment section. Would you be interested?'" Moore says. "And I jumped at it."

Although Moore insists that he has "no credentials" as far as entertainment writing goes, he does have enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, and these attributes continue to inform his contributions to the Post. He's penned noteworthy pieces about CU-Boulder radio station KVCU, aka Radio 1190, not to mention a compendium of the best area groups, which provided much overdue mainstream exposure for combos such as Dressy Bessy, DeVotchKa and Acrobat Down. He's also spilled ink on behalf of underground touring bands such as Of Montreal, measurably upping the Post's coolness quotient as a result.

Rather than taking the credit for these accomplishments, Moore deflects it to his editors. "I've never seen a bias against doing stuff younger readers might be interested in," he says. "It's just that there was a void that everyone here was very open in letting me address. To me, I'm just doing what newspapers are best at doing, which is telling people what's going on where they live." Laughing, Moore adds, "If somehow or another we get accused of being a hip newspaper, that wouldn't be the worst thing that ever happened."  


Cease-fire: As noted here last week, the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post are offering advertisers deals again -- and nothing illustrates this practice more than the full-page ad in the May 20 Post-News classified section pimping Jerry Roth Chevrolet, the most prominent business besides Jake Jabs's American Furniture Warehouse to attack the papers for raising rates. The spread, Roth's first since the rate hike, features two wine glasses clinking together under the banner declaration, "The Newspaper War Is Over!"

Thank goodness a just and lasting peace has finally been achieved. But not everyone at the Denver dailies is spreading a message of love...

Temple of doom: Much to my chagrin, John Temple, editor of the Rocky Mountain News, doesn't seem to like me. I've tried to change his mind; God knows I have. I've phoned. I've e-mailed. I've called him on Peter Boyles's radio show, and afterward clutched each nasty thing he said about me to my heart like a treasured keepsake. In short, I've done everything except send a singing telegram, but Temple still won't respond to legitimate journalistic questions or otherwise acknowledge my existence. At least not in the usual way.

A few weeks back, I received an e-mail from Aaron Harber, host of the Channel 12 talk show Spontaneous Combustion, inviting me to participate in a show devoted to discussing the state of Denver's dailies in the wake of the joint operating agreement. I agreed, and shortly thereafter he informed me that Temple had confirmed as well. I was thrilled, thinking that Big John had finally realized I wasn't the Antichrist. But Harber soon disabused me of this notion: Temple, he said, didn't know that I'd be there.

In most cases, this wouldn't have mattered, but since a couple of Rocky wits had already given me the nickname "Stalker" for phoning their boss during the Boyles broadcast, I didn't want Temple to think I was sandbagging him again. So I asked Harber to run my name past the Exalted One, hoping against hope that this brawling, gutsy, take-no-prisoners newsman would at last allow me into his virtuous presence. But (sob!) it wasn't meant to be. A couple of days later, Harber informed me that Temple said if I was on the program, he wouldn't be.

What have I done to offend you, John? And what can I do to make you feel better? Can't we all just get along?

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