Parents Beware

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."