Editor's note: Peter Boyles didn't make his debut on 710 KNUS July 1. For more details, read, "Peter Boyles Not on the Air at KNUS, Offers No Comment About Why." Continue for our previous coverage.
Earlier this month, KHOW talk-show host Peter Boyles was fired after an incident involving his longtime producer. Since then, Boyles has remained uncharacteristically silent about exactly what happened. But he's talking now, and in detail, about his ouster, as well as his return to the Denver airwaves.
Beginning at 6 a.m. on Monday, July 1, he'll be back behind the microphone, this time at 710 KNUS.
"The day I was let go, I was contacted by Salem," says Boyles in reference to Salem Media of Colorado, KNUS' owner. "That was my first meeting, and it was a question of making a change in their lineup and what I could do."
At the time Boyles was let go, veteran host Steve Kelley manned the early shift at KNUS with his Kelley and Company program. But rather than giving Kelley the heave-ho, KNUS management subsequently decided to move Kelley and Company to afternoons in order to make room for Boyles.
"We've been talking, in some cases daily, for about ten working days -- two weeks," Boyles continues. "We came to an agreement on Monday and have spent this week ironing out the details. And I feel great about it. I'm just pumped up -- really excited."
Part of his enthusiasm has to do with the opportunity to go up against his old employer, Clear Channel Denver, which owns KHOW.
"There's a line I use -- 'the fish that swallowed the whale,'" Boyles notes. "It comes from Zen Buddhism. And we have the opportunity to be the fish."
In broadcasting, it's exceedingly rare for anyone to speak ill publicly about one's former company. But Boyles gleefully breaks that maxim.
"Just listening to KHOW and Clear Channel in general, they seem to be in total disarray," he allows. "I don't know if you're listening to the people who've been filling in during the mornings at KHOW, but they're pretty rough.
"It was hard going in there," he says about his last months at Clear Channel. "I describe it as like going to the Kremlin. You never knew if you were going to be purged. That's how Clear Channel works. It's pretty brutal."
The same term could be applied to his version of the events that led to his departure from KHOW, which he recently shared in a self-written column for the Glendale/Cherry Creek Chronicle. In conversation, he confirms the broad outlines of the account we reported earlier this month.
At around 8 a.m. on May 23, when a 9News crew was in the studio to witness Tom Tancredo declaring his candidacy for governor in 2014, Boyles says he and producer Greg Hollenback, nicknamed the Sheik of Cherry Creek, got into an argument that led to Boyles yanking him by a lanyard around his neck. Hollenback wound up with red marks on his neck. Afterward, the dust-up was reported to KHOW supervisors, who suspended Boyles that day before firing him just over a week later.
The timing of his axing doesn't strike Boyles as coincidental.
Continue for more of our interview with Peter Boyles about his departure from KHOW and his upcoming debut on KNUS. At the time of the confrontation with Hollenback, Boyles and Clear Channel had been involved in protracted contract negotiations that had stalled -- and he was kicked to the curb immediately after the pact expired. In his view, the suspension over the lanyard-grabbing was seized upon as an opportunity by the corporation. "If they were going to fire me because of what happened with Sheik, they would have done it that day," he maintains. "When they heard about it, some guys in Texas or New York or wherever the hell just thought, 'We'll fire his ass after his contract's up and we won't have to pay him any money.'
"No one talked to me for something like ten days," he goes on. "I would have expected them to at least call me at home and see how I was, but they never did. And then, on the day the contract ran out, a good friend from the building called and said, 'One of the big bosses told an advertiser, 'Good news. We're going to bring Peter in, sign papers and bring him back on Monday.' And I got really excited. But then I waited and waited and waited, and no one called. So I called the boss on his cell phone and he wouldn't take my call, so I left a message. And he texted me back and said, 'Nothing will be settled today.'
"Then, on Monday, I got a call to come in and wait in the lobby -- and that's when I knew it was over. They took me down into the basement and told me I was being fired without severance, and if I filed for unemployment, they would fight it, because they claimed workplace violence."
No question Boyles took the sacking hard. A day or so later, he was talking about the circumstances of his dismissal in the parking lot of a restaurant when he vomited from the emotion.
Continue for more of our interview with Peter Boyles about his departure from KHOW and his upcoming debut on KNUS. Now, however, Boyles says, "I'm not angry. I mean, this is how companies like Bane Capital exist: 'We've got to take care of Mrs. Romney's horses for another six months.' And I know this wasn't done by anybody in Denver. These guys here are so afraid for their jobs; there's a culture of fear in that building. So even though the local guys fired me, they didn't make the decision. The guys at headquarters did -- and they don't know this business. All they know is shrinking profits and getting rid of people."
In contrast, he's found Salem executives to be "really human. They way they dealt with Steve Kelley really told me something. He didn't read about it in Westword like he would've done if it had been Clear Channel. They worked something out and I think it's going to be great for everybody.
"Radio hosts are like head coaches. They hire you because some day they're going to fire you." He laughs before adding, "George Karl getting fired by the Nuggets knocked me off the front page of the Denver Post. George Karl getting fired was bigger than me getting fired."
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Keeping mum until the new deal with Salem was ready to be unveiled hasn't been easy for someone as loquacious as Boyles. "I've been getting all kinds of really good social-media support, but I didn't want to spend that capital and get people's hopes up -- I didn't want to say, 'Something good's going to happen,' because I wasn't sure. But now it's come true. I hope it will give people a place to be with the radio show again. And in some ways, I'm glad about what happened at KHOW. It's really renewed my energy for the business."
According to Boyles, he hasn't been given a do-and-don't list by his new supervisors, meaning he has the freedom to discuss anything and everything that strikes his fancy -- and he can't wait for Monday. "It's like that novel The Last Hurrah. And I didn't know if I was going to get it. I didn't get a last moment at KHOW -- but now, I'm going to get a first moment."