As editor Patricia Calhoun has reported, the search for new voices to announce stops on the Denver International Airport trains has turned into a highly unusual and kinda awkward contest in which travelers and other interested parties can vote for their favorites among five women and five men in local media. But last night, one prominent personality not on the finals list made himself heard loud and clear. During his regular afternoon-drive show on 104.3 The Fan, Darren "D-Mac" McKee, a recent Westword profile subject, went off on a hilarious rant about his exclusion and the continued participation of Fox31 anchor Jeremy Hubbard, whose voice, he believes, isn't nearly as memorable as his hair.
The conversation and the page for voting can be accessed below.
As we noted in our McKee Q&A, published last August, two of the things we love about this Denver sports-radio star is his passion ("His words seem to come with their own italics and exclamation points," we wrote) and his willingness to speak his mind when most other broadcasters would zip their lips. In our conversation, he roughed up a former program director and a general manager for radio giant Clear Channel who fired him twice — once at KBPI, where he mixed talk with rock, and later at My99.9 in Colorado Springs, during a period that he portrayed as a long and arduous journey through the media wilderness. In addition, he put longtime Denver talk-radio legend Mike Rosen on blast and shared the moment when Willie B, his onetime teammate at KBPI, was so pissed off that he hurled a pen at his head.
Yet it was still a surprise when McKee, speaking with co-host Alfred Williams, the subject of his own Westword interview, went off during a lengthy segment about "Train Call," which dates back to DIA's opening 23 years ago. In the beginning, Calhoun has noted, the audio was part of a public-art piece designed by Jim Green, and the original voices were Reynelda Muse, the first African-American TV news anchor in Denver, and twangy radio announcer Pete Smythe.
Following Muse's relocation to Indiana and Smythe's death, the pronouncements were re-recorded by 9News anchor Adele Arakawa and sports announcer Alan Roach. But after Arakawa retired from 9News last year and moved to Arizona, the folks at DIA figured it was the perfect opportunity to recruit fresh voice talent. Problem was, Roach, who was bounced from his regular gig at KOA radio in 2015 and ended his Mile High Stadium announcing gig for the Denver Broncos the following year in order to take the same gig with the Vikings in his home state of Minnesota, still lives in Colorado and made it clear that he wants to remain one of the DIA trains' voices.
For this reason, Roach must now win a vote of the people in order to keep a gig he already has — and he's got to do so by besting a murderer's row of prominent local broadcasters, including Altitude TV's Vic Lombardi, Denver7's Mike Nelson, 9News's Gary Shapiro and Hubbard.
During his jeremiad, McKee had nothing but praise for Roach's bottomless tones — though he added that just because someone is blessed with a great voice doesn't mean he or she has anything interesting to say about sports or politics. He also praised Nelson as an icon and predicted he'll win, even though he's personally backing Lombardi, who he believes is every bit as good on radio as he is on TV.
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And Hubbard? McKee said he's spoken with Fox31's main man on numerous occasions and finds him to be a very nice person. But when Hubbard talks, McKee thinks the average person won't have the slightest clue who he is — and while D-Mac concedes that his own voice isn't exactly conventional, he insists (accurately) that it's unmistakable. In his opinion, Hubbard's appeal is mostly about his good looks. When a bemused Williams asked if it was possible to be both handsome and have a great voice, McKee answered "No!" before giving Big Al props for his own combination of handsomeness and communication skills.
By the way, D-Mac is rooting for KOSI 101's Denise Plante in the race for the other train voice, but he's certain that 9News's Kathy Sabine will win; the other contestants are 9News's Kim Christiansen, CBS4's Kathy Walsh and Denver7's Anne Trujillo.
Still, if you really want McKee to blow a gasket, get your family and friends to vote for Hubbard — then sit back and wait to enjoy some radio magic.
Click to listen to D-Mac and Big Al talk about the DIA train voice contest; the conversation begins at the top of the hour. And here's a link to vote for your favorites — McKee excepted. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Sunday, February 25.