(ABOVE: Some fans of THE KRAMER AND TWITCH show made a CUSTOM CAR for us to be in Detroit's Woodward Dream Cruise with. THAT up there is the hood of our car, with a CUSTOM paint job of our faces and the station logo. I'd give ANYTHING to have that right now.)
READ THIS BEFORE YOU GO ANY FURTHER!
PLEASE READ THIS! Yes, today is my 30th year Anniversary of being in radio. What you're about to read is an HONEST account of what's happened over the course of 30 years. NOT ALL OF IT IS PRETTY. LOTS OF IT ain't PRETTY. PLEASE remember that people MATURE and GROW UP over the years as you read this. I am not shying away from ANYTHING in this, so you are getting an extremely candid view of my career-life over the past 3 decades. As you read it, don't Judge me based on what happened in the past!
ALSO - I reached out to just about every single person I've ever worked with and asked them to write something involving me with radio. Out of those bazzillion people, only two actually got back to me and wrote something. Two.
From an early age, I always knew I wanted to do something where I felt like a star. I remember once on the bus on the way home, the bus driver asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and my reply was, "I want to be in the movies." I was probably about 7, and I remember her reply back, which was, "Awww, you'll change your mind 500 times by the time you get out of School."
I grew up in Winterboro, AL - which if you can imagine, it's a suburb (kind of) of Talladega. Growing up, when we went to Talladega, that was like going in to the CITY, baby! So I'm the product of a VERY small town. And when the School (Winterboro High - GO BULLDGOGS!) would have career development seminars, you know when they ask Juniors and Seniors what they want to do, RADIO PERSONALITY or MOVIE STAR wasn't in the paper work. Get what I'm saying? I knew I wanted to do something to be the center of attention - honestly, that's what I wanted. I wanted to entertain people in SOME way, I just couldn't really formulate what it was that I wanted to do. We'd go to these things, and they would have stuff on there like carpenter, mechanic, electrician, etc. The coolest thing I saw on there was "hotel manager", but I thought "HOTELS? We have a few MOTELS but hmm, HOTELS?"
I was always drawn to music as well, and from an early early early age, I played the trumpet. I was damn good at it too. The band instructor would always give me the solos, and my God, the rush of standing up in front of people and letting go was intense to a little skinny brat in Winterboro. I would practice constantly, and I made all County 3 years and made All State my last year. (Yes there was ALL COUNTY AND ALL STATE in MUSIC!) Jacksonville State was the big College kind of near where I grew up and they were always known for their excellent music department. To march the Southerners was an honor. "MARCH" meaning be in the JSU College band."
(Far left, a young Keith Kramer, at a dance after a football game in Winterboro, AL - Circa 1986)
From Casey Bartholomew of Scott and Casey. Kramer and Scott worked together in Detroit.
I remember that we had kept in touch, after working together on WKRK, in Detroit. I was working in Charleston, SC and had just been hired to do the morning show, on KTRS, in St. Louis. The PD, Al Brady Law, asked me if I knew of anyone else who was looking. I gave him your name. After you guys spoke, he brought you out to St. Louis. But, you had forgotten to pack any pants other than the ones you were wearing. After you went home he called me and said, “Is Kramer ok?” I said, “Yeah, Kramer is a good guy.” Then he said, “No, I mean is he ok? I mean, mentally?” And I said, “Oh, no. He’s fucking nuts. But, if you let him do his thing, you won’t be sorry. His show is NEVER boring.” Then he paused and said, “Do you know anyone else?” I said, “No one as good.” Of course, you got the gig, and we were all gone within a year. So, I should probably apologize to you for that one.
I seemed to excel at music, and it was the only thing I was really good at. I was smart, but did not care about School in the least. All I cared about was making people laugh, and blowing my horn. That was it. Period. Now, making people laugh is important to remember in all of this, because I got an even bigger charge out of making people laugh than I did music. I can remember from a VERY early age, I'd watch Fame, and I ADORED Danny. Danny was the comedian on the show, and every Friday night, I'd wait on Fame to come on so I could see what Danny would do. Sometimes they'd make him dance or sing, and I'd be pissed off for him. Little did I know that I was building, mentally, what I wanted to do even in those days.
Also from an early age, I remember kids passing Motley Crue tapes back and forth, because when we were young, our parents wouldn't buy that crap for us. And it was a small town in Alabama. We couldn't be listening to Devil worship music. But one day, in 1983, Randy Curry in my class slipped me a cassette called "Delirious". I had no clue what it was. I got home that afternoon, and I can remember my reaction to this day. I stood in front of my stereo laughing my ass off. I couldn't stop listening to it. Eddie Murphy was a GOD! Now remember, in those days, we didn't have Google and all of this shit we have today. All I knew of Eddie Murphy was what was on that cassette. I learned the album front to back. I can recite it to this day. I'd get on the bus, and I'd do it line by line:
"Mr. Johnson you have aids..""AIDS?! But I'm not homosexual!""Surrrrrre you're not homosexual..."
See? People would laugh, and I'd get the attention. Loved it.
When I could drive, I'd go buy ANY and ALL comedy cassettes that the record store had.
Let's get back to College. My Senior year of High School, I decided that I was going to be a music teacher. EVERYONE around me seemed to automatically assume that THAT was what I was going to do. I didn't really see myself as a teacher, but I was just kind of going with the flow. PS: I did try out for a scholarship. They posted a paper outside one of the classrooms IN ORDER of who did the best audition and who got a full ride to school, and my name was the one DIRECTLY below the last person to get a Scholarship. I was so close.
(Above: A skinny, 18 year old Kramer with then girlfriend, Mitzi.)
So I did, I started college - without a scholarship. I marched The Southerners . . . and I also found out about a little thing called "ALCOHOL". Ohhhhhh there was so much alcohol. Of course, it's College, so there is booze everywhere. Granted. Right? But at this College, the PHI MU ALPHA's - the music fraternity, was known for partying harder than anyone else on campus. It was insane. In High School, I'd gotten drunk a few times on wine coolers, but nothing like what I was starting to do fairly often in College. I went to class many mornings hung over. My roomy, Peter and I would get a 6 pack of King Cobra tall boys and we'd be hammered off 3 of them. God they were awful. Imagine battery acid and cat piss. That malt liqour. Brutal. Peter also played trumpet. Peter was from Georgia, but he was Latino. He was tall and really handsome. ALL the chicks dug Peter.
Peter dug pot.
In my second semester, Peter and his girlfriend, Rebecca, were in our dorm room smoking pot when I got home. It was freezing outside, so they had the window closed. I'd never tried pot, and they were ALL about trying to get me to try it. I finally gave in on this particular night. I got high as Hell. I got TOO high. I didn't like it. As my eyes glaze over, Rebecca tells me to look at static on TV. Why? "Just do it" - and as I'm looking at it, someone starts POUNDING on the door. "R.A. OPEN IT UP! We got a report someone's been smoking pot!" So Peter gets up and opens the door. The R.A. stands there holding the door open, and says the Police are on their way. FANTASTIC! My first time smoking pot, and now the Cops are coming.
The CITY Police come in the dorm room, immediately put Peter and I in handcuffs and search the room. They find ALL of the pot. Peter had hidden it in the mini fridge. WHILE HANDCUFFED, they take us downstairs, in to the Cop car, and in to the Police station. They HANDCUFF us to chairs while they do the paper work. I'm 6'00" and weigh about 150 pounds. They take us in to the jail, STRIP SEARCH US, and throw us in HOLDING CELLS! It was freezing outside, so the heater is going full blast, and that heater happened to be, guess where, yes, right above MY cell. So all night long, the heater is just BLASTING me, I'm coming off my pot high, and now I'm in a 7 by 4 foot jail cell in JACKSONVILLE ALABAMA! About 3AM, we hear a man sobbing loudly, and the Cops bring him in to the cell next to us. He has blood all over him. He's beaten up pretty badly. He has snot coming out of his nose. It turns out, this guy had gotten drunk, wrecked, and the accident killed his wife . . . so now he's hammered, and in a cell next to us. It was crying, it was sobbing, it was slobbering, it was screaming ALL NIGHT. It sounded like a wounded dog, and it would not stop. I was in HELL!
My Uncle Doug knew the Sheriff, and he came to pick me up after about 2 days. Yeah, TWO DAYS! My Uncle Doug, who isn't with us anymore, was one of the men I respected the most, and when he came and got me, the speech I got was one that I remember vividly to this day. I've rarely felt like I let someone down as I did when he came and got me.
(Side note: When I got to jail, and I got my ONE phone call, I called my Mother. "Mom. I'm in jail. Peter and I got arrested for smoking pot." What I get on the other end is, "HAHAHAH!" - "Mom, I'm serious." - and I get "OKAY OKAY! HAHAHAHAH". It took putting a DEPUTY on the phone and talking to her for a good 7 or 8 minutes before she actually knew it wasn't a joke. See - COMEDY! ha.)
(ABOVE: A turtle neck, really?)
I was so low, and hated myself. I'll never forget, I went home, walked in, and fell into my Mother's arms, crying. I had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going. At that moment, College wasn't what was in the cards for me. I was burnt out on School anyway.
I happened to run in to one of my friends from College at a store, and he said that he had a part time job at a radio station. He suggested I go and audition because they had an opening. Radio? How hard can that be? It was WNUZ, Talladega - ALL THE HITS. ALL THE TIME. It was a 1K watt AM station playing Top 40 music. I'd never listened to the radio for more than music, really, so I had no concept of anything about it. I went in, filled out an application and they told me I needed to audition. AUDITION? They set me up in a studio with some headphones and made me read the news. It was one of the most awkward things ever, plus I wasn't expecting that. I had a Southern accent, my voice was really high, and it was TERRIBLE!
Somehow, I got that job. This radio station was terrible. It was ancient. It had record players. To cue a record, you'd put it on the turntable, put the needle on it, and then back it up. You'd PLAY the record by hitting a light switch below you on a wall panel. But they had a record room! You walk in and it was a SEA of records. The station shut down at 10PM, and my buddy would come up. He'd bring beer, and we'd sit around listening to records all night while drinking. Hours and hours and hours. I learned so much about music; music I'd never heard before. It had not really occured to me until that moment just how much music meant to me, and how it made me feel.
At this moment, it clicked. Radio was something I was really passioniate about, and for once in my life I started taking something extremely seriously.
I needed to consume every morsel of radio I could consume.
I began to listen to Birmingham radio stations constantly. Kix 106 was a big Top 40 station. I-95! Q104 in Gadsden. Mark and Brian were on I-95 back in the day day, and I remember going to School and everyone would be talking about what Mark and Brian had said that morning. Power 99 in Atlanta. HUGE station. I wanted to be one of those really COOL top 40 jocks. I noticed when I'd get into a car with a woman, she'd always change the dial to a top 40 station. If I can get on a big top 40 station, maybe the chicks would dig me.
I wasn't wrong.
(Above: Kramer with Lisa . . . oh Lisa. Circa 1996 - 933 FLZ in Tampa)
I tolled away at the little AM station for a little while, and I made a demo to send out. I was awful, but my next goal was to get on FM. I finally succeeded and got a job at WZLM in Alexander City. It played Adult Contemporary music. It was terrible, and the GM was Dennis Carter. He was an ASS. He'd make me record the show, go into his office, he would hit play on the tape, stop it, and then ask me what I did wrong. He'd say, "Keith, you don't give the time like that. You don't say it's 9 oh 7. You say it's 7 minutes after 9."
"Keith, that is a slow tempo song, you need to slow down your speech to blend with the music."
"DAMN KEITH! Why did you not give the wind speed in that forecast? ALWAYS give the wind speed."
So I had someone telling me what to do and how to do it for the first time, and it wasn't adding up in my head. Wind speed? Who gives two shits about the wind speed? TEMPO? But I was new. But NONE of the awesome jocks from Birmingham, Atlanta, Gadsden . . . they weren't giving wind speeds.
A pattern developed over the years of a Program Director telling me something completely different than the last. It sucked the life out of me over the years. More on that later.
I kept listening to Q104 in Gadsden. HUGE top 40 station and it sounded awesome. I would just pick up the phone and call Leo Davis, the PD. I'd send tape after tape after tape. I wanted to work there so bad I couldn't stand it. It seemed to me I needed to at least be in the building of somewhere I liked, and I could learn. FINALLY I convinvced them to give me a overnight weekend shift. You have no idea how happy I was.
So I moved home, got a job at a hospital in the purchasing department, and worked at Q104 part time. Then I got a full time radio job at Sunny 97 in Talladega WHILE doing the show at Q104. I'd already moved 3 times in one year.
(ABOVE: John Yuhas and I at Sunny 97 in Talladega, probably 1992.)
Q104 . . . this is where I started to truly learn the power of radio and the chicks. It was 1990. No internet.
Later that same year, ironically, I saw an ad for Island 106 in Panama City. They were looking for a "flame thrower for the night show". I wanted to be a flame thrower. I wanted to be one of those loud, in your face disc jockeys that hung up on callers. I wanted to do countdowns. I sent my tape, called every day . . . and by God finally they called me for an interview. It was May. It was about to be Summer in the party capital of the United States and in June I was going to turn 21. Color Me Badd - Naughty By Nature - EMF - Paula Abdul - De La Soul - Island 106 was a MASSIVE top 40 station, and mannnnnnn did I SUCK! Met lots of CHICKS though. Todd "The Smash In Your Dash" Shannon, who went on to be a huge National Programmer was a weekend guy at that time. He and I didn't get along.
(ABOVE: I think Island still has this hanging on their wall right down the hall today. I should recreate this picture. I think I will.)
(BELOW: Probably about to play a Bell Biv Devoe record.)
I was having to learn on my own. NO ONE seemed to know how to TEACH someone to do radio. It was really an interesting thing, and it is to this day. You, as a radio person, are kind of wondering around trying to figure out how to connect with people in a room, alone, with a microphone and some songs. I mean, if you really think about it, that's ridiculous. I would stay up at night, when I didn't go out, and listen to my shows. I knew they sucked, but how do I get better? It was ALL I could think about.
Then you have to also understand, I'm 21 in the Summer IN PANAMA CITY BEACH! I turned 21 there. What do YOU think was on my mind? Right? CHICKS! PARTIES! I met a guy named "MAD CHAD". His parents were loaded and lived in a plush big ol' house, and for most of the Summer, they were out of the Country. What do you think we did?
A) Devoted many hours per day to meals on wheels . . .
B) Went to the library to read up on how to make our financial future's brighter . . .
C) Tried to figure out how to stay drunk while naked more often . . .
IF YOU GUESSED "C", YOU JUST WON WILSON PHILLIPS TICKETS!
(ABOVE: Me and my Mom at my apartment in Panama City on our Birthdays in 1991. Her's is the 28th. Mine is the 29th.)
(BELOW: Just another picture we found of Kramer in this awful shirt.)
I got fired.
And I should have. I really sucked. I was green!
But what did I learn by being at Island? This is key: No matter what happened, I was always paying close attention to what people reacted to. No one cared about the intro of a song. No one cared about the weather. What was it that MOVED people to either be angry, to laugh, to be sad, etc.? I started getting better at coming up with ways to move people in 20 seconds or less, which is an extremely hard talent to hone.
Time to move again! Moved back home, went back to Sunny and Q104.
Again, listening. I was so dedicated to getting good at this, that I would even wake up early to listen to the overnight guys on the radio in Atlanta, Birmingam, etc. Sometimes I'd just get in my car and drive for hours listening. How did they talk? How do I want to talk? Do I want to be loud or more reserved? Do I talk fast or more slowly? Do I use my real voice or do I push it some? Am I sweet and nice or more edgey? (I think you know which I picked there.)
IF YOU WANT TO EXCEL AT SOMETHING - WATCH HOW OTHER PEOPLE DO IT AND PUT YOUR OWN SPIN AND CREATIVITY INTO IT.
I got into trouble one night at Q104. In fact, I got fired for this. We had a weather jingle that would play, then the jock would give the weather, and then there was a jingle out. So the song played, "Q104 weaaaatherrrrrrrr . . . " - and I said, "It's going to be cold as a witches boob in a brass bra on Halloween" (JINGLE) Qqqqqqqq 10 4444444."
Leo Davis (Program Director): What was that?
LD: I'm on my way down there. Don't go anywhere.
LD: YOU KNOW WHY!
15 minutes later he came in and fired me. It must have been 3 in the morning.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
I got fired for saying the word "BOOB".
(ABOVE: I honestly don't remember why I'm holding this child.)
Eventually, I'm going to write below about the restraints in radio, my opinions on them, and the repercussions radio has seen from them. For now I'm just trying to outline how my career has gone, the struggles, and ALL the BULLshit.
I was crushed, and angry. BOOB? REALLY??? I'm Larry Flynt now.
After that I went on to work for a really tiny radio station in Ft. Payne, AL that played Adult Contemporary and Country music - all at the same time. It was pitiful.
I eventually got hired back at Q104 when they got new management. During this time, I got a serious girlfriend and was still trying to find my style. I was getting close. I'd watch VHS tapes that a company put out of other radio jocks from all over the Country. I'd watch Domino at Power 99 in Atlanta. I kind of liked his style back in that day. (DOMINO AND I WENT ON TO BECOME BITTER ENEMIES.) I'd watch Kris and Tony from KSON in San Diego. Kris was actually a friend of mine in Gadsden.
I was always very hyper like Domino was in that video.
GOD I wish I had a way to put audio from all these cassettes that I have online so you could hear what I sounded like.
I was very bad at being the loud, hyper guy. I started to realize that when I'd relax, my voice sounded so much better, and my inflection was so much better as well. I slowly began to realize, that my style wasn't what I thought it was, and I needed to change. When I did that, my career TOOK OFF like a rocket. I also found that being the nice guy wasn't my style either. I should be lower key, and be very real and kind of be a jerk sometimes.
As a side note, Rick and Bubba had just started doing mornings together at Q104. A lot of talent went thru that building.
One night I'm doing my show in Gadsden, and a Program Director in Huntsville happened to call me on the request line. Ken Wall. He had nights open at WZYP. Huntsville was a much bigger market, so I accepted the position.
(ABOVE: A 25 year old Kramer at Q104 in Gadsden.)
(BELOW: DEM SHADES! With smooth toned Justin Brown!)
Keep in mind what I said above, my career was about to take off like a rocket. I'd finally understood after a few years in radio, what I was doing wrong.
So I went to Huntsville. I was about to get married to my first wife, Hope.
For the sake of this whole story, and for clarity purposes for how all of this unfolds, let me tell you a little about Hope.
Hope and I met at a night club in Gadsden in 1993. She was there with some friends, and I couldn't stop staring at her. Eventually she came over and asked me to dance. I don't dance. Ever. I mean ever, but this hot chick wanted me to, so I did. She should have laughed her ass of at me, but she didn't. She was getting her masters in College, so she asked me back to her place near the College. We went back and listened to Depeche Mode CD's all night. I pretended to like Depeche Mode. I didn't like Depeche Mode. No one likes Depeche Mode.
We were partiers. We went to concerts all the time, and at this time the Grunge wave was happening. We'd both be in shorts with combat boots. People ask me why I grew my hair out. Well, it was Hope. I was in TOP 40 radio when everyone was clean cut and dressed well, and here I was with long hair, and well, dressed well. Hope dug long hair, so . . .
(ABOVE: Hope and I on VACATION in Panama City in 1995 ish.)
(BELOW: We would sit in her little room at college, and drink, smoke, and play chess.)
She moved to Huntsville, we got married, and I started getting attention throughout the radio industry. A radio trade magazine put out CD's sometimes of DJ's from all over America. It would be like 4 or 5 minutes of the jock, and they would send that CD out to all the radio stations in the Country. I happened to be on one of them, and it started getting attention. I could feel it taking off. I had gotten really good. More on that coming.
So to take you in to this time correctly, I have to outline what it was like working at WZYP in Huntsville. I met a guy once who claimed he was a psychic. He was fairly young, and he even LOOKED like some weird psychic, so I asked him to come in one night and give some readings to people on the phone. It was massive. The phones rang off the hook all night for this guy. I saw the reaction it got and thought I need to have him on twice a week. So twice a week for an hour, he'd come in. I probably did this for about 5 months.
One night, Bill Dunnavant, the owner of the radio station FLUNG the door open to the control room, pointed at me and said, "Out here. NOW!"
I go out and I go, "Bill, is everything alright?"
Bill: NO everything is not alright. Is he a psychic?
Bill: I want you to go back in there and tell him to leave this building.
Bill: Kramer. Do you not read the Bible?
Me: Well, I've gone to Church but I . . .
Bill: PSYCHICS ARE OF THE DEVIL! NOW GO IN THERE AND GET HIM OUT OFTHIS BUILDING! NOW!
I'd made a great friend in this guy, and now I had to go tell him to leave. I can't remember what I told him, but I'm sure it wasn't that he was going to be cast into eternal damnation because he was a psychic.
(ABOVE: Kramer with fake glasses with Scott Morgan the News Guy. WZYP/Huntsville)
Another fun story about Dunnavant . . .
One day I got a phone call from the receptionist at the station. She said that Bill wanted me to be at the station at 3. When I asked why, she said she didn't know why, but that I needed to be there to meet Bill about something.
So I go, and I'm sitting in the lobby to meet Bill, the psychic hating owner of the radio station. In walks Steve, the afternoon DJ. He goes, "What are you doing here?" I said I was there to meet Bill. He goes, "Me too. What's this about?" I had no clue.
Finally Bill comes walking out of his office with his keys and he opens the front door and says, "Come on boys, we're going on a little trip."
We get into his SUV and he drives us to a CLINIC. When we get out, obviously we ask what in the Hell we're doing there, and he says, "It's time for a little drug test."
I could have whipped his ass right there.
Now, IN COLLEGE I smoked pot, but because of my run-in with the law, lol, I wasn't a pot smoker. Also, I've never liked it. See, Steve and I had long hair, and he thought since we had long hair that we must sit around all day smoking reefer. TO PROVE TO HIM that he was wrong, I indeed took the drug test. At that moment, I lost any respect that I did have for him.
I could tell I didn't belong in Alabama in radio. BOOB IN A BRASS BRA? PSYCHICS ARE OF THE DEVIL? I HAD LONG HAIR SO I MUST BE INTO DRUGS?
One night, again, I'm doing my show and a Program Director called me on the request line.
"Kramer, it's Marc Chase. How you doing?"
"Yeah yeah, bullshit."
"No I'm serious. How you doing?"
Marc Chase was the group PD for a radio company called JACOR - which evenetually became Clear Channel and ultimately became iHeart. Like I said earlier, I was starting to blow up some and people were talking about me some in the industry. Chase was FROM Alabama, but was based in Cincinnati, OH. He was on his way to visit family and heard my show.
After he convinced me it was really him, he said, "How would you like to come down to Tampa and take Bubba The Love Sponge's place on FLZ?"
This can't be happening.
Mentally I'm shitting in my pants. I have MARC CHASE on the phone asking me if I want to come to Tampa to take over for BUBBA?
At that time, EVERYONE was talking about Bubba. He had BLOWN UP in Florida. Everyone in the industry knew exactly who he was.
(ABOVE: Kramer on the beach in Tampa during his interview with WFLZ)
So I ended the call with Chase and we agreed to hook up on the phone in about a week with BJ HARRIS, who was the PD in Tampa at FLZ. I'd sent my demo out to a lot of places, and the next week was amazing. A day later I got a call from B96 in Chicago wanting to do an interview. I got a call from Jimmy Steal at Q102 in Cincinatti wanting an interview, and I also got a call from the huge top 40 in Miami - ALL IN ONE WEEK.
I was on cloud 9! I had a choice to make; an important choice. Do I go to Cinci, Tampa, Chicago or Miami?
I've never written this, but my choice was Chicago. I wanted to go to the BIGGEST market POSSIBLE! And B96 at that time was an incredibly huge station.
Hope, the wife at the time, told me she WAS NOT going to Chicago. She also had family in Tampa, so Tampa it was. We flew down for the interview and before I knew it we were on a plane again heading to Tampa.
Now, keep in mind, I'm taking over for a guy that COMPLETELY rearranged the way people saw top 40 radio. Bubba was crude, dirty, rude and didn't give two CRAPS about radio rules. His ratings were THROUGH THE ROOF. I was immensley intimidated, but I knew I had it in me.
Shortly after we moved down there, I realized VERY quickly that life was about to change in a massive way. I had girls throwing themselves at me. My wife would come to remotes and EVERY time it would result in a fight. She was very jealous of that kind of stuff.
Soon, her Father died, and Hope found Jesus. When I say she found Jesus is an understatement. She was grieving for her Father, and it completely changed her. One morning we woke up and she said, "I'm leaving you." THAT MORNING her Mother came to get her and I've seen her once since that day.
I was crushed. I was completely deflated. We'd dreamt of success, and it was happening right before our eyes. I handled the pain and depression differently than I normally do. Intead of balling up and withdrawing, I became outwardly crazy. Tampa was a party town, and PLEASE let me tell you - I took FULL advantage of that.
(ABOVE: In the studio at FLZ in Tampa.)
I have a calendar somewhere in my garage in a box that's too deep for me to care about digging in to that has every appearance I did for one solid year. I also wrote how much I got paid for the appearance. Typically, the only day I'd have off was Monday - for appearances. Tuesday through Sunday I had club appearances. Some were 2 hours, some were 3 and the one on Saturday's at THE PLEASURE DOME was FOUR hours. I made $100 per hour. And usually that was CASH money.
Now think about that. I was 26 years old and I was making about $1700 in CASH every week OUTSIDE OF MY SALARY!
I was newly divorced, and in the eyes of everyone in Tampa, I was a star.
I saved up money for a little while, and went to a car dealership, put $6300 in cash on the guys desk as a down payment and said, "I want a bad ass car."
I drove off in a sportscar. God I miss that thing.
The DJ that did nights on Q105 down the hall and I hit it off - Scott Steel. His Dad was loaded, so we'd go out in limos all the time just WASTING copious amounts of cash. We'd pull up to some place, hang out, do some shots, invite some girls in the limo. On to the next place, and it would go on ALL night long. Normally we paid for everyone's booze too. It wasn't unusual for us to pay a $500 or $600 tab at the bar, and probably about that on the limo for the night, and at times more, unless we went somewhere that knew who we were and we'd pay nothing. I was drinking literally every night. I was going through women like water as well. I was hurt, angry, and I was on a mission. That mission was to numb the pain of the divorce by "getting her back" by having fun. Let me tell you, I had fun.
Professionally I was doing great as well. My first ratings book came back and I added to the ratings that Bubba had. I got my ratings bonuses every time I was there I think.
The show was going well, or so I thought, but management really started having problems with the content of the show. I kept it kind of blue. Bubba was so huge, I felt like I couldn't go in and be this squeaky clean guy and not be called out on it. I wouldn't allow it, and no matter how many times management bitched about it, I'd nod and agree, and then I'd go right back on the air and do the same things. (If you're reading all of this, I want you to remember the last sentence, because it will tie in later . . . )
The partying got harder and harder. There were a few times I didn't have a driver and I drove drunk. I got pulled over THREE TIMES and was let go when they found out who I was. One time the Cop followed me home to make sure I was okay. I should have been in jail MANY times for driving while drunk.
Finally I met a guy named Frank. Big guy, former Marine, and he used to call the show all the time. He started going out with me and acting like a bodyguard, so I dubbed him, "Frank the Bodyguard". He'd stay sober and he'd drive so I didn't have to. He also saved my ass many times while we were out, because to say the least, I was out of control.
(ABOVE: Frank The Bodyguard.)
And you want me to tell you something else Frank did that really was great? Now let me tell you, this is SO over the top silly, but this was just part of my lifestyle at that point in my life.
I used to take LOTS of girls home. After having um, some fun at my place, they would be drunk and couldn't get home. I could call Frank and he would come over, get the girl, and drive her home. There were a few of them that got his number, and they would go out in the living room afterward and call him themselves. It was sad . . . but then again, it was AWESOME! I remember one time this blonde girl came over to my place late. It was probably 3:30 in the morning. She just got her friend to drop her off without knowing if I was going to open the door. I was asleep (or so I pretended to be) and she wound up sleeping on my door step. I could only imagine my neighbors going out to work at 7 in the morning and there was some 23 year old blonde chick in her club clothes sleeping at my door.
I remember one night I'm doing the show and a woman called the show:
"Kramer, I love you. And you know baby I love you so much I want to give you my daughter. You MUST meet my daughter!!"
Me: "Oh God, I can imagine what this would be like. She probably weighs 300 pounds."
Mom: "Wrong Kramer. She looks like Pamela Anderson. She is home for the Summer from Michigan. She would love you and YOU would love her."
Me: "Okay. Come down to the studio."
Mom: "We will! You are in for a treat."
I got off the phone and said, on air, "This isn't going to happen, and if it does, this poor girl is going to be as homely as they come."
About an hour later, they said I had visitors, so I went to the door. Standing there with a Mother looking woman was a blonde girl, young, tan, about 5'9" and one of the hottest girls I'd seen in Florida. She was giggly, loud, and she was DOWN TO PARTY.
After the show, the Mom, Sarah, and myself went to a low key club. We sat at a table, and while the daughter Sarah sat on my lap, kissing me, playing with my hair, etc. the Mom told me all about her. The Mother after about an hour got up and said, "You guys have fun tonight. I assume Sarah will be sleeping at your place tonight."
Yes she did.
I have a million stories like that, but you get the picture of what Tampa was like.
I partied like a rock star. I spent money like an idiot. I got MASSIVE ratings. And then it happened . . .
If you do nights on a big top 40 station in a big market, your phones are constant, and a lot of the time they are kids. One night I'm blowing through phones and a little kid called and asked me for Hanson's telephone number.
I said, "911 - 8362".
And. That. Was. It.
About ten minutes later, Jeff Kapugi, the Program Director called on the hotline, and judging from that phone call, it was going to be bad.
EVERY KID IN TAMPA CALLED 911 - 8362. It jammed the 911 lines for an hour, and if someone had had a major emergency, they could have died because they couldn't get thru to 911.
I was suspended for a week. They were waiting in BJ HARRIS to get back from Los Angeles. BJ had been upped to the PD for the entire company.
(ABOVE: Allison and I. She was a very short lived girlfriend, because I was an idiot.)
I went in to his office that morning and he said, "Buddy, I've only had to do this one other time, and it really burns, but I have to let you go."
Here I'd come this far only to be let go over some kid asking for Hanson's phone number? I was so tired too because ALL I did was party. I was drained physically and emotionally. I called Scott and told him the news. It was probably about 8:30 in the morning. He said, "Come on over."
I walked in his house and he literally met me at the door with a beer and a bottle of booze. We sat out in his backyard on the bay and drank all day long.
I started calling people and that's when I reached out to Jimmy Steal. Jimmy is now the OM for Entercom and he's the PD of Power 106 in Los Angeles. At that time he was the PD of Mix 102 in Dallas. He said he indeed have an opening and wanted to talk to me, and that I needed to fly out.
BACK STORY BEFORE MOVING ON:
I used to get calls from this INSANE guy while on FLZ. He would do characters on the phone and I'd put him on the air. One of them was a cursing preacher. He would scream about how people are going to hell and how they are sinners, and he'd get excited start screaming "GOD DAMN". EVERY time he called he would legit make me laugh. One night he called and asked if there were internships. I wanted to meet this guy, so before I recommended him for an internship, I told him to come up and sit with me in studio for a little while.
His name was Tony.
(ABOVE: Left, Twitch.)
Tony, at that time, was 19 or 20. he was short. He was balding, fat, and he came to the studio with a shirt buttoned up so far it looked like it was cutting off the circulation to his head. He had a twitch from tourettes. One of the guys at the station named him "TWITCH", so from that point forward, everyone called him Twitch. I'll never forget he had a big stack of papers with him that had stains all over them. Just before he left, he said, "I want you to have these. These are some radio bits that I wrote out for you."
I thought yeah yeah. I threw them in my briefcase.
A few days later I was preparing for my show, and I saw those papers. I pulled them out and started reading them. They were brilliant. They were absolutely brilliant. GREEN, but good.
So I helped get him an internship, and he hung around all the time. He would come to a lot of my appearances. He was studying what was happening. Everyone loved him. He was a Chris Farley type. He would do ANYYYYYYYYYTHINGGGGG for a laugh, and he ALWAYS got one.
So fast forward to calling Jimmy in Dallas. When he set up an interview, I said the only stipulation is that I'm able to bring Tony along. I had lunch with Tony to ask him if he'd want to move to Dallas with me. He told me he'd just been kicked out of School (FSU) because he'd put up fake fliers about a Richard Simmons appearance at the college. HUNDREDS of people showed up, but no Richard Simmons, and they'd found out he did it and kicked him out of college. He didn't have anything else going on, so he said he'd go.
We were VERY briefly on at night on Mix 102.9 which was a station that was playing adult alternative music. It wasn't a good fit. Listening to those shows now, you could tell there was a beast that was not being allowed to growl very loudly.
Eventually we made the switch over to the Eagle, which was a rock station.
(ABOVE: An actual song. Yes, we actually played this on the air.)
When we moved over, it was like opening a bottle filled with lightning. All of this raucous energy, boisterous humor, and intense attitude was unleashed.
The Eagle (rock) audience is very vocal, and they are finnicky. The first few weeks we were on there, EVERY phone call was, "You suck. I hope your Mom's die."
Eagle hello? "Yeah you two fairies need to kill yourselves."
Eagle hello? "Your show sucks. You suck. Your Mom sucks. DIE!"
Eagle hello? "I'll never listen to the Eagle again. Your voices make me want to take a chainsaw to my balls."
Over and over and over and over and over. ALL night. EVERY night. We were on the 14th floor, and every night after the show, we'd walk to the elevator. No one would say anything. We'd get into it and I could see us in the reflection on the door. We would look so sad and defeated. One night we went to a bar, and I swear we must have had 2 or 3 drinks before one of us even spoke.
It hit me. I'd never BEEN on a rock station before. On top 40 radio, you wouldn't air any of those calls, and up to that point I hadn't.
So I said, "Dude, we are going to keep getting knocked in the teeth by listeners if we don't fight back. They listen to Metallica and KORN and all of that shit, why are we acting like top 40 girls? When they call and tell us we suck, we fire back DOUBLE fold. We do it, record it and put it on the air. We put every single one of them on the air and we go right back for their fucking throats!"
And that is exactly what we did.
And in two weeks, we had the entire City of Dallas in the palm of our hands, and they would have killed for us.
(ABOVE: This is actually a photo we used for promotional pictures. Classy, I know.)
Every time we got ratings back, they would be up. There was one time the station as a whole was 17th in the market, and Tony and I were #3. We couldn't go anywhere without being recognized, plus we were constantly at any and all rock shows. We interviewed just about any band you can think of from the late 90's. We got pissed off at Fred Durst once, and asked him if he wanted to fight. I have that UNEDITED phone conversation somewhere - on a cassette. We got drunk with Marilyn Manson, when Marilyn was Marilyn. We hung out with Metallica at The Clubhouse after hours.
We felt untouchable, which was a large part of all the success.
Let me repeat that, WE FELT UNTOUCHABLE, WHICH WAS A LARGE PART OF ALL THE SUCCESS.
The point is, we were blowing up and we were really starting to make a name for ourselves in a very short period of time. We were completely unhinged. In the beginning, I was really in control, but I found that the less I controlled what we were doing, the better it got. We got job offers, or offers to talk, often. I remember once I got a message to call the PD of WXRK in New York City. We called him up and did a phone talk for about 30 minutes. He had the personality of a shoe, so we chose to end that at the end of that conversation. And never thought about it again.
(ABOVE: Before selfies were selfies. WITH A POLAROID FOR GOD'S SAKES!)
I remember Russ Martin left and that left the morning show open. We were sitting on 15 shares doing a NIGHT show while the rest of the station was hurting, and we felt we could OWN mornings. For those not in radio, mornings is the staple of a radio station and it's where a large part of the revenue comes from.
I was INSANE about the show. It's all I thought about, when I wasn't drinking . . . NO ONE EVER screws with the show. The show is OURS and no one will ever touch it. I treated the show like a gentle lil snowflake, and I FOUGHT for everything involving the show. I . . . was . . . an asshole about it. I also was very big on being loyal. Anyone in our group or circle had to be loyal beyond belief. I treated it like a fraternity kind of, in that we only allowed certain people in. It sounds stupid sitting here typing it out, but there are too many people out there trying to sabotage stuff, and attitude is huge. If people aren't loyal and they are bad mouthing you and creating drama, that is a waste of time and energy. I told you, the show was all I could think about, and my #1 goal was to protect it. Remember when I said WE FELT UNTOUCHABLE, WHICH WAS A LARGE PART OF ALL THE SUCCESS? Part of that is having the right kind of people around you. I'm actually learning a lot about myself as I write this, because some of these things, my past values that worked, I'd forgotten until I sat down and started working on this.
Another thing for us was, destroy the enemy. DESTROY!
DESTROY. DEMORALIZE. HUMILIATE. WIN!
I cannot tell you how often we set out to ruin the competition's day. It was LETHAL!
One of our main competitor's . . . Bless his heart.
I came home one night and my apartment door was broken in. It was practically off the hinges. I thought it was one of the crazy chick's I was seeing. Many years later, the music director at that time from the station he worked at hired our show, and during a conversation he said that that particular person TOLD HIM that he'd done it.
Same person, one night we were out and a woman came up to us and said she was his ex fiance. Hmmm. Upon more conversation we found out that she was BIT TERRRRRR about it. We invited her on the show, so the next show we had her on, said his name, and told us all sorts of fun little facts. Oh and while she was telling us, she was also telling the entire audience.
Another time we got a huge box of donuts, and we molested them and had a friend take pics of us, um, molesting the donuts. We placed those yummy lil treats back in the box and had our stunt guy deliver them straight to him, from KT DONUTS. He went on the air and thanked KT DONUTS, and we recorded him saying it. We then sent the stunt guy BACK OVER there to deliver another box, only this time the pics of us molesting the donuts, THAT HE ATE, were in the new box.
Like I said, like a fraternity, brutal . . . and it worked like a charm.
EVERYTHING was on the air. The first year we were there, we lived together. I remember we would give our HOME NUMBER out on the show. Our phone would ring all day and all night. I do mean ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT! We' get drunk and just sit there answering the phone. If they sucked, we'd hang up. I can't tell you how many interesting people we met, that we put on the show, just from giving our home number out.
But I started noticing the crudeness of the show was starting to cause people not to respect us. We were billed as a one trick pony. And that in the beginning didn't bother me, because I knew that wasn't correct. We were a ratings juggernaut, but after a while it was clear management didn't respect us.
Now . . . I know what you're saying, the way I've outlined the show and that time doesn't exactly paint me, nor the show, in the best light. What you have to undertand was that everything was calculated. ALL of the debauchery and insanity was a perfectly planned, and written script. Marilyn Manson used to say, "If you want to be treated like a rock star, act like one." He was completely right with that statement. We acted like rock stars, the audience treated us as such, and that was the game. So if we could be so calculated to do an insane, HIGHLY rated NIGHT show . . . then we should be smart enough to pull off a morning show in the same vain.
Want me to tell you what's wrong, and what's BEEN wrong with radio for a long time. I've said this forever. "Radio stations hire people that won't burn down the building." That is my way of saying, they don't care about hiring people that will move the needle, be showmen, do theater, be loud and garner attention. No. They want people that do nothing, who are stale, as not to cause trouble. Radio should be more about getting attention than NOT getting attention. If you aren't trying to do that, you aren't accomplishing anything. And now more than ever, because everyone has the internet. There are people out there who are stars just from having a cell phone, so don't you think radio would step it's game up? It's done quite the opposite. Yes, there are guidelines, but follow them, and be creative. Be loud. Be bold. Be in your face. It isn't rocket science, hire the right people to do the right thing and then LET THEM DO IT! That is the formula for a successful radio station. There aren't many left.
(ABOVE: Rarely would we ever be in a pic, not acting goofy.)
Where was I?
I remember Russ Martin left, the morning show, and it was wide open. Management talked to us briefly about doing it, but ultimately denied us and said we were too much of a liability. That was enough for me. If they thought that, then there's no telling how on our ass they would be if were to have actually moved to a morning show.
Eventually, we'd made such a name for ourselves that other rock stations all over the Country wanted to air our show. We tested it out first in Tampa on WXTB on the weekend. They would air best of bits from the week. They told us that if that went over well they would put us on other stations. Eventually we were on rock stations all over the place. Most notable Tampa, Cleveland, Rochester and RIchmond. . . WHILE doing the Dallas show.
THEN they wanted to move us to San Francisco (San Jose) and put the show on in the afternoon on KSJO, and then we'd keep all the other stations night shows.
So here it was, it was really happening. We were kicking ass. When they told me the salary, I think I may have cried a little. It was all coming together.
What I didn't know was how big of a disaster California would be.
We moved out there, and immediately I hated living there. I didn't like anything about it. I didn't fit there. Neither did Tony. The audience hated us and we hated them. Thinking back, moving there and accepting that position was the worst career mistake I made. Management hated us. One time I was on my way to work, sitting at a light and a motorcycle whizzed past me. He was in the middle lane, on the paint, going to the front of the line. I told the story on the air, and I said, "We should open up our car doors and whack a couple of them and that would teach them!'
Not in the eyes of biker gangs. We had biker gangs PARKED ON THE LAWN AT THE RADIO STATION throwing smoke bombs all over the place. Then it got picked up in the newspaper and THEN it got picked up online.
Here is what the Newspaper out there wrote:
(ABOVE: Dare, Tony's girlfriend, Twitch and Kramer.)
We were written about CONSTANTLY in newspapers. Management complained EVERY time, and I would always say "PUB IS PUB". What I mean by that is, ANY publicity is GOOD publicity. Not ONE radio station in America right now understands that, abides by that, nor would encourage that. Not even ONE.
Btw, SUSPENDED! We were suspended for making an obvious joke about "white lining". In California, it's legal for motorcycles to drive between cars to lights. They allow it because the engines are smaller and it's easier for them to overheat. (I didn't know it was legal.) But to SUSPEND US for a flippant comment like that was indictive of what was to come there.
EVERYTHING started becoming a huge ordeal and an issue. Check this. The radio station asked us to have on a sex expert, because she was paying client. I know that sounds weird, but it's radio and she was a "sex expert" so we interviewed her. Now, if you're interviewing a sex expert, what are you going to ask them about?
(I'll let you formulate your answer.)
Yes, you're going to interview them about sex.
I don't remember what was said, but management heard it, got pissed and called us in the next day.
They said they couldn't take it anymore. We pissed off the bikers, and then oh my GOD we asked a sex expert about sex.
The company decided to retain our servies, but move us back to Dallas.
It gets better . . . ready?
Now, when they moved us to California, they told us that they would pay us a salary for San Francisco, but another part of our salary would be $20,000 for each affiliate. When we lost the California job, they took all of our affiliates - but one. Dallas.
So they said they would keep the show in Dallas, but they would only pay us what the "DALLAS AFFILIATE WAS PAYING", meaning $20,000.
(ABOVE: Christy and Kramer during the drive back from San Francisco to Dallas, TX.)
So now, I was the highest rated show ON the radio station and all they were going to pay was $20K a YEAR?
It's 5 months later, and here we are moving back to Dallas making $20K. I was broke. I moved in with my girlfriend, Christy.
Not only did we get demoted, but we got fined by the FCC - TWICE. Having said that, the company didn't flinch about having to pay the fines. I thought we were going to be fired. In fact, there were several things that we did that we should have been fired for, but got away with.
I'm about to post the actual verbage from the two FCC fines, and you will enjoy reading them, but first let me tell you a quick story about something that any other person would be fired for had this happened.
We'd just gotten a webcam in the studio. Back then, they weren't live, it just took a different picture about every 5 or 10 seconds. So if you went to the site, you could get a picture of what was happening every 5 to 10 seconds. One night, we got a TON of sugar, and recreated the scene from Scarface. It appeared we had a ton of coke with a few razor blades. We put the sugar all over our faces, and bent down like we were doing blow right in the studio. It should have been obvious it was a joke. The next day the PD called us in to his office, closed the doors and said, "Hey just real quick, what you do outside of the station is your business, but if you don't mind, could you not do elicit drugs while you're on the air. We got complaints that you were snorting cocaine on the console last night."
"IF YOU DON'T MIND COULD YOU NOT DO ELICIT DRUGS IN THE STUDIO"????????????
MY GOD - if you really thought we were doing that, FIRE US! We told them it was sugar, but I really don't think he believed that. This time in my career was PURE PURE PURE INSANITY!
This is the official verbage FROM the FCC outlining what we said that we were getting fined for.
Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554
In the Matter of ) File No. EB-00-IH-0261
Citicasters Co. ) NAL/Acct. No.
) Facility ID #18114
Licensee of Station KEGL(FM), )
Fort Worth, Texas )
NOTICE OF APPARENT LIABILITY FOR FORFEITURE
Adopted: March 30, 2001 Released: April 3,
By the Chief, Enforcement Bureau:
1. In this Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture
("NAL"), we find that Citicasters Co. (``Citicasters''),
licensee of Station KEGL(FM), Fort Worth, Texas, has
apparently violated 18 U.S.C. § 1464 and 47 C.F.R. §
73.3999, by willfully and repeatedly broadcasting indecent
language. Based on our review of the facts and
circumstances in this case, we conclude that Citicasters is
apparently liable for a forfeiture in the amount of fourteen
thousand dollars ($14,000).
2. The Commission received a complaint dated August 6,
2000, concerning broadcasts that aired on KEGL on May 30,
May 31, August 1 and August 3, 2000. The complaint included
transcripts and pictures taken from the station's website.
Review of the complaint revealed that the May 30 broadcast
occurred at 11 p.m., while the August 1 broadcast did not
appear to raise a prima facie question of actionable
indecency. However, because the May 31 and August 3
broadcasts contained apparently indecent material and aired
between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., we issued a letter of inquiry to
3. In its response, Citicasters asserts that it cannot
verify whether the material aired. However, the licensee
does acknowledge that it admonished ``Kramer and Twitch,''
the hosts of the programs in question, following one of
their shows in late May or early June because management
believed that certain material may have been inappropriate
for the station's audience. With respect to the August 3
broadcast, Citicasters argues that the material allegedly
aired was not indecent. Citicasters submits that, at worst,
the material includes a ``few scattered and vague references
of a sexual nature, ... [which] are neither explicitly
graphic nor pandering.'' Citicasters claims that it has a
formal policy prohibiting the broadcast of indecent
material; that KEGL's management routinely advises the
station's on-air staff of the policy; and that it
``vigilantly'' monitors the station's broadcasts for
compliance. Citicasters also notes that, beginning in
December 2000, KEGL began airing the ``Kramer and Twitch''
program on a 12-hour delayed basis. Citicasters explains
that, currently, the program is taped in San Jose,
California, and then reviewed and edited by KEGL personnel
prior to being broadcast by the station. In addition, KEGL
regularly airs a message both before and after the ``Kramer
and Twitch'' show, which notifies listeners that the program
may contain material ``more suitable for adults.''
4. Section 503(b)(1) of the Communications Act (the
``Act''), 47 U.S.C. § 503(b)(1), provides in pertinent part:
Any person who is determined by the Commission, in
accordance with paragraph (3) or (4) of this
subsection to have ---
(D) violated any provision of section 1304, 1343,
or 1464 of title 18, United States Code;
shall be liable to the United States for a
18 U.S.C. § 1464 provides criminal penalties for anyone who
``utters any obscene, indecent or profane language by means
of radio communication.'' As explained below, we believe
that language broadcast during the May 31 and August 3
programs of ``Kramer and Twitch'' was indecent and that the
licensee's broadcast of that material was willful.
5. The Commission has defined indecent speech as
language that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms
patently offensive as measured by contemporary community
standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory
activities or organs. Infinity Broadcasting Corporation of
Pennsylvania, 2 FCC Rcd 2705 (1987) (subsequent history
omitted) (citing Pacifica Foundation, 56 FCC 2d 94, 98
(1975), aff'd sub nom. FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S.
726 (1978). The Commission's authority to restrict the
broadcast of indecent material extends to times when there
is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience.
Action for Children's Television v. FCC, 852 F.2d 1332 (D.C.
Cir. 1988). Current law holds that such times begin at 6
a.m. and conclude at 10 p.m. Action for Children's
Television v. FCC, 58 F.3d 654 (D.C. Cir. 1995), cert.
denied, 116 S.Ct. 701 (1996). Thus, to be actionably
indecent, the material in question must not only meet the
standard referenced above but also air after 6 a.m. and
before 10 p.m. See 47 C.F.R. § 73.3999.
6. After carefully considering the record before us,
it appears that Citicasters has willfully and repeatedly
violated our indecency rule. Citicasters does not deny that
it broadcast the language in question before 10 p.m. The
May 31 broadcast contains dialogue between the hosts and a
teenage female caller, wherein, among other things, the
hosts and the caller discuss bisexuality and masturbation,
and the hosts attempt to have the caller masturbate during
the course of the conversation. The tone of the
conversation is pandering and titillating in that the hosts
persistently inquire about the caller's frequency and
methods of masturbation, and they assert that the caller's
father masturbates despite his apparent disapproval of her
doing so. As for the August 3 broadcast, we disagree with
Citicasters' contention that indecent language was not
aired. That broadcast features a conversation between the
hosts and an adult film actor and actress. Among other
things, they discuss whether the actor's girl friend is
bisexual, whether the actress enjoys anal sex, and whether
the actress will perform a sexual act on one of the hosts
whose penis is ``uncut.'' Once again, the tone of the
conversation is pandering and titillating. It appears that
both broadcasts were indecent in that they contain patently
offensive descriptions of various sexual activities.1 The
licensee's stated policy against the broadcast of indecent
material apparently had no impact on the airing of the cited
material, and its current procedures for editing ``Kramer
and Twitch'' and advising audiences about its content have
no bearing on whether a forfeiture should be imposed. See
Station KGVL, Inc., 42 FCC 2d 258, 259 (1973).
7. Section 503(b) of the Act and 47 C.F.R. § 1.80 both
state that any person who willfully or repeatedly fails to
comply with the Act or the Commission's rules shall be
liable for a forfeiture penalty. For purposes of 47 U.S.C.
§ 503(b), the term ``willful'' means that the violator knew
that it was taking the action in question, irrespective of
any intent to violate the Commission's rules.2 As explained
above, Citicasters knew that it was broadcasting ``Kramer
and Twitch'' and each of the cited segments. In assessing a
forfeiture, we take into account the nature, circumstances,
extent and gravity of the violation, and, with respect to
the violator, the degree of culpability, any history of
prior offenses, ability to pay, and such other matters as
justice may require.3
8. The Commission's Forfeiture Guidelines set a base
forfeiture amount of $7,000 for transmission of
indecent/obscene materials.4 After considering all the
facts and circumstances, we believe the base forfeiture
amount is the appropriate sanction for each of the two
violations described above and that neither an upward nor
downward adjustment should be made.
IV. ORDERING CLAUSES
9. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED THAT, pursuant to 47
U.S.C. § 503(b), and 47 C.F.R. §§ 0.111, 0.311 and 1.80,
Citicasters Co. is hereby NOTIFIED of its APPARENT LIABILITY
FOR A FORFEITURE in the amount of fourteen thousand dollars
($14,000) for willfully and repeatedly violating 18 U.S.C. §
1464 and 47 C.F.R. § 73.3999.
10. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT, pursuant to 47 C.F.R.
§ 1.80, within thirty days of this NOTICE OF APPARENT
LIABILITY, Citicasters Co. SHALL PAY the full amount of the
proposed forfeiture or SHALL FILE a written statement
seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed
11. Payment of the forfeiture may be made by mailing a
check or similar instrument, payable to the order of the
Federal Communications Commission, to the Forfeiture
Collection Section, Finance Branch, Federal Communications
Commission, P.O. Box 73482, Chicago, Illinois 60673-7482.
The payment should note the NAL/Acct. No. referenced above.
12. The response, if any, must be mailed to the
Charles W. Kelley, Chief, Investigations and Hearings
Division, Enforcement Bureau, Federal Communications
Commission, 445 12th Street, S.W., Room 3-B443, Washington,
D.C. 20554 and MUST INCLUDE THE NAL/Acct. No. referenced
13. The Commission will not consider reducing or
canceling a forfeiture in response to a claim of inability
to pay unless the respondent submits: (1) federal tax
returns for the most recent three-year period; (2) financial
statements prepared according to generally accepted
accounting practices (``GAAP''); or (3) some other reliable
and objective documentation that accurately reflects the
respondent's current financial status. Any claim of
inability to pay must specifically identify the basis for
the claim by reference to the financial documentation
14. Requests for payment of the full amount of this
Notice of Apparent Liability under an installment plan
should be sent to: Chief, Revenue and Receivables Operations
Group, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.5
15. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT a copy of this NOTICE
OF APPARENT LIABILITY shall be sent by Certified Mail Return
Receipt Requested to Citicasters Co., c/o Kenneth E. Wyker,
General Counsel, Clear Channel Communications, Inc., 200
East Basse Road, San Antonio, Texas 78209-8328; with a copy
to Elizabeth E. Goldin, Esq., Wiley, Rein & Fielding, 1776 K
Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
David H. Solomon
Chief, Enforcement Bureau
Radio Station: KEGL(FM), Fort Worth, Texas
Date/Time Broadcast: (1) May 31, 2000 at 9 p.m.; (2)
August 3, 2000 between 7:45 p.m. - 9:15 p.m.
Material Broadcast: (1) Telephone conversation; (2)
Interview and commentary
(1) May 31, 2000 (9 p.m.)
MV: Male Voice(s) (Hosts)
Boy: Caller's brother
MV: So you say you're 17 and your parents won't let you
listen to us? Huh?
FV: Yeah, because my dad is like a bishop in my church, and
so he thinks you guys are evil.
MV: Are you really 17? What year were you born?
MV: I guess that's right. Well, 17, technically, is the
legal age of consent. So you really don't need his
permission to listen to a radio show.
FV: True. But I still live under his house and so he could
kick me out.
MV: What does he say about the show that he doesn't like?
FV: He says it will put evil thoughts in my head and stuff.
MV: What kind of evil thoughts do we put in your head?
Have you been thinking about sex?
FV: Well, you guys had that girl on who like wanted to get
off on another girl.
MV: Did that turn you on? Any of that?
MV: Do you think you're bi-sexual in any way?
FV: Maybe. And that's why he doesn't like it.
MV: Are you a virgin? Yes?
MV: So your dad blames us. And you may be bi-sexual,
FV: He doesn't say that, but he says that the whole pre-
marital sex thing is evil.
MV: Of course. Of course, he thinks that. You should be
able to make your own decisions. You're 17 years old, and
if you wanted to have sex with one of us you could do that
legally. We could have sex with you. And I think we should
just because of her father.
How many times a week do you masturbate? How many
FV: Probably about four or five.
MV: How do you do it?
FV: It's private.
MV: Do you put your finger in or do you move it around? Do
you use a vibrator? Where do you masturbate? In the
FV: In my room, usually.
MV: How do you do it?
FV: I get on my back and start touching myself.
MV: How? It's okay. Really, you can tell us. Do you ever
touch yourself through your panties? You know, just on the
outside to get yourself revved up. Describe the whole
thing. I want to hear it. Just tell me little details.
First of all, tell me, do you shave?
FV: Yes, but that's because my cousin taught me how to.
MV: Who taught you how? Is it a female or a guy?
FV: Well, she told me you kind'a have to because when guys
are down there they don't want to ... so.
MV: So it's shaved and bald. What do you do when you
masturbate? Ah, this is turning me so on. Who do you think
FV: I do it like under the water thing.
MV: In the bathtub? Do you do that?
FV: It was really ...
MV: Nice? What do you sound like when you have an orgasm?
FV: Hmm. Well, actually quiet so that my parents don't
MV: Your father would get mad if he thought you were
FV: He walked in on me one time.
MV: Oh, God! What I would do to walk in on you
masturbating, no doubt! What did he do to you?
FV: He made me read every single Scripture that ....
MV: What do you look like, sweetie?
FV: Tall, thin.
MV: How much do you weigh?
FV: Probably 145.
MV: So what do the Scriptures say about masturbating?
FV: He gave me the one about David and Bathsheba. He had
unclean thoughts about her bathing. And then he goes into
the book of Romans.
MV: Can I tell you something about your dad real quick,
honey? And I am going to be painfully honest. He's been
whacking off since he was 12 years old. Yes he has. He
does it every single night whether he has sex with your mom
or not. He thinks about other women besides your mom.
FV: I know that my father and mom still do because she's
been pregnant recently.
MV: So he still masturbates. A guy always masturbates. So
how do you feel when we tell you your dad masturbates? Is
FV: I don't want to think about that.
MV: He's probably twisting them off in the bathroom right
Have you every kissed a girl?
MV: Have you every wanted to?
MV: When you are hanging out with your girlfriends, have
you ever fantasized about going back to their house and
having a sleepover?
FV: My freshman year in high school there was a girl who
told me she liked me, and we were going to have a sleepover
but my dad met her ....
MV: That son-of-a-bitch! That bastard! That a-hole!
Do you have a car?
FV: On the weekends.
MV: Tell you what. We'll let you come up here, and we'll
find a really attractive woman that you can sleep with.
Would you masturbate in front of us?
FV: Uhm, I don't know.
MV: Why not? You're 17. That's not crazy! You're totally
legal. I think we could get you up here. I think we can
get you to buzz your beaver in front of us.
FV: I've never even like French-kissed a guy.
MV: Oh well, of course, we'll take care of that! We'll do
that for the first time here. We will corrupt you, baby!
Hmmm. You won't even want to go home after this. You know
what? You will be tearing pages out of your daddy's Bible.
You're 17. You'll be smoking them! You're 17. You're
legal. You can do whatever you want.
Are you a little turned on right now?
FV: Well, yeah.
MV: Would you masturbate on the phone for us?
FV: I don't know.
MV: Just do it a little bit. Now, we are going to turn off
the microphone and be real quiet. We want to hear you moan.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
FV: I'm going to be embarrassed.
MV: Go ahead, baby. Don't worry. It's kind of erotic.
The mikes are off.
FV: I like quietly whimper.
MV: That's cool. Just do it, and we're turning the mikes
off right now.
FV: Okay. Bye-bye.
Colt, are you on the phone?
Boy: Hello. Yeah.
FV: Get off the phone!
MV: Oh my God! Hey, Kenneth, are you the brother?
MV: Do you ever watch her at night while she's
FV: Don't say that!
Boy: Do what?
FV: Don't say that! Don't say that!
MV: God [bleep] son-of-a-bitch! Whore! [Beep] sucker!
She's dogging her vagina every single night with your dad's
FV: Hang up the phone!
MV: God [beep]! God [beep]! You're going to hell! You're
a sinner! I can't believe you're pregnant, you bitch!
You're a whore!
FV: Hang up the phone!
Boy: What kind of [unintelligible] is this?
(ABOVE: Us at a toga party. We were the only ones who wore them.)
Below is a conversation we had with Carlos
Mencia - and a porn star was in the studio:
Announcer: Extreme night-time radio with Kramer and
Twitch on 97.1, the Eagle.
(2) August 3, 2000 (7:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.)
MV: Male Voice(s) (Hosts)
MV2: Adult-film actor (Carlos)
FV: Adult-film actress (Gina)
MV3: Hosts' assistant (Frat)
MV: Carlos is on the way and porno chicks.
MV: We also have Gina Rider. She's a porn star. She's
going to be performing at the Clubhouse.
9:30 your first show, right?
FV: Yes, and midnight.
MV: You've done a couple hundred adult films, almost 200.
You're from San Antonio. You've got a boyfriend?
MV: Are you having sex with us?
MV: If she says no, it's a joke. If she says yes, let's do
MV: So, Carlos, you're on the road all the time, especially
with this tour. How's your sex life?
MV2: Great! It really is, dude.
MV: Carlos, I know you, and you're so business-minded. You
don't drink. I bet you don't bang chicks on the road.
MV2: No, I don't.
MV: Do you have a girlfriend?
MV2: Remember that tall blonde, thin chick?
MV: Is she hot?
MV2: Unbelievable, dude!
MV: Is she Mexican?
MV2: No. She's a white girl from Oregon.
MV2: Traitor? What are you talking about, dude?
MV: It's still pink in the middle.
MV: You are faithful to her?
MV2: Yeah. I may talk a lot of smack, dude, but you know.
MV: Is she faithful to you?
MV2: I have no idea, dude.
MV: Wait. Now is a blow [beep] cheating?
MV2: I tell her this. If you cheat on me, and it's a
mistake, just don't tell me.
MV: A mistake? I fell on a penis. It slipped and fell in
MV2: If she slips and falls into a pair of hairy [beep].
Just ignore it. I don't need that phone call.
MV: Is she in town now? Is she touring with you?
MV2: She usually comes. She took this week off.
MV: Are you coming with us tonight? We're going to the
MV2: Of course. I'm getting in trouble. She has friends
here who are listening in to the show, and I am going to get
a phone call.
MV: Does she get angry when you go to a boob bar?
MV2: I don't know. Sometimes.
MV: Is she jealous?
MV2: Sometimes. But she's freaky, though. She fulfills
those, like, you know ....
MV2: She does some crazy stuff, dude.
MV: Is she bi? Does she monge?
MV2: No, no, no. She don't do that. It's hard enough to
please one chick to do it well. Am I right? Hard enough to
really please you and make you feel like .... I'm talking
about in real life.
MV: You've even said it on your tape before. Why is it
when a woman doesn't have an orgasm, why is it my fault?
It's not your fault! It's not your fault, Carlos. Come on!
MV2: I know it's not my fault. But what I'm saying is it's
hard to please one woman.
MV: That's what the other bitch is for, Carlos!
MV2: Yeah, but then the talk after. It's like bitch in
stereo! Oh my God, you didn't do it right! And what about
my left boob? I would just kill myself, dude.
MV: We're going to talk to Gina Rider. Keep it on the
MV: What do you look like, girl? You are gorgeous, girl!
Oh my God! She sneezed and her boobs popped out. She just
said, ``I'm going to get naked.'' You can take off that
dress if you want.
MV2: Very nice booty, man. And she says she enjoys the back
MV: Oh, you do?
FV: I love it!
MV: For the first time? You just had your first back door?
FV: No. I've been doing it in my personal life for about a
year now. But I just did my first scene on camera like two
months ago. It was great!
MV: We're going to come back and see what happens here in
the studio. Mmm, mmm, mmm, delicious!
MV: Who give a crap! Frat boy is in his boxers right now.
I have a feeling something is going to go down in here. Are
you willing to get naked, Frat? Take them off.
MV3: I am not getting all the way butt naked. I can't do
MV: None of us guys want to see your peepee. And she's
seen tons of them. I've got one, man. Come on!
MV2: I'll pull it out just so you feel comfortable.
MV: Frat, you'll go and whip it out in a bar and go and
talk to people with your peepee out.
MV3: But I am usually like lit, dude, when I am doing that.
MV: Puss, puss, puss!
MV2: I'll pull it out, and mine's got a hood on it. How bad
could yours be?
MV: [To FV] Cut or uncut, how do you like them?
FV: I've been playing with cut, uncut, lately. I've always
had cut, and my [beep] buddy's uncut.
MV3: I'm uncut, baby! I've got a chance!
MV: I want to ask her to have sex with me, but I'm not in
front of you because you're going to mess it up. She might
say, ``Yeah.'' But you, my friend, would screw it up!
O.K., so get naked, Gina.
MV2: Dude! What is wrong with you, bro?
MV: I just don't want someone that looks like you to sleep
with her. Look at her. She is phenomenonally gorgeous. It
would hurt my feelings.
MV2: Ah, poor fatso!
FV: We're all hanging out tonight, right?
MV: All right, Gina. Your new flick is ``Skin Tight,'' and
you are 23, and you've been doing porno since you were how
MV: So, will you demonstrate on Frat? You know, wrestlers
have moves and stuff. Porno stars have got to have
something that they do that makes them special. Frat, get
Do you have some kind of signature move that is yours like
[To Frat] Grab your ankles and like take off your pants.
Don't be a pud! Get naked!
MV3: Who's going hold the mike?
MV2: That's not your problem, dude. You're a big fat puss!
MV: You're going to get naked in front of a porn star.
MV2: What are you afraid of? She's like a doctor. She's
MV: Gina, how far would you go with Frat in here? He's a
pretty good looking guy. Nothing he's got is going to
compare to anything you've seen before. Nothing. We've
FV: I've got to see what he looks like.
MV: Take it off, Frat! Take it off!
MV2: Did you see that look of horror?
1 See, e.g., Citicasters Co. (WXTB(FM)), 13 FCC Rcd 15381
(Mass Media Bureau 1998). See also Regent Licensee of
Flagstaff, Inc. (KZGL(FM)), 15 FCC Rcd 17286 (Enforcement
2 See Jerry Szoka, 14 FCC Rcd 9857, 9865 (1999); Southern
California Broadcasting Co., 6 FCC Rcd 4387 (1991).
3 47 U.S.C. § 503(b)(2)(D). See also The Commission's
Forfeiture Policy Statement and Amendment of Section 1.80 of
the Rules to Incorporate the Forfeiture Guidelines, 12 FCC
Rcd 17087, 17100-01 (1997), recon. denied, 15 FCC Rcd 303
(1999) (``Forfeiture Guidelines'').
4 Forfeiture Guidelines, 12 FCC Rcd at 17113.
5 See 47 C.F.R. § 1.1914.
And then, ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE!
Over the past several years, by far the most questions I get about anything is the BRITNEY SPEARS debacle.
So now, I'm going to outline EXACTLY what happened and WHY.
The Britney thing happened in late June of that year, and I think we moved back to Dallas in April. So we'd been back a few months.
Tony (Twitch) and I were constantly coming up with ways to make noise, get written about in the newspaper, get on the news, etc. We were ALWAYS thinking of ways to do that. But what we did with Britney wasn't at all designed to do that, well it was, but not for the sole purpose of self-promotion. We were seeing things blowing up in the news that turned out to be untrue, because news entities weren't checking facts, and they were running with stories. It happens today CONSTANTLY. A great example of that recently was the BUZZFEED debacle and the kid wearing the MAGA hat with the Indian debacle.
We decided to use the show as an experiment to see if we could blow a news story up in the news media without having any facts whatsoever.
And boy did it work.
We decided to go on the air and say a celebrity died. It was that simple. And we'd sit back and see if the newspaper would write about it or a news channel would cover it. That was all we thought even MIGHT happen. We completely low balled our expectations.
At first we thought about saying a member of Metallica died in a plane crash.
Nah, the rock audience will kill us. We just saw what happened in California with the bikers.
One of the afternoon guys, Chaz Knight had pictures of Britney Spears all over the radio station. He had them at his cubicle and they were in odd, random places around the station. I happened to look up while we were trying to figure out who was going to die, and I saw a picture of Britney not even 3 feet from my face, and I screamed, "BRITNEY!!!"
Tony was EXCELLENT at writing up fake news stories, so he went to work on writing it up. While he's writing it, I suggested we call Duane Doherty, the Program Director, and make sure he knows. We debated about this several times, and ultimately we actually called him to get permission. He laughed when I told him the idea, and he gave me the green light.
BY TONY ZAZZA - WHO WORKED WITH KRAMER IN DALLAS
I have so many Kramer stories I could write my own book, but I’ll leave that to the man who has spent 30 incredible years behind the mic! However, there is one epic story that I continue to share that while I’m not proud of, definitely resinates as one of those moments in life that we take with us through every step of the journey.Kramer was doing night at KEGL in Dallas and I was doing nights on KDMX right down the hall. Fridays were Humperdink’s nights. A great local bar right around the corner that we would go to after our shift. One night I had a friend coming up from the small town I had moved from in Texas and Kramer, even off the air was never not looking for the next prank opportunity. He prepped me that when we got there to go with the story. I knew nothing more other than to follow his lead.I arrived with, we will call her Shelby (protecting the innocent). Him and his crew all greeted me with the usual Friday night hang out excitement and without missing a beat Kramer says “ok now that everyone’s here, Shelby every Friday when we get together we rotate who buys everyone scratch offs. Tony let us know you were coming so we’ve included you.” She was flattered. Her eyes lit up. She was part of the group. At least for the night. Well, for the moment.Kramer casually starts at one end of the table and works his way around handing everyone a scratch off each. Everyone starts to remove the grimy gray wax and all of a sudden Shelby says “Oh wow….”. everyone stops and turns as curiosity has set in, when the final strokes of her lucky coin removed the final number and a screeching rejoice of “OMG, HOLY SHIT….HOLY SHIT…I WON!!!! I WON!!!! OMG I FUCKING WON $10,000!!!!!”…Everyone reacts accordingly….Flipping out! Ashley climbs on top of the high top as if she reached the peak of Kilimanjaro and announces to the entire bar “I JUST WON $10,000”…At this stage Kramer, in an attempt to cool her jets says “you don’t want to announce that to everyone…” She agrees, gets down, walks over to the payphone and calls her parents to let them know.As she walks back from the call, some random patron calls her over and asks to see the ticket. She shows her and the girl quickly has her flip the scratch off to show her the fine print, that it’s just meant for fun and entertainment purposes and wasn’t real.Needless to say the night was over, her stay was awkward and she was in her car and headed back to her small town, not $10,000 richer at 6am sharp the next morning. I haven’t spoken to her since.Pure BRILLIANCE! Congrats on 30 years! And thanks for including me in your crew! Tony ZazzaSyndicated Host & Executive ProducerZazza Mornings
I want you to keep that in mind for in a moment. I AM NOT LYING - we got permission from the PD of the station to do this bit.
We went on the air, and in the most solemn voices, spoke about the tragedy. Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake (who were dating at the time) were involved in a car crash in Los Angeles. It looked like alcohol could have been involved. Britney has perished and Justin was in the hospital.
No longer than ten minutes, our HOTLINE was blowing up every 5 seconds. I'd pick it up and I'd hear, "Hi this is Carla Mathis from Fox affiliate so and so in Miami, can you comment on . . . "
"Hello mate, this is Blaine from BBC, can I ask you a few questions?"
"Hi this is Deb from the NBC affiliate in Chicago, can you tell me where you're hearing the news about Spears?"
It went on like that ALL NIGHT LONG. CALLS FROM ALL OVER THE GLOBE. Australia, China, etc. From every State. ALL. NIGHT. LONG.
We went out after the show and everyone in the bar came up to us all night asking about it.
I knew something big was happening. I just didn't know how big.
SIDE NOTE: When Tony and I got the job in California, I started getting calls from entertainment agents. My thought was that maybe we did need one, but none of them really said the right things, until a gentleman by the name of Norm Schrutt called. Norm was at one time the head of CBS RADIO. He was THE HEAD OF CBS! He was getting old, he retired, and to get him out of the house, he was an agent to a handful of radio people. He had a very short list, and he was extremely picky about who he represented. He basically said we needed someone to put out the fires we create, and to keep management from firing us. I remembered that when we moved back to Dallas, and I called and told him exactly what was happening with them jacking us around, he started representing us for free, while he dug through the process of the shit pay we were making. He was ONE GRUMPY SON OF A BITCH! I used to feel like I was calling my BOSS when I'd call him, and frankly, calling him to tell him what we'd just done was going to piss him off. He was negotiating a great salary for us and here we'd gone and pulled this stunt. I called him and told him what we did, and he unleashed on me like a lion on a gazelle. MAN HE WAS PISSED. It severeley damaged our relationship with Norm, but he knew we were talented, just that we were extremely volatile, to say the least.
Now here is where it gets INSANE.
My best friend in the World at the time was Eric. Eric was "Eric The Sports Guy", and Eric would come up every night, do some sports on the show, and then we'd all go out. Eric had a real job, so he was out the door at probably 6:30 or 7am. The next morning he called me really early and said, "Hey I just passed the station on the toll way and noticed all these media trucks out in the parking lot with their masts up. Is that because of the Britney thing?"
I was up early, so I got in my truck and went to get breakfast. On the way there, I was listening to Howard Stern and WHILE I AM LISTENING, I HEAR ROBIN SAY, "Britney Spears fans were shocked when they heard the news that Britney Spears had died on THE KRAMER AND TWITCH SHOW." And then Howard started making fun of our names, and they went on and on and on.
So I got my breakfast and went back to Christy's apartment. I was sitting on the floor eating on the coffee table, watching CNN, and then I see a message about Tony and I on the scroll on the bottom of the screen. Then the anchor comes on, talks about the fake news story, and then I see OUR PICTURE ON CNN! Not just ANY picture, but they'd taken a pic off the website of us in a club with a porn star!
(ABOVE: Kramer and Twitch on the news, complete with a picture of them with a porn star.)
That night, the news channels went NUTS, and we were painted as the worst people on the PLANET. They even interviewed little 12 year old kids, crying, and talking about how they really thought their idol, Britney, was dead.
I didn't feel bad, because we'd proven our point. Problem is, all of these news channels reported this CRAP, without having ANY facts, and then WE look like the idiots. They tried to cover up their screw up by making US look like the tyrants. Funny how no one saw that irony.
So we were allowed to go back on the air the next night, but we were told not to mention anything about Spears or Timberlake because they were probably about to sue the station and Tony and I. So we went back on, did the show clean, but the fervor had gotten to insane proportions, and they couldn't keep us around, so they suspended us.
I didn't care. I also didn't care if we got fired because I was making $20,000 a year, and maybe, just maybe, this will help us get a new gig.
Somehow, my cell phone number had gotten in to the ether, and it was blowing up night and day.
First, a massive THANK YOU to Dare, Tony's ex girlfriend, who went thru the trouble of putting all these news stories on one long video on Youtube.
What you're about to watch is several news stories on the Britney debacle. We were the lead story on Entertainment Tonight. And the last one is a story about when we got hired in Detroit. I want you to notice how terrible they make us look. They talked to little kids!!! This brings back a FLOOD of memories. So crazy seeing all this stuff.
(Above: Just a few of the hundreds of articles written about the Britney debacle.)
It was difficult to know where we stood within the industry.
Look, if you read the FCC fines, or if you listen to some of the audio from that time period, it's obvious, we weren't choir boys by any stretch of the imagination. We were raunchy, obnoxious and downright immature, and we'd gone out of our way to make it appear that we were wreckless beyond anyone's wildest imagination.
So what would the rest of the industry feel about what we'd done.
I found that mostly, everyone was just really curious. I got gobs of phone calls from radio programmers all over the Country. Tony and I had had many conversations about what we wanted to do from this point, and the one thing that always came back up was we wanted to do talk. Certain industry people had made comments about how the music was a large part of our success, which was complete bullshit. We played very few songs per hour, and we were hugely rated. However, if we did talk radio, no one could blame the COMMERCIALS for our success.
One night we got a phone call from Steve Sinnicroppi from WKRK in Detroit. Steve was the GM for a FM TALK station in Detroit. We had a fairly short conversation. He said he wanted us to fly up in a few days, and I told him frankly I hated to fly. He said, "Let me call you right back." We hung up and in ten minutes he called back and said that he'd booked a flight to Dallas for him and Terry Lieberman, the Program Director, and said they'd be here tomorrow.
He asked that we bring some audio of the show.
So the next day, Tony and I got them from the airport. We drove to eat lunch and on the way, Steve asked that we put in the audio we brought them. While we were in the car with them, we played them some of our bits, and both of them were on the floor laughing, SO LOUDLY. I knew right there it was on. We went to lunch and took them BACK to the airport, where they got right back on a plane and went home. They literally stayed in town for about two hours and flew back to Detroit.
Enter Norm Schrutt. Our agent talked to them and got us WAY more money than we deserved, we got HUGE ratings bonuses if we hit them and we got 4 weeks of vacation every year.
(ABOVE: I didn't have this scanned, but it's in a frame in my office at home. This was a MASSIVE article in the Detroit Free Press - Sunday, July 8th, 2001.)
WKRK 97.1 was a CBS owned radio station that had Stern on in the morning, and they hired us for mid days. After us it was a show called Deminski and Doyle. They also had Tom Leykis on and later in the night a local sports show. We broadened our appeal to some degree, in that we learned how to set up topics, feed calls, and pay attention a little more to radio basics. I still contended, often, that if it's entertaining, people will listen, regardless of how many times I RESET topics of say the call letters.
If radio stations would be more concerned with the CONTENT of shows, rather than worrying about insignificant things, they would have much more success. I've said that over the many years until I am blue in the face, and it's something that's so obvious, but still Program Directors are out there making a big deal about how people say the name of the station, how the host doesn't give the time correctly, or the fact that someone said "degrees" while giving the freaking weather.
I digress, we did great in Detroit. One thing I will always love and MISS about Detroit was the loyalty of the audience. It was intense.
911 happened in Detroit too. I cannot express my love for the medium of radio, at that time, in that City. I've never felt that unified with a group of people. We would dress up in camo and go to bar appearances, and we would spend the first hour just hugging people. Really intense.
We were hitting our ratings bonuses, doing some really good radio. Christy had moved to Detroit with me. The first year we were there, Detroit was having one of the worst Winters it'd ever had. It snowed like CRAZY - ALL THE TIME! Christy had never lived anywhere outside of Texas, so she was in absolute Hell the entire time.
One thing we did that still gets mentioned on my Facebook page to this day was something called "T.O.T." Throw Them Out Thursday. On Thursday's, we told listeners to either have one of our TOT stickers on their car, or they could just write TOT in the snow or dirt somewhere on their vehicle. This would tell women to "THROW THEM OUT", meaning to show their boobs. It caught on like crazy, and men all over the city were getting flashed. I put a map in the studio every Thursday, and when someone would call and tell us that a woman did it, I'd get the address, and put a pin in the map.
(ABOVE: Kramer during a Thursday show. Notice the pins in the TOT map.)
Our show was a lot about theater of the mind, but we would always try to modernize that concept. We would use the idea of theater of the mind to shock people. I remember one time, while in Detroit, it really scared ME AND TONY.
We took calls like always and a guy called and said, "Hey I just want you guys to know that I would shoot a toe off if you could get me season tickets to the Tigers." (Detroit baseball team.)
We said, "If you're serious, come on down, and we will set it up."
Later, he came down. He was in the studio and he said he would literally shoot a toe off if we gave him the season pass.
So we got the engineer to set up a mic outsite in the back of the station. We all went outside, and this guy went to his car and got a 9MM.
We noticed right next to the station on a little side street, 4 Cop cars sitting there wathing the entire thing.
Oh God. What are we doing?
Just at that moment, Terry Lieberman the Program Director, intervened and went on the air with us. He said that the station had just gotten phone calls from the head of the company asking what was going on and that if we did this, we'd likely be fired.
We'd built this up for HOURS AND HOURS. EVERYONE in Detroit was sitting by a radio waiting on this dude to SHOOT HIMSELF IN THE FOOT!
So, we ended it.
(ABOVE: Detroit - Kramer, Tonia, Dare, and Christy - limo - drunk out of our minds.)
(ABOVE: Detroit - In a limo, smoking, and drinking . . . this was a regular occurrence, for YEARS!)
(ABOVE: We found midgets. Far right, "J2" our producer.)
(ABOVE: Take your shoes off. Get on your knees and put your knees on your shoes. Now you look like a midget.)
(ABOVE: The billboard in Detroit.)
Were we really going to have a man shoot himself in the foot?
Was there really a gun?
Did the company call and say that?
But no one else knew that, and we fielded phone calls for 2 solid days about that one bit.
Let me ask you a question: When is the last time you were so captivated by a radio show, that you coudln't stop listening? When is the last time you though if you didn't listen to a radio show, you were going to MISS something? It doesn't happen anymore does it?
So those were the kinds of things we constantly were trying to create for the audience. We were so extremely good at that, but at EVERY TURN I got blowback, because companies, PD's and GM's were horrified what may happen.
And at the next gig, after Detroit, is where I finally gave up and told the entire industry to KISS MY ASS.
We did well in Detroit, but my girlfriend and Tony's girlfriend, and to a larger degree, Tony himself - all - were tired of living in Detroit, in the snow and cold. (I didn't mind it. I kinda liked it actually.) So when another CBS station, this time in Orlando, came calling, we all knew a change was coming.
It was an alternative rock station in Orlando, and they wanted us for the morning show. Tony and I both had always wanted a chance to do mornings, and this looked like a perfect fit. It was in Florida, where we both had lived before. It was rock. It was with Alan Smith, who had been the Music Director in Dallas for KISS, so we knew him. And it was with CBS who'd frankly treated us pretty nicely.
And that's about as good of anything I can say about the experience of living there.
After living in Detroit for four years, where the Winter was from October to May, it was a huge deal for us all to move to Orlando. I remember when we drove in for the first time, I had to stop and pay a toll. When we let the windows down in the car, we could smell oranges. AHhhhhhhh, nice.
But there were problems. Lots of problems.
O-ROCK 105.9 was the station, and it played Green Day, Linkin Park, System of a Down, Papa Roach, Chevelle, Blink 182 --- ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT. It was a VERY young ended Alternative Rock radio station. Keep that in mind.
The first red flag was, they wanted us to change our names from Kramer and Twitch to Keith and Tony. I should have fought that harder, but even Norm was telling us that it was something we needed to do because those names had a ton of baggage. I should have said, "Those names also got huge ratings for radio stations all over the COUNTRY," but I got beaten down - and to save face to get a morning show, I let it happen.
Second, Bubba The Love Sponge was on in the morning there. No one knew that until we got there. It was kept under wraps, and he correlated his debut in Orlando with OUR debut. He named the 2 interns on his show, you guessed it, "Kramer and Twitch".
Third, Howard Stern was on in the market.
Fourth, the newly hired GM that didn't hire us, wound up HATING us.
Ernest L. James.
Ernest was an older black guy. (I will explain why his race matters in a moment.) He was cantankerous. Ernest did not like The Kramer and Twitch program, nor did he understand it.
We'd get off the air, he'd call us and the Program Director in to his office, and spend an hour tearing into us. It was an everyday occurrence. I'd get beaten down, and literally go home and be drinking by 12 noon.
I've written extensively about my bout with alcoholism. This post about my 30th year isn't about that, it's about the up's and down's of radio. But for the sake of the story, I will tell you that at this time, the drinking went to a whole new level. I was absolutely MISERABLE in Orlando. I'd drink when I got home, and then I'd eventually just pass out around 6 or 7, only to wake up at 3AM hung over like you can't even imagine.
One night, Christy woke me up. She was sitting on the edge of the bed. I thought I was late, so half hung over and half concious, I got up and walked into the closet to get clothes. She said, "No babe, you don't have to go to work yet." I didn't hear it, and kept getting ready. Finally she screamed, "KEITH! I AM PREGNANT!"
I look at her. She's holding a pregnancy test. She's crying.
I sit down on the bed, shocked. I was 33 years old. I knew there was no alternative.
(ABOVE: Dare. Twitch. Pauly Shore. Me. And a very pregnant Christy.)
Now, my Grandmother, Nannie, God rest her Soul, was a MAJOR worrier. Nannie could worry about the way the clouds looked outside. I spent a lot of time with her growing up, and I guess I got that gene from her. I AM A MAJOR WORRIER. So now I am worrying about my job, and I'm worried about bringing a child into this screwed up World. I was worried that I was drinking too much, and I was. I was worried about being in radio and having a baby. I was worried that I would somehow kill it. What if I left it in the car when I went to the grocery store? What if I get fired tomorrow?
All day, every day, from that moment on - I've worried. For 15 years now, I've worried. I will never NOT worry about him . . . but let's continue, shall we?
So now we're pregnant, and Ernest is ramped up to a level 10. Tony and I weren't getting along. I think the stress of this particular job was making us hate each other for some reason. You have to understand also, when you're in radio and doing a show with someone, you're in a small room with them for many hours out of the day. We'd been together at this point for 7 or 8 years, and we were probably just getting on each other's nerves. But that friction, coupled with Ernest, plus my drinking and worry and anxiety was not doing us any favors.
During that time, a huge news story developed in Orlando. A man was running from the Cops for some reason. At some point, he stopped his vehicle and fled on foot. He ran into a woman's yard and jumped up on the window and opened it. He was about to crawl through it, looked back, and then put his hand in his pants like he was about to pull a gun. After repeatedly telling him to stop, he didn't, and the Cops shot him. He died. And he didn't have a weapon on him. That caused a massive amount of racial tension in Orlando at that time, and people were having the debate about whether or not the Cops had the right to shoot him.
So, yes, we went on the air with the story and my contention was, "Hey, don't run from the Cops. If you're stupid enough to run from the Cops and then act like you have a gun, don't be surprised when the Cops fire a bullet in your ass."
WE ARE LIVE ON THE AIR, IN THE MIDDLE OF TALKING ABOUT THIS.
The door FLINGS OPEN. It flung open so hard, it made a "THUNK" sound on the back of the wall. I look up, and guess who. It's Ernest.
He points to the mic as if to say "turn this on".
He said, and I quote, "You are a couple of white boys, so let me ask you a question, 'Have you ever been caught DWB?"
Now, at this point, I can laugh it off, I can tell him he has a point, or I can argue.
You know me. I wasn't going to laugh that off. Eventhough I was a long hair rock person, I'd began to read the news every day and be a student of what was happening in the World. I act like an idiot sometimes, but truth be told, I'm not.
"Driving while BLACK? That has nothing to do with this story. The man who was shot didn't get shot because he's black. He got shot because he ran from the Cops, and pretended to have a gun," I said.
He said, "When I came here to interview for CBS, I was in my rental car which was a nice vehicle, driving to the building and I got pulled over. I was in a nice car, in a nice neighborhood, and a officer pulled me over and harrassed me. Now do you think he would have pulled me over if I were white?"
I asked why he got pulled over. He said the rental had a tail light out.
I start going off, "Then you got pulled over like thousands of people do every day BECAUSE YOU HAD A TAIL LIGHT OUT - NOT BECAUSE YOU'RE BLACK!!!!"
THAT is the kind of man we're dealing with here.
After that, the constant harrassment got amped up even more.
We were told that we could no longer do phone pranks. We could no longer do bits. We could no longer talk about entertainment news. We could no longer hang up on callers. We could no longer talk for more than 2 minutes at a time. In one meeting, after he grilled us, he said, "I want you reading out of the newspaper. I want you to talk about news. I want you to read a story and then ask the audience how they feel about it. Don't give me your opinions. I only want to hear the opinions of listeners. I want to hear listeners on the air more than your voices." He then leaned back in his chair, and calmly said, "I want you to be my information station."
I probably drank a gallon of Jack Daniels that night.
So Christy is pregnant, and now I'm supposed to go on an ALTERNATIVE ROCK STATION that's playing Chevelle and Blink 182 and talk about the details of State Politics on a morning show that was hired to compete with Bubba the Love Sponge and Howard Stern?
One morning we got the news that Howard Stern had been taken off the station he was on in Orlando, which at the time was a Clear Channel station.
BUT . . . CBS owned the show, and our show was on, you guessed it, a CBS station.
The writing was on the wall.
I was miserable. EVERY DAY I was dealing with bullshit from Ernest. EVERY DAY I disagreed with Tony over the show. EVERY DAY I couldn't imagine having to do this for the rest of my life. This isn't why I got in to radio, to fight with management and fight with people over insignificant creative differences. And now I'm going to bring a BABY into this insanity?
I went home one day, and while completely sober, told Christy I wanted to quit. I'm a fighter, and had never quit a job in my life because I couldn't hang in there. I kicked it around in my head for about 2 weeks, and finally one day I just couldn't imagine walking in to that building another time. And without warning to anyone, I quit.
I moved back home to Alabama to get my head straight, and to think about what I really wanted to do. You also have to understand, I'd spent SO many years away from my family too. I missed seeing my damned family. I was truly bitter, and was holding a big grudge against radio. Here I'd sacrificed so much for my career, and it was all backfiring.
My Mother lives at a home in Eastaboga, and she's about 3 or 4 miles from the Talladega Speedway. She lives on an old back road with very little traffic. I would put Cash in his stroller, and walk down this long road, talking to God. I had no IDEA what to do. Do I try to stay in radio? Do I go bag groceries? I've never felt more in limbo. On top of that I was having anxiety attacks every single day, multiple times. I couldn't sleep. I was MISERABLE. MISERABLE!
Eventually I got a call from Kenny Wall. If you scroll back up - way up - he was the guy who heard me in Gadsden while he was in Huntsville and hire me for WZYP. Side note, he's also the one who gave me the name "Kramer". No, Kramer isn't my real last name. Shocker.
He was the PD in Little Rock at THE EDGE. He had mornings open, because their morning show was moving to the classic rock station down the hall.
I went out for the interview, got the job, and we moved to Little Rock. Cash was a TINY TINY baby at the time. In fact, on the way to the interview, we needed to change his diaper, and when we stopped, I made him laugh for the first time. I'll never forget that moment. There is nothing like a baby's laugh. (Smiling while typing.)
I tried to do some things to move the needle, but by now, the damage to radio had been done. Janet Jackson's nipple and an insane amount of fines for Stern made radio companies and programmers scared of their own shadow. So if a host did ANYTHING that was considered on any level, risque' or blue in any way, everyone threw tantrums.
The audience in Little Rock was killer. They were extremely loyal, loud and were so great. There used to be a guy DANIEL who called in, and I can't remember what was wrong with him, but he had a really strange voice and he was off, but hilarious. I can't remember what I had to give away, probably concert tickets, but at some point I got him down to the studio in his underwear, and convinced him to kiss another male listener. DROVES of people showed up in the parking lot to witness the event.
(ABOVE: Daniel and Fre@k kissing in Little Rock in 2005)
Honestly, my heart was not in this job. Looking back, it was one of those things where I WANTED my heart to be into it, but it wasn't. I was still extremely pissed off about what happened in Orlando, and I knew this would probably just be more of the same horse shit.
And it was.
Clear Channel owned the station, and they would send out emails from bits that other stations would do within the company. One of the bits was to recruit 2 male listeners who didn't know each other, put them in a sleeping bag - naked - and the last one in wins something. I thought it was actually kind of funny, so I promoted it for a week. On the morning I was to do it, the Operations Manager, I can't even remember his name, but he flung the studio door open as if he were a drill seargant, and started barking at me. What is this dude's problem? "Kramer, you are not going to demolish this radio station. No sir. NOT ON MY WATCH KEITH KRAMER! You will not do this bit, no sir, not on MY WATCH!"
On my watch? Who are you?
EVERY TIME this guy spoke to me, it was with complete and utter condescension. I'm back at the SAME exact place I was in Orlando. I was miserable. At some point they wanted to move their corny morning show back from the classic rock station, and I got let go.
I got a call from Casey Bartholomew, who was part of Scott and Casey in Detroit. They were at WKRK during the last half of our stint there. Casey was always a sweet guy, very nice. He knew I was looking for a job, and he'd talked to the PD at KTRS in St. Louis, Al Brady Law. They were COMPLETELY overhauling the station, and the company had just got the rights to the St. Louis Cardinals, who forever had been on talk rival KMOX. They were looking for shows, and he specifically wanted someone for the 12n to 3pm slot. I called, and he said he wanted audio of the show and if he liked what he heard, he'd call me back. Fairly typical stuff. I sent him stuff. He called back and said, "I liked the audio. But tell me what's wrong with you."
"You're really good, and you know that, but what's wrong with you? Why have you moved so much?" he said.
I didn't get into killing Britney, being fined by the FCC, opening car doors on bikers, etc. I just said it was a series of unfortunate circumstances.
(ABOVE: 4th of July at our house in St. Louis with a very tiny and ultra cute, Cash.)
(ABOVE: Our best friends in the World's daughter, Belle, with Cash in St. Louis.)
He wasn't convinced so he told me to come up and do a week filling in from 9a to 12n. I was dead broke. Unemployment doesn't go far. If I remember correctly, they paid me $2500 just for filling in that week. By this time, they'd fired every single show on the station, but one. It was Christmas time, and the newspaper and news channels had a field day with the massacre. They billed the station and the company as the devils. I did the week's worth of shows and on that Friday, Al asked me into his audience.
Quote, "Kramer, what is wrong with you?"
I said, "Listen, Al, you keep asking me that, and if you want to know ANYTHING just ask me and I will tell you. I'm a very loyal employee, I show up early. I work hard. I don't lie. I don't steal. I care. I don't know what to tell you."
He threw an envelope on the desk and said, "Well, there is your contract and a little something extra. It isn't the best contract I've seen, but if I were you, I'd sign it."
I didn't look at it. I drove back to the hotel wondering what was in it. I went in and gave it to Christy and told her to open it. It was for a lot of money.
So, here I am in St. Louis, working for a talk station, living in a big house, and I'm finally picking up where I think I need to be. I'm getting older, and am turning into a serious conservative, caring about politics, caring about how the Country is ran . . . I think I must be growing up a little. I think I may like it here.
That didn't last long.
The radio station was in a plaza. It was kind of like a mall, and the radio station had windows that looked out into it. Directly across from the station was a restaurant that had chairs, and sometimes the staff would go over there, sit and talk. I was sitting there with a few members of the staff one day, and Al Brady Law walked out of the building over to where we were. He started screaming, "SO KRAMER, YOU'RE IN THE BUSINESS NOW OF PUTTING FUCKING PORNOGRAPHY ON YOUR FUCKING WEBSITE HUH? GET YOUR ASS UP AND COME WITH ME!!!" Right in front of everyone. We walked in his office, he slammed the door and continued literally SCREAMING at me over a pic of some woman wearing beads on my website. It was a post talking about the upcoming Mardi Gras parade in St. Louis. NO NUDITY!
That was just the beginning, and I had no idea what was in store. EVERY DAY I'd get off the air, the control room door would open and it would be him demanding I come in to his office so he could completely lose it.
One Friday I had Ralphie May, the comedian on. He was probably on for about 20 minutes. During the interview he said it shouldn't be a bad thing to be called a Liberal, and that President Bush was a criminal, etc. I got off the air, was on my way home, and Al Brady Law called me while I'm driving. He was screaming so loudly I could barely understand what he was saying: "Kramer so let me get this straight. You had Ralphie May on my radio station and you allowed that fat FUCK to criticize the President? Do you have any fucking clue who owns the radio station you work for? Well he is good friends with the President!!! And did you actually allow this fat fuck to say that the President is a fucking CRIMINAL?"
Every. Single. Day.
EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It was something every, single, day. A few months went by, and every new show they'd hired had been fired. The station was getting unbelievably poor press. The papers and news channels were going off on KTRS every chance they got, plus they were upset that the Cardinals had made the move to that station. Every one of us were under microscopes. I hated baseball too. I still do. But I had to act like I adored it. We'd got o baseball games, and since we worked for the station, we could go virtually anywhere and meet players, coaches, etc. It meant nothing to me, but St. Louis is the biggest baseball town I've ever seen.
Below is an article written in the paper in St. Louis. Pay attention how they paint me!
PR flops. Staff upheaval. Shrill talk-show hosts. The Cardinals' flagship station can't seem to find the strike zone.
By Chad Garrison Chad.Garrison@riverfronttimes.com
Critics say The Kramer Show represents all that's wrong with KTRS.
KTRS ("The Big" 550 AM)
Former talk-show host Dave Lenihan's well-publicized gaffe last month was more than a colossal blunder. For those who've lost patience with KTRS ("The Big" 550 AM) and its general manager, Tim Dorsey, it reaffirmed a long-standing conviction that the station and its founder have lost all control.
A brash, cocksure advertising salesman once destined to take control of KMOX (1120 AM), Dorsey struck out on his own in 1996, launching KTRS to rival his former employer. But ratings floundered, and the station failed to attract any real attention until last August. That's when, to great fanfare, the ownership group of the St. Louis Cardinals announced they'd purchased a 50 percent stake in KTRS and planned to make it their flagship broadcast station.
Many in the media trumpeted the move as a grand slam for KTRS and a potentially lethal blow to KMOX, which rode its 51-year run with the Redbirds into becoming the nation's most dominant regional radio station. At the same time, the KTRS-Cardinals merger aligned two of St. Louis' most powerful and well-known investor groups.
On one side of the aisle sat the privileged Country Day boys of the Cardinals ownership: chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., former United States Ambassador to Belgium Stephen Brauer and banker Andrew Baur. Filling the bride's pews were Dorsey and his investor group, whose names include former big-league stars Dan Dierdorf and Ozzie Smith, actor John Goodman and beer baron Jerry Clinton.
Though the merger was billed as a union of equals, the honeymoon didn't last long. Immediately, the Cardinals ownership set about dismantling everything Dorsey and his group had built during their ten years at the reins. Gone was the earnest talk-radio format modeled after KMOX. In its place came shrill, in-your-face chatter, more akin to that found on rocker KSHE (94.7 FM).
Radio insiders say that the 59-year-old Dorsey, who is accustomed to calling the shots, now plays little more than a bench role. It's KTRS newcomers Bobby Lawrence and program director Al Brady Law who actually control the station, with the Cardinals sending Dorsey to the mound only when they need him to mop up one of the station's many publicity flops.
But on a Tuesday afternoon last month, the gregarious Dorsey carries the swagger of a starting pitcher as he strides about the windowless office of his Westport Plaza radio station. Mistakenly, he thinks most of the bad press is behind him. (It is two weeks before Dave Lenihan will draw national attention to the station for using the word "coon" when talking about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.)
Dressed in khakis, a starched blue Oxford and a tangerine tie, Dorsey has just wrapped up an interview with KMOV (Channel 4). Like many covering the Cardinals' move from KMOX to KTRS, the television reporter wanted to discuss with Dorsey the station's signal strength. At night, when the majority of Cardinals games are played, KTRS' 5,000-watt signal is considerably weaker than the 50,000-watt "Mighty MOX."
"The Post actually got this one right," Dorsey says, holding a well-worn copy of the August 12 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in which a team of reporters mapped KTRS' signal and found its daytime reach to be stronger than most critics believed.
"I think, overall, the stories about us are starting to turn somewhat," Dorsey adds. "They're not quite so negative."
Dorsey boasts that KTRS recently increased the Cardinals radio network to 115 affiliates in 9 states, filling in static-plagued pockets in Illinois, Arkansas and other locales where KTRS' signal does not reach.
He maintains that public outcry is at last waning over the controversial firing of nearly the entire on-air staff nine days before Christmas. He adds that listeners have fallen in love with John Rooney, who the Cardinals placed in the KTRS broadcast booth after handing Wayne Hagin his walking papers in November.
What's more, an over-the-top PR stunt in which the Cardinals ownership and KTRS conspired to "vandalize" several local Redbird billboards recently earned the station tons of free publicity. Though some questioned the ethics behind the prank, Dorsey is only too happy to show newspaper accounts of the antic that appeared in publications as far away as Chicago.
As for the station's ratings, which nose-dived from fourteenth in the market to nineteenth following the Cardinals purchase, Dorsey spins the numbers as meaningless. (Last month the station moved up to eighteenth in the market, even though its overall market share dipped slightly, to 2.5 percent of the listening audience.)
"Actually, we're surprised anyone was still listening," says Dorsey. "We basically imploded the station and started from scratch. Our thought is that we have three months to work out the kinks before Opening Day."
Dorsey estimates the Cardinals will bring some bring 750,000 new listeners to the station — up threefold, he says, from the 180,000 to 250,000 people who tune in on any given day. Just thinking about the influx of new listeners has him as excited as a Little Leaguer the night before fantasy camp.
"I wake up each morning and say, 'Damn, we got the Cardinals! It really did happen!'" Dorsey exclaims.
As if on cue, he reaches into his pocket to retrieve a cell phone. On the other end of the line is John Rooney, who wants to know when Dorsey plans to arrive for his first-ever visit to spring training.
"Johnny boy!" Dorsey yells. "How ya doing? Yeah, I'll be down tomorrow. Do you have dinner plans that night? No? Well, you do now. Terrific!"
Friends say Dorsey has aged noticeably in recent years. He's lost weight; his hair has grown gray and thin. Although he insists he has the last say in the station's transformation, those whom he canned in December say the tears in his eyes told another story.
"I'm pretty sure if he had his druthers, I'd still be there," notes sports anchor Randy Karraker, one of the many on-air hosts ousted in December. "We had a great relationship. We played golf together. We were friends. But it's Al Brady Law who's calling the shots."
Frank Absher, a radio historian and media professor at Saint Louis University, questions whether landing the Cardinals broadcasts is truly as big a coup for KTRS as many have made it out to be.
"I remember seeing a tape of the press conference announcing the merger. [Cardinals president] Mark Lamping said for the record that the flagship radio station doesn't mean as much anymore," Absher says. "There's Dorsey standing there in all his glory, and his new partners are saying the station doesn't mean much?!"
Others offer an even harsher assessment of the Cardinals-KTRS partnership and Dorsey's tenuous position within it.
"Dorsey put together a deal he's not intellectually equipped to run," opines Steve Mosier, station manager at soul station WESL (1490 AM) and a former sales manager at KTRS. "Some people, instead of asking for help, they scratch and claw. Dorsey would rather say he's captain of a sinking ship than fix the ship."
To make sense of the criticism directed at Dorsey and KTRS these days, it's important to review a little history of the radio station and its ties to KMOX.
It was under the tutelage of legendary KMOX general manager Bob Hyland that Dorsey entered radio. An autocratic ruler who ran KMOX from 1955 until his death in 1992, Hyland hired Dorsey as a salesman and quickly went about teaching his understudy the industry. For the next fifteen years, Dorsey would work his way through the ranks, eventually becoming station manager of KMOX and the rumored heir-apparent to Hyland.
That transition never happened. In 1991 Dorsey left the station after the Cable Advertising Network of Greater St. Louis presented him a "godfather offer" he says was too good to pass up.
In 1995, three years after Hyland died, CBS sold KMOX to Westinghouse Inc. The new owners demanded the station turn a 40 percent profit margin. Unlike Hyland — who kept CBS largely out of the station's affairs — new general manager Rod Zimmerman seemed only too pleased to assist ownership in its cost-cutting. On Valentine's Day 1996, the station laid off nine full-time staffers, and morale sank to its lowest in memory.
Sensing opportunity in the upheaval, Dorsey brokered a deal with Charter Communications to join him in launching a station to rival KMOX. In April 1996 Dorsey persuaded popular KMOX hosts Wendy Wiese, Kevin Horrigan and Bill Wilkerson to join him in the venture, originally broadcast on Belleville-based WIBV (1260 AM).
It was a decision the former KMOX hosts soon came to regret.
"We were upset about Zimmerman and suckers for the sales pitch," laments Horrigan, one of many casualties from KTRS' recent format change. "What we failed to recognize was that the signal in Belleville was so terrible that even if people wanted to listen they couldn't, and particularly at night west of Highway 270, which is a huge market for KMOX."
Realizing WIBV was fading fast, Dorsey compiled a new group of investors. Taking their name from the Charcoal House, a smoky Rock Hill eatery where the group first met, CH Holdings emerged in January 1997 with a reported $10 million in financing — enough to purchase KSD (550 AM).
Dorsey changed the call letters to KTRS, short for "Talk Radio St. Louis." But even with the stronger frequency and new Westport digs, the station failed to make a splash. Why? Former staffers and radio insiders blame Dorsey, whose meddling in station affairs, they say, prompted the running joke that the call letters stood for "Tim's Radio Station."
"The place was like the Bermuda Triangle for broadcasters," comments Horrigan, who adds that Dorsey let go and later rehired all three of the original KMOX staffers who joined him.
"Tim's a pure salesman. Best I've ever seen," Horrigan adds. "But he never had a strong radio guy running the place. Your dime-store psychologist would say Dorsey was trying to emulate Hyland, but Hyland had a gift for the business."
Dorsey's mercurial hirings and firings are something of legend. The station's morning-drive slot alone featured thirteen different hosts during a six-year span from 1998 to 2004.
Former employees say Dorsey was also exceedingly parsimonious, failing to provide shows with producers and not even handing out the standard trinkets — key chains, coffee mugs — to promote the station.
"In my five years at KTRS, the station did only two months' worth of advertising," recalls Karraker. "We didn't even have T-shirts to give away. Management's philosophy was word-of-mouth would provide ratings. Sometimes you can do that. When you're going up against a station like KMOX, with 75 years of history, that's not the case."
But for most staffers — especially those who Dorsey lured away from KMOX — adding the Cardinals to KTRS made all the troubles worth enduring. Finally, they reasoned, the station would possess the clout Dorsey had long promised.
Those thoughts vanished with the addition of Bobby Lawrence.
A handsome playboy and bird hunter who travels the globe in pursuit of quail and other feathered game, Lawrence wowed the staff the first time he breezed into KTRS' studios. Dressed in Italian slip-ons, a tailor-made suit and flashing a gold signet ring on his pinky finger, the station's new chairman spun visions of a glorious future.
"KTRS has ranked in thirteenth place in the market for much of its life," Lawrence says. "If we can do the things we've done in the past, we're going to have a winner for sure."
A part-owner of the Cincinnati Reds, Lawrence owes a good deal of his fortune to his Ohio neighbor, Cardinals general partner Bill DeWitt Jr. In the early 1980s, DeWitt invested in Lawrence's Cincinnati-based radio venture, Republic Broadcasting Inc., which later sold to Jacor Communications for $34 million.
As for DeWitt's return on investment: "He did great by us, and we did great by him," says Lawrence.
Lawrence went on to work for Jacor, serving as president and chief operating officer until its sale to Clear Channel in 1999 for a whopping $6 billion. During Lawrence's time at Jacor, the company gobbled up stations but earned a less-than-stellar reputation for its use of "shock jocks" and voice-tracking technology — the practice of producing radio programs that are designed to sound local but can be run in multiple markets.
"Did we dare to be different at Jacor? Absolutely," says Lawrence. "But I don't want to be maligned for something we're not doing in St. Louis. For the most part, our shows are all locally produced. And about us using shock jocks at KTRS, that couldn't be further from the truth. We're not going to do dirty radio, but that doesn't mean we can't be controversial."
Lawrence claims it was his idea that the Cardinals buy into KTRS, back some seven years ago, when the team was negotiating an extension with KMOX.
"I called Bill and said, 'Listen, I don't know if this would make sense, but would you have any interest in pursuing a station that could broadcast the Cardinals?'" Lawrence recalls. "He said he was interested, but by then it was too late. They'd already struck a deal."
Lawrence made a similar call last year during a protracted rights-fees negotiation, in which KMOX wanted to reduce the reported $6.7 million it paid the Cardinals for broadcast rights in 2005.
While terms of the deal remain hush-hush, the word in radio circles is that their half in the station cost the Redbirds a paltry $2 million — or one-seventh of what they're paying Albert Pujols this season.
As recently as 2001, Dorsey told the Post-Dispatch he'd received offers for the station approaching $20 million. Why, then, would he sell half of KTRS to the Cardinals for such a bargain? Because, say media insiders, Dorsey needs the Cardinals much more than they need KTRS.
"It doesn't matter if it was $2 million or $20 million," Dorsey says of the sale price. "We looked at this as affecting the long-term value of the property, and we think we'll really see the dividends three to five years down the line."
For the Cardinals, the acquisition of KTRS provides the club a powerful new revenue generator, allowing for even greater marketing incentives and corporate tie-ins.
Take, for instance, the new Saturday-morning show The Law in Your Life. Hosted by attorneys Michael Angelides and Jeffrey Simmons, the show is supposedly set up to offer listeners insight into the legal ins and outs of the major issues of the day.
On a pre-Valentine's Day show this year, Angelides and Simmons excoriated a U.S. Senate bill that would restrict the amount of claims asbestos victims bring before the courts. Not mentioned in their argument was that their Alton-based law firm, SimmonsCooper LLC, has won hundreds of millions of dollars representing asbestos victims — and ranks as one of the biggest asbestos litigators in the country.
Also unmentioned is the fact that SimmonsCooper pays for the hour-long block on the station, and that the law firm happens to be a major advertiser with both the Cardinals and KTRS.
"It's a brilliant move to control the influences that help brand your product," says Lawrence. "That's why the Cardinals owners bought the minor-league team in Springfield. They want to be able to control all the aspects of Cardinals baseball."
Media's ownership of baseball clubs is nothing new. The Tribune Company owns the Chicago Cubs, and the Atlanta Braves answer to the shareholders of Time Warner. But a baseball team buying a media company represents something of a first — though it probably won't be the last.
In February the New York Daily News reported that New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was looking at the Cardinals' investment in KTRS as a possible blueprint for the Yankees' acquisition of a radio station. Lawrence says he's also had two other owners approach him to seek help in obtaining a station.
Not everyone welcomes a wave of team-owned radio stations. Post-Dispatchcolumnist Bernie Miklasz turned down an offer to work for KTRS following news the Cardinals bought into the station.
"At first I was flattered they wanted me," says Miklasz. "But then I started thinking about it. Ethically I didn't know how I could work for a station owned 50 percent by the Cardinals. Of course, the Post-Dispatch also owns a small percentage of the Cardinals, and many people said KMOX was a 'house organ' for the team, but in working for both I was never told to pull punches.
"I hope it's the same way with KTRS," Miklasz continues. "But I have my doubts. From the times I've listened to the station, the people hosting shows are very defensive of Cardinals management and very harsh to criticism."
Forget the Cardinals. Forget popular KTRS host Frank O. Pinion.
Forget even for a moment the guy who referred to Condoleezza Rice as a "coon."
The new voice of KTRS is Keith Kramer.
He's white. He's from Alabama. He identifies with the Confederate flag. He's been fired or let go from a half-dozen stations. And from noon until three every weekday afternoon, he'll talk to you about whatever's on his mind — including such scatological topics as how he likes to hang his toiler paper. (As any "P1" listener — code for his most devoted fans — will tell you, Kramer insists his toilet tissue spill off the top of the roll, and he'll habitually place his left hand on the paper as he rips it with his right hand, thus ensuring a clean tear.)
On a recent Friday, however, the hot-button issue has moved from the bathroom to the bedroom. Sporting a goatee and a black bowling shirt with the words "Psych Ward" stitched across the back, Kramer wants to talk about grown men who live with their parents. As caller after caller rings the studio to rat out a friend or defend the filial bond that keeps him tied to his parents' domicile, Kramer responds in abject horror.
In front of him sits a keyboard full of canned wisecracks and sound effects. But Kramer's also quick with his own comebacks, the words "gay" and "retarded" being two of his favorite barbs. In the case of men living with their parents, Kramer has just one thing to say: "That's retarded!" he shrieks into the mic.
As well as lambasting his callers, Kramer really enjoys making up a good story — sometimes, too good a story. In 2001 he lost his job at a Dallas station for concocting a tale that Britney Spears died in a car crash.
"Just Google the words 'Kramer and Twitch' [his former on-air partner in Texas]," Kramer notes proudly. "The story got picked up around the world. It was crazy!"
Minutes after exhausting the subject of men and their parents, the 35-year-old host switches gears entirely, launching into a skit in which he pretends to be an effeminate caller named Bill. For reasons unexplained, "Bill" has taken offense to the show's producer, Laurie Beakley, and launches into a lispy tirade, berating her work on the program.
"She's just a whore!" bellows Bill. "Nothing but a whore!"
National Public Radio it is not. But then, that's the last thing program director Al Brady Law wants KTRS to be.
It was with Law's arrival last October that KTRS staffers say they first felt Lawrence's true impact on the station. A radio vagabond who's worked with such broadcast raconteurs as Don Imus and Howard Stern, Law wears his moustache just as he does his hair — long, slick and jet-black.
Some say he's a dead-ringer for the saloon keeper on HBO's Deadwood, a guy who feeds his adversaries to the pigs. Others draw comparisons to the Grim Reaper and say it's no coincidence that his first day on the job was Halloween.
"Am I a hatchet man?" replies Law. "Perhaps. No one hires me for a great station. My lot in life, for whatever reason, has become somewhat of a hired gun — to clean up the town and hope to God no one has a faster gun than me."
With Lawrence and Dorsey's blessing, Law began to tinker with the station's programming. Cardinal Nation may span generations, but for Law the only segment worth catering to is males aged 35 to 44.
"This station was modeled after KMOX, but the problem is there already is a KMOX, and unless you can do better, why fight it?" Law muses.
On December 16, Dorsey, Law and station manager Craig Unger summoned the majority of the station's on-air hosts and fired them one by one, including such popular personalities as Wendy Wiese, McGraw Milhaven, Bill Wilkerson, Randy Karraker, Jim Holder, Scott St. James and Kevin Horrigan.
Surviving the purge was John Hadley, a sports reporter whose acerbic rants fit Law's new model for the station, and Frank O. Pinion, whose late-afternoon show — a combination of homespun tales and puerile jokes — has long been the station's most popular program. In place of the disbanded staff, the station would hire edgy, out-of-town talent, more interested in Hollywood gossip than local politics.
"It's called marketing to the lowest-common denominator," says Joe Sonderman, a radio critic for the St. Louis Journalism Review. "They're appealing to the people who made American Idol the most popular show in the nation."
Media insiders say Dorsey told several of the fired staff that he'd been outvoted in the station change, leaving many to question the perceived 50-50 partnership between the Cardinals and Dorsey's group.
"The cruel irony is had Dorsey not been an equity party, he'd have been out a long time ago," comments a media source who asked not to be named in this story. "He mismanaged the station from the get-go. But the talent who took the risk to join the station, they were expendable."
Dorsey maintains he never had complete control.
"Yeah, I've been a managing partner and the president of the station, but I've never been in control. I answered to 32 board members," he says. "Now, with the addition of the Cardinals, there are probably 50 owners."
If the on-air hosts were startled by the swift and sudden change, the station's listenership was even more surprised, and responded by firing off more than 2,000 e-mails in protest.
Still, Law remains resolute that a change away from the news-talk format was desperately needed, and he dismisses the notion that he's dumbed-down the station.
"This is the entertainment business," offers Law. "If information is a byproduct of that, then fine. But information without entertainment doesn't work."
And if there's a bullpen closer in the new KTRS lineup it appears to be Keith Kramer, a guy Law predicts to be his star.
"I think Kramer is going to be huge — a real force in this town," predicts Law. "He has the talent and the brains. I find him immensely likeable."
Others do not.
Mike Anderson, moderator of the online message board stl.media.net, has established himself over the past six years as the region's most prolific — if not boundless — broadcast-media watchdog. During a late-night thunderstorm last month, Anderson critiqued the local television network's weather coverage live on his Web site as if calling a horse race.
"2:45 a.m. and 2's back on with the thunderstorm info, 4 drops out and 5 is still in regular programming. 2:50 a.m. and here's the rain. thunder's louder, lightning's brighter. no hail yet. 4 & 5 back with brief reports; 4 continues along with 2."
But few topics have captured Anderson's attention as much as KTRS' format change, and his message board reflects his dissatisfaction — particularly with host Keith Kramer.
In the past two months Anderson has posted on the message board such tidbits as comments Kramer's wife, Christy, made on her MySpace blog, joking of her desire to smoke crack and perform a ménage à trois before turning 30. Other entries skewer Kramer for using a Confederate flag on his Web site, www.godofradio.com, and one post even confronts the talk-show host to a fistfight.
"If you had any stones, you'd confront me in person," writes Anderson. "But you never will. I'm 57 years old, old enough to be your father (presuming you know who your father is) and handicapped, and you're still afraid to take me on man-to-man."
Kramer labels Anderson a "harassing little turd" and has threatened to release potentially damaging information on him should the attacks continue. Even some of Anderson's supporters say his attacks on Kramer have gone too far, but Anderson remains unapologetic. The reason?
"A major-league radio station should have a major-league team working for it," says Anderson. "But what did KTRS do? They went out and hired guys who may or may not be qualified, who weren't working or who were barely working."
Kramer was out of a job for several months before landing at KTRS. Tim "Monty" Montemayor, who replaced Randy Karraker in the sports department, was such a greenhorn at his previous radio gig in Sacramento that he was forced to supplement his income waiting tables at a local Chili's. Jay Anderson, who lasted less than two months before being fired for Dave Lenihan, reportedly was on air just one day a week before arriving at KTRS.
Whereas many of the old hosts commanded salaries ranging from $100,000 to $150,000, radio insiders estimate the salaries for the new staff at between $75,000 and $100,000.
"A salary dump was certainly one of the factors in the change-up," says Joe Sonderman of the St. Louis Journalism Review. "The fact of the matter is Dorsey poured a shitload of money down the drain. He paid his hosts big money to move from KMOX, and they weren't pulling the figures. Now I'm told they don't even care about programming. They figure people will tune into the Cardinals and then never change the dials."
But there's mounting evidence the format change isn't going as planned. Last month KTRS rehired McGraw Milhaven after firing him just four months earlier.
"We listened to what our listeners had to say," says Dorsey, who shrugs off the notion that Milhaven's rehiring suggests an about-face. "The number-one complaint they had was that McGraw was no longer on the station."
Dorsey further maintains that landing the Cardinals will turn KTRS into the station he first imagined a decade ago. Besides, it's a move right out of his old mentor's playbook.
"I idolized Bob Hyland," Dorsey says. "He understood radio and St. Louis like no one, and he started to make that station great by building on its sport talent. First we got the Blues. Then we got the Rams. Now we have the Cardinals. If you'd given me a blank canvas ten years ago and I painted KTRS alongside the logos for all three teams, you'd have thought I was on an LSD trip!"
Dorsey also dismisses the notion that he mortgaged his dreams for the station in order to get the Cardinals.
"So we changed our lineup. Yeah, it's a shame. But then Stan Musial is no longer in the Cardinals lineup, either. We changed with the times."
Others say it's too bad another voice of the Cardinals is no longer with the team.
"I can't help but think of when Jack Buck was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame," Karraker says. "He gave a speech blasting this new in-your-face, vulgar radio, saying: 'We don't need to do this. We shouldn't do this. We're guests in people's homes, and we should behave accordingly.' And I think if Jack Buck were around today, he would not approve at all. And he'd tell the Cardinals that."
Says another media insider: "The question becomes: Now that they have the Cardinals, will people finally stop listening to KMOX — and can we spoon-feed them shit?"
I had media people so mad at me that they were criticizing MY WIFE! What were they MAD AT?
St. Louis turned out to be an incredible nightmare. Are you seeing a pattern here?
I eventually got fired. It was not a surprise. I knew that one was coming, and again, I was okay with it. I was in Hell, again. But I was getting the shaft in the media. My boss was screaming at me every day. No one respected the radio station because they fired about 40 people inside of one year - I can't believe I lasted as long as I did last.
I looked and looked and looked and looked for a job. The only job offer I got was from a talk station in Springfield, IL which was right up the road from St. Louis. WMAY.
(ABOVE: Big Kramer and lil Kramer at a parade in Springfailed.)
I sat here for several minutes trying to come up with something positive to say about my experience in Springfield, and I can't think of one thing.
I didn't make any money. I didn't like many of my co workers. The City is broke and full of trashy people. It was terrible. But my son was getting older and he needed some stability, and unfortunately we were in the armpit of America. And ohhhhhhh how I DOOOOO mean the armpit of America.
And since I don't have ANYthing positive to say about it, I will just say that I did afternoons at WMAY in Springfield, IL for six years, and I will just move on.
I was looking, and eventually Tony Tilford reached out. He was the PD when Tony and I were on his station in Cleveland, from Dallas. He knew WIOT in Toledo was looking for an afternoon host. Plus they wanted someone who could do afternoons on their station in Canton/Akron. Both stations are rock stations.
Out of all the jobs I've had, I've never seen a better ran operation than the group in Toledo.
I did afternoons on WIOT, and did afternoons on Rock 106. I was there for 3 years.
Cash was in a great school. We lived in a really nice little house in a suburb. Things were very quiet. I had remotes often, and Cash would go to them about 90% of the time with me.
My co workers were awesome.
I was bored out of my mind.
(ABOVE: The moving truck at our new house in Toledo.)
10am - go to the station and fiddle fart on the computer. Post some stuff. Read.
12n - wander back to the studio. Do the show for Rock 106.
1p - Maybe do a podcast. Jack around online.
2p - Go on the air.
5p - go home.
The GM was great.
The OM was great.
The PD, Aimee and I, were great friends. I miss her terribly.
(ABOVE: Aimee and I at a remote.)
(ABOVE: Aimee and I with Pop Evil.)
(ABOVE: Cash, Aimee and I with Night Ranger.)
(ABOVE: Cash, Aimee and I with Shinedown.)
(ABOVE: Aimee and I at some remote.)
(ABOVE: Some of the staff, with Aimee at an annual concert to kick off Bike Week.)
(ABOVE: Me with a trophy I won at Cedar Point at Halloween.)
(ABOVE: From the stage at a show in Toledo.)
I never, at any point, sought out other employment while in Toledo. For the first time in a long time, I was content. I was bored, but I was content. I hate being content. I didn't know where I was going. I was stagnant. The company wasn't looking at me to do anything but afternoons in Toledo.
The phone rings one day and it's Marc Summers. Marc was the PD at WZYP during the latter part of my stint in Huntsville. He and I had always had a great relationship, and Marc was NUTS! He and I always shared the notion that radio should be done loud, with creativity, and with exciting passion. He talked to me about coming to Panama City and doing mornings on the talk station and being the PD for that station and the talk station the company owned in Tallahassee.
I'd been so far away from my family for SO long, and the thought of going back to Northern Florida, doing talk and being close to home really sounded great. I turned him down initially. He didn't let up and I eventually caved not only to him, but to myself.
I got here in October of 2017, and trust me, there have been more insane moments during this last year than you could even imagine, but here I sit - looking out onto my lawn with no trees. My first year here and we get a Cat 5 hurricane.
So there you go ladies and gentlemen, 30 years of radio.
It took me a few weeks to get all this together. As I was going through all the stuff and writing, it jogged so many memories. What you're reading is only about 10% (if that) of a MILLION stories. If it would sell more than 10 copies, I'd write a book. I really could.
Would I do it all over again?
I mean read that up there! Who would go back through all of that again?
But I'm a big kid, and that will never change. Big kids can't be accountants, or music teachers. Big kids need a microphone, and I supposed as long as someone will hire me, behind one is where you will find me.
Thanks for reading. It was enjoyable writing it.