Every year around this time, around my birthday, the memories creep up like a bad fungus. Aug. 20 is the anniversary of my firing from KROQ in 1993 based on a spectacular stunt. It’s been 26 years since that fateful night, when I managed to get myself fired even though the radio show I created and hosted, Loveline, was No. 1 in Los Angeles and Orange County and dominated the airwaves unlike any other show in the market and maybe history.
How did this happen?
I can pinpoint the exact date things began to unravel: Valentine’s Day 1992. That was the date KROQ general manager Trip Reeb and program director Andy Schuon decided Loveline should begin airing five nights per week instead of only Sunday nights. The show had been on the air for nine years. At that time, it was on from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., and the ratings were massive. This particular ratings book (before the change in time slots) featured some of the highest numbers in LA radio history. We had a 27 percent share of the audience in our first hour and a 21 share in the second hour. This meant approximately one out of every four radios in the market (90 station choices) was tuned to us. Not bad for your host, ME, whom some described as a “stoned surf bum” (which was probably true).
I was living the life. I did a regular 6-to-9 p.m. music shift with crazy antics Mondays through Fridays. After I got off the air, clubs would hire me pretty much every night of the week to host. I was getting paid between $250 and $750 per night to drink a few beers, meet a lot of fun people, and do whacky contests onstage for two hours. Let’s put this another way: In addition to my annual KROQ salary of $180G, the Poordude was taking home an extra $2,000 to $4,000 per week in outside income. I really miss that income—not to mention all the fun I was having!
The fun and the loot suddenly grinded to a halt. I was told by Trip and Andy several days prior that starting on Valentine’s Day, Loveline would begin airing Sunday through Thursday, 10 p.m. to midnight. My hours would instantly change. This was no problem for my co-host, Dr. Drew Pinsky (whom I discovered and put on the show a year after we began), as Sunday night was his only shift of the week, and he welcomed the added exposure and pay. I had no problem doing Loveline five nights a week. It was an incredible hit show that I created! It was my baby. My big problem was that I was going to lose the extra income because the clubs wanted me doing my appearances during those same hours.
I told Trip and Andy my issue with the lost gigs. Their response hit me in a way I’m imagining was similar to someone sticking a cactus up my ass: “Well, if you don’t want to do it, we’ll have Doug the Slug be the new host of Loveline.” Here’s a show I created, hosted for nine years and took to No. 1, and I got this beautiful treatment. Ahhhh, what memories!
Of course, there was really no choice. I had to hang with Loveline and lose the extra income. They told me, “This experiment with a nightly talk show on a music station may last two days, two weeks, two months or forever. Who knows?” They said if it did work, I’d be compensated. With that, I agreed to the switch in shifts.
Within the first three months of airing five nights per week, Loveline catapulted to No. 1 in the market. It was getting an incredible response. We more than doubled the ratings of the No. 2 show in that time slot. Television news crews and newspaper reporters were coming into the studio on a nightly basis. Our nightly guest celebrity “Love Doctors” read like a who’s-who of Hollywood: Robert Smith of the Cure, Keanu Reeves, Roseanne, Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ben Stiller, Courtney Love, Ron Jeremy, Bob Saget, Stephen Baldwin, Oscar De La Hoya, Carrot Top, Mayim Bialik—the list goes on and on.
It was insane! Loveline was a hit! As time marched on, the ratings increased even more, as did the pressure of performance. It’s hard to explain, but doing a live radio show for two hours per night, five nights a week, with people expecting you to be funny all the time is really a mind fuck (sorry for the flowery language). No matter what’s going on in your personal life, you have to somehow put it aside.
A year into this new hit show, I was dealing with a divorce and only able to get management to agree to a 5 percent pay raise despite these boxcar, ever-increasing ratings. Our show was carrying the entire station. Not only was Loveline No. 1, but the station overall was No. 12 in the ratings, as well. That’s when things began unraveling. The combination of pressure to perform, thousands of dollars in lost gig income, and the dashing of my hopes for future syndication and compensation was the combustible recipe leading to the end of my career at KROQ.
The first major crack in the armor occurred in May 1993. Dr. Drew used to love baiting me on the air and, as he would say, get me to “share” my personal life with the listeners. He felt it would make for good radio. Well, in this particular situation, it was good enough to get me to walk off the show 10 minutes into the program and get suspended for five weeks.
To be continued . . .
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When Poorman doesn’t have his feet in the sand, you can find him on the air Monday-Friday 7am-10am at KOCI hosting Poorman’s Morning Rush – Orange County’s only morning drive show. His show brings plenty of excitement, and of course, the Poorman’s aura of unpredictability – both good and bad – that has defined his legend! Email Jim “Poorman” Trenton at email@example.com to request a song or submit music.