In my career, I’ve probably interviewed more than 10,000 people. Some interviews are memorable, some aren’t. Some are funny, some are serious, and some are, in all honesty, just “filler.” A few totally stand out. The common theme with all of them is you never know where they’re going to go. That’s what happened with the scariest interview I’ve ever done. There’s a clear cut “winner” in this category for me. It was an interview with actor Danny Trejo. Our chat started innocently enough, and ended up where Trejo almost beat the shit out of me on live radio. How did this happen? I’ve wondered the same thing many times over the years.
This incident occurred in 1997 when I hosted the morning show on the late, great Groove Radio 103.1. The format on this station was EDM (electronic dance music). I think Groove was the first EDM station in the country. It came about through the combination of two small stations that had their frequencies on the same band on the radio dial, one with their antenna in Newport Beach and the other in Santa Monica. Both were at 103.1 on the dial. Groove’s biggest coverage area and most enthusiastic audience were in West Hollywood. The gay community loved Groove Radio and its electronica format. We even had a float in one of the first Gay Pride parades!
My morning show, The Love Doctors Starring the Poorman, was an experiment to see if the Loveline format I had created for late nights at KROQ would work that early in the day. People called in with their love problems and received advice from the show host (me), a medical doctor and a daily guest celebrity–the “Love Doctors.” Danny Trejo was booked as a guest celebrity Love Doctor, and that’s where the problems all began, and boy did they ever! Things just accelerated in a way no one could ever anticipate.
According to my former call screener Freddie Morales, the type of calls we would get would involve topics such as anal sex, herpes and butt plugs. We would get questions such as “I have a wart on my left ball. What should I do?” and “What happens if I swallow cum?” or “Is it OK that I masturbate four times a day?” and “What happens if I stick something up my ass?” Back then, we did not have social media, so the only way people could get answers to these types of questions were with programs like my morning show. Typically, listeners would call the show and tell us these types of problems. I would then ask the guest celebrity Love Doctor to give his or her advice on what the caller should do. Celebrity “unqualified” answers were always entertaining. We’d eventually wrap up the conversation by having the physician give a qualified medical answer based on expertise and resolve the health issue that presented itself.
Just so you understand who we were dealing with, you need to know that Trejo had been in and out of jails and prisons throughout California, including San Quentin, where he became a boxing champion. This was a hardened criminal who, to his credit, changed his life once he got out of jail for good. He helped other former inmates readjust into the real world once they left the slammer. Through helping people, he got his break in the movies by assisting an actor on a film set. He became the actor’s boxing instructor and from there, the director cast him as a hardcore villain. Trejo is definitely one of the scariest looking dudes who has probably ever been in movies. He has long stringy hair, tattoos all over his body, piercing eyes and the terrifying, crazy demeanor of a murderer (in my humble opinion). By the time he came on my show, he had already starred as a villain in Con Air, Blood In, Blood Out, Anaconda, Desperado and From Dusk ‘til Dawn. He was a rising star playing the most ferocious and intimidating villains of all time.
On the day he was a guest Love Doctor, we had several gay males call the program, one right after the other, seeking advice. This was not unusual given our fan base. Unfortunately, Danny was not familiar with the show or our audience. He was an emerging actor who just wanted the publicity. I started asking him his opinion about each caller’s problem and to give advice. As close as I remember, on or about the third call, things began to unravel dramatically. All of a sudden, Trejo was staring me down like one of the badasses he played on screen. He literally appeared ready to jump over the console and beat the shit out of me. It was chilling.
The reason he was so upset? He thought I was insinuating he was gay. I mean, that’s absolutely crazy! This was a guy who spent years in the joint with the toughest of fellow prisoners. According to Freddie, “We all thought you were dead, Poorman. I thought I was going to witness the death of Poorman on live radio. I heard Danny Trejo say live on the air, ‘Hey man! Did you just call me gay!?! That’s not cool, man! I’ll kick your ass, man!’ I was in the far corner and heard board operator Special Ed tell Danny ‘Settle down man, settle down.’”
At this point, I wouldn’t go to a break even though I needed to play the commercials because I feared Trejo would beat the crap out of me once we were off air. I remember telling the audience for several minutes that this guy was ready to pummel me. It was beyond tense.
Somehow, after reassuring him for about 10 minutes that I wasn’t calling him gay live on the air, I managed to calm him down. To this very day, people still remember the situation more than anything else I ever did on Groove Radio. Many of them don’t even remember the details; all they recall is that Danny Trejo wanted to kick my butt.
I saw him about a decade later at, of all places, the Van Nuys courthouse. I was doing a live radio report with Rick Dees in the Morning on KIIS FM. I don’t have any idea what he was doing there. We exchanged pleasantries, and it certainly seemed as if Danny Trejo had no ill feelings toward me or memories about the incident on Groove Radio. Maybe he’s mellowed through the years. I certainly have and only wish him the best.
Freddie Morales @Devotional The Depeche Mode Experience on Facebook
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 protected] to request a song or submit music.