In my radio career spanning more than three decades, I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve been on almost every type of “new music” station in the Los Angeles/Orange County market. In fact, I believe I’m the only local radio personality to have gigs at KROQ (Alternative), KIIS FM (Top 40) and Power 106 (Hip Hop and Rap). There are a few others I’ve been on in the market, ALT 98.7 (alternative), GROOVE Radio 103.1 (the 1st EDM format in the country) and STAR 98.7 (not a new music station), but my stay at each of these was brief before getting fired.
My current radio gig is at KOCI 101.5 FM. I’m back at it again with my own revolutionary new music format. I do Orange County’s only live and local Morning Show from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, and I’m now in my seventh month there!
The oddest destination in my radio career had to be the nine months in 1995 and 1996 I spent doing “Poorman At Power 106.” I was on from 7 to 10 p.m. every weeknight. In fact, most people don’t know I had this job.
It was crazy the way I got the gig. After getting suspended by KROQ on my birthday in August 1993 with 16 months left on my contract for a prank (you can read all about it in my Aug. 22, 2019 edition of Poorman’s Radio Days), I didn’t work again on the radio until the summer of 1995. The station paid me to just sit around for those 16 months based on this horrible contract I signed that stipulated that no other station could hire me during the duration of the agreement.
After my contract was officially up, I got a call a few months later from Roy Laughlin, the General Manager of KIIS FM. He asked whether I’d be interested in filling in for a week as Domino’s replacement Host of a nighttime show he did entitled “Desperate And Dateless.” I agreed to do the show, and by the end of the week, you could feel the listening audience loving the vibe. But a few weeks into it, Rick Cummings, the Program Director of Power 106, called me. Out of nowhere, he offered me a full-time job doing weeknights from 7 to 10 p.m.
Suddenly, I had simultaneous offers from two of the biggest new music stations in Los Angeles. But I knew nothing about the Hip Hop world. Honestly, the closest thing I experienced to that music was having Cypress Hill on as a guest on “Loveline.” The money was similar with both offers, but what really swayed my decision was the idea of being the only white guy on the air–a surfer from Newport Beach–playing Hip Hop, Rap and Deep House.
After signing my contract for one year at $90,000 in early September 1995, Cummings brought me into a world where I was the minority. Everything was very exciting and completely foreign. To bridge the gap, he introduced me to Angel, my show sidekick.
Angel got to Power 106 as part of an internship program to get kids “off the streets” through the new Homeboy Industries. Angel was an East L.A. local and supposedly a former gangbanger. He was pretty chill, but I certainly wouldn’t want to mess with him. Cummings also brought in another East L.A. Homeboy Industries find who became my intern. He was skinny, fast-talking Ernie “The Pee Pee Man.” Ernie was really funny, but he also wore an ankle bracelet for some alleged crime I don’t remember now. Our show lead-in was Big Boy who, at the time, was still a “big boy” with giant man boobs. I know this because I saw him take his shirt off on many occasions. Everybody would laugh, and Big Boy would bust a rhyme like no other.
Of course, I couldn’t bust any rhyme.
The Poorman show was subtitled “The Surfer And The Vato.” From the beginning, we all got along well, but they messed with me plenty! On any given night, they would steal my shoes. Being from the beach, I didn’t like wearing shoes, so I’d remove them while doing the show. Angel and the Pee Pee Man would sometimes hide them in the Power 106 Freezer. Other times, they would tie the laces together in like 20 knots, which I would have to untie at the end of the night. One night, I brought my four-year-old son to work, and they put him in the fifth floor window well. Pee Pee Man called me “Whitey,” “Hey Whitey,” “Wetto” or just “Poordude.” Angel was kind of quiet, but I’ll never forget on Friday nights at 10 p.m., after the last show of the week, he would take off for a gangbanging reunion with his buddies in East L.A. I never asked him what they did.
As for the listening audience, people would call in and ask, “What’s this wack white shit?” There were lots of complaints. There were also faxes (yes, faxes) saying “Fire the white guy” or “Poorman sucks.” See, I would get on the air and say, “This is the Poorman on Power 106, where hip hop lives! Here’s 2Pac with Roger from Zapp!” but I would say it as if I was introducing No Doubt back on KROQ. What I brought to the station was the true Poorman character, the same character that was on KROQ, KIIS, and everywhere else I’ve ever worked. They wanted me being me, and I gave it to them.
At one point, I decided to create a new music sound, which I dubbed “Surf Hop.” I hooked up my friend Randy Redmon, lead singer of the Newport Beach surf band The Ripp Tides, with a couple of local rappers who I met at Power. “You were the only skinny white guy in the studio surrounded by all these Hip Hop guys,” Redmon remembered. “Funny, you didn’t try to fit in. You were still Poorman, you being you, but in a different setting. You didn’t try to adapt to them. You didn’t try to pose. They respected that.”
Redmon came into the studio, but the story doesn’t have a happy ending. He and the rappers produced a “Surf Hop” song I played on Power. The song had rapping mixed with surf rifts. I played it on the air a few times, but it didn’t catch on. The rappers were supposed to be paid $300, but he only paid them half. A few weeks later, after playing a Ripp Tides gig, every member of the band had their tires slashed.
Six weeks into my stint at Power, Cummings was starting to worry about his Poorman experiment. In an Oct. 16, 1995 L.A. Times story about my new job at the station, reporter Jerry Crowe quoted Cummings as saying this: “He does not fit this radio station and doesn’t necessarily fit this audience. He certainly doesn’t know the music, although he does like the music. I think only time will tell us whether our audience can adapt to him and whether he can adapt to our audience. It’s entirely possible that we have picked a talent that is just too different from the lifestyle of this audience and just can’t bridge the gap. At the same time, that’s probably the hook: Can a surfer dude–a white surfer dude–make it on a hip-hop station? That’s the big question that gets addressed here every night.”
Cummings’s concerns aside, I loved my job. One promotion we did was the “Ghetto Olympics,” in which we parodied the 1996 Olympic Games. The Pee Pee Man and I did a live remote one night on a street in East L.A. We had different competitions. My favorite was the “100 Yard Stolen Battery Dash.” Competitors had to remove a car battery from a vehicle and sprint with the battery 100 yards to the finish line. Looking back, that all sounds quite racist.
What was really interesting about Power 106 was the dynamic that existed at staff meetings. I was the only white guy on the full-time air staff, which included the Baka Boyz, Morales, Big Boy, Josefa, DJ E Man, the Ruffnex, Boomer, Roger Perez, Joe Vinyl, and many others. All these guys were my friends. They were dynamic personalities, but they would get very quiet when the white guys who ran the station were talking. General Manager Doyle Rose was a blonde, blue-eyed dude dictating station policy, and the on-air sound was orchestrated by the bookish, 40-something Rick Cummings. I thought that was very odd. Neither of these guys were street at all, yet they were in charge.
The ratings of my time slot when I first went on the air were number 1 in Los Angeles/Orange County. Every three months, there was a new ratings book. My first book showed that not only did the ratings stay on top, but they were actually higher than when I arrived!
But after nine months, management fired me. Cummings said it was because I sounded too white. After, Angel and Ernie would often call me to see how I was doing. We had become close friends. In fact, I’m still friends with everybody at the station I worked with, including Rick Cummings. There are no hard feelings or regret in taking that job. It helped me grow as a human being, and I look at my time at Power 106 as a wonderful experience.
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.