It was 1986, the year of the “shock jock.” That was the term for radio personalities who did outrageous things on air. The movement was led by Howard Stern, who generated numerous run-ins with the FCC involving the content of his New York-based morning radio show. He was constantly fined. His most famous moment was when he did a live remote broadcast from the streets of New York, where Al Lewis, who played Grandpa Munster on the 1960s TV show The Munsters, uttered, “FUCK THE FCC!”
Elsewhere in the country, there were others doing outrageous stunts and on-air exploits. On the West Coast, I was the king. My style was friendlier and fun, not in-your-face like Stern’s. But I was equally shocking! Typical examples of my style—if you can call any of this style—were features such as “Daring Line,” “The Biggest Partier of the Night Award,” The KROQ Bikini Search and “Burrito Day,” for which we blew up burritos in the KROQ parking lot and had a Burrito Toss that devolved into a food fight between Little League baseball teams.
In those days, I was doing what we affectionately referred to as the “double shift.” Mondays through Fridays would begin with me co-hosting the KROQ Morning Show with Richard Blade from 6:45 until 9 a.m. We were diametric opposites. I’d come into the studio disheveled, unshowered and sloblike, and he would arrive coiffed, dressed to the Ts and wearing nicely scented cologne. Then I’d be back on the air from 9 p.m. until midnight, hosting an irreverent music show during which we’d do things such as challenge people to drive through car washes naked in convertibles for concert tickets. Or we would get listeners to phone the show with celebrity phone numbers that we would call for live practical jokes.
One listener gave me the phone number of the studio where Madonna was recording. I phoned and got through multiple screeners by posing as her then-boyfriend, actor Warren Beatty (doing a really lousy impersonation, by the way). After hearing a “hello” from an obviously irritated Madonna, I uttered, “Madonna, this is Warren.” She was not fooled and hung up in less than a millisecond. It was live on the air. And it was great!
Both of my shows were receiving the highest ratings on the station. On Sunday nights, I was also hosting Loveline, a show I created that was the No. 1 show in Los Angeles in its time slot. My co-host was medical doctor Dr. Drew Pinsky, and we had guest celebrity “love doctors” dispensing relationship advice to callers. The love issues covered a myriad of problems. One caller, “Billy the Masturbator,” engaged in self-love 16 times per day. (No news about what Billy’s up to 30 years later.) A girl asked “Love Doctor” Alyssa Milano whether she should give her boyfriend “sex of head” on his birthday. Then-teenager Alyssa’s father showed up at the back door of the station afterward, ready to remove her from the premises. I talked him into letting her stay on.
You guys get the idea. Antics such as these provided the fuel for my inclusion in a major article that appeared in Us magazine titled “The Most Outrageous DJs In America.” They listed me as fourth on a list of 30 radio personalities; Stern was ranked as No. 1.
This all led to the crescendo of my career as a shock jock: an invitation to be a guest on the hottest afternoon talk show on TV in the United States, The Oprah Winfrey Show. The topic was also “The Most Outrageous DJs In America.” In those days, there were only three talk shows on TV: Winfrey’s, Donahue (hosted by Phil Donahue) and Geraldo (with Geraldo Rivera). The Oprah Winfrey Show was a runaway No. 1, with insane numbers. Receiving a phone call at KROQ from Winfrey’s producer was almost surreal. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it! She told me I would be flown to Chicago, put up in a five-star hotel for the night and driven in a limo to the studio.
I’ll never forget when Oprah phoned the KROQ morning show to officially invite me. Richard put her on the air as I was driving in instead of waiting a few minutes for me to arrive. He pretended to be amazed that she was calling, exclaiming, “Oprah, what a pleasant surprise!” She was very nice and said she was inviting the Poorman onto her show. Richard then proceeded to maneuver his way through the interview, trying to get Oprah to invite him as well. It was obvious the famous talk-show host was becoming uncomfortable. In the meantime, I was in my car, screaming at the radio and driving as if I were in a NASCAR race. I then ran up the steps to the studio like an Olympic sprinter, hoping I’d get there before the segment was concluded. Luckily, Oprah was still on the air as I burst into the studio. In fairness to Richard, it had to be awkward for him having his morning-show partner requested and not both of us.
Three days later, I flew to Chicago. The following morning, the limo picked me up at the hotel and dropped me off at the high-rise TV studios for the live taping. I’d never been so nervous in my life. You know that if you really kick ass on her show, it could be a career move. I was wearing my specially designed, loud, pink-and-black checkerboard pants. My fellow panelists were Tom Joyner (shown in the picture above with Oprah and myself), Scott Shannon, Moby and Jonathon Brandmeier. (Johnny B was the local boy and Oprah-audience favorite. They cheered him every time he opened his mouth.) They’ve all gone on to big-time careers.
Interestingly, Stern turned down Oprah’s invitation. Prior to going on the air, she introduced herself to all of us. I found her to be very down-to-earth, engaging and relatable. Once the show began, my vividest memory was how fast on their feet all my fellow jocks were. Oprah would ask us a question, and they’d all be answering rapid-fire before I could even open my mouth. I was thinking, “Wow, this is the big time.” Basically, I was so intimidated I psyched myself out. The first 40 minutes were a blur. Luckily, I had devised a plan to do something outrageous before I left California. Oprah asked everybody to tell us about their families. The jocks all started giving long-winded answers about their wives and kids. That’s when I jumped in and seized the moment. “Wait a minute!” I shouted. “I’m single and don’t have any kids. In fact, any girls who think I’m cute, here’s my home phone number!” I then grabbed a 8-by-10-inch envelope from below my seat and popped out a Poorman stick figure with an enlarged photograph of my smiling face where the head should be, with painted on arms across my stick body holding a giant banner with my phone number. From that point on, I kept flashing the number. Even Moby, who was sitting next to me, got into the act and grabbed the stick figure from under my seat to flash the number. That was definitely my moment on The Oprah Winfrey Show. At least somebody did something outrageous!
I received nonstop phone calls for six weeks after my appearance on Oprah from women across the USA. Some wanted to lick me head to toe. Others thought I was disgusting. One set of girl “friends” from North Carolina wanted to fly me there for a threesome. The irony of all ironies is I actually didn’t get one date from the thousands of calls. Either they were geographically undesirable or didn’t answer my return calls. I now routinely give out my cell number on the radio.
My appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show didn’t “make my career,” but who knows? Maybe writing about it for the OC Weekly will!
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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.