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Radio AM to FM: April 20, 2001

A Really Cool Station

Walk through the studios of most radio stations, and you'll usually see typical radio stuff: posters of bands, coffee cups, computers, CD players. Walk through the studios of KMXN (94.3 FM) in Aneheim and you'll see all that, too. Plus more. A whole lot more.

You see, KMXN is owned by Art Astor, one of the few remaining independent radio station owners in Southern California. And while he has radio in his blood, he also has other interests.

Like cars: Astor has over 175 perfect original or restored classic cars dating from the earliest days of production through the 1960s. Or radios: he has over 450 restored working radios dating back to the earliest production models. Or phones: he has what programmer Craig Powers calls the world's largest collection of telephones.

These collections, along with antique microphones, jukeboxes, phonographs and slot machines are all found in the studios of KMXN or in another warehouse across the street.

"I love coming to work," Astor admits.

Cool 94.3 Logo

Of course the station is his main concern, a station that has become one of the real treasures of Southern California radio. Yes, the signal is weak due to another station broadcasting on the same frequency from the Valley. But it has become my favorite radio station.

The station, known as Cool 94.3, plays rock hits from the mid 1960s through today. Powers says that the station is roughly 30 percent current with a music library reaching into the thousands. "We have a guaranteed no repeat policy during the day," says Powers proudly. Cool is one station where you really don't know what the next song will be.

Interestingly, Powers selects all of the music himself -- a rarity in these days of music research. "Radio is an art form and you can't create art through research," he says. Also interestingly, all music is on computer -- no CDs, tapes or records at all.

The format itself was Astor's idea, a "no brainer" as he called it last Summer when KXMX (now KFSH, 95.9 FM) announced it was being sold and changing formats. KXMX had success with a similar format and Cool's former country format (when it was known as KIK-FM) was on the decline, so Astor decided to give it a try.

Powers worked on some samples and came up with a format that was similar to KXMX, but "more adult." The result: Cool 94.3, and a 30 percent increase in ad revenues, according to Powers.

You might ask why Astor hasn't sold out, considering that he is one of the last of the independents and his station could fetch up to $40 million. And yet, that's the answer. "I think its important to preserve the independent broadcaster," he says. "It's important to have a station around that is run without corporate entanglements." And besides, he says, "I love my job. I can't think of anything else I would rather do."

I-Back

From the "they said it would never happen" file, Don Imus is returning to the Southern California airwaves. This time on KPLS (830 AM), a Catholic Family Radio station.

It may be a strange combination at first glance, Imus and Catholic Family Radio. But as it turns out, KPLS is for sale -- as are all CFR stations -- so management is on the lookout for cheap or free programming. Imus, on the other hand, was looking for a Los Angeles affiliate.

Which leads to a very important point: Imus in Los Angeles is not necessarily a longterm deal. When the station sells it will be up to the new owner to decide whether or not to continue the relationship. In the meantime, the many Southern California fans of the I-Man will finally be able to tune him in again, beginning Monday, April 30 from 5 - 9 am.

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Copyright © 2001 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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