Radio AM to FM: December 20, 2002
Bruce Vidal, part of the team of personalities who helped lead KIIS-FM (102.7) to an unprecedented (and yet unmatched) 10+ share of the ratings in the mid-1980s, passed away last Friday from an apparent heart attack. He was 54.
A Los Angeles native, Vidal graduated from the Career Academy School of Broadcasting in 1970. His first job was in Washington, Iowa, followed by stations in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota; Omaha Nebraska; and San Francisco.
In 1982, he joined the staff of KIIS-FM, a former all-disco station that was building momentum due to a variety of factors including great promotions, a tight on-air presentation, and great personalities that were all over the city through remote broadcasts and parties. Originally Vidal worked weekends, but soon he displaced his then-wife, Laurie Allen, in the daily 6 - 10 PM shift, rounding out a lineup that included Rick Dees, Paul Freeman, "Big" Ron O'Brian, and Brother Bill.
Allen wound up on Magic 106 (KMGG, now KPWR) on the exact same shift, giving the husband-wife competitors some notoriety including appearances on ABC-TV's Good Morning America, and articles in magazines and newspapers. I remember those stories well, as at the time (1985-86) I was working as an intern at Magic 106, often with Allen.
"It's my dream job," Vidal told the Los Angeles Times in 1985. "When I got into radio, I wanted to come to Los Angeles, work at the number one top-40 station in town, make a lot of money, live in the Valley, have a house with a pool and drive a Corvette. And it's happened."
The Corvette is a story in itself. At the house was a Corvette and an older Dodge Aries. Between Vidal and Allen, whoever got the higher ratings got to drive the 'Vette. At the time, KIIS was so hot that Vidal must have driven it constantly.
Vidal's booming voice attracted a huge audience at night, and he was particularly popular with teens, an age group that radio has just about given up on nowadays. One popular feature was the "boogie line," in which callers were allowed on the air for a quick joke or comment.
Eventually the armor began to crack around KIIS, and Vidal was moved to overnights. Moves such as this undermined the station, and ratings eventually settled into more pedestrian levels. Vidal left the station in 1997 and worked at stations in Thousand Oaks and Riverside.
Vidal and Allen divorced long ago; Vidal is survived by his mother, who asked that no cards be sent.
KLAC (570 AM) launched their new standards format with fanfare unseen in Los Angeles in years: a party at the Museum of Television and Radio in beverly Hills including a live performance from Rod Stewart, who recently released an album of old standards sung with his distinctive voice.
Even competitor K-SURF (KSUR, 1260 AM) was there, with Santa and his helpers holding K-SURF signs for all to see from the street and sidewalk in front of the museum.
Manager Roy Laughlin took it all in stride. "I love it," he told me in reference to competition. "I think it's great."
This should be fun.
Sunday night at 10:00 on Arrow 93 (KCBS-FM, 93.1), "Uncle" Joe Benson will feature rock and roll CHristmas songs on Off The Record. Included will be conversation with Tommy Shaw of Styx, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon, and many more.
Then on Tuesday, Christmas Eve from 6-9 (repeated from 9-12), Arrow presents Uncle Joe's Rockin' Christmas Show. If you miss the show then, it's repeated twice again on Christmas Day, 6-9 AM and 9-noon.
Copyright © 2002 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.
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