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Airwaves: December 22, 2006

Fight ... or Stunt?

KFI (640 AM) morning personality Bill Handel has been fined by his employer and will be forced to serve a one-week suspension upon his return from a two-week vacation that began the same day he barged in and verbally attacked Jamie White while she was on the air at Star 98.7.

If that sounds surreal, it is. And part of me doesn't believe it.

It all began with Handel's daughters roaming around the building that houses all of Clear Channel's Los Angeles radio studios, including KFI and Star. Apparently Handel brings his daughters to the station fairly regularly, and they like to visit with the personalities in the other stations.

Now, keep in mind that I like Handel's show. But I imagine that the only thing more annoying than hearing Handel's wife and kids on those Cars for Causes commercials is having them interrupt your own morning show.

Of course, that's what they did to White. And it seems that it wasn't the first time. So White shooed the 12-year-old twins out of her studio.

Soon after, during a KFI news break, Handel burst into the Star studio like a madman and started yelling at White and co-hosts Jack Heine and Michael "Stench" Roberts.

White: "Bill, I just pointed at your kids with my orange flute and said 'don't come back.'"

Handel (yelling): "Don't you ever talk to my kids that way again, Jamie, I'm going to kick your a**."

White: "Bill, I'm telling them that they can't be right there..."

Handel (yelling louder): "Because you have such (expletive) losing numbers on this loser show."

A little more yelling and then it ended with White saying, calmly, I might add, "get out of here Bill, you're nuts."

Now if it happened exactly as it is being reported, then Handel was totally wrong and White was totally right. However, I have my doubts.

It happened on the last day before both hosts went on vacation. The entire episode was allowed to air over Star, rather than going to music or commercial. From reports I have read, there were "f-bombs" that were bleeped, something that generally doesn't happen any more and technically CAN'T happen live, only on tape. Stations now use tape delay and what is called a "dump button," which in this case would have dumped almost the entire conversation.

Handel returned to his studio, calmly completed all but the last half hour, then left to get ready for vacation. Later, Handel apologized, but only after a tape of the confrontation found its way to Channel 5's morning news ... just minutes after it happened. The event is now being treated as internal personnel matter.

I realize I am probably the only person in town who thinks this is fake, that it is a publicity stunt for both stations (especially Star) to get publicity. And publicity they are getting: that tape is being played all over the internet. But part of me does believe that.

Just before vacations. More than just a tad bit unprofessional. Way out of character. Totally against rules for on-air programming. Happening on one of the lowest-rated morning shows in town. Just Just a bit too "convenient" for my cynical side.


Copyright © 2006 Richard Wagoner and MediaNews Group Newspapers.

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