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Airwaves: July 3, 2009

Rantel’s Replacement

After a two-hour heartfelt goodbye show last Thursday night -- if it seemed like four hours it was because they repeated it -- KABC (790 AM) evening talker Al Rantel passed his microphone over to his producer, John Phillips, who officially began his new gig exactly one week ago.

I spoke with Phillips this week to get an idea of where he was coming from ... to see if he’s as weird about radio as I am (he is) and see where he plans to take his former boss’s show in the future.

First the background: Phillips was producer for the Rantel show for a year, followed by producing and acting as the “Sports Princess” on the morning drive Doug McIntyre Show. He knows the KABC audience.

He describes himself as a “skinny, white vodka drinker,” telling Don Barrett’s that, like Rantel, he can recite every line of dialogue from Mommie Dearest. “The vodka is an important part part of the Mommie Dearest experience,” he said, “It’s impossible to watch that movie sober.” His goals: “Get good ratings and sell a lot of (stuff),” he said. Oh, yeah: and not get sued.

When I caught up with him he was entering a cellphone no-mans land, so the interview was short. And hilarious.

“I wanted to go into radio as soon as I learned how to talk,” he said. “I mean, who wouldn’t want a job where you can show up to work in your pajamas without having to refer to Heidi Fleiss as ‘boss?’”

To prove he’s my kind of radio man: “I’ve never understood why so many people use radio as a stepping stone to get into television. Radio is so much more creative. In television you’re implementing somebody else’s vision and are dependent on 800 different people. In radio, it’s ‘here’s a microphone, create a world.’ You can let yourself go ... how can you beat that?”

He became producer for Rantel because he “loved Al’s show, couldn’t stay away from radio, and the thought of staying in grad school and finishing up my Ph.D. made me want to get a booty call text message in front of Chris Brown.” I really have no clue what that means, but it sounds funny.

Regardless, his show will evolve a bit from what it was under the direction of Rantel. Rather than focussing almost exclusively on issues, “my show will be a blend of local news, national news and all those wonderful tabloid stories that make Geraldo Rivera get excited.”

And “a lot of crying. Glenn Beck signs off every one of his shows like a Jimmy Swaggart apology, and now he’s got the #2 rated cable news show. Perez Hilton wept like a baby after his run in with the Black Eyed Peas and now he gets 10 million hits per day on his blog ... although in all fairness to Perez, he’s much better equipped to take a punch than I am.”

Fair enough. Check out the all-new John Phillips Show weekday nights from 6 to 11 PM, and Saturday nights 7 PM to midnight on KABC.

Rantel Response

Milford Walker wrote in via e-mail to ask, “All the fuss about right-winger Al Rantel, but did you forget Michael Jackson? The best open-minded talk host ever on KABC?”

Actually I didn’t. I plan to speak with Jackson in the very near future so I can give an update on what he’s doing right now. Stay tuned.

Problems at Clear Channel

San Antonio, Texas-based Clear Channel Communications -- owner of 800 stations nationwide including too many here in Southern California -- is being beat down by its own hometown newspaper. The San Antonio News-Express wrote this week that the largest radio group owner will “have trouble making scheduled payments later this year” and may either be forced to sell more stations or be headed toward bankruptcy, wherein lenders will force it to sell stations anyway. Wow.


Copyright © 2009 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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