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Airwaves: February 24, 2012

Not Buying It
KFI Duo Suspended After Making Remarks Regarding Whitney Houston

KFI’s (640 AM) popular afternoon team of John (Kobylt) and Ken (Chiampou) get paid -- a lot -- to tick people off. To get a rise out of politicians or anyone else in the news. And to get their listeners up in arms to ... listen!

They’ve made a name for themselves by calling other people names -- one of their most benign being “spokeshole” instead of spokesman -- and at times outright lying or making misleading statements regarding pension funding or the success (or lack thereof) of schools both public and private.

That’s why they are so popular. People tune in to hear the rants, the absurd points or positions that don’t necessarily have to be backed by facts, because John and Ken often say what their listeners were thinking ... and hoping someone like them would say.

So it came as quite a surprise to find that they had been suspended -- with pay, I assume -- due to some remarks related to the death of pop singer Whitney Houston.

On the program last week, during a discussion led primarily by Kobylt, the following was said:

"She’s cracked out for twenty years ... blew through her money, ruined her voice ... She hasn’t had her head screwed on right for twenty years. At some point you're just sick of it all, and so is everybody else in the industry. All her friends and hangers-on, everybody who knew her had to deal with this. It's like, 'Ah Jesus ... here comes the crack ho again, what's she gonna do? Ah look at that, she's doin' handstands next to the pool. Very good, crack ho, nice tr ...' After a while everybody's exhausted. And then you find out she's dead. It's like, 'Really? Took this long?'"

In response, KFI issued a statement stating that the pair would be suspended effective February 16th “for making insensitive and inappropriate remarks about the late Whitney Houston. KFI AM 640 management does not condone, support or tolerate statements of this kind.” Kobylt even issued an official apology, saying that “we made a mistake and we accept the station’s decision. We used language that was inappropriate, and we sincerely apologize to our listeners and to the family of Ms. Houston.”

I don’t buy it.

John and Ken make comments similar to -- or worse than -- what they said about Houston all the time. It’s what they do. It’s what makes them popular. It’s their schtick. They say such things about pop singers, criminals, television and movie stars, politicians ... generally anyone and everyone they don’t agree with, and those statements resonate with listeners.

So I ask: why now? What makes this different? Why did KFI back down this time? Marketing director Neil Saavedra insists that it is not a publicity stunt. “No stunt ... not our style,” he told me. And certainly the ratings needed no boost anyway, which makes me tend to believe him. So why?

I actually can’t figure it out, and an email to Kobylt went unanswered. Now I’m on a mission to find out ... Any ideas?

The pair return from vacation February 27th.

Reception Solution

This will sound like a commercial but it i a true story. Reader Marian Putnam from Banning had written to me recently asking how she might improve her reception of Los Angeles AM stations, including KFI, in her area. “Is there any portable radio that is powerful enough to pick up the LA stations from this distance?

I told her to try the RCA Superadio (formerly branded GE). Last week I received this excited response: “Just received the radio and am now receiving KFI! Works great out here in the hinterland. Problem solved at last.”

That is a great radio. In the old days when AM stations sent full fidelity signals, it would make AM sound almost as good as FM ... even when the stations were distant. I’m glad it worked.

Finding T-Rae

Numerous people have written in asking where Terri-Rae Elmer can be found, since she left The John and Ken Show a while back. This one is easy ... she’s on the Doug McIntyre Show on KABC (790 AM), mornings 5 AM to 9 AM.


Copyright © 2012 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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