Be it known that for a short time—a brief, shining moment, as it were—I was on the hottest morning drive-time radio show in Tucson history. The star of the show was Mike Elliot and he had it all—a smooth, pimp-daddy FM radio voice, a face that wouldn't make his many fans wince if it were ever put on a poster (like those of most DJs), and he also had the '80s-est hair of all time. (I swear Adam Sandler used a picture of Mike as a reference while making The Wedding Singer.)
At one time, Mike's Morning Zoo show on KRQ had a 25 share in the Tucson market. That means that one out of every four radios that were turned on in Tucson in the morning was tuned to his show. It is hard to overstate just how incredible a 25 share is. (These days a 12 share will win the market.) A 25 share is like how much money Avatar would have made if it hadn't sucked so much.
It's hard to keep a 25 share a secret, so Mike was hired away by a larger station in KRQ's chain. He went to Orlando and from there to Tampa. Orlando had been OK, but Tampa was Old South. He called me one day to tell me that he was coming back to Tucson. He said that there had been a public-service announcement on his station about an upcoming Klan meeting. To this day, I don't know if he was joking about that.
He came back to Tucson and brought with him a young guy with whom he had worked in Florida, a snot-nosed punk named Jimmy Kimmel. Mike invited me on the show. I was sitting next to Jimmy when longtime radio voice Betsy Bruce read a news item about Albania. Instantly, Jimmy and I both started singing,
It borders on the A-dri-atic!
Mike looked at us like, "Oh my God, there are two of them!"
The three of us had a great time together, although there was that one incident involving bodily fluids on one of the more upscale golf courses in town. (I promised Jimmy I would tell that story on his TV show some time.)
Riding herd over the whole mess as the show's producer was a local kid, Chris Patyk, whom we all called Curly. The nickname fit back then, but nowadays, it's more ironic, like the guy in the Three Stooges. He had cold-called them to ask if he could be an intern and they said, "Sure." He quickly worked his way up to the paying gig of producer.
The 20-plus share that Mike had left behind when he went to Florida had dwindled to around 10 in his absence and The Suits weren't happy. They gave Mike a sizable chunk of change and told him to work his magic. The ratings immediately started going up, but, apparently, not fast enough, because The Suits brought the ax down in a relatively short time.
Mike bought his own radio station in his home state of Maine and Jimmy went on to win an Emmy for Win Ben Stein's Money and get his own late-night talk show on ABC. (Those Suits really showed them!) Meanwhile, Curly embarked on a 20-year radio odyssey. He was instrumental in bringing the hip-hop format that helped 1490-AM burn brightly for a while in the mid 1990s. He bounced back and forth between Tucson and Phoenix, knowing that the nature of the radio business was both alluring and ever so fickle.
For the past year and a half, he's been half of the on-air duo of Jennie and Chris on Tucson's 92.9 The Mountain. He likes to point out that he's been on the air for 18 months and that he's still on the air, which are two good things. When asked about ratings, he said that they're a Top 10 show and they're trending upward. He called back a few minutes later to mention that they're Top 5 with women 25-54 (which brought to mind the time on WKRP in Cincinnati when Dr. Johnny Fever was looking at the ratings book and exclaimed, "Oh look! I'm Number One with teenage girls!")
Chris is the pop-culture expert on the show and he uses his deadpan delivery to set up Jennie's responses. The other day, however, he couldn't help himself. He saw where ABC was referring to the upcoming wedding of porn-film star Kim Kardashian to a basketball player on a really crappy NBA team as "America's Royal Wedding."
He blurted out, "If that's America's royal wedding, I want to be deported."
Today and tomorrow (Aug. 25 and 26), Jennie and Chris will be continuing their Mountain of Miracles radiothon in support of the Children's Miracle Network and Tucson Medical Center. They're on the air from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to help raise funds that will support children's programs at TMC.
Over the past two decades, Curly has met some great people in radio (and some not-so-great ones, as well). But who's his favorite?
"It sounds like a cliché, but a lot of people look back at their first job in the business. For me to be able to work with a legend like Mike Elliot and a rising star like Jimmy Kimmel was amazing."