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The Baka Boyz

Tom Haule

Paul Crosswhite

Tonya

Rodney
Bingenheimer

Amalia Gonzalez

Jim Svejda

Ray Briem

Magic Matt Alan

BY SANDY WELLS
Some of L.A.'s top radio talents look back at events and trends that influenced their formats and careers in 1996

HIP HOP/CONTEMPORARY HIT RADIO

The Baka Boyz (Nick and Eric Vidal), morning DJs on KPWR 105.9, "Power 106," agreed that the seminal event of 1996 was the death of rap artist Tupac Shakur. The hip hop poet laureate's death helped to "quash" the intense antipathy between the rival East Coast and West Coast hip hop scenes. "He always said he was going to die a violent death and he did, just like James Dean," Nick Vidal said. "He is to hip hop as Elvis Presley is to rock. There's no one that's going to be a bigger or brighter name in hip hop. [His death] was so timely, so perfect." The Boyz added that Shakur will appear in a soon-to-be-released film and that the rap star still has enough recorded material to put out two more albums.

NEWS RADIO

Tom Haule, morning news anchor for KNX 1070 AM, said the monumental event affecting news radio as a business was Westinghouse's purchase of KNX's parent company, CBS Radio. As a result, every major market news station, including KNX's rival, KFWB, is owned by Westinghouse, Haule pointed out. Since the relationship between KNX and KFWB changed from foe to friend, he and his colleagues still struggle with "resolving the difference between competition and cooperation."

SMOOTH JAZZ

Paul Crosswhite, morning host on KTWV, "The Wave" said, "We've been catapulted to high ratings in the last year. I've always been disdainful of ratings, but it does validate what you do." For Crosswhite, 1996 was the culmination of the metamorphosis of New Age music, once maligned as "yuppie elevator music," into smooth jazz, heralded by the surging popularity of artists such as David Sanborn, Kenny G, Toni Braxton and Peter White. As the baby-boomers mature, Crosswhite said they have come to "the Wave," looking for more meaningful music. They find that they can relate to artists like Sanborn, who have evolved from '70s rockers. The music host fondly recalled taking 400 morning show listeners to Catalina Island to enjoy a concert with the late saxophonist Art Porter, an event made more poignant by the artist's subsequent death in a boating accident in Thailand.

COUNTRY MUSIC RADIO

Tonya, midday host (10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mon. through Fri.) on country music KZLA 93.9 FM, told us that a 1996 Harris poll said that a country singer -- Reba McIntyre -- was voted America's favorite singer. Tonya also said that Garth Brooks outsold the rock supergroup KISS. Both were on tour in 1996. When the figures were tallied, Garth had outsold the rock stars.

ROCK MUSIC

Rodney Bingenheimer, host of modern rock KROQ p.m. - 1 a.m.) and the "K-Rock Picked to Click" feature (Mon. - Fri. at 12:55 p.m.) said that the comeback of punk rock was the biggest development in rock music last year. He noted the popularity of the groups Social Distortion, The Descendants, the Sex Pistols and the '80s band Dramarama. He added that the late '70s reggae-based rock movement, "ska," is making a comeback in Orange County.

SPANISH TALK RADIO

Amalia Gonzalez, talk host on KTNQ 1020 AM (Mon. - Fri., 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.), said that the biggest event of 1996 was the start-up of L.A.'s first full-time all-talk Spanish language station: "La Radio Que Habla." Her daily show, "Hablemos Entre Todos," broaches subjects that are normally off-limits on Spanish radio, such as domestic violence, child abuse, incest and sex education. As assistant program director for KTNQ, Gonzalez helped program director David Gleason create the new format, which debuted last April. She said that the new talk format is something the Latino community needed: a place to talk about "inner feelings" without fear of censure or ridicule.

CLASSICAL MUSIC RADIO

KUSC host Jim Svejda (Mon. - Fri., 7:30 p.m. - midnight) cited the station's return to a traditional classical format as an event that had "enormous repercussions" for the public radio outlet. The most tangible effect was a record-breaking fund drive ($503,606), combined with an outpouring of mail praising KUSC for abandoning its mixture of classical, jazz and eclectic selections last fall. "There is an enormous appetite for serious music," Svejda said. As for the attempt at revitalizing the classical format, the host quipped, "I don't know how to make a chocolate eclair filled with mustard palatable. You do what you do best." For him, that means concentrating on classical music's repertoire, spanning 500 years. Svejda probably doesn't count it as a seminal event, he reported that Rich Capparella, who announces the early shift on commercial competitor KKGO, called in to make a pledge.

ANGLO TALK RADIO

Ray Briem (Mon. - Fri. 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.) of talk station KIEV 870 AM credits the Los Angeles Times with breaking the biggest hot-button topic of the year, "Indo-Gate." Briem said that the discovery of the "Indonesian Connection" (through campaign donations) to the White House and the appearance of foreign policy for sale, could have "potentially very serious implications" for President Clinton. Briem believes that issue may plague the president for four more years.

TOP 40 RADIO

Magic Matt Alan (Mon. - Fri., 3 p.m. - 7 p.m.) of top 40 KIIS 102.7 FM said, "The return to KIIS, truly, was the highlight of '96 for me." For four years, while working at stations in San Diego and Philadelphia, Alan rehearsed the words he would use to reintroduce himself to Southland listeners. Alan said that top 40 radio -- the ability to blend music with art." He called John Cook, who arrived from Dallas last June, one of the most talented program directors in radio. As a practitioner of the art of top 40, Alan said that KIIS's own Rick Dees is "the best." However, he added that "top 40 radio in 1996 was a tough putt," since there are so many specialty music formats available.