By Patricia Morris Buckley
Roger Hedgecock has held many titles in his life: supervisor,
mayor of San Diego from 1983-85, father, rock promoter, author,
TV personality and talk show host. Now he's taken a liking to
a new one - teacher of empowerment. Just call him Professor Hedgecock.
"I like that," he said upon hearing the title. "It
goes along with my surfing degree from Santa Barbara." Of
course, Hedgecock is not a real professor. But he does view his
talk show on KSDO 1130 AM (weekdays, 12:15 p.m. to 3 p.m.) as
his classroom. The show recently moved to the afternoon so that
local listeners could call Rush Limbaugh's popular national show,
which now airs live from 9 a.m to noon. "People have called
my show a graduate course on behind-the-scenes-politics."
Hedgecock said. "And that's just what I think
Lounging in his small office at the radio station, Hedgecock
sat at a desk cluttered with reviewers' books and a box of goodies
delivered from a local restaurant. The whole office had a party-like
feeling and Hedgecock's Hawaiian shirt, donned after a morning
of surfing, only added to the festive mood. Excited about that
day's show, he spoke in the rapid-fire manner of a man with something
"My show is a community forum where people can come
and learn about what's really going on in the community and to
get active to do something about it," he said. "This
show empowers people to change what's going on around them and
teaches them how. That's not taught in the school."
That's where talk shows such as Hedgecock's are seemingly picking
up the slack at an alarming rate. The host has seen a dramatic
change in talk radio during his tenure at KSDO. "Seven and
a half years ago, when I started this show, midday talk shows
were basically for shut-ins, unemployed and retired people,"
he said. "Today, with fax machines, car phones and flex
time, our audience has grown enormously in numbers."
Hedgecock also notices a decided change in listeners.
"People are finding, as they're growing older, that they
need to know more about politics and economics and the interplay
between them in order to figure out what's happening to them,"
he said. "Their standard of living is going down; their
prospects are drying up; and their family's future is on the
line. People are turning away from mindless music to interactive
radio." That's where Professor Hedgecock fits in. His lesson
plan is as follows: "First, you have to be aware you're
not powerful and you want to get powerful," he said. "Second,
you have to know what's going on - who are the players? Then
you must understand knowledge is power. Who's doing what to whom
and how do you affect them?
"Third, you have to act on that. None of this is in the
school system, of course. That's what we try to do. It's a remedial
course in empowerment."
Hedgecock has tackled such issues as prostitution in Balboa Park,
welfare fraud, and "community issues that come up involving
how do we save this park or how do we get a stop sign."
Reaction to his show is both positive and negative, but the degree
of response is the key.
"This show has been successful beyond the wildest
expectations of those that started it, including me," the
popular announcer said. "Four quarters ago I was No. 8 in
the market out of 36 stations; now I'm bouncing around No. 1
or 2. That's phenomenal growth; and while I'd like to attribute
it only to my sparkling personality, it's really because we're
riding the right wave." That wave is the same one that's
made Rush Limbaugh the hero of the conservative working class.
Many Limbaugh lovers also stick around for Hedgecock. This doesn't
bother Hedgecock. "I think Rush is an enormously gifted
guy who's brought a sense of humor to the conservative point
of view, which before was dry and academic," Hedgecock said.
"His appeal is that he's shocking because he's saying conservative
things on the radio. He's also an egomaniac and a windbag, but
I think people like that because he's funny."
The big difference between the shows lies in their angles.
"Yes, we have an overlapping audience," he said. "But
what I'm doing is local. If you've been in San Diego for 10 minutes
or 10 years, you're going to learn something every day you turn
on the show." With the time-slotchange, Hedgecock is adding
a weekly remote broadcast. "We're going to bring the show
to the people," he said. "We want to really pick up
on community concerns. For example, we went to Santee and talked
about the trolley expansion: Is it good or bad for that community?
Does it bring in illegal and drug smugglers or is it a more convenient
way for the working person to get downtown- or both?"
Hedgecock appears to have a strong opinion on almost every
local issue. And, he admitted, he's not afraid to voice that
view. Loudly. This tendency has upset many San Diegans. Gay activists
have slammed him in the media. Some people have attempted to
get him fired. "This gay thing has gone too far," Hedgecock
said as he jumped out of his chair. "These activists think
that beyond tolerance they can club 99 percent of Americans who
aren't gay into acceptance and approval. As far as I'm concerned,
tolerance is an absolute prerequisite for America to work. But
when you try and get me to say that gay sex is the same as any
other kind of sex - that's not the way I feel about it, and I
don't mind saying so."
Hedgecock's opinions have created a small feud with The
San Diego Union-Tribune. He's not afraid to say what he thinks
in this case either.
"The merger left it less of a paper," he said. "This
newspaper is careening out of control. They've been reading too
many National Enquirers. I fully expect to read a story about
David Copley taking a trip on a UFO.
"They didn't like me as a supervisor, a mayor or a talk
show host. The reason is the same in all three instances: I'm
independent, I speak my mind and I say the truth. That's too
much for them." Getting Hedgecock to talk about something
other than his show takes a bit of patience. Hementioneda brief
recording career a few years ago, but he isn't interested in
pursuing rock 'n' roll dreams right now. "Basically, I'm
running, surfing, raising two boys (12 and 15) and having a really
good time," he said. He also just completed a book with
Francine Phillips titled "If We Say it Enough, We'll Believe
It." In addition, he's a TV commentator on Channel 51 News
at 10 Monday and Wednesday nights. This is Hedgecock's second
shot at television; he anchored a news show that failed.
But he still prefers radio to TV. "In radio I can
get a complete thought and discussion out," he said. "TV
is very packaged. In TV it's difficult to tell the truth because
it's manipulative. I love this radio show because it's interactive,
uncensored and unedited. You'll never get that on TV." Here
we are - back to the subject of Professor Hedgecock's radio show.
He especially loves talking about how listeners learn from the
"Every time I hear people talking and a light bulb
goes on, it's a thrill," the talk host said. "I love
calls when people say, 'I've had it; I'm going to do something
about it.' These commitments people make to make a difference
- this is the most important thing I can do."