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NEWSMAKER

'There he was, spinning records and talking, and it just got to me. I wanted : to be on the air.'

March 26, 1987|DAVID HALDANE | Times Staff Writer

Louie Zaltosky is getting tired.

Back in September when he started radio station KLBX in his living room to broadcast to the neighbors in his Long Beach apartment building, he expected to have some help.

"I thought people would be down here requesting records, reading the news and giving me relief," he said.

That hasn't happened.

Instead, Zaltosky, 66, has spent the last six months "smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and playing records" in the modest one-bedroom abode he shares with his wife, Ruth, at Park Pacific Towers, a downtown apartment building for senior citizens.

Is anybody listening?

"I don't know," said the retired Air Force staff sergeant. "Nobody says anything."

So he persists on faith, spinning his special concoction of country and western oldies, Big Band tunes, classic radio comedy and Sunday Bible shows seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 530 on the AM dial. If anyone is listening, they are among the 210 residents of his building who are the only human beings within range of his low-power transmitter. "One of these days, I'll just get mad and turn it off," he said.

Zaltosky first got the idea for the homemade station during a visit with his favorite commercial disc jockey. "There he was, spinning records and talking, and it just got to me," he recalled. "I wanted to be on the air."

He Built Station With Components

Although he had been a movie projectionist and sound engineer in the Air Force, Zaltosky had never worked in radio. So he picked up a do-it-yourself manual from the local public library. He spent the next 2 1/2 years--plus $2,500 from the Social Security and military pensions he and his wife receive--buying components and assembling the makeshift broadcast station now gracing a wooden bench in his living room.

Because KLBX works by carrier current, a method that does not require an outside antenna and limits reception to a very small area, Zaltosky did not have to apply for a license from the Federal Communications Commission.

"A lot of people in this building don't have anything to do," he said. "Some of them can't even watch television because their eyes are bad. I wanted to give them a way to listen to the radio without having to hear all the commercials."

To accommodate the building's elderly shut-ins who are his potential listeners, Zaltosky arises at 4 each morning to transfer that day's offerings to a cassette. "I borrow it, bum it or steal it," he said of the records and tapes that come from sources ranging from the public library to a group called Firefighters for Christ in Westminster, which provides recorded sermons for free.

Zaltosky says it costs him $64 a month to run the station, an effort at least some of his neighbors seem to appreciate.

"I think it's great," said Helen Blanton, 75, who says she listens whenever she can. "I like the sermons."

Gary Adams, 41, the building's assistant superintendent, said he listens to KLBX whenever he is at work in an apartment that has a radio. "It's very professional," he said.

Some Neighbors Have Never Listened

But despite Zaltosky's efforts to publicize the station using posters in the elevators, a number of his neighbors say they've never listened to it.

"I have my own stations and I'm happy with what I have," said Elaine Richardson, 80, who leaves her radio tuned 24 hours a day to such all-news and all-talk stations as KABC and KFWB. "They keep me busy."

Replied Cecile Bellegris, 83, when asked about her building's own radio station: "I didn't know we had one."

Zaltosky says the widespread indifference to his efforts is beginning to take a toll on his enthusiasm. Once, he said, a plaque arrived anonymously in the mail, congratulating him on his work. Beyond that, the reaction has consisted of a few local newspaper articles, which so far have failed to elicit the kind of response from his neighbors that he believes the station deserves.

Still, the radio man is determined to make his project succeed. So he gets up early each morning, goes to bed early each night and spends most of the time in between tending the airwaves, relieved only by a six-hour tape he occasionally plays when he must leave for doctor's appointments and shopping trips.

Ruth is considerably less dedicated to the undertaking than her husband. "I feel confined," she complained. "If he could (quit) now, it would make me happy."

Zaltosky has promised to take her to Las Vegas in June. In the meantime, he said, the herculean effort will continue.

"I hope I'm making somebody happy," he said.

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