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It's 'Moonlighting In The Morning'

September 25, 1987|JANE LIEBERMAN | Lieberman, a graduate student at USC, is a Times intern. and

It began with one too many repeats of "Moonlighting." KRTH-FM morning disc jockey Steve Morris couldn't take it any more. So he developed some storylines of his own, which he premiered the next morning on the air. And "Moonlighting in the Morning," a takeoff on the hit TV series, was born.

Now, eight months and nearly 30 episodes later, the segment is regularly featured Wednesdays at 8:35 a.m., midway in Morris' 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. morning show on KRTH-FM (101.1).

Morris never intended to make fun of the popular ABC series. In fact, he claims "Moonlighting" is one of his favorite programs. That's why he was so upset by the lack of new episodes.

An example from a recent "Moonlighting in the Morning" episode:

David: Do we have any clues?

Maddie: Clues?

David: Clues! You remember . . . years ago when we had new episodes all the time, we used to solve cases. Clues. . . .

The 30-year-old Morris is a Massachusetts native who looks like a stereotypical yuppie in his pre-washed denims, a crisp navy shirt and sparkling white tennis shoes. He can easily turn on the wit and charm in front of the microphone, surrounded by stacks of tapes and a board of red and yellow buttons in his secluded glass booth. But when talking about himself in an interview, he is more reserved. Looking from behind thick-lensed, black wire glasses, Morris takes sips from a can of Diet Coke, which is crushed in short order.

KRTH program director Phil Hall brought Morris out in May, 1986, from station WTIC-AM in Hartford, Conn., where Morris worked as a mid-day disc jockey. "It was something of a risk because I had no real long track record (as a morning disc jockey). But I felt Los Angeles would be a hipper audience, that they would get the jokes better. (Los Angeles listeners) are more willing to let you make your mark," Morris says.

Morris' crime-solving partner on "Moonlighting in the Morning" is 25-year-old Claudia Marshall, a tall, lithe blonde who also wears the hat of news director at KRTH-FM.

Marshall has no qualms about playing a three-minute dramatic role, then only a half hour later delivering the news. "I am a news person and that's my No. 1 priority. Listeners understand when we start doing 'Moonlighting' it's fun and games, but that's only a role for a minute or two," says Marshall, a native of Rochester, Mich. Marshall was previously at all-news KFWB-AM (980) before joining KRTH-FM last spring.

Even with the fall TV season here and new episodes of "Moonlighting" about to begin Tuesday, Morris will continue the segment, which he scripts himself.

By now, his writing has an amazing similarity to the style and rhythm of the TV show. Morris even has down pat the voice and inflection of Bruce Willis' character, the free-wheeling David Addison.

One recent installment had David and Maddie debating whether to do "Moonlighting" on the radio instead of TV.

David (Morris): Look, Maddie, on the radio, you don't have to dress up. You don't even have to look presentable. . . .

Maddie (Marshall): Now we know why you want to do it, but what about those of us who wash and change clothes on a regular basis?

David (Morris): Hey. I'm not the one they shoot in soft focus every week!

Maddie (Marshall): Look who's talking, "Mr. Mousse !"

David (Morris): Wasn't he on Captain Kangaroo?

Maddie (Marshall): I meant hair mousse!

David (Morris): Naw . . . the Captain never wore hair mousse. He's a macho guy.

Maddie (Marshall): Argh!!!

It's not unusual for Morris to spend up to five hours for a three-minute "Moonlighting" bit, although most of his show is ad-libbed.

"Moonlighting in the Morning" is just one of the regular humor features on Morris' show. A Friday feature is "The Art of Dating," in which Morris reads from a dating etiquette manual published in 1967 by the YMCA.

In one of his more off-the-wall ideas, Morris once did an entire show in pig Latin. Recently, he asked listeners to call in with their favorite "doot" tune--that is, a song with the sound doot in the lyrics. (Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" was the winner hands down.)

The zany disc jockey's talents extend beyond radio. He has appeared on a "Moonlighting" episode, playing a bit part as a disc jockey, and moonlights off air, performing comedy at local clubs. In fact, he got into radio as a result of the attention he got as a comedian while attending Cornell University.

Morris hosted a syndicated game show pilot, "Trivial Pursuit," for Taft Entertainment, and is awaiting word on its future. But he says he won't let the bright lights of TV lure him away from his radio microphone.

"(KRTH) is not a stepping stone. (Hosting a morning show) is what I came out here to do. I want people as they wake up in the morning to know there's a good reason to get up."

As for "Moonlighting in the Morning," Morris isn't sure what direction the spoof will take now that new episodes of the real "Moonlighting" are at hand. "We may do a rerun of one of our own shows," he said, only partly in jest.

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