He had decreed it "a good hair day" and Peter Tilden was on a roll.
"Jack my engineer has lost how many pounds now? 45? And he's still overweight," Tilden scoffed to listeners of his KABC-AM (790) talk show Thursday night. "He keeps lifting his shirt up to show me and I lose weight because I can't eat the rest of the night."
Seconds later he groused to Barry Williams, former star of "The Brady Bunch" TV show: "The deal that really ticked me off about that show was there were how many people living in the house? Six kids, Mom and Dad and Alice. Dad had to be a moron. What did he do for a living? He was an architect and eight people were, like, bunking in a room. How hard would it have been for an architect dad to design an addition?
"People were living on top of people in the Brady house. This was the worst. Just bring a client home and he'd say, 'You know, I think we'd better pass on the job. That guy's a moron.' "
Williams interjected: "And there was no toilet in the bathroom."
"No room," Tilden quipped, laughing. "Go to the Nelsons' house. Go to Fred MacMurray's house to do your business, then come back home."
Sometimes it appeared that in-studio guests and callers on Tilden's radio show were on hand only as jumping-off points for Tilden's quirky observations.
"I turned on the Montel Williams show. Is he bald and that's why he shaved his head or did he just shave it to be cool? Some guys look good bald. Me bald would look like a lawn dart because of my nose, and I have a very small head. You put a hat on me and people just start laughing in foreign countries."
Welcome to Tilden's wacked-out radio world, where sardonic comments segue into spontaneous personal revelations and the zingers keep coming at you with lightning speed.
"Peter is one of the funniest guys around," said KABC colleague Steve Edwards. "He is Woody Allen on speed, and he's kind of an Everyman exaggerated to an nth degree. Life is a stream of consciousness to him, mostly about himself."
That's high praise considering that, beginning Monday, Tilden is taking over Edwards' 3-7 p.m. time slot at KABC. Edwards will be on from 1 to 3 p.m. and Dr. David Viscott will take over the 7-9 p.m. slot that Tilden has occupied since February, 1991.
Tilden doesn't intend to change what he's been doing.
"I love (doing) this show; it's total escapism," he said. "You forget about the mortgage. You forget about the kids' braces. You forget about the fact that most of everything you own was given away in a divorce. You forget that you haven't had any dietary fiber that day."
But \o7 zany \f7 and \o7 irreverent \f7 are not the adjectives usually used to describe the venerable, sedate KABC, Los Angeles' oldest and most successful talk-radio station.
It is a station that most associate with the serious and courtly musings of talk maestro Michael Jackson, the gentle ribbing of morning duo Ken Minyard and Roger Barkley, and the easy-going style of Dodgers announcer Vin Scully. Where does Tilden fit into such a line-up?
Tilden is a man obsessed with the daily status of his wiry hair, who jumps from one topic to another so fast that one can grow dizzy trying to keep up. His show typically includes celebrity guests, listener calls and a cast of regular contributors such as "Saul from Encino" reporting on sports and fast-talking film reviewer John Moschitta.
Tilden, a former advertising copywriter, had only one other radio job in his hometown of Philadelphia before hitting the Los Angeles airwaves in 1988 as morning man on classic-rock station KLSX-FM (97.1). Mornings did not become him, it seemed, and Tilden lasted only a year before management fired him because he talked too much.
About a month after he left KLSX, Tilden landed a Saturday afternoon show at KABC--a far cry from radio's mecca of weekday mornings.
There aren't many comeback stories in the world of radio, particularly when someone has been embroiled in the hotly competitive morning drive-time contest in Los Angeles and lost. But now, with the move into afternoon drive-time, Tilden, 40, seems to be the exception to that rule.
It is KABC's fervent desire that Tilden will attract an audience that previously has eluded most talk-radio stations: people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who grew up listening to FM and prefer the familiar patter and irreverent style of rock deejays.
"Peter has the ability to attract people of all ages," said KABC General Manager George Green. "We groomed Peter Tilden very slowly. We've taught him about talk radio, how to communicate with people over 35. Obviously he knows how to communicate to people under 35. Now, after three years, we said, 'Fine, the research says you're right. People love you. Now, let's do it.' "
Even the man who fired Tilden at KLSX allowed that Tilden was a talented, creative personality who was "miscast" at the station.
"I think in the right environment he would have been very successful," Bob Moore, then-KLSX general manager, said at the time of Tilden's firing.