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Radio Calm, Despite Waco, at Least on Jackson's Show

April 20, 1993|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Of all local mainstream radio stations, KABC-AM on South La Cienega stands closest to the 'hood. At the microphone for the last 27 years, presiding these days weekdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., is the other Michael Jackson--dean of Los Angeles talk radio, silver-haired and dulcet-toned, whose voice itself conveys a certain reasoned, reflective calm.

So it was not surprising--50 hours after the verdicts in the second Rodney G. King beating trial--that Jackson had planned to reflect on the calm of the weekend past and devote all four hours to the aftermath.

That is, until the fires at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., intervened, turning Jackson's planned programming to ashes shortly after 10 a.m. And the likes of Ira Salzman, attorney for the convicted Sgt. Stacey C. Koon, had to be kept hanging on the phone for at least 15 minutes while radio tuned directly into the voices of network television.

When an ABC reporter said the government was saying the compound members set their own house on fire, the ever-skeptical Jackson uttered, "Maybe." As fire and smoke billowed upward, he mumbled, "Unbelievable. Looks like L.A. last time."

Last time, Jackson noted before the program began, they had to water down the roof at KABC.

"Hello, this is a good morning," Jackson had begun buoyantly at 9:07 a.m. after the local news. "Do you feel just a little lighter this morning? I mean in spirit. No more jury deliberating, no more waiting, diminished tension and anxiety, less feeling of the omnipresence of the military in our midst? Me too."

Jackson was essentially alone in the spanking new booth this day, except for the company of call-ins. Rep. Maxine Waters, whose district encompasses South-Central, said she would fight against aid to Russia when "we got to take care of home first"--"our city needs" and rural areas too. Jackson's former fellow KABC host and one-time GOP senatorial candidate Bruce Herschensohn argued that tax money from people in places like Louisiana, Arkansas and West Virginia should not be used for rebuilding Los Angeles because California and places in this city are "wealthy."

"Did the system work?" Jackson asked Waters?

"This time it did," she replied.

But argument, perhaps because of lingering euphoria, was essentially muted. Not once in the first hour or so could listeners hear sounds of rancor.

A woman named Terry, calling from her car and identifying herself as African-American, called the Denny beating "a hate crime" just as her great-grandfather, she said, was "hung by the Klan."

Jackson interrupted, noting that that was "a lynching." But Terry quickly corrected that her great-grandfather was "released by an all-white jury."

When Jackson referred to the man from Long Beach (Matthew Haines, age 32) who was hauled off his motorcycle, robbed and shot to death, Terry responded, "I heard that and I cried."

Off-mike, Jackson said he wasn't surprised about the calm in the city because of the heavy security. Nor was he surprised by the verdict.

The table was turned and Jackson was asked if he thought the verdict was just. He paused a moment and nodded. "But I still feel sadness for a man who has five children," he said referring to Koon. He said Cardinal Roger Mahony called the officers good men.

"I don't know if they are. What they did was bad," Jackson said on his own, keeping an eye on the television and the fires in Waco. "Yeah, justice was done."

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