Whether digging into the world's longest burrito, searching for the five oddest jobs in Southern California or waking up complete strangers and fixing them breakfast, Jim (Poorman) Trenton is determined to take morning television viewers where they've never gone before.
"I'm like the Charles Kuralt of the '90s on acid," Trenton explains of his role as a feature reporter on KTTV-TV Channel 11's "Good Day L.A."
Trenton handles his "news" segments in the same loopy style that was his signature during the 12 years he was an on-air personality on alternative rock station KROQ-FM (106.7).
In fact, his radio background has been a big help, says Kim Paul Friedman, executive producer of "Good Day L.A.," who plans to step up Trenton's appearances.
"Basically we're doing morning radio on television, and having been a radio guy, he understands how the imagination works," Friedman said. "What Poorman adds is (that) he's Everyman. He's not manufactured from a consulting firm. People can relate to him. I think he really is a breath of fresh air on the program, away from the cosmetic stuffiness we're used to seeing. Most newspeople wouldn't do what he does for fear of ruining their manicures or their hair."
Known for his out-of-control, party-hearty persona, Trenton was a staple at KROQ, especially in recent years as co-host of the station's popular nighttime advice show, "Loveline." But he was suspended indefinitely last August after orchestrating a prank in which a group of listeners converged outside another KROQ personality's house.
Trenton continues to get paid by KROQ until his contract runs out in November. But he recently filed suit against the station and its owner, Infinity Broadcasting Corp., seeking ownership rights to "Loveline" and $22.5 million in damages for being pulled off the air.
Just before he was suspended, Trenton hosted a segment on the KTTV morning program. That led to more work and now he's on the morning news program several times a week. He has interviewed Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda about an "Easy Rider" reunion, gone surfing with a U.S. Congressman and attended charm school. Several of his latest stunts have been simulcast on local radio stations.
The record-breaking burrito segment was simulcast on hip-hop station KPWR-FM, and a live surf session followed by an 11-cent breakfast were simulcast on heavy metal station KNAC-FM. An early morning movie preview was broadcast on urban station KKBT-FM.
"Nobody's ever tried to do morning radio with pictures," Trenton said. "I think that combining the two media is really innovative. I see morning TV as being the hottest thing there is because morning radio has pretty much done it all."
Trenton's suit against KROQ and Infinity Broadcasting alleges breach of contract, copyright infringement and slander. His main objective, he said, is to establish ownership of "Loveline," the advice show he created in 1983 and co-hosted with Dr. Drew Pinsky.
"I'm not in it for the money," Trenton said. "I'm in it because I think these guys shouldn't get away with this. It's sad they have to steal this little guy's show. . . . They said I was a loose cannon. Sure there are quirks and what not, but if I'm that bad, why don't they fire me? What they did instead is try to hold me to this contract so I can't work (on radio) anywhere."
KROQ general manager Trip Reeb refused to comment, citing the pending litigation.