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TV-RADIO / LARRY STEWART

KMPC Firings Prove You Can't Get Away With Everything

March 11, 1994|LARRY STEWART

If you work in sports-talk radio, it seems you can get away with just about anything.

Do something as tasteless as calling Nancy Kerrigan "Mr. Ed" and playing the theme song from the old television show about a talking horse, as KMPC's Joe McDonnell did last week, and at worst you'll be told to knock if off.

Tell a 16-year-old caller to stick a gun in his mouth and pull the trigger, as did XTRA's Lee Hamilton not long ago, and, wow, you'll be fined all of $250.

Go too far in your criticism of a team carried by your station--a dastardly deed--and you might get suspended for a couple of days, as McDonnell has been.

But don't ever, ever get a sponsor ticked off. That is a firing offense, as Brian Golden and Doug Krikorian, KMPC's midday co-hosts, found out.

Golden and Krikorian, along with morning host Charlie Tuna and a couple of disc jockeys from KMPC's sister station, K-LITE, were supposed to go to Willow Springs March 2 to test-drive a sponsor's cars.

Krikorian told program director Scott O'Neil he would be busy that day, working on a budding acting career. He had to attend a rehearsal for a bit part he has in a movie about Ty Cobb.

O'Neil told Krikorian OK, as long as Golden was there. But Golden, battling flu, decided to skip the test drive so he would be fit enough to do a four-hour boxing show the next day with Johnny Ortiz.

"I really didn't think the test drive was that important," Golden said. "I thought it was more important that I be ready to go on the air on Thursday. It was my indiscretion, my fault, that I didn't call. I didn't know who to call in Willow Springs, but I should have called the station."

*

Even though he was still sick--"It was easy to see he was very sick," Ortiz said--Golden showed up to do a remote show from the Bonaventure Hotel, where a news conference was being held for the fight card marking the reopening of the Olympic Auditorium.

After the show, Golden got a call from O'Neil to report to the station for a 3 p.m. meeting.

"I thought, 'Oh no, I'm in trouble,' " Golden said. "But I never dreamed I would get fired."

Golden said the meeting with O'Neil and Bill Ward, the station's general manager, was amiable.

"There was no shouting or anything like that. We talked and then I was told to step out in the hall," he said. "Then I was called back in and told I was being terminated."

Golden, a sports columnist and reporter for the Antelope Valley Press, said KMPC knew he would be missing the next two weeks because he was going on assignment for his newspaper to baseball training camps in Arizona and Florida.

"The feeling seemed to be that since the station would probably be sold (to Capital Cities) by April 1, and that since I was going to miss 10 days anyway, that I might as well be terminated now."

But why Krikorian too?

Said O'Neil, who is fond of both: "What Brian did was definitely a fireable offense. I feel terrible about what happened, but by not showing up, and not calling, he blew a major account for us. Business is business.

"As for Doug, it's unfortunate. He and Brian had become closely identified with each other, and we just felt we needed to go in a different direction."

Since the mistake had already been made and the account lost, one wonders what was gained by the firings. There is speculation that KMPC sought to cut its payroll as the sale to Cap Cities nears.

But if the sale falls through, you never know, Golden and Krikorian might be back.

Both were fired last June in a cost-cutting move, then brought back in October and paired up as a good-guy (Golden), bad-guy (Krikorian) tandem.

It was a good mix--Golden's straightforward approach contrasting with Krikorian's acerbic comments--and the ratings for the midday show almost tripled, going from a .3 share to a .8.

When on-air talent is fired despite increasing ratings--for whatever reason--you know strange things are going on.

That also was evident when Dodger reporter Larry Kahn and Angel reporter Jeff Biggs were recently told to return from spring training to work in the studio.

Apparently, it was another cost-cutting measure, even though the teams pick up most of the expenses.

*

Of all people, Golden figured to be the last guy to get fired. No one else works as hard, or is as popular, both inside the station and out, and no one seemed to have such a promising future.

"If I were the program director at XTRA, I would have been on the phone to Brian the second I heard about what happened," O'Neil said.

Golden, besides doing the daily four-hour radio show, was still writing four columns a week for his newspaper, plus covering a sporting event most nights. He covered 129 Dodger and Angel home games last year, and he averages about 20-25 stories and columns a week.

After covering a night game in Los Angeles, he sometimes would sleep at KMPC or stay in a motel, rather than drive back to his home in Lancaster. Wherever he stayed, he would be at work by 6 a.m. for a 10 a.m. show.

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