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KLSX's Food for Thought? Shelf Is Bare : Radio review: Even Howard Stern is embarrassed by the former rock station's all-talk format that--so far--is anything but classic.

August 19, 1995|STEVE HOCHMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Feeling a little too smart today? Now there's a cure.

Listening to the new KLSX-FM (97.1) "Real Radio" talk format is essentially brain liposuction. You can feel the intelligence being drawn right out of your head, liberating you from any burdensome ideas and insights.

The surprise is that mid-afternoon host Brian (Kato) Kaelin, given another extension on his 15 minutes of fame, is not the worst contributor here. In a strategy apparently designed to support giving the not-exactly-vocabulous Houseguest Who Would Not Leave two hours of air time each weekday, station management has surrounded him with a cast even less capable of stimulating banter.

The worst of the bunch is Kaelin's own co-host, Brooklyn-accented Bob Hellman, whose life seems to revolve around hanging out with Kaelin--which is all you really need to know about him. (Actually, it turns out he's Kaelin's bodyguard.)

A sample exchange from their debut show:

Kato: Bob, I forgot to tell you, I'm, uh, going to a party this weekend and you're going too.

Bob: Yeah? What pah-ty ?

Kato: It's some super-model thing.

Bob: I'm goin' to a soop -a-model pah-ty? Whoaaaa! I can't wait!!!

It makes Beavis & Butt-head look like an evening at the Algonquin.

To Kaelin's credit, the same ability to come up with a quick retort or some punny wordplay here and there and his all-around Golden Retriever-like amiability that served him well in the courtroom pressure cooker helps out here too.

But not much. Even after getting through the first few days devoted to "clearing the phones" of yahoos who only wanted to ask O.J. questions, the pair couldn't come up with much in the way of topics, unless two hours of discussing what TV shows should be made into movies fits your notion of scintillating dialogue.

The most stunning thing, though, is that Kaelin and the rest of the station's new lineup have achieved the seemingly impossible: They've embarrassed Howard Stern.

Stern--the man who brought us such cultural advances as Butt Bongo--has been arduously working to disassociate himself from the clatter that has been grafted around his morning show, the one weekday holdover from the past here and for a long time the station's only serious ratings draw. His suggestion for a new station slogan: "Howard Stern all morning, landfill radio the rest of the day."

Stern's wisecrack is uncharacteristically kind. Landfill implies at least substance, and that's in little evidence. The 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. pairing of Susan Olsen ("The Brady Bunch's" Cindy--the youngest one in curls) and former MTV game show host Ken Ober, has a Gen X patina and nothing else. The post-Kato 5-7 p.m. slot featuring Larry and Eric--"The Regular Guys" who discuss such weighty matters as Farrah Fawcett's TV movie roles--is like a Beckett play but with less momentum.

And then there's the evening show of KFI veteran Mother Love, whose sole motivation for being in radio seems to be that she loves to hear her own voice. She recently opened a show with a lengthy, cloying monologue about how we all should just lay off of Michael Jackson because he didn't have a childhood, liberally spicing her Jacko apologia with tales of her own childhood woe. In the time she wasted on this, KFI's Dr. Laura would have told at least a dozen callers to just get over it.

Speaking of callers, we'll give KLSX the benefit of the doubt that its stream is a bit thin so far because the format is still new to the station, and not because many of those listening don't know how to work a phone. But judging by people who have made the effort, you gotta wonder. One recent Regular Guys topic was people who have fallen for TV infomercial "get-rich" scams. Everyone who called in had. Enough said.

All in all it seems like a get-poor scam for the KLSX owners. Could they possibly looking for a huge tax write-off? Sure, that would legal, but if it's not, who's going to testify against them? Kato?

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