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Prime Exposure

Since appearing on '60 Minutes,' controversial talk-show host Larry Elder is gaining support.


Larry Elder is fairly crowing. A week and a half after his appearance on CBS' "60 Minutes," getting that proverbial 15 minutes of fame--or, in this case, 13 minutes--the KABC-AM (790) talk-show host, who dubs himself "the sage from South-Central," is reaping the benefits.

For openers, how often does a local radio host get exposure on national TV? The 44-year-old Elder, who used to practice law, showed that beyond being articulate and rather nice, he's also telegenic.

The focus of the segment, Elder noted this week in an interview, was the "1st Amendment issue" generated by a local community group, Talking Drum, which last year called for a boycott by advertisers against Elder's afternoon-drive show because of what it considers to be Elder's anti-black, anti-his-own-people viewpoints. A few sponsors did pull out, as the piece noted, but the station stuck with him.

Now as a result of "60 Minutes," Elder says, "several [advertisers] are coming back." He declined to name the sponsors, saying that was up to KABC. A station spokesman said: "Our policy is not to state who has left or who has come back on the air. We can confirm some did come back on. I don't want to put my advertisers in the hot seat."

On "60 Minutes," Elder--who is usually referred to as a conservative, though he considers the term "libertarian" to be accurate--countered that attacking him for holding certain views is in itself "racism." Moreover, Leo Terrell, an African American civil rights attorney and a liberal who is a KABC weekend host, defended Elder, telling "60 Minutes" that such criticism is "wrong. . . . He is so critical to our community because he helps destroy the myth that we all think alike."

Asked by correspondent Morley Safer about the racist charge, Elder laughed and knocked his reply out of the ballpark. "Well, let 'em tell it to my face," he said evenly. "I believe blacks are as smart as, as talented as, as hard-working as anybody else in this country. Blacks have come further ahead from further behind than any group. . . . I just happen to believe that the welfare state has hurt blacks and I happen to believe that O.J. Simpson butchered two innocent human beings."

Elder also contends that affirmative action should be outlawed and that the current black leadership is obsessed by race when it should be concentrating on crime, bad schools and poor parenting.

Asked what he thought of the "60 Minutes" segment, he said it was "great" and "I couldn't have scripted it better myself." Well, except for that minor quibble of being labeled a conservative.

He particularly liked the portrayal of his parents--his father, a Republican, who held down two jobs to support the family, and his mother, a Democrat with whom he has a low-key dispute on the air each Friday.

When Elder came back to work on April 28, the day after the segment aired, to his surprise there were 50 supporters in front of the KABC studio carrying placards saying "Honk If You Love Larry." About a third of the group was African American.

To date, he has received "over 1,000 faxes, letters, e-mail, and it's still coming in. . . . I'd be surprised if more than 10 or 15 were negative. And even those who didn't agree with my position on affirmative action, even those who felt I underestimated the factor of racism, still felt that I had explained my point of view in a sincere way."

He remarks lightly that a photo of his afro during his student days at Brown University drew the most comment.

It's only when asked about his ratings that Elder becomes testy. In the most recent quarterly Arbitron ratings, he drew 2.7% of listeners 12 and older and ranked 14th in his 3 to 7 p.m. slot. By contrast, talk-show competitors John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou at KFI-AM (640) got 3.9% and fifth place.

Pointing out that his show is frequently shortened or preempted by KABC's baseball coverage, Elder notes that the Dodgers will be moving to another station next season. "And then we'll see," he says.

"My primary goal is to take my show national," he adds. "But right now the first thing for me is to do well against my competition."


Spreading Their Wings: Over at KFI, "The John & Ken Show" is already going national.

Syndication began Jan. 13 at KXL in Portland, Ore., and the irreverent duo have since added stations in Phoenix; San Diego; Columbus, Ohio; Bakersfield; Monterey, Calif.; Eugene, Ore.; Grand Junction, Colo.; and Fort Wayne, Ind.

On some stations, the entire four-hour show airs; on others, just portions. Some stations air the program live; others are on a tape-delay basis, and still others are a mix of the two. The show, which Kobylt noted is not really changing its topicality, is syndicated by Fisher Entertainment in Santa Cruz.


Night Owl Chat: KFI is doing some expanding itself--putting live programming in the midnight to 3 a.m. slot on Wednesdays through Saturdays, where it previously aired repeat broadcasts. Tammy Bruce began hosting the talk show this week.

"This is the first time we've had a live, overnight show since the station went talk in 1988," said program director David Hall.

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