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SHOW ATTUNED | SO SOCAL .PGHD THE BEST...THE BEAUTIFUL...AND
THE BIZARRE

You Give Us 22 Minutes, We'll Give You 'Carousel'

April 05, 1998|Danny Feingold

Stuck in rush-hour traffic without your tape of Stephen Sondheim's 1964 flop-turned-cult-classic "Anyone Can Whistle"? No need to panic. Just tune the dial to KGIL 1260. If L.A. show-tune junkies have seemed a little less edgy lately, credit goes to this AM station, which reinvented itself last July with an unlikely "all musicals, all the time" format. (This came on the heels of a seven-month all-Beatles stint.)

Eight months of radio nirvana for show-tune fanatics followed. But, inevitably, the difficult-to-market programming was too wonderfully iconoclastic to survive the rigors of Arbitron ratings. KGIL changed to a ballads-from-all-eras format last month, though musicals can still be heard weekdays in the morning (8 to 10 a.m.) and evening (5 to 9 p.m.), and most of Sunday.

The station retreat from exclusively Broadway has not gone unnoticed. "The core audience of purists is terribly upset," says program director Chuck Southcott, a trim, honey-voiced man with the look of a '50s character actor. In fact, someone--a renegade "Gypsy" fan perhaps--tucked "S.O.S.: Save Our Showtunes" fliers on car windshields at a recent West Hollywood City Council meeting. Protests or not, Southcott notes, "The mass appeal isn't there to support simply show tunes."

It is Southcott himself, a 40-year radio veteran, who counters shock-jocks with Sondheim for the early morning drive-time audience. He previously spent 10 years spinning albums from the Great White Way and Hollywood. "There's a passion people have for this that's unlike any other," the deejay notes, as the "West Side Story" ballad "One Hand, One Heart" emotes its way through the Southern California airwaves. By his side in the studio is a copy of "Broadway Musicals: Show by Show" should he need to embellish an introduction to "Flower Drum Song" with some arcane tidbit.

Though, Southcott adds, "we still give them a ton of Broadway in its pure form," KGIL is wooing what he refers to as the "cigar and cognac crowd" with Sinatra, Tony Bennett and other retro staples. For Southcott, it all merges seamlessly together. "It's the classical music of the 20th century, and it's all American."

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