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Not the Retiring Kind : Teddy Fregosa has been a songwriter and a bullfighter, but radio is where he has excelled the most, as on-air talent and management. : Teddy Fregosa has been a bullfighter and songwriter, but radio is where he's excelled the most.


Stepping across the threshold of Teddy Fregosa's modest Sunset Boulevard office is something like passing through a time portal. Decades-old photos of long-dead or retired personalities from the fledgling days of Spanish-language radio in Los Angeles fill the room, and Fregosa is quickly waxing nostalgic about a time when hard-drinking station owners sold their signals for just a few thousand dollars and deejays "had to sell ads and collect [payments] and sweep the floors."

"But it was fun," he adds with a bright smile. "It was different. It was . . . very romantic."

Today, Southern California's top Spanish-language stations are worth several million dollars, deejays pull down six-figure salaries without going near a broom, and the romance has largely given way to the pressures of big business. But while Fregosa, general manager of XRPS-AM (1090), may not be having as much fun as he did in the old days, he has never considered getting out.

"I'm going to retire," he promises, "the day I die."

That day figures to be a long way off. Through Fregosa recently turned 72, he looks at least 15 years younger and keeps a schedule that people half his age would have trouble matching, traveling frequently, meeting regularly with advertisers--even taking occasional turns behind the microphone.

But perhaps the clearest sign that Fregosa remains in top form came last November when he outmaneuvered a number of competitors to win the broadcast rights to Anaheim Angels baseball for the next two seasons.

"Orange County is very rich in Spanish-speaking people," says Fregosa. "I'm going to do a lot of shows [from Anaheim Stadium]. I want people to go out and actually see the Angels."

Because XPRS's powerful 50,000-watt clear-channel signal can be heard in a number of Western states as well as parts of Mexico, the station's broadcasts have the potential to build the Angels fan base.

Simply the announcement that the team intends to carry their games in Spanish this year has already helped the organization's image. The Angels were widely criticized for halting their Spanish-language broadcasts under Gene Autry's ownership six years ago. When Disney took control of the team early in the 1995 season, one of the first things they did was reach out to Orange County's Latino population.

XPRS carried the broadcasts until they were stopped in an apparent cost-cutting move. At the time, the Spanish-language announcers did not travel with the team, calling home games live and translating the English-language play-by-play of selected road games. This season, the Angels say, the Spanish-language broadcasters will call the action live for all 162 regular-season games.

Although XPRS on Jan. 1 launched an aggressive promotional campaign touting their association with the Angels, a team spokesman has refused to comment on the Spanish-language radio contract saying only that "some things still need to be worked out."

Among the details yet to be resolved are the naming of the announcers. Fregosa, mindful of Southern California's huge Mexican population, says he'd like to see the team hire Mexican announcers in an effort to build a rapport with the audience.

Yet despite both his longevity and shrewdness as a businessman, Fregosa's greatest asset is his success in judging talent. He helped launch the U.S. careers of major personalities such as Jaime Jarrin, Humberto Luna, Pepe Barreto, Amalia Gonzalez, Pepe Rolon and Antonio Gonzalez, among others.

As a group, Fregosa's students have helped build Los Angeles into the largest, most diverse Spanish-language radio market in the United States.

"He hired me without even listening to me," marvels Barreto, whose morning show on KLVE-FM (107.9) has topped the local Arbitron ratings for most of the past three years. "He helped me so much and I am so grateful to him. I will always be thankful to Teddy Fregosa for everything that I am.

"He has helped a lot of people. He's one of a kind."

The secret to finding talent, Fregosa insists, is simple: Just give people a chance.

"I believe in the talent and I believe in the truthfulness of the presentation," he says. "How can you tell if you have a good boxer unless you give him some fights? Or if a bullfighter is good if you don't give him some corridos?"

Which isn't to say Fregosa suffers fools lightly. Gentlemanly polite and mannerly at most times, he is also old-fashioned to a fault and can frequently be difficult to please.

"I can spot a phony a mile away. If [a deejay] is bad, he will have a very short life with me," Fregosa promises. "I have a bad temper. I'm a very nice man, but if I don't like something. . . ."

As an example, he tells the story of his most recent discovery, XPRS morning deejay Carlos Magana, a dynamic 25-year-old newcomer whom Fregosa describes as "very talented." Yet the first time he saw Magana waiting outside his office, Fregosa sternly directed him to the bathroom.

"But I'm not here to use the bathroom. I'm here for a job," Magana protested.

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