Advertisement

RADIO | Around the Dial

Breaking Ground on the Air

Karel and Andrew, 4-7 p.m. anchors, are gay. Now that that's out of the way . . .

April 22, 1999|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

We aren't sitting in for anybody, honey. This time, we got the gig. Like it or not, L.A. . . . it's a brand-new day. It's the first day of spring, and we are here.

*

It had to have been one of the more bizarre beginnings in local talk radio--the debut, exactly one month ago, of "Karel and Andrew" in afternoon drive on KFI-AM (640).

Karel Bouley, 35, and Andrew Howard, 31, two guys who live in Long Beach, had been at the station just six months, and without a regular time slot. To everyone's surprise, they were the ones who leapfrogged over other candidates and got the coveted afternoon berth, held for 6 1/2 years by John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou ("John & Ken"), who move to KABC-AM (790) morning drive in July.

"Karel and Andrew" runs from 4 to 7 p.m.; consumer advisor Clark Howard, syndicated by Cox Radio, which owns KFI, has the 3 p.m. hour.

That over-the-top exuberance belongs to Karel (pronounced ka-RELL), the lead talker, who called their arrival on the Southland's top-rated talk station "a Cinderella story--and God knows, I love shoes, glass or otherwise." He said they had only limited previous talk-show experience, including a stint locally at KYPA-AM (1230), on Saturday nights, midnight to 4 a.m. "We're talking small. I have blow dryers that have more wattage than [that] station, OK?"

On that first afternoon broadcast, for those KFI listeners who hadn't heard them filling in for "Tim and Neil" at night or for Debra Rich on the weekends or for Bill Handel in the morning, or perhaps figured out something from the inflection and tone of Karel's voice (which even he acknowledges sounds like a gay stereotype), they rather quickly identified their orientation.

"One of the reasons [KFI] thought it would be really shocking and provocative to have us do the afternoon show," Karel said, "is something we don't normally talk about . . . but you're probably sitting out there, thinking the same thing. . . . Andrew and I are a couple, and we're not just meaning a couple on radio. We're a couple. We've been together 10 years--10 years in December."

"Well, you better knock on wood," Andrew said, "because you're getting on my nerves."

That was it for gay--other than the comments from callers that first hour--for and against--about having the pair as hosts. The team moved to other subjects, including corporations getting involved in the sponsorship of public projects, such as the tending of the Hollywood sign, and the Oscar show the day before.

And other than the subtext of references and asides, that has remained it. They have not dealt with matters such as same-sex marriage, AIDS or the fact that Andrew is HIV positive.

In KFI's conference room last week, they said almost in unison that the show is as gay as they are--but their topics aren't. It's not that they avoid the subject, insists Karel (identified here by first name, same as on-air), but they don't want "Karel and Andrew" to be tagged as a gay show. Or, as Andrew puts it, to "ghettoize" it. "You're sitting there, talking about it, you're cutting out 90% of your listeners."

As for his voice, Karel says with pride: "I am a stereotype, but stereotypes are rooted in fact. This is not an an act. This is me."

Their gig is no gimmick; shock value lasts only so long. Asked about their contract, they hesitate but then joy takes over. It's for two years, says Karel, with a one-year option for either side to renegotiate.

*

KFI program director David G. Hall, in a separate interview, says that "the main reason why I wanted them on the air is that they are very different. Smart, funny, they take life very seriously but are not always serious about it. They come from entertainment, and they've had a very uncommon and, I can only imagine, difficult life all these years, and that gives them a different perspective. It isn't that they're gay, but that adds yet another facet to the lens through which they see the world."

Karel and Andrew do have an agenda. Asked about the appeal of talk radio, Karel--comedian, music journalist and recording artist (he sings falsetto) whose recent work has been produced and released by Jellybean Recordings--mentions the "immediacy" of the radio mike. "And the ability," he adds slowly, "to show a large number of people that we think, breathe, act, talk and live just like they do, and to enlighten them about that. We have moved beyond it, and they can too."

Andrew, who has written plays and screenplays (thus far unperformed) and is working on a children's novel, notes: "We're part of the post-gay movement. Just people being gay, moving into suburbia."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|