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Weekend DJs hear the voice of opportunity

November 28, 2003|Jon Matsumoto | Special to The Times

Like utility players on major league baseball teams, weekend disc jockeys rarely receive the type of acknowledgment and salary accorded many of their better-known weekday peers.

And as they address a comparatively small weekend audience, opportunities to enjoy weekend getaways, social events or other leisure activities slip away.

When these often-overlooked radio personalities do bat cleanup, it's because they are pinch-hitting for weekday DJs, which sometimes means being mistaken for interlopers by listeners.

"When I fill in for Tami Heide [during the week], I will get e-mails from listeners saying, 'Good to hear you on,' " says KROQ-FM (106.7) DJ Kat Corbett, whose normal shift is 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays and Sundays. "But filling in can be hard as well because some listeners don't realize that I'm not booting Tami off of her show."

Nevertheless, Southland weekend DJs know better than to complain too much. After all, they are working in the second largest radio market in the country. And, as interviews with four local DJs confirmed, a weekend schedule leaves plenty of time to pursue other opportunities in a city that has much to offer.

Corbett's job at KROQ not only feeds her love of music but also has allowed her time to complete a script and begin writing a novel. She has also done commercial work as a voice-over artist.

But when she left her position as a Boston disc jockey in 1997 to head west, she hadn't even intended to seek a similar job in Los Angeles.

"I thought I would be able to find a job as a music supervisor in film or television out here," Corbett says. "But one of my mentors back East told me that I was on drugs if I didn't look for a part-time radio shift, because I was going to need to make money and because I love music so much."

After working for several years as an on-air personality at a now-defunct alternative rock station, Corbett landed at the popular alternative rock station four years ago.

"It's not easy getting out of bed to get to an 8 a.m. weekend shift after you've been out late the night before seeing a band," Corbett says. "But I really have no complaints. I can pretty much roll out of bed and do the job that I love."

Jason Pullman also has found his weekend radio position, at KYSR-FM (98.7), to be a nice complement to his other career ambitions. He mans the 2-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday shifts at the adult contemporary rock station.

A year ago, Pullman jumped at the chance to join Star 98.7 after hopscotching among various radio stations across the country for about 10 years. Just before landing in Los Angeles, the Georgia native signed a contract with the high-powered talent agency ICM and is doing voice-over commercial work as well, during the week.

"I would like to do some television hosting," he says. "A talk show or an 'Entertainment Tonight'-type format [would be great]. But I want to continue to pursue my radio stuff too."

Clarence Barnes may be a disc jockey at KIIS-FM (102.7) Saturdays, 12-4 p.m., and Sundays, 4-8 p.m., but he works seven days a week. In addition to his KIIS position, he hosts a weekday 6-9 a.m. radio show at Lancaster's KOSS-FM (105.5). On the weekends he also does a radio show for a station in Portland, Ore., via computer.

"I do voice tracking [at the Portland station]," explains Barnes, who began working at KIIS five years ago after moving to Los Angeles from New York. "I record the [voice] file here in Los Angeles and then it goes into a computer and it arrives in Portland instantaneously. I'm looking at the same computer screen as the [show's producer]. He's taking the song requests and handling the technical end and I'm just providing the voice."

A former promotions executive at such major record companies as Elektra and Arista, Barnes also acts and does television news work. He spent two years anchoring the 5 p.m. news for Palmdale television station KATV, where he still occasionally works as a L.A.-based entertainment reporter.

"I call myself the biggest 1099 person in the world!" exclaims Barnes, referring to the miscellaneous income tax form received by independent contractors. "By tax time I have stacks of [them]. I'm still getting residuals for a small role I had in an episode of the television series 'Boy Meets World.' I get checks from all over the world for that."

For Kelly Cox, her position as a weekend DJ at KLOS-FM (95.5) fits well with her role as a wife and the mother of a 5-year-old son, Dylan.

"It's a huge advantage having this schedule because I don't have to find day care," says Cox, who has been a weekend personality at the classic rock station for nine years. "If you can be with your own child, that's just the ultimate.... I'm not a traditionalist, but after I had my son it was hard for me to understand how many women really want to put their kid in day care six weeks after he's born and go back to work full time. I really, really value the time with my son."

But working as a weekend DJ does demand a certain degree of flexibility. Barnes says his airtimes have changed often during his five years with KIIS. Cox's work schedule has also gone through various alterations recently. Her current slot is Saturdays, 11 p.m.-4 a.m., and Sundays, 9 p.m.-midnight.

"It's not the best thing for my personal life to work weekend afternoons," Pullman says. "But I never consider this a job. I remember my mom telling me as kid to choose a career that I would work in for free. That's exactly what I've done. I've heard horror stories where people have told me it's impossible getting a radio job in the L.A. market because it's so competitive. So everything has worked out well for me."

"I don't get to spend the kind of time I would like on the weekends with my family," Cox says. "But it's really worth it because I love radio and KLOS and I get to spend so much valuable time with my son during the week."

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