That year the Los Angeles Philharmonic was hoping to broadcast its concerts on his station. But the orchestra had raised only half of the $200,000 the venture would cost.
"We were at a meeting where this was being discussed," said Vanessa Butler, then head of marketing for the orchestra. "And Saul just wrote a check for $100,000. I'll never forget it."
If there is a complaint against Levine, it comes from critics who say KMZT plays it too safe with its programming, sticking mostly to classical standards and light fare.
But KMZT's music mix is why longtime listener Virginia Bortin, who is marketing director for the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, chooses the station over the more adventurous KUSC.
"I prefer composers of the late 19th, early 20th centuries," Bortin said. "Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff. KMZT plays a lot of their music."
In fact, KMZT is the more popular classical station. In a survey released Tuesday by Arbitron Inc., KMZT got a 1.4 share rating, meaning that on average, about 1.4% of adult listeners in the L.A. area tune to the station. It shared 25th place with two other stations in the market.
KUSC's share rating was 1.0, or an average of 1% of adult listeners. It tied for 31st place.
Despite his success and reputation for being genial, Levine does not shy away from a fight when he feels his turf is being threatened.
In 2004 he took on satellite radio, saying it should be subject to the same FCC indecency regulations as are broadcasters. The year before, he challenged a marketing alliance of industry giant Clear Channel Communications Inc. and KUSC, contending that the public radio station was tiptoeing into commercialism.
Levine lost both battles, but he got national publicity for his efforts.
The only topic Levine wouldn't discuss was his age. "The guy will never retire," Butler said. "For him, it has never been about the money."
Furthermore, he does not want his children, both of whom are involved in the operation of the family company, Mt. Wilson Broadcasting Inc., to sell when he is gone and live off the proceeds.
"You are supposed to work," Levine said. "I would not want them to sit around on an island in the Mediterranean."
Levine's son, who is KMZT's marketing director, declined to comment on the station's future.
"He is still the owner," Michael Levine said quietly.
In the meantime, Saul Levine forges ahead. He loves to talk about podcasting -- the station offers listeners downloadable interviews and lectures about music on its website.
"Otherwise, you are in the horse-and-buggy era," Levine said.
He practically hops up the stairs at the station, disdaining the elevator, with the vitality of a man who does not intend to be left behind.
Or lose his business sense.
"They say that for every step you take, you add 10 seconds to your life," Levine said. "And you save electricity."