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A shadow hangs over his days

Drug and sex allegations stemming from a Jan. 6 arrest have KCRW-FM's Chris Douridas still waiting to be cleared -- or charged.

March 13, 2006|Martin Miller

Chris Douridas first made a name for himself as the musical director at Santa Monica's public radio powerhouse KCRW-FM and as the original host of the station's cutting-edge and influential show "Morning Becomes Eclectic." But that was just the opening act.

The Grammy-nominated tastemaker, renowned for an encyclopedic musical knowledge and for spotting new talent, soon parlayed his radio successes into widely acclaimed work for the movies and the Internet. Since the mid-1990s, the 43-year-old Pacific Palisades resident has gone on to serve as a musical supervisor or consultant for nearly 20 movies, including Oscar winners such as "American Beauty" and blockbuster hits such as "Austin Powers" and "Shrek 2."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday March 14, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Chris Douridas -- An article in Monday's Calendar about Chris Douridas stated that he was the original host of KCRW-FM's "Morning Becomes Eclectic." Tom Schnabel was the show's creator and original host.

More recently, Douridas was tapped by computer entrepreneur Steve Jobs to be a creative consultant for iTunes, where he helped create and still curates a series of downloadable playlists for iPod users. It was all part of a career trajectory guided and fueled by his singular passion for sounds -- one that made him part of Hollywood's musical elite.

And then it all seemed to fall apart one night in January when Douridas walked into a popular Santa Monica bar. By the time the night was over, he was in jail and his career and freedom were suddenly question marks.

Though many details of what happened are unknown, law enforcement officials paint a lurid picture of events that led to Douridas' arrest Jan. 6 on suspicion of drugging and trying to kidnap a 14-year-old girl.

At least one witness reported seeing Douridas slip a substance into the glass of the teenage girl, who had entered the Circle Bar on Main Street with her cousin's identification, according to the Santa Monica Police Department. Shortly after consuming the drink, the teenager became ill, prompting Douridas to carry her outside the bar and into a nearby car, according to police.

Witnesses phoned police, who then arrested him outside the bar, according to reports. After spending several days in jail, Douridas, the father of a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old son, was freed on $1 million bail. Since then, he has struggled to regain his former life.

Defenders of Douridas offer a strikingly different version of events that night and note the immense psychological toll the ordeal has placed upon one of local radio's most respected personalities.

"It's been extremely emotionally draining for all of us and especially for Chris," said Mieke Kramer, Douridas' ex-wife, who was one of the first people he called after being arrested. "I know people have their doubts, but as far as I'm concerned this is a case of good intentions that were misinterpreted as bad ones."

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office sex-crimes division is gathering evidence in the case and has not decided whether to file charges. An important part of its decision rests upon the toxicology test results from the teenage girl's drink.

At stake is not only a man's future but also the reputation of KCRW (89.9), which could have easily distanced itself from Douridas by placing him on administrative leave. Instead, the station, a hub of liberal values and hip culture, has stood staunchly behind Douridas from the moment of his arrest. In addition to issuing strong statements of support, the station has kept his weekly show called "New Ground," which airs locally Saturday afternoons from noon to 2 p.m., on the air.

Inside the station, Douridas' arrest is not a welcome topic. Employees bristle at the accusations and resent the media for reporting the story before charges have been filed. They firmly back Douridas, who has worked at the station for some 15 years, and are confident he -- and their decision to support him -- will be vindicated.

"The mood around here is completely the same as it has been since this started, and that is we totally stand behind Chris," said Jennifer Ferro, KCRW's assistant general manager. "He's been around thousands of people here, and if there were anything that was amiss we would have known about it and would have acted on it."

The station's unflinching position has provoked criticism, mostly from the blogosphere. Former KCRW radio host Sandra Tsing Loh, fired in 2004 for an on-air obscenity, questioned the station's handling of the situation in a guest blog on conservative commentator Catherine Seipp's website.

"I wonder however if at least for community relations purposes, KCRW has now erred too much on the side of caution.... I do think KCRW could have said more. After all, there was a hospitalized 14-year-old girl involved," wrote Loh, who hosts a radio show on KPCC-FM (89.3) in Pasadena.

"For me, given a certain infamous late-night Santa Monica bar scene everyone's wondering about, and obsessively imagining, and re-imagining, it's eerie to hear, from KCRW, nothing but unbroken dance music," Loh wrote.

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