Heidi Hamilton and Frank Kramer will take over the KLOS-FM morning slot. (James Rhodimer )
Like thousands of other Angelenos, Heidi Hamilton was listening to the final "Mark & Brian" show on KLOS-FM while driving to work Aug. 17, and heard a tearful Brian Phelps announce that he — following in his partner Mark Thompson's footsteps — had decided to leave the station.
For most listeners, it signaled the end of an era. Hamilton realized she'd just gotten a new job — Brian's.
"Oh, my God," she recalled thinking. "I think my life's going to change in a big way."
Hamilton and her partner, Frank Kramer, will debut the "Heidi & Frank" show on KLOS-FM (95.5) on Tuesday, taking over the 5-10 a.m. weekday slot that "Mark & Brian" held for nearly 25 years.
Hamilton and Kramer, along with their former partner Frosty Stilwell, are best known for holding court middays on KLSX-FM (97.1) starting in 2000. The trio lost their jobs in February 2009 when the station switched from talk to pop music.
Since then they've had brief stints at KABC-AM (790) and online, via podcast, where recent shows have covered Randy Travis' naked DUI arrest, Lance Armstrong's cycling ban, other celebrity misadventures, bizarre current events, political outrages and the hosts' own family and relationship anecdotes.
Kramer said he and Hamilton hope their fans will now follow them to KLOS, and that the station's current listeners will welcome them.
"We're the new couple who moved in, and we're bringing by the bottle of wine and the six-pack, and we're making that neighborhood as friendly as it used to be," Kramer said. "We understand they've been sharing their life with Mark and Brian for a very, very long time. They're family. But we will do our best to embrace them, if they'll embrace us."
Hamilton added, "We're there to make the day go by a little faster. We're all about having fun and not taking ourselves too seriously, and everybody is welcome."
"It's hard to follow a show like 'Mark & Brian,'" said John Dickey, chief operating officer of Cumulus Media, the radio chain that owns KLOS. He said Hamilton and Kramer "have their own style; they're not trying to be Mark and Brian. They can appeal to a broader and, in some ways, younger demographic."
Hamilton met Kramer when she was the traffic reporter on the morning show that he and Stilwell hosted with Jamie White on KYSR-FM (98.7) in 1998. The two men were dropped from the program the following year, and Hamilton departed soon thereafter. The three reunited as a team at KLSX.
Stilwell parted ways with his cohorts after KABC; he has since begun co-hosting a morning show on KIOI-FM in San Francisco.
Though KLSX, the onetime home of shock jock Howard Stern, was assumed to have a mostly male audience, Hamilton said their live appearances proved they had a wider fan base.
"You'd look out and see young, old, black, white, gay, straight, male, female. It brought a bunch of different people into the same room. That's what I'm proudest of," she said.
Dickey said he expects the pair will reach out to listeners via webcasts, social media, live appearances and other means, in addition to the radio show.
Cumulus management had known for about a year that Thompson planned to leave "Mark & Brian," but Phelps said he didn't make his decision to also exit until the day before their final program together. He had been negotiating with Cumulus about continuing with a different partner, actress and comedian Jill Whelan; those two are now embarking on their own podcast at http://www.brianandjillshow.com.
"He deserved to take his time. He was very torn," Dickey said.
Dickey said the "laborious process" of hunting for replacement hosts began in earnest last April, with the hope that Phelps would continue but settling on Hamilton and Kramer if he didn't.
"We were sort of in the wings," Hamilton said, "but everybody thought, 'Brian's going to stay with the station.'"
On the final "Mark & Brian," Phelps told listeners, "I just felt it was time to stop. I want to take a year. And I want to kind of recharge. I might return. I don't know. But for now, I want to leave and go have fun on a podcast with my dear friend Jill."
Coincidentally, Hamilton and Kramer's last radio job was at KLOS' sister station, talk outlet KABC — but that was under previous ownership, and their one-year contract wasn't renewed when it ended in October 2010.
Amid the political talk shows on KABC, their ribald humor and lifestyle-oriented chat were "like a square peg in a round hole," Hamilton said.
Kramer said they even highlighted the contrast by playing a train-wreck sound effect as the end of their show segued to the start of Sean Hannity's.
"This is a great fit," Kramer said of KLOS. "This is the side of the building we were always supposed to be on."