Dumb as a whip... In its continuing effort to spice up the bland bouillon that is Buzz radio's "new alternative," Jacor Communications is eyeing other cities' leftovers. And it looks like the Kentucky-based conglomerate, which unceremoniously snatched up the Buzz (KTBZ/107.5 FM) earlier this summer, is ready to pounce on John Wilbur, a.k.a. the Whipping Boy. Wilbur currently resides in Denver, where over a few short years, he managed to boggle many an impressionable teenage mind -- and offend any thinking adult within earshot -- with his insufferable on-air shtick.
As a DJ "personality" on Denver's KBPI/ 106.7 FM, the Whipping Boy's daily dose of bad taste included hurling abuses at willing callers (a disproportionate percentage of them female), not to mention numerous references to kinky sex, manual self-stimulation and the condition of his wee-wee. (All of which should go over real big in a conservative hub like Houston.) Wilbur is expected to take over the evening slot at the Buzz -- as to when that might happen, no one at the station will confirm anything. But if all goes as planned, the Whipping Boy could be packing his bags as you read this.
While Wilbur's ratings were good, his relationship with certain Denver listeners (for example, those with a properly functioning brain) was tenuous at best. Back in 1995, he took over the drive-time slot at KBPI, where his strained attempts at second-tier shock-jock humor flourished (so to speak) for a time. "I had Bert Parks killing JonBenet Ramsey a while back," the Boy recalls fondly, speaking over the phone from his home in Denver.
But come the beginning of this year, Wilbur's antics might have stirred up a little too much trouble. On a show in late February, he lashed into Michael Roberts, music editor at the Press's sister paper Denver Westword, for what he claimed were racist comments in an article critiquing the local airwaves. He encouraged KBPI listeners to complain to Westword, and Roberts was besieged with angry phone calls, a few threatening violence. The main comment in question -- Roberts's admission that "I wish I'd grown up in a country where speaking a second language was deemed important" -- was hardly bigoted. Rather, the aside was meant as a knock on America's cocky self-absorption in its own language and culture.
Apparently, the Whipping Boy didn't see it that way, and his on-air insults prompted a scathing editorial from Roberts. Oddly enough, Wilbur was let go at KBPI soon thereafter.
"He's basically just somebody who will do anything to get attention in the most juvenile way," says Roberts. "Sometimes, he can accidentally stumble into humor, but it's rare. I remember one show where the theme was: Call up and tell about the best dump you ever had. It [was] really tepid."
Insiders at Jacor had speculated that the Boy's big mouth was behind his firing, and that the Roberts incident was the clincher. At the time, however, KBPI alleged that its move from alternative to a more classic-rock format meant, presumably, that such stunted shenanigans no longer jibed with their target demographic. For his part, Wilbur shrugs off the whole Roberts confrontation.
"He always took me so seriously," says Wilbur with obvious pride. "I knew how to get under his skin."
A few years back, the Whipping Boy also did a short stint at WXRK in New York City. There, some say, he so irritated the self-proclaimed King of All Media, Howard Stern, that he was punted back to Denver, where he was rehired at KBPI until his termination this March. When he takes to the airwaves in Houston, Wilbur plans to do so minus his Whipping Boy handle -- and a good portion of the low-jinks that come with it. In addition, he may have to lose his band, Gestapo Pussy Ranch, which he's managed to re-form with new members in every town where he's worked.
"I don't know if I'm going to be able to do it in Houston, because I work nights," Wilbur says. "I think I'll probably have to back off a little in Houston."
Still, it stands to reason that less Whipping Boy will mean more Third Eye Blind. Talk about a no-win situation.
Moon man adrift... While KTBZ taps other cities for on-air talent, the station's former music director, David Sadof, is still looking for work. The former host of Lunar Rotation -- then a local act's only hope for getting commercial airplay in its hometown (now there's virtually none) -- is shopping his show to other stations. At this point, public frequency KPFT/90.1 FM would seem to be the only conceivable taker.
In the meantime, one Lunar Rotation fan isn't waiting around passively for a minor miracle: Paul Ziemba, a 17-year-old high school student, has set up a web site devoted to getting Sadof back in his element. "What Ever Happened to Lunar Rotation?" (//home.earthlink.net/~python2323) gives a nice history of the show (it's been around in one form or another since the '80s) and the range of music it encompassed (basically anything Sadof is into, and he's that rarest of DJs with good taste). Mainly though, it serves as a forum for the show's fans, who are encouraged to register their names and phone numbers with the site.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Etc.... Despite what was said in last week's Static, the Daiquiri Factory featuring live electronica on Wednesdays is not the location on Richmond Avenue but the one on lower Westheimer in Montrose. (This Wednesday, it's E.I.O. (Electronic Improvisational Organization). Silly me, to think a bar on the Strip would play host to anything approaching hip.
It's the same tired drill: Weird, brilliant, wholly unmarketable band is discovered by brave A&R guy from stodgy major label; band releases extraordinary debut; A&R guy leaves stodgy major label; stodgy major label drops band like mercy date the morning after prom. This time, the parties involved are Austin's Spoon, a longtime Houston favorite, A&R scout Ron Laffitte, the wickedly fine Series of Sneaks album, and Elektra Entertainment, infamous mishandler of clever new talent (latest industry code name, Neglektra). For the time being, such misfortune means that Spoon leader Britt Daniel has been forced to do his own publicity calls for the band's Thursday Numbers gig with Creeper Lagoon and current flavor of the month Harvey Danger -- as he solemnly explains on a recent voice-mail message. In other words, don't be ashamed to throw money.
-- Hobart Rowland
Have a comment, tip, compliment or beef? E-mail Hobart Rowland at firstname.lastname@example.org.