The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

03 January 2006

Former SF Mayor, Comedian Debut On AAR Talker


Former Mayor Brown's Not Done Yet

Like a lingering,
nasty winter cold, Willie Brown is one politician the Golden State just can't seem to shake. To remove the notorious former California State Assembly speaker from power, it took a constitutional rewrite that imposed legislative term limits.

And after Democrats lost control of the chamber to the GOP in 1995, voters were dumbfounded when Brown outfoxed them, manipulating two Republican surrogates Manchurian-style to retain power.

When those limits finally prevented Willie from any additional time in Sacramento, he promptly ran for mayor of San Francisco, serving two terms from 1996 to 2004. Even as many Californians saw him as a symbol of New Jersey-style corruption and patronage, city residents continued their long, strange political love affair with the flamboyant Brown.

Since then, he's been fairly quiet, other than a few guest appearances on cable talk shows. Yesterday, however, Willie proved that at nearly 72, he's not done yet. Now he's taking a spin as a morning talk show co-host on Air America Radio's KQKE 960 AM.

Kicking off yesterday, the "Keepin' it Real with Will and Willie" show teams him with comedian Will Durst, infamously known as the crappiest "lifeline" choice in the history of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire", as well as producer/ third wheel Paul Wells.

After monitoring the show
over its first two days, the Radio Equalizer was both perplexed at its purpose and pleasantly surprised by the Original Slick Willie's ability to appear warm and personable. That won't be enough to salvage this mess, however.

Because Brown and Durst are both radio novices, Wells has a key role on-air, which yesterday provided for some awkward moments as three people stepped all over each other. It appeared they were talking to each other rather than to the listener and I can't imagine where callers were supposed to fit into the equation.

One guest was Al Franken, who took pains to avoid mentioning Air America, in line with recent interviews. Al also went out of his way to sound "moderate", especially on the Iraq issue, as he ponders an upcoming US Senate race in Minnesota.

Lacking passion,
it's hard to see how this program will appeal to liberal radio listeners. Durst didn't seem to add much and Brown's tales of past political conquests will carry him only so far before they become tiresome. Perhaps he is better suited as a guest or occasional fill-in host.

Especially unusual is the prospect of kicking off a talk radio career at 72. Nonetheless, Brown did come across as warm, friendly and somewhat younger than his age would suggest.

Looming even larger: Brown's street "cred". Does anyone really believe he has much of a political ideology, other than as a dedicated Brown-ist? As mayor, he seemed more interested in his fancy suits and limos than engaging in issues of substance.

Also in the peculiar category: the odd coincidence of a "Durst" hosting a local Air America show, since New York's eccentric Durst Organization, a major Manhattan property owner, has been a key funding source for the network since its inception. However, it doesn't appear Will has any easily-determined relation to the clan.

And, despite Brown's legendary status in California politics, the show's announcement garnered very little publicity, not the avalanche station managers likely expected. Has he really been forgotten so quickly?

So where is this
going? It's hard to imagine how it would sound in three months, much less a year. Was it set up as something temporary? Not according to the station's press release.

For Air America Radio, the "Will and Willie" show couldn't arrive fast enough, as it's part of Clear Channel, not the liberal talk network. That means at least a small reduction in the amount the former must pay the latter to run AAR programming on KQKE. Air America has a very similar arrangement with Clear Channel's Los Angeles liberal talker KTLK-AM.

With the network facing a mammoth cash crunch in 2006, every little bit helps, even if it is likely too little, too late to provide a significant extension of Air America's survival.

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Franken photo: Capital Times (WI)


  • Brian, Air America Phoenix is indeed headed for the junkyard; today's morning show with Charles Goyette featured a long segment with the station's manager.

    The station has been sold to a group out of Denver that features Christian programming, so AA will bite the dust in the Valley of the Sun effective with the transfer of ownership, projected around February 1st. Lots of gallows humor on the show today, with a healthy dollop of schadenfreude for conservative listeners like me.

    There's brave talk about finding another station to carry the current programming, but it's obviously not going to happen for quite awhile. I've posted on this at Brainster, but can't find any news articles to link.

    By Blogger Pat, at 03 January, 2006 14:09  

  • Pat, thanks for the tip, I've been hearing about this for a couple of months, but there was nothing firm we could hammer down on it.

    The Phoenix-area news media hasn't had a word on it that I can tell.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 03 January, 2006 14:14  

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