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July 2008

8/1: Sneak peak of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”

Bravo at midnight Thursday snuck in a 30-minute teaser of its upcoming “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” I would have posted this sooner but radio ratings and the Colbert Canton apology got in the way. And I had already done a “Housewieves” entry in Wednesday. So here is what you probably didn’t watch but I did:

Here’s how they introduce themselves in the credits:

“If it doesn’t make me money, I don’t do it,” Lisa said.

“I always knew I was destined for greatness,” DeShawn said.

“I don’t keep up with the Jones. I am the Jones,” NeNe said.

“In Atlanta, money and class do give you power,” Kim said.

“People are intimdated by my success,” Sheree said.

Oh, boy! “Atlanta’s a place where business like me can thrive,” said Lisa, who owns a real estate firm and a clothing line, designs jewelry, paints and has an infant. “Work is my life but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

She’s impressively chipper. Her husband is a linebacker Ed Hartwell. She’s a workout fanatic. She has a bowling night — at her own home with two bowling lanes. She loves being in front of the camera. The show preview paints her life as busy and incredibly perfect.

NeNe is next. She likes to show off her cleavage and she’s sassy! “I always tell it like it is,” she said. “If you get in with the right people, you can get in any event going on around here.” She lives in an “exclusive gated community.” She’s married to Greg, an entrepreneur. She has a younger son who looks about eight. Her oldest son checks in Clark Atlanta. She thinks she looks younger than the kids there. No age given but she’s probably in her late 30s.

Token white gal Kim is next. She’s a blonde with big hair but she’s no Southern Belle. No discernible Southern accent. “I’m very materialistic,” she admits. “If I die tomorrow, I’ll die wearing Dior.” She’s buds with NeNe. “In Atlanta, you’re it with money,” she said. She buys a packed and stacked Escalade without really paying attention to price. Her boyfriend doesn’t want to be on the show so she calls him Big Papa, a “multimillionaire who doesn’t want to be in public. Some of my girlfriends don’t even know who he is.” She’s a divorcee with two daughters, a 10 year old and 6 year old. “My dream is to be a country singer,” she said. “I want everyone to know who I am.”

Somehow, Kim gets to work with Dallas Austin.

Housewife No. 4 featured is DeShawn, wife of veteran NBA player Eric Snow. “We moved to Atlanta. It’s the land of opportunity for African Americans,” she said. They built a 15,000 square foot home, a monstrosity of new money with chandelier, a chef’s kitchen, game room and lovely master bedroom. They check out the new home on camera. “Best thing about marrying an NBA player is the lifestyle,” she said. She hires an estate manager who oversees the staff.

Sheree is the fifth one. Her vibe: don’t mess with me! “My lifestyle is demanding,” she said. “I consider myself amongst Atlanta’s wealthy elite.” She’s a single mom and at the tail end of a long divorce with an NFL player. “I want a lump sum, seven figures,” she said. “I want to be able to maintain my exact lifestyle if not better.” She has a chef, a hairstylists, a makeup person, a creative director, a PR person and a personal assistant, Ivette Holyfield, Evander’s daughter. “She does everything I don’t want to do,” she said. Lisa calls her a diva and, um, confident. “I’m 38 and I am hot for my age,” she declared. A girl’s night out features Sheree learning to pole dance.

The previews for the rest of the season show NeNe and Sheree clashing. Looks like fun!

I’ve watched only bits of “Orange County” and “New York.” For you “Real Housewives” regulars who did catch the preview, what did you think? Will this be entertaining? Will this make Atlanta look good?

Check it out when the season starts Sept. 16. Or not.

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7/31: Stephen Colbert apologizes for “crappy Canton” remark

Holy backtrack, Batman! Stephen Colbert has issued what he termed a “rare” apology for last week’s “crappy Canton” comment that “puzzled” mayor Gene Hobgood.

(The line was about John McCain’s schedule. He was listing cities and got to this: “And Canton, and not the crappy Canton in Georgia. I’m talking about Canton, Ohio!”

“Evidently, I offended some people because two days later, I saw this in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,” Colbert said in his Wednesday night broadcast. My colleague Jamie Gumbrecht’s print story is shown on screen and he reads the headline “Colbert’s ‘crappy Canton’ comment puzzles mayor.”

“Seems the mayor of Canton Georiga was none too happy with me,” he continued.

“It’s clear to me he has not been to Canton Georgia,” Hobgood says in a video clip from WXIA-TV.

“You’re absolutely right, Mayor Hobgood” Colbert said, to laughs. “I haven’t. But I hear it’s a beautiful place. Nestled in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, Canton is the fastest growing city in Georgia. It has so much to offer like the Canton Historical Theater and the HIckory Creek log dam. Not to mention oxygen and paved roads.”

“Yes, Canton Georgia, a wonderful place to live. So again, Mayor Hobgood. I apologize.”

“Why did I call your lovely city crappy? A simple mixup. I meant Canton, Kansas.”

Then he puts his “crappy Canton Georgia” comment to shame. “That place is a **hole. You can smell that place all the way from Topeka. You know what they say about Canton, Kansas? Nothing. Nobody talks about it. I would say you should convert it to a landfill but that is insulting to landfills. If Dorothy was from Canton, Kansas, she would have wished the house dropped on her. That reminds me of a joke: how many Canton residents does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None. They don’t use lights because they don’t want to see where they live. I’m glad I cleared that up because I don’t want to offend anybody.”

Here’s the video:

I called up Mayor Hobgood this morning and asked him, “Do you think Colbert’s apology was sincere?”

“I think it was about as sincere as anything else he says,” Hobgood said with a chuckle, “especially the comment about our paved roads and air. We do have those. I must say, very good ones, in both areas.”

“Are you happy with his apology?”

“I really am. Some of our people are very excited we have received the attention of such a celebrity,” he said. “I was surprised.. he used it as a great segue into Canton Kansas.” (population: 800 or so vs. 17,000 in Canton, Georgia.)

Hobgood invited Colbert to visit Canton, Georgia. “I’ll honor him and give him a day if he comes,” he said. In fact, he noted, there are Colberts in the county. Perhaps Stephen has distant relatives there since he’s from South Carolina.

He was also bemused that Colbert used his Hobgood name to mine laughs. He said as a kid, people would mispronounce his name Hopgood so he still signs his name with a big “B” to make sure people say it right. And yes, Colbert said it correctly more than once!

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7/31: What do you think of the spring radio ratings?

As I noted in this story, there’s been lots of action in radio land the past few months.

The key spring Arbitron ratings book just came out, numbers that stations use to set rates and sell ads. Among the new and returning shows, the Regular Guys (Rock 100.5) and Giant Brian (Project 9-6-1) pulled in really strong numbers while Cledus T. Judd (94.9/The Bull), the Morning Mess (Star 94) and Zakk Tyler (Dave FM) all showed some signs of life after miserable winter numbers.

People seem to have transitioned fine at Kicks 101.5 with Dallas joining Caddy. And Don Imus over at 106.7/True Oldies brought in comparable numbers to predecessor Rhubarb Jones.

Tell us what you think!

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7/31: Spring ratings show Regular Guys, Grown Folks, Dave, Project up; Kiss, River, Fish down

The spring Arbitron ratings book gave some of the first firm signs of where some of the new and returning morning shows stand. If I miss any show or demographic breakdown you’d like info about, email me rho@ajc.com.

Let’s go for the good news:

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-For the first time, Grown Folks syndicated morning host Steve Harvey has beaten Kiss 104.1’s Tom Joyner in a key demographic, even with a relatively poor radio signal at 102.5. Steve is now 3rd among 25 to 54 year olds, slipping ahead of fourth-place veteran Tom Joyner. Since Harvey came along in 2006, he has been bit by bit stealing away Joyner’s audience. Harvey’s TV show and standup work has given him much broader (and younger) appeal than Joyner.

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-The Regular Guys, in their first full quarter at Rock 100.5, quickly picked up most of their old audience from 96rock, even though Rock 100.5 isn’t as strong a signal 96.1, now Project 9-6-1. The show ranked a commanding second 18 to 34 and sixth 25 to 54. In both demographics, the show more than doubled what the new Morning X had been able to do in 2007 thanks to extremely high time spent listening. As “Southside” Steve might say, “Yeah, come on!” And after abysmal numbers in the winter for the music portion of the station, the mid-days and afternoons improved strongly.

-It appears the Regular Guys didn’t steal from any particular audience. The Zone was more or less flat, 680/The Fan dropped a bit and two of the other three rock stations moved up. Project 9-6-1 and Giant Brian didn’t get hurt by the Regular Guys. Among 25 to 54 year olds, Giant Brian more than doubled its ratings from the winter from 19th to 9th. Over at Dave FM, the new Zakk Tyler morning show bounced back from a poor winter and matched the final fall book with Firfer and Orff. (The strongest daypart for Dave is Mara Davis’ mid-day show, which came in 7th among 25 to 54 year olds, her highest in at least two years.)

-B98.5, with the soft rock format to itself, continues to pull in huge numbers across the board, with Delilah at night doubling her ratings in a year, finishing 3rd. The final spring book for Kelly & Alpha before Steve & Vikki entered the scene was flat, with the show finishing at a solid 7th place among 25 to 54 year olds.

Here’s the mixed news:

-Star 94’s The Morning Mess, replacing Steve & Vikki, is definitely skewing younger. The trio has lost about one-sixth of the total listeners vs. Steve & Vikki among 25 to 54 year olds compared to spring 2007. But its numbers were comparable to those of Steve & Vikki among the younger 18 to 34 year old demographic. And its spring ratings improved from a very poor winter book when Steve & Vikki fans who didn’t like the Mess left in droves. So don’t write them off yet.

-It’s a similar story for Cledus T. Judd over at 94.9/The Bull. After a miserable opening frame in the winter, Cledus gained back a bit in the spring, hitting numbers comparable to Nashville’s Big D & Bubba in 2007. But the station only ranked 18th among 25 to 54 year olds in the morning. Given all the billboard and TV advertising, that’s not exactly a boffo performance.

-Don Imus and True Oldies had its first full book and didn’t really do any better than Eagle. (Hey, at least it’s a lot cheaper!). And the station hasn’t done much advertising so those ratings are from scratch. Imus had far greater time spent listening than Rhubarb but far fewer listeners, too. He ranked 19th among 25 to 54 year olds but probably did better in older demographic cells which I don’t have on me. The station did slightly better the rest of the day with fewer listeners than Eagle but more time spent listening, the same pattern as Imus.

-The Fan fell back to earth after a huge winter book and among men 25-54, fell behind the Zone (though just barely) in mornings and middays while prevailing in the afternoon shift. I don’t have show breakdowns because each station has hours that don’t quite match up to each other and those specific hour-to-hour numbers don’t come out until Thursday. I’ll update this when I get them.

Here’s the not-so-good news:

-The River, after an unusually good winter, fell back to 2007 levels, ranked sixth among 25 to 54 year olds, down from fourth. But it held its own considering Rock 100.5, which is the closest competitor for the station.

-Sean Hannity and WSB-AM dropped to third place among 25 to 54 year olds for the first time in years, falling behind both Ryan Cameron at V-103 and now Michael Baisden at Grown Folks 102.5. The primaries, which dragged on into the spring for the Democrats but was over for the Republicans, did not help him.

-WGST-AM also returned to normal numbers after a strong winter book. In other words, its numbers were not terribly good. I looked at how the station did among 25-54s in the mornings with Tom Hughes five years ago and he was tripling what the station is getting right now with Randy Cook, who is ranked just 24th among 25 to 54 year olds.

-104.7/The Fish has been slipping gradually the past 12 to 18 months for reasons I can’t ascertain. The station ranked 18th among 25 to 54 year olds, down from 10th a year earlier. Kevin & Taylor is a bright spot, maintaining its numbers in that demo and outperforming the rest of the station.

Top morning shows

25 to 54 year olds

Rank, show, station, format (winter rank)

1- Frank and Wanda, V-103, R&B/hip hop (1)

2- Scott Slade, 750/WSB-AM, news/talk (2)

3- Steve Harvey, Grown Folks 102.5, R&B/talk (3t)

4- Tom Joyner, Kiss 104.1, R&B (3t)

5- The Bert Show, Q100, Top 40 (5)

6- The Regular Guys, Rock 100.5, rock (10)

7- Kelly & Alpha, B98.5, soft rock (6t)

8- Cadillac & Dallas, Kicks 101.5, country (9)

9- (tie) Yolanda Adams, Praise 97.5, gospel (8)

9- (tie) Giant Brian Show, Project 9-6-1, rock (19)

18 to 34 year olds

1- Frank and Wanda, V-103, R&B/hip hop (1)

2- The Regular Guys, Rock 100.5, rock (4)

3- The Bert Show, Q100, top 40 (3)

4- The “A” Team, Hot 107.9, R&B/hip hop (2)

5- Murph Dawg & CJ, 95.5/The Beat, hip-hop (6)

6- (tie) Steve Harvey, Grown Folks 102.5, R&B/talk (7)

6- (tie) Cadillac & Dallas, Kicks 101.5, country (10-tie)

8- Scott Slade, 750/WSB-AM, news/talk (5)

9- (tie) Los Patrones de la manana, 105.3/El Patron, Hispanic (9)

9- (tie) Kelly & Alpha, B98.5, soft rock (10-tie)

I had a request for Baisden, 2 Live Stews and Ryan Cameron. So here are the ranks for 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays. I still need to check on the Stews since they air odd hours (1 to 4 p.m.)

Afternoon top 5

25-54

1- Ryan Cameron, V-103, R&B/hip-hop (1)

2- Michael Baisden, Grown Folks 102.5, R&B/talk (6)

3- Sean Hannity, WSB-AM, news/talk (2)

4- Kelly McCoy, B98.5, soft rock (7)

5- Art Terrell, Kiss 104.1, R&B (3)

18-34

1- Ryan Cameron, V-103, R&B/hip-hop (1)

2- E4Real & Shyneka, Hot 107.9, hip-hop (2)

3- Maverick, 95.5/The Beat, hip-hop (4)

4- Michael Baisden, Grown Folks 102.5, R&B/talk (9)

5- Cindy & Ray, Star 94, top 40 (3)

SOURCE: Arbitron ratings, April 3 to June 25, 2008

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Project Runway: Holla at Cha Boy!

The high: Sandra Bernhard is always a scream, sort of.

The low: Suede is always Suede.

Loved this episode! This is the first time this season that we felt like the designers were really pursuing inspiration as opposed to making do in a grocery store or a slower market.

We were just the tiniest bit surprised, though, at Kenley’s big win. We (by which we mean, I) thought the dress had waaaaay too many tricks going on: loud print, side pouf, high neck … and yet the judges liked it. Go figure. Besides, I didn’t think they were so effusive with the praise. I thought Terri and Leanne got more love.

Speaking of which, Terri’s dress/pants ensemble was clever and daring, but I thought the way the fabric bunched up in front detracted from its drama. On the other hand, Leanne’s sewer-grate design really did look polished and sophisticated, but it was too black. She needed just a smack of color or glimmer somewhere south of the bold gold necklace, which I also liked.

I’ve always wondered if they dole out early wins to people whom they plan to bump off midseason, whom they think might not go anywhere. You know, spread the love around. This isn’t based on any statistical evidence, just me trying to get inside a “Project Runway” producer’s mind.

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But I can’t see them letting Emily go so soon — I thought she had real talent, even if her dress looked like a flamenco dancer’s (near right). At any rate, Blayne’s (far right) looked worse, sort of like those crumpled-paper paintings we all made in elementary school.

The last word: Did you know you, too can have your own Tim Gunn bobblehead doll for only $24.95. Get one and stash it where your husband used to keep his Josh Childress bobblehead.

Was Kenley the right winner? Did Emily deserve to go home? How long will it take for Stella to get booted, and will you rejoice?

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7/30: Preview of “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” Kristen Gates talks about new gig, “Baby Borrowers” ends

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(l-r) Lisa Wu Hartwell, DeShawn Snow, Kim Zolciak, NeNe Leakes, Sheree Whitfield.

The five women from the already-maligned Bravo spinoff reality show “Real Housewives of Atlanta” have done some press, including Entertainment Tonight. I’ll talk to them closer to air date in September.

In the meantime, here’s a little teaser from the women themselves via video.

NeNe Leakes: “I know the viewers are going to love, love, love the real housewives of Atlanta.”

Lisa Wu Hartwell: “We have a lot to offer. We have the music scene. We have the film scene. We have fashionistas. We have athletes. We have everything. It’s hot. It’s hot in Atlanta!”

Leakes: “Being in the South is totally different, just being in the South. The women in New York are wound a little tight. Orange County? They were fun. We’re funner.”

“More fun,” corrected DeShawn Snow.

Snow then added: “We’re five strong dynamic women. We have very strong personalities. We know exactly what we want. You put five people together like that, there will be a couple of disagreements. At the end of the day, we’re like a family, like sisters.”

Show starts Sept. 16, but there’s a 30-minute preview tonight at midnight (or, technically, tomorrow) right after “Project Runway.”

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-Kristen Gates, formerly of Star and Kicks 101.5, said she joined 94.9/The Bull earlier this month with part-time/weekend fill-in status in hopes of getting a full-time gig. She didn’t realize how quickly it would happen.

Thanks to Jamie Massey’s move to Phoenix, Gates has taken over as the female sidekick to Cledus T. Judd. Although she started last week without Cledus, he returned Monday. She knew him going back to the days when he would visit her in the studios at South 107 in Rome and they’d see each other at roundtables and awards shows. “He was one of the first people to call me the day the firings happened” at Kicks Feb. 29.

“I’ve known her forever,” Cledus said after the second day they started working together at the Bull. “It’s like having an old friend in there. When I got the job at the Bull, she was supportive, wished me the best. I never thought I’d be able to work with her. She’s the consummate professional— funny, obnoxious, makes my job easier. She is definitely one of the guys.”

Kristen said being at the Clear Channel building “is like a breath of fresh air. It’s such a healthy environment.” (That is perhaps the first time I’ve ever heard someone say that!)

“Slam and I are here to guide the show and deal with the business aspects,” she said. “All Cledus has to do is be entertaining and be himself.” The show’s new producer, Todd Veal, used to work with Rhubarb.

In just two days, she said, “it’s been a very smooth transition. We’ve instantly gelled.”

The reality show stirred controversy because it featured parents giving up their babies and toddlers to teenagers they had never met.

Some critics said it would damage the kids psychologically. The two Dunwoody teens who took part in the show, which ends its six-episode run tonight at 9 p.m.(7/30), pooh-poohed this line of argument.

“It was literally safer than day care,” said Austin Trizzino, 19, a rising sophomore at Auburn University. “Any given time, you had 10 people watching a single kid. There was an EMT there.” In the end, nobody needed the EMT, he added.

Neither he nor his girlfriend during the show, Kelly Young, now 20 and a rising junior at Auburn, regretted taking part, even though Kelly went into an emotional tizzy a couple of times. She doesn’t even recall why she got mad the second time and started screaming at Austin in a tirade so over the top, E! comedy show “The Soup” mocked it last week.

“We were extremely stressed out,” Kelly said. “We had been questioning our relationship before we went on the show. During the interviews [with producers,] we were kind of egged on.”

The show was taped a year ago. Austin and Kelly broke up, got back together, then broke up again three weeks ago. Such is life with young couples. Both remain friends and agree: No kids anytime soon for either of them.

“I learned I was a lot more patient than I expected,” Austin said. “But I also learned I like being young and having the freedom to sleep eight straight hours.”

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7/29: V-103’s Frank Ski and Wanda Smith show to be simulcast on CW affiliate/69

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Frank Ski and Wanda Smith are going to get some love on TV, thanks to CW-69.

The CW affiliate will air at 11 p.m. a half hour “best of” show with nine HD cameras. V-103’s morning show, which is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary in town this fall.

“Now people can not just hear us but see us,” said Smith.

But won’t this mean the morning crew will now have to dress up? “I need an endorsement for some clothes!” she joked. (Miss Sophia will probably want one, too!)

“I always dress up anyway,” Ski noted. “I’m always camera ready.” He did say the HD cameras during tests reveal even bits of dust on his mustache so he says he’s going to have to make sure he’s immaculate when the show starts until it ends.

Tom Canedo, the general manager for the CW, said he thinks many viewers who watch his station listen to Frank and Wanda. The radio morning show draws about 440,000 listeners a week, No. 2 in Atlanta only behind WSB-AM. “It’s a great way to localize the [TV] station,” Canedo said.

Billboards are coming and teasers that have already been airing on the station which will get more explicit this week. The show is scheduled to debut August 18. It will replace “The Bernie Mac Show,” which will be pushed back a half hour, along with the other shows. They’ll simply cut out a half-hour of infomercials in the middle of the night. “Bernie” usually draws about 30,000 to 35,000 viewers a night.

This is unlikely to unseat WSB-TV’s nightly news in the ratings, but it should draw a good young demographic. He said advertisers are already showing interest and he’s excited to have a local-content show, even if it’s leveraging off a fundamentally different medium that relies more on the intimacy of radio.

The CW has hired a producer who will watch the four hours of the show and cull the best 22 minutes each day.

For a couple of years earlier this decade, Turner South aired the Rick & Bubba show out of Birmingham until Fox Sports took over the network and got rid of all non-sports programming. The show is now heard in Atlanta on radio in a “best of” format on Sunday afternoons on WSB-AM.

The other morning show in town that is televised is 790/The Zone’s “Mayhem in the AM” from 7 to 8 a.m. each morning on CSS.

-Access Atlanta is doing the annual “Best of the A List.” We have a separate blog where you can vote for your favorite morning show. I’m personally confused why it’s not a straight poll; rather, it’s set up so you type in your favorite. I guess someone is going to tally it up or something like that. Here you can go to vote..

In past years, some shows have lobbied to win because they would get money for charity. I don’t know if that’s the case this year. (I need to go check.) Clearly, 104.7/The Fish’s Kevin & Taylor mentioned it on air because their fans voted heavily during the 9 a.m. hour. The Bert Show didn’t even get a vote until 10:31 a.m. after about 50 votes for Kevin & Taylor. Frank and Wanda got their first vote at 11:39 a.m. They picked up many more votes later in the day, though—almost 50.

Steve Harvey didn’t get his first vote until 1:22 p.m. but had about 20 by the end of the day. The new Morning Mess show on Star 94 as of 12:35 a.m. Tuesday had two votes that I can ascertain. Ditto with the A Team over at Hot 107.9. I haven’t seen any votes yet for Dave FM’s Zack Tyler morning show. Howard Stern has a few votes, as does NPR’s Morning Edition. Scott Slade over at WSB-AM got very few but that’s more of a news show.

Based on a quick early check of votes, Kevin & Taylor appear to have a substantial lead followed by Steve & Vikki, Bert and Frank & Wanda. The Regular Guys so far have gotten fewer votes than I had expected though they’re still in the running. The country fans have not come out in force because Cadillac and Cletus have gotten few votes so far. The sports guys at 680 and 790 haven’t gotten many votes either.

Demographically, it appears more women are voting than guys.

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Project Runway: Christian Siriano on Bluefly.com

Last week on Bluefly.com, “Project Runway” Season 4 winner Christian Siriano debuted his first collection. (Since his big win, Siriano has designed prom dresses and has also signed on to create 15 pieces for Sportswear company Puma.) Click here to see the entire Bluefly.com collection.

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If you saw the Season 4 finale, you saw the seeds of Siriano’s Bluefly work. Dramatic jackets with exaggerated shoulders, super-skinny pants — great party pieces — and a sort of feminine rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic are the hallmarks. A few pieces already seem to be sold out (remember, the collection only went up for sale on Wednesday).

That’s impressive, because the mini-collection is not cheap. The jackets cost in the $500-$600 range, pants $280, and a T-shirt, plain except for ruffled shoulders, costs $96.

What do you think of his mini-collection? Is it what you expected? Would you wear it?

Photo: Business Wire

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7/25: Autism flap costs Michael Savage sponsors including Home Depot

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New York syndicated radio host Michael Savage, heard locally at night on WSB-AM, has been losing sponsors and affiliates after comments about autism caught the ear of activisits. Atlanta-based Home Depot is one of the sponsors who dropped him, according to Newsday. The New York Times noted that Columbus-based Aflac has ditched him, too.

The irascible conservative Savage was on for a couple of years in the evenings in Atlanta on WSB but was bumped earlier this year to late night since his ratings were pretty bad. Herman Cain now has his slot here.

One of his more damaging quotes:

“I’ll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases it’sa brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out.

Here’s a bit from the New York Times story:

On his Web site, Michaelsavage.com, the host posted a letter on Monday in which he iterated the central point he said he had been trying to make on his July 16 program: that autism is too often misdiagnosed in the cases of children, or falsely diagnosed, at least partly as a means of wringing resources. “Let the truly autistic be treated,” he wrote. “Let the falsely diagnosed be free.” On July 16, Mr. Savage, above, referred to autism as “a fraud, a racket,” and asserted that what “99 percent” of children with autism most needed was a parent willing to tell them things like, “Don’t act like a moron.”

Dan Kearney, general manager at WSB-AM, said he’s been inundated with emails complaining about Savage but most are coming from outside activist groups, not Atlanta listeners. He said he is meeting with a local autism group next week to talk about the Savage controversy.

And on another note, Kearney told me when Hannity’s contract is up: 2012. So he will indeed be contractually obligated to WSB for quite a long time coming.

-I wrote a story for the print edition today about Mark Kanov, who worked at Star 94 for 40 years, starting on July 26, 1968 and retiring today on July 25, 2008. He was the first full-time sales guy at the FM station WQXI in 1968, moved up the ranks to eventually run the shop the last 15 years.

He ran a great station, a station with fiercely loyal employees, a consistent and advertiser-friendly brand and an amazing sales team that helped prop up revenues this decade even as ratings dropped.

By dumping Steve & Vikki last year, he’s taken a huge gamble just as he’s walking out the door by bringing in the relatively inexperienced Morning Mess team from Indianapolis. Unfortunately, for the Mess, Kanov was one of the trio’s biggest supporters. Will his replacement prop them up if they don’t quickly build an audience to replace that of Steve & Vikki, now at B98.5? That’s the big question for them.

Spring ratings, which are considered more important than winter, come out next week. We’ll get a better handle on how all the morning shows are doing then.

Here’s a link to the story.

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7/24: Kristen Gates gets Jamie Massey’s gig at 94.9/The Bull, Billy Bush joins Q100, XM/Sirius merger close to approval

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No surprise here: Kristen Gates, formerly the co-host with Cadillac Jack at Kicks 101.5, has nabbed the co-hosting gig with Cledus T. Judd at 94.9/The Bull. She replaces Jamie Massey, who has left the Bull to move to Phoenix to be with her boyfriend.

The timing worked great for Gates. She was ousted from Kicks along with more than a dozen others when Citadel dumped a huge amount of talent to save money at both Kicks and Eagle (now True Oldies) on Feb. 29. She recently joined the Bull on a part-time basis but Massey’s departure was Gates’ gain. She was the most obvious replacement for Massey and the Bull grabbed her.

Gates has already started. I’m at a convention in Chicago right now and am not working every second of the day but I’ll try to reach Gates and update this blog entry with her comments.

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-Billy Bush, co-host of “Access Hollywood” on TV, is jumping into radio syndication with a late-night show that will be heard on Q100 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. This doesn’t affect Q100’s regular lineup since the station has been using part-time help during that time period, but it gives the station access to a man known for connections to Hollywood.

Since this is one of the first major markets for Bush’s syndication, he will provide special local content (or at least an acknowledgment he’s on Q100) for the station. I don’t think that means he’ll be giving shout outs to folks in Gwinnett County but Bush is an amiable fellow. Q100 will still play a lot of music since there are fewer ads at that hour anyway but he’ll do some celebrity dirt-type news and insert some snippets of interviews he does with A list talent.

Rob Roberts, the Q100 operations manager, said the show will start in a couple of weeks.

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-The XM/Sirius merger is close to approval by the Federal Communications Commission, according to the New York Times last Wednesday night..

Deborah Taylor Tate, a Republican member of the F.C.C., appeared ready on Wednesday to vote in favor of the deal, which would break a deadlock along party lines among the other four commissioners. She would join Kevin J. Martin, the chairman, in supporting the merger, with certain conditions. Mr. Martin, a Republican, had publicly said that he was in favor of it.

Do you think this is a good idea in the end? Will it help save the two companies?

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Project Runway: Ugly Brown Fabric

The high: The realization that in a season of strong personalities, nobody on “Project Runway’s” Season 5 annoys me — yet. Surely I must have mellowed in my old age?

The low: The misconception that brown is ugly.

Tonight’s designers seemed to knock on the color brown. Or are we just too sensitive? (Ever since our days spent in the tutelage of really old nuns have we been fascinated by brown. Back then, the nuns wore brown; our uniforms were brown; the entire school seemed to be festooned in brown ribbons and craft paper.)

We prefer to think Joe’s, Leanne’s and Wesley’s designs (below) goofed because of the thin, ripply satin, and not the color.

But what about the “green” part? We couldn’t tell what difference “eco-friendly” fabric made in this challenge.

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The winner: Suede, whose innovation with champagne satin (right) won him a fan in actress and guest judge Natalie Portman.

The loser: Forget the dress. Didja see Wesley’s shorts? Leave the legs to the models, Stork Boy.

We also looooved neurotic, nasal-y Stella’s one-armed, lace-up sheath, but thought it was poorly styled. It needed some Doc Martens, not Mary Janes, and tougher hair, not the Jerry Hall special (which is to say, lopsided).

Do you agree?

By the way, Nina Garcia, recently shown the door at Elle (because we’re not above shameless gossip, here’s what Gawker.com had to say on the matter), has a new title of “editor at large,” but that is apparently a temporary situation. She reportedly has signed on Marie Claire’s dotted line, and will take the reins as fashion director in September.

We haven’t read Marie Claire since, well, the last time we wore brown pleated skirts and saddle oxfords, but we’re still willing to give it a shot. Best of luck, Nina.

Photos: www.bravotv.com

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7/23: Stephen Colbert disses Canton, Larry Wachs reax to Janet fine turnabout, radio stations helping babies

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Award-winning talk show host/satirist Stephen Colbert dissed Canton Georgia during his Monday night show. It was mildly amusing - at least for the folks in Canton, Ohio.

He was complaining that the media was so focused on Barack Obama’s worldwide tour, why not get “super jazzed” about John McCain’s “fiscally responsible staycation”?

“I’ve got his schedule right here,” Colbert noted. “This week, Sen. McCain is rocking through Kennebunkport, Maine, Rochester, New Hampshire, Baltimore Maryland. That means crabcakes! And Canton. And not the crappy Canton in Georgia. I’m talking about Canton, Ohio! Where he is hosting a… finance reception.”

Here’s the video (the joke is at about the 5 minute point.)

On the Colbert web boards, one Canton resident didn’t take kindly to this:

Dear Mr. Colbert

We, the good citizens of Canton, Georgia, do NOT appreciate your disparaging reference to our fine, God-fearing town as the “crappy” Canton! After all, to take second fiddle to Canton, Ohio? What were you thinking? I know you are a native South Carolinian, which by all means, casts a superior light of unbearable being on your shallow soul; however, have you ever actually been to Canton (aka - the crappy one)? As president of the Historic Canton Homeowners Association, I officially invite you to our next “Mint Juelp Party on the Porch” gathering, and I double dog DARE you to actually show up with your stage make-up and camera crew in tow! Show us what you are made of, or are you actually afraid that you may hurt your wrist or scar your pretty on-camera face in the process? Make no mistake, I have been a huge fan, up until tonight, but crappy Canton boy now says, “die, you gravy-sucking pig!” Have your people contact my people, and we will go from there. Now, I think I shall retire to my crappy bed in crappy Canton, Georgia…

I look forward to your crappy response.

Sincerely,

Bill Grant

Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood, a Cherokee County native, took the joke in good humor.

“He’s probably never been to quote ‘crappy’ Canton,” Hobgood said Wednesday morning. “Had he been, he probably wouldn’t have said that. It wouldn’t have been funny.”

Then I gave him a chance to sell Canton, which has about 17,000 people in it. “It’s one of the fastest growing cities in the nation,” he noted, nearly tripling in size since 1990. “Obviously it has a lot going on for it else people wouldn’t be moving here in droves.”

He noted the revitalization of downtown and on the same night Colbert made the comments, someone requested that a thousand acres be annexed to the city of Canton for 2,300 homes and commercial properties. “I doubt Canton, Ohio has done that!” he said, admitting he has never been to that Ohio city.

Indeed, the city of Canton, Ohio has about 80,000 people, based on the 2000 census but a 2006 census estimate had Canton shrinking to about 78,000.

Hobgood noted that newcomers to Canton are ironically more resistant to some of the growth in the city because many had come to the city to get away from the traffic and hassle. And he said people who move to Canton are from all over — even the North. “We have a few Yankees here,” he said, adding lightly: “Some are actually nice folks!”

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-Larry Wachs of the Regular Guys on Rock 100.5 was not amused by the news Monday that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia overturned a $550,000 FCC fine against CBS for the Janet Jackson breast slip during the Super Bowl in 2004.

“I’m going to be writing a letter to the FCC to tell them what I think,” he said. “They put so many people through so much misery for nothing — including me.”

He said he didn’t even realize CBS had appealed the original fine. “I wish Clear Channel had the [cojones] to do the same thing but of course they didn’t. They didn’t have the courage of their convictions.”

Wachs and the Regular Guys soon after the “incident,” were trotted out by Clear Channel and 96rock (now Project 9-6-1) as a great example of “edgy” radio that wouldn’t cross the line. Then in April, Wachs accidentally did so while proving a point about the silliness of the censorship by trying to air backwards porn. But while recording it, some naughty words got caught on air during a car ad. After the show, Clear Channel suspended them, then took them off the air.

After they came back in 2005, the show minus “Southside” Steve Rickman wasn’t the same. Wachs sounded angry and Eric Von Haessler wasn’t fully engaged. The ratings never quite returned to their glory times. They were fired in 2006 for a problem unrelated to the FCC and indecency. But Cumulus has given them a third shot this year. And with Rickman part of the team again, they sound much happier.

Wachs notes that the Parents Television Council and other conservative groups have cut back on filing complaints lately. “The witchhunt is off,” he noted, as Congress and the public are focused on more crucial issues such as rising oil prices and the mortgage mess.

On the air Tuesday morning, he said my call dredged up bitter feelings from the past. “I started getting angry,” he said. “I gave him so many foul-language filled quotes, he probably can’t use them. Irony of ironies!”

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-All morning shows on virtually every major radio station in Atlanta is participating July 29 in the second annual March of Dimes fundraiser. This is a repeat of last year’s efforts. Though it didn’t raised that much money compared to the Achievement in Radio Awards for the March of Dimes (or many multi-day station-only fundraisers), it is an impressive cooperative effort among competitors.

Here’s a segment from the press release:

All stations will direct listeners to make donations by calling the toll free number 1-866-MOD BABY (663-2229) or by going online at www.marchofdimes.com/georgia.. Certain pledge amounts will earn listeners prizes such as AirTran Airways business class tickets for domestic travel; two-night stays at Beau Rivage Resort on the scenic Mississippi Gulf Coast; Vacation Express travel packages to Oasis Hotels and Resorts in Cancun, Mexico and dinner for two at some of Atlanta’s most popular restaurants.

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7/22: Interview with former Grant Park man Ty Pennington, Sean Hannity and WSB-AM

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I feel out of breath after a 10 minute interview with former Atlanta boy Ty Pennington, the whirling dervish of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

He’s in town today to promote a new drug Vyvanse for adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD. And he has no complaints about the heat. {“I love it super moist!” he said.)

Pennington said he grew up with ADHD, known at the time as hyperactivity. He had a tough time focusing on one thought, idea or project at a time.

“My mom was studying child psychology when I was a kid and she asked for the worst child in the class to observe. That ended up being me!” he said. “While she watched, I probably jumped on my desk, swung from the blinders and set a small fire in the back of the room. Let’s just say I was a bit of a distraction.”

She even tried a bribery system to keep him in line but he wasn’t stupid: he quickly realized the trinkets were in a particular closet. He didn’t get medication until college and he has managed, for better or worse, with various meds since then including Adderall. “It was like someone literally put glasses on my eyes for the first time. I could see clearly!”

Two months ago, he switched to Vyvanse and said it has improved his ability to focus. “I don’t know about everybody else but it works for me. And I need something that works. Now I can finish a thought, finish a sentence.” (Note that the pharmaceutical company Shire is now paying Pennington to sing the drug’s praises.)

Even with the medicine, Pennington still talks a mile a minute.

“I work countless hours, long hours, traveling, juggling two rooms I’m designing simultaneously and the next two around the corner for next week and doing a magazine and a book and designing things at Sears.”

But he has no regrets. “I have the best job in the world,” he said. “I’m really stoked I can do what I do. What other show can I be creative as an artist and change someone’s life, too?”

During his time with TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” he lived in Grant Park but moved to Los Angeles in 2002, soon nabbing what would become his signature gig at “Extreme Makeover” the next year.

He no longer owns real estate here but still misses his friends and family. “I miss the nice rhythm and pace. People appreciate the quality of life.” He’ll be back in Atlanta for Labor Day to sign books at the Atlanta Journal Constitution Decatur Book Festival. His new book culls stories from his past few years dubbed “Good Design Can Change Your Life: Beautiful Rooms, Inspiring Stories.” “We have only 40 minutes on the show to tell a story so we can get into more details here,” he said.

You can get more details of the book and order it here.

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And for a quick laugh, here’s a facetious clip from “The Soup” related to Ty Pennington on the show:

-Pete Spriggs, the program director at WSB-AM, got back to me today about Sean Hannity and whether the new deal between him, ABC Radio and Premiere will affect his presence on WSB-AM. For now, no. But Spriggs won’t tell me when the contract is up with any level of specificity: “The new deal with Sean Hannity doesn’t change anything with our relationshp with him. We will be a Sean Hannity affiliate here for a long long time to come.”

“I talked to Sean this morning,” he noted. “Sean works in New York. But our relationship with him is one where we feel he’s a member of the WSB team. He’s good friends with Neal Boortz, Clark Howard and Scott Slade.” Expect Sean’s next visit to Atlanta to be on Sept. 5, a public event with Neal Boortz, place TBD.

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7/21: Sean Hannity gets a new contract, Real Housewives of Atlanta date set

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Syndicated talker Sean Hannity, heard locally on WSB-AM, has signed an unusual contract between his original syndicator ABC Radio and Premiere, which handles the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Plus, he gets some profits himself. So it’s worth at least $100 million over five years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Hannity is the No. 2 radio talk-show host in the country behind only Limbaugh, with audience estimates ranging from 11 to 13 million a week. ABC will handle his syndication on ABC-owned stations while Premiere will take care of the other stations, including WSB-AM. This is a huge pay increase for Hannity.

I’ve left messages with the bigwigs at WSB-AM to see what impact this might have locally. I’m not sure how long Hannity’s contract is with the station. Effectively, its rival Clear Channel, which owns WGST-AM, will be overseeing the syndication come December. That could be awkward.

But WSB-AM is the flamethrower in Atlanta and I can’t see why Hannity would ever want to leave it. (See what happened to Dr. Laura when Premiere moved her over to GST? Her ratings dropped by half and she was eventually booted off the station.) Ironically, Hannity worked at GST from 1992 to 1996 before he went to Fox News and hit the syndication route.

Locally, Hannity’s ratings from 4 to 7 p.m. generally lag behind those of his brethren, local syndicated hosts Neal Boortz and Clark Howard, but he’s still a solid No. 1 among men 25 to 54. Hannity has been on WSB since 2001.

This contract does not affect his “Hannity & Colmes” Fox News TV show, which airs live on weekdays at 9 p.m.

-The five members of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” showed up at the NBC party for TV critics out in Los Angeles. I hope to meet with them soon, but the show doesn’t debut until Sept. 16 so there’s no rush:

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-Mark your calendars: Jay Leno’s last day as host of “The Tonight Show” before Conan O’Brien takes over is May 29, 2009. In the meantime, where he goes is still up in the air.

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7/20: XM and former NPR man Bob Edwards visits Atlanta

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ABOVE: Bob Edwards at the Latitudes Lounge & Bistro in the Omni Hotel downtown Saturday with producer Andy Danyo before his Atlanta Press Club appearance. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/Staff

I had the honor Saturday to speak briefly to the man with the most mellifluous voice in radio, Bob Edwards, in town as keynote speaker for the Atlanta Press Club.

We met at the Omni Hotel before the event, where he drained two Jim Beams, looking blissful and relaxed.

From 1979 until 2004, Edwards was the morning host of National Public Radio’s signature show “Morning Edition,” which is heard by 13 million-plus listeners a week. He was shoved aside amidst much controversy - and he sounds quite happy today that his two NPR “nemesis” Kenneth Stern and Jay Kernis were eventually ousted.

He quickly got a gig at XM Satellite Radio with his own daily show, heard at 8 a.m. live daily out of XM’s Washington D.C. studios. While he is only heard by a small fraction of listeners there, he gets to do what he wants and he has gotten a raft of awards on top of what he already collected at NPR. Most recently, he received an Edward R. Murrow Award for a piece about homeless children. He also recently visited Kentucky for a week to do a piece about coal mining by stripping mountain tops.

And he’s back on public radio now thanks to NPR rival Public Radio International, which distributes a weekend “best of “show now to 105 radio stations, including WABE-FM at noon Sundays.

“Yes, I’m happy,” he said. “It turned out to be a very good thing. We’re doing our best work now.”

He thought NPR had calcified: “It’s very micromanaged. It got very big and deadly serious.” Nonetheless, he thinks public radio in general is in good shape. “They’ve never sounded better to me,” he said, noting he is a contributor to the local NPR-affiliated station in Washington D.C. “There’s no alternative to it.”

Given that he’s back on WABE-FM and other stations, the average listener thinks he’s back with NPR per se, which amuses him. He is on stations that take NPR programming such as WABE but is distributed by PRI.

But he is understandably worried about the future of XM, which was hot for awhile but its appeal has cooled as people realized satellite radio was a niche product that would never quite draw huge audiences the way, say, DVDs or basic cable or even iPods are.

“I’m concerned,” he said, about the XM/Sirius merger and what that may mean for him down the road. “If we need to merge to survive, I’m all for it.” If it fails, “I’ll be as bummed as anybody.” His contract is up in 2010.

He feels he’s valuable to XM because the show is in-house produced and earns money for the operation through its syndicated show. “We also earn awards in areas XM normally doesn’t get attention,” he said.

Ironically, Edwards actually catches “Morning Edition” on his way to work each morning and enjoys it. On the way home, he listens to music. He especially likes XM’s “alt country” station, which features “naughty people” such as Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle. He’s also a big Allman Brothers fan.

While it’s unlikely you’ll hear him chasing Brad Pitt or Miley Cyrus, he has no problem chasing down authors such as Gore Vidal and Philip Roth (though he never nabbed Kurt Vonnegut before he passed.). And he gets to interview folks for far longer than he did when he was at NPR.

He also is working on a story about an Atlanta company while in town called Homestar Runner, which is a popular animated online site. And he’s also working on a piece on the 100th anniversary of the death of Joel Chandler Harris, the creator of the Uncle Remus tales.

I recall him smoking a few years back after a book signing. Does he still smoke? Is he worried that would change the smokiness of his voice? “I’m afraid to stop to find out!” he said.

I did a quick followup call to him Sunday afternoon and he said he enjoyed the Atlanta Press Club Eyeshade Awards Saturday night at the Commerce Club, where he noted some good investigative work (including work done by this publication) was awarded. His topic included how blogging (ahem) does not replace investigative reporting.

And Rolling Stones keyboardist and local resident Chuck Leavell stopped by to say hey. Edwards said he and Leavell have gotten to know each other over the years. He asked Chuck about his trees, rather than Mick and Keith. “Everyone else probably does,” he said. Here’s an interview he did with Chuck back in 2002.

I’m listening to Edwards’ show on WABE-FM right now and funny —- he’s interviewing our local boy Ben Jones, formerly Cooter on “Dukes of Hazzard.”

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7/18: Lexie Kaye is out at the River, Jamie Massey’s last day, Star 94 GM going away party

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Chris Miller, program director at the River, dropped me an email this morning to tell me Lexie Kaye has been let go as morning host of the classic hits station after about two years. No explanation given and no comments forthcoming beyond what they are seeking for a replacement:

We’ll be looking for a new morning air talent who can shine within our limited-talk format, add great content to our website and interact well with listeners at stations appearances and events.

Lexie Kaye was a nice gal. I had lunch with her once. But like former B98.5 morning hosts Kelly & Alpha, she wasn’t given a lot to do so she wasn’t ever able to really become a true “personality.”

One of the bloggers noted below that the River still calls itself “new.” I think Cox Radio just does that. 95.5/The Beat was new for seemingly years after it launched, too. The River is now 2 years, six months, three weeks old. “At some point, we’ll drop new,” Miller said. “But we have no plans to drop it now. New has a good connotation for people. And we talk to people all the time who are just discovering us.” This reminds me of this NBC promotion during the summer for repeats in which the concept was, if you haven’t seen it yet, “it’s new to you.”

-790/The Zone raised $350,000 this week for Camp Twin Lakes, a camping facility for children with chronic illnesses and diseases, based in Rutledge.

-I stopped by to wish Jamie Massey off on her last day at 94.9/The Bull. After eight years on the radio at Star 94, Q100 and the Bull, she’s off to Phoenix to be with her boyfriend Chad Jennings. She leaves tomorrow for Wyoming to hang with her dad at a ranch before she leaves in early August to the dry heat and a country station out West. She told listeners she can be found at myspace.. At 8:30 a.m., the station played “Take This Job and Shove It.” But that wasn’t the song for her. Rather, the morning show played “By The Time I Get to Phoenix” by Glen Campbell. Cledus T. Judd was actually off today. He got hitched this past Tuesday for a fourth time.

Here is Jamie Massey with former co-host Slam Duncan this morning:

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-On Thursday night, I checked out the going away party for the general manager at Star 94 Mark Kanov, who worked at the station for a whopping 40 years. Among the attendees at the Mansion in Buckhead: former 94Q morning host Gary McKee, long-time Star vet (until recently) Tommy Sullivan, former 99Xer Jimmy Baron (right), “Better Mornings” reporter Corinna Allen, former station manager Jerry Blum and the entire Star on-air staff including Tripp West, Cindy and Ray, the Morning Mess and the new night guy Darik Kristopher. No shows: Steve and Vikki. I’m going to add photos I took below:

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ABOVE: Superphat Mikey (left) and Marco Orem (right) sandwiched by their agent Norm Schrutt, who also reps Mara Davis, the 2 Live Stews, John Kincade, Christopher Rude, Cindy & Ray and a host of others.

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ABOVE: Tommy Sullivan with former Star 94 promotions manager Maren Sprowls, who now works at AOL.

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The new night-time jock at Star 94 Darik Kristopher, who last worked in Denver and grew up in Iowa.

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Tripp West, the mid-day guy at Star. He’s really really tall, though this photo doesn’t really help make that clear.

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ABOVE: Mark Kanov, the man of the hour, who received original seats from the Omni as a going away present from his son.

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7/17: Catching up with a post-election Dale Cardwell, Steve Craig’s farewell on 99X.com

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Former WSB-TV investigative reporter Dale Cardwell, who lost in his bid for a Senate seat in the Democratic primaries Tuesday, spent yesterday responding to emails and phone calls from supporters and well wishers.

“I’m very satisfied,” he said, of his third place finish behind Jim Martin and Vernon Jones, with about 77,000 votes or 16 percent of the state’s voters. “I worked very hard to bring people the truth and stand up for every day Georgians. I didn’t take PAC money. I actually did far better than anybody could have imagined.”

Cardwell, 45, left WSB-TV in June 2007 and immediately ran for office. His name recognition didn’t hurt although he had a very limited budget to run ads. In January, in a bid for publicity, he spent a month on top of a tower, like a radio DJ. He ended up raising about $166,000, a relative pittance compared to Martin or Jones.

He has endorsed Martin over Jones. Martin, he says, “has a 35 year of public service and moral integrity.” Jones, in his opinion, “has a lengthy record of a lack of integrity.”

His next step? He’s not sure. “I have no golden parachute, no deals,” he said. But he is pondering ideas because he has two mortgages and a family to feed.

Former WAGA-TV reporter and blogger Doug Richards mused that Cardwell’s quest was a bit quixotic since he never struck him as overtly political. And Cardwell was never a fan of Jones.

“Cardwell did numerous stories with a common theme: Vernon Jones is a menace. When Cardwell jumped in the race, it almost seemed to stem from his professional antagonism against Jones, extended to the political arena,” Richards wrote.

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-And it was bittersweet to hear Steve Craig’s final “Retroplex” today on 99x.com. The specialty program was actually dropped last year from 99X a few months before the station itself was moved off the FM dial and online only.

Craig sat out for a few months but was still under contract with Cumulus Broadcasting so recently, he’s been doing a shift at 99X.com as the clock ran out. He now has a gig doing mid-days at WRXP-FM in New York, run by Leslie Fram. His first day there is July 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“I’m fighting back the tears,” he told online listeners today. “I never thought I’d be the last of the original cast sitting here.”

The Retroplex, in its various forms, aired from 1992 to 2007 on 99X during the noon hour. It was definitely Steve’s signature show, one he had complete freedom over, one that many people loved long after they lost their love for the rest of the station.

On Thursday, he started his final 99X ’80s/’90s nostalgia trip through alternative music with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. Like the old days, he played old clips from classic ’80s films such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Die Hard.

He spun his final “Wheel of Ramones.” It landed on… “Rockaway Beach.” “And now I get to see Rockaway Beach!” he noted. He did a “what happened on this date” from 1997 when Lollapalooza was launched. Among the songs he chose included “Kiss Them For Me” by Siouxshie and the Banshees; “Forgotten Years” by Midnight Oil; the first song he ever played on 99X in 1992 “All Together Now” by the Farm; and “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds, a definitive ’80s song.

Craig finished the two hours with Sid Vicious’ take on Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” then used Oingo Boingo’s “Goodbye Goodbye” for his departing credits, so to speak, just like in the film “Fast Times.”

“Literally, this was the highlight of every day I got up,” Craig said, before thanking all his past interns and bidding adieu to the Retroplex once and for all.

The cool thing about his new job at WRXP-FM: he’ll be one of the few jocks in a major market who will get to program his own show. That’s a true coup for him.

I was curious about how 99X.com has been doing so I asked the boss Gary Lewis what the numbers are. But he said they are “between counters” and don’t have a current number. He says most recently he said they were getting 50,000 people a week worldwide, which isn’t half bad. 99X had 250,000 to 300,000 mostly local listeners a week toward the end of its life on the FM dial.

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7/17: Dexter, Damages and Mad Men break through in Emmy noms

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While there were plenty of usual suspects in the Emmy nominations, a few newer shows in cable land snuck through, including Showtime’s “Dexter,” FX’s “Damages” and AMC’s “Mad Men” for best drama.

In fact, this is the first year ever that this many best drama nominations were from cable, not broadcast TV, which only got in Fox’s “House,” my favorite ABC’s “Lost” and perennial Emmy favorite “Boston Legal.”

Four of the six lead actor nominations in drama were also from cable: Gabriel Byrne for HBO’s “In Treatment,” Bryan Cranston in the excellent AMC show “Breaking Bad,” Michael C. Hall in “Dexter” and Jon Hamm from “Mad Men.” Past Emmy winners Hugh Laurie (“House”) and James Spader (“Boston Legal”) also made it in.

ABC favorites “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives” were locked out of major categories, save for supporting actress for Chandra Wilson and Sandra Oh in “Grey’s.” And last year’s favorite “Ugly Betty” was blocked out this time around for best drama.

HBO’s “John Adams” had the most nominations with 23, followed by “30 Rock” with 17. Although HBO failed to get a drama series nomination for the first time in a decade but did get the most overall nominations with 85. (“Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Entourage” did grab best comedy series nominations.)

Full nomination list available here.

Atlanta’s TNT received 10 nominations, the most of any local network. The two most prominent ones were Kyra Sedgwick in “The Closer” (her second nom) and Holly Hunter (“Saving Grace”) for best female actress in a drama. They face off against the formidable Sally Field, last year’s winner from “Brothers and Sisters,” Glenn Close in “Damages” and previous winner Mariska Hargitay from “Law & Order: SVU.”

Dunwoody High School grad and “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest was naturally nominated in the new category, best host in a reality show, competing with Tom Bergeron (“Dancing With the Stars”), Heidi Klum (“Project Runway”), Howie Mandel (“Deal or No Deal”) and Jeff Probst (“Survivor”).

Atlanta’s Kenny Leon should be thrilled, too, because his film version of “A Raisin in the Sun” was nominated for best made-for-TV movie and Phylicia Rashad nabbed a nomination for best female actress in a miniseries or movie.

Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken” was nominated for best animated program (under an hour.) The Cartoon Network also was nominated in a minor category for “Camp Lazio” and “Chowder.” TNT’s “The Company” was nominated for six categories including best casting, best music composition, main title design, best directing and outstanding cinematography for a miniseries, movie or special. HBO’s “John Adams” will probably win a lot of those categories.

“Saving Grace” from TNT also was nominated for best original main title theme music. And TNT nabbed a nom for outstanding music direction for “Christmas in Washington.”

The female actress in a comedy category was fairly predictable with Christina Applegate (“Samantha Who?”) a newbie with her new ABC series taking Felicity Huffman’s spot from a year ago. The other four were repeats with America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”), Mary Louise-Parker (“Weeds”), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“New Adventures of Old Christine”) and Tina Fey (“30 Rock”).

The big surprise in the male actor in a comedy is the delightful Lee Pace in the new ABC show “Pushing Daisies.” He took the spot filled by last year’s winner Ricky Gervais in “Extras.” The other four were the same as a year earlier: Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”), Steve Carell (“The Office”), Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”) and Charlie Sheen (“Two and a Half Men”).

The five reality shows were the same as the previous year: “American Idol,” “The Amazing Race,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “Project Runway” and “Top Chef.” “The Amazing Race” has won every year since the category was created.

Amy Poehler (“Saturday Night Live”) was nominated for best supporting actress in a comedy, a rare accolade for someone in a sketch comedy. I’ll post more as I dig through more categories.

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Project Runway: Tablecloth time

The high: OMG, no one’s calling anything “fierce.”

The low: Only AmEx cardholders have access to “Project Runway’s” online post-show.

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Just when we thought the high cost of, well, everything, would derail our plans to have a fabulous little summer, just when we thought our only Heidi Klum sighting till fall would be on her QVC jewelry special (not that we bought anything … this time) “Project Runway” returns for an early exit from Bravo TV.

Right: Heidi Klum moonlighted on QVC this summer. (AP Photo/Starpix, Dave Allocca)

Thank you, “Project Runway,” for feeding us a nice dollop of fashion in an otherwise humdrum summer.

“PR” may be leaving Bravo with a bang. Bigger guest stars (Natalie Portman, Brooke Shields, RuPaul) and grittier contestants (more tattoos! Dirtier hair!) this season, yes, but a few same-old challenges. Gristedes? I wish they would just make a plain old dress and be done with it, already.

Designer gimmick: “Suede” refers to himself as “Suede.”

The winner: Kelli Martin, smartly accessorized shop owner from Columbus, Ohio — not to be confused with Kellie Martin, adorable actress of “Life Goes On” and “ER” fame. Gotta say, we loved Kelli’s stained skirt and burnout bustier. For innovation, she may be the new Michael/Mychael Knight.

The loser, Jerry Tam: We weren’t completely revolted by his sci-fi-nurse getup, but we thought the rubber gloves were actually funny. Does he not get credit for finding the one wearable item in a supermarket?

Well, in these uncertain economic times, we’re glad fashion made from stuff is coming into its own. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have mop-heads to braid.

What are your thoughts on Season 5, Episode 1, of “Project Runway”?

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7/16: Bye Bye William Petersen, is Katharine Heigl next? Steve Craig’s last day on 99x.com

With William Petersen announcing his departure from “CSI” next season, do you think that would be considered a fatal blow to the still hugely popular drama?

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And would Katharine Heigl be the next one out after publicly dissing the writers for not giving her a juicy enough part to deserve an Emmy nomination? ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson insists she’s fine.

“She won an Emmy last year, she’s a fantastically talented actress,” McPherson says. “I think it’s unfortunate when there’s any kind of turmoil on that show. There’s so many people who work so incredibly hard to make that show the No. 1 show in the country. I never like to see when any of them take it lightly. She’s absolutely staying with the show. There’s an unbelievable story line for her next season. Shonda Rhimes is excited about that, she actually crafted it.”

-Jimmy Kimmel crashed the television critics shindig I’m not at to ask ABC entertainment president Stephen McPherson questions about Jay Leno possibly going to ABC and his own status. He pretended to be “just” a reporter and then snuck out just as quickly, probably to avoid break-up questions about him and Sarah Silverman. “Are you at all afraid that if you do replace Jimmy Kimmel he might do something crazy to you or your car?” Kimmel asked.

-WXIA-TV, the NBC affiliate, lost its news director Cal Callaway. He will be staying at the station but not in that capacity. He had held the job since 2003.

-Laura Ingraham, who had Fox News test out a show starring her three weeks, is back on radio (locally on WGKA-AM) but not on Fox. Here is some amusing video from Harry Shearer’s Web site of her prepping for her show and it appears she had zip support from the staff.

-Dale Cardwell, former WSB-TV investigative reporter, came in third for the Democratic Senate seat with 16 percent of the vote. The top two vote getters Vernon Jones and Jim Martin will have a runoff.

-Steve Craig is doing his final show for 99X.com tomorrow from 10 to 3 p.m. He’ll do a special two hour retroplex from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Check it out before he goes off to New York to do mid-days at WRXP-FM.

-NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” has stretched auditions to a fifth week - even longer than “American Idol.” (Sure, “Idol” aired two a week for four weeks but still…)

This is the third week the producers have set aside time for Atlanta. There is a pitiful singer who tries to do “All By Myself,” then a dude who came back from last year to lie down on nails. David Hasselhoff even tries it. I don’t think either contestant is from Atlanta.

But oddly, they moved on to other cities after that. So that’s all from Cobb Energy Centre! Hopefully next week, they’ll finally get to Las Vegas and start culling the talent down.

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7/15: Neal Boortz in the U.K., Star 94’s latest promotion kind of lonely, “Closer” ratings

WSB’s Neal Boortz is in London doing a seminar on the role of talk show hosts on the American Presidential election at the U.S. Embassy. He said the ambassador to the embassy, who he has never spoken to, requested Boortz and the State Department contacted him and he thought, “Why not?”

(American Express, not the government, is paying Boortz an honorarium and per diem.)

He decided to turn it into a vacation with his wife. He also recommended a liberal talk show host Stephanie Miller to join him for balance. She is on the same syndicated network as Boortz.

He will be doing his show live from London tomorrow.

-Someone was kind enough to tape Willard’s farewell from radio last Friday.

-Star 94’s “Live in it and Win it” promotion is two weeks old and of the eight original contestants, only one person is left. Yet Neva has to stay another two weeks to win the vehicle, a 2008 Mercury Milan. In fact, Neva has been alone since day 11 after some contestants failed to get back in the car in time from breaks, others quit and one person accidentally got out of the car in the middle of the night. You can read the details here. Kind of sucks the tension out of the “ultimate reality show,” eh? It’s as if CBS watched everybody leave the “Big Brother” house early except one and forced that soul to live by himself for weeks. How exciting!

-Fans of FX’s “Nip/Tuck” should be thrilled to know the show is guaranteed a final season, 19 episodes through 2011.

Michael J. Fox guests for four episodes on FX’s “Rescue Me,” which doesn’t come back until next spring.

-Ratings for TNT’s “The Closer” were comparable to last year: 7.8 million people caught the debut last night, down from 8.2 million a year ago. For a scripted basic cable network show, that’s still a huge number.

“Saving Grace” opened to virtually the same numbers as a year ago, with 5.2 million this year, 5.1 million a year ago.

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7/14: 2 Live Stews new TV One Show “Black Men Revealed”

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The 2 Live Stews, already a big brand in sports talk radio and heard locally on 790/The Zone from 1 to 4 p.m., are making a foray outside the zone of football and basketball into relationships and black stereotypes in a TV One show “Black Men Revealed.”

Debuting Sunday July 20 at 10 p.m., the nine weekly episodes of the talk show were taped nine months ago at Fever nightclub off Cheshire Bridge Road. It was so long ago that Ryan Stewart, one of the co-hosts, had trouble remembering the names of the guests.

“I have no idea,“ Stewart said Friday. “Several doctors. A pastor of a megachurch. Several different comedians.”

He said he and his brother Doug got to stretch and hit on issues such as fatherhood and going on the “down low,” meaning ostensibly straight black men secretly sleeping with other black men.

”I’m very pleased how it turned out,” he said.

The radio syndication deal they started a few months ago is now up to 23 stations, he added, and they are launching a charity foundation focused on helping young black males.

-I wrote a couple of stories for today’s print edition about TNT’s “The Closer” (season four) and “Saving Grace” (season two).

Here’s a comparison of Kyra Sedgwick’s character vs. Holly Hunter’s character.. And here are some brief Q&As of each actress.

“The Closer” is basic cable’s most successful TV series ever, averaging more than 7.6 million viewers for each first-run episode last summer. The show provides a mix of lighthearted banter, Sedgwick’s character quirks and traditional criminal procedural action. It works.

“Saving Grace” is a trickier affair. Hunter’s character is less sympathetic and less morally grounded than Sedgwick’s and thus tougher to like. And the show tackles issues of faith through an angel named Earl, issues not as mainstream accessible. Though there are police cases, this is more about the characters and isn’t as easy to follow as “The Closer” if you didn’t know the background of the show. It held only about 60 percent of “The Closer” audience last summer, averaging about 4.5 million viewers. But it got renewed. I personally didn’t like the pilot much and didn’t watch much afterwards. I did give the first episode of season two a chance and it was fairly riveting. Give it a shot. See if it’s your cup of iced tea.

Here’s a brief recap of season one:

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7/11: 99X’s Steve Craig moving to New York’s WRXP-FM to join Leslie Fram

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A second 99X vet is off to New York: on the heels of Leslie Fram taking over a new rock station at the Big Apple, long-time 99X mid-day host Steve Craig will be joining her soon. He’ll be doing mid-days at 101.9/WRXP-FM.

“It’s bittersweet to leave a town I love,” he told me today, “but it’s exciting to be building a new radio station. Craig, best known for his lunch hour “Retroplex” on 99X for 15 years, lost his on-air gig in January when 99X became an online-only operation. For the last few weeks, with his contract about to run out, he’s been doing shifts on 99X.com, heard by about 98 percent fewer people.

Craig reached out to Dave FM’s program director Mike Wheeler in January but didn’t hear back. He said he also contacted Rick Caffey, Wheeler’s boss, but Caffey deferred to Wheeler. Craig’s contract with 99X is up August 1 but he was allowed to start negotiating with other parties July 1. The WRXP gig came up immediately so he didn’t really pursue Dave FM, which would have been a good fit for him but he would have been held back by a non-compete clause and kept off the air until February 2009.

As for the New York gig, he doesn’t have a starting date just yet but it should be within a few weeks.

Fram is now the program director and doing some morning work with host Matt Pinfield.

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7/11: Whatever happened to… Willard?

Willard Arbour was a fixture in Atlanta rock radio for 32 years, starting at WRAS-FM at Georgia State and seguing for most of his career to 96rock, then a final stint at Z93.

He left the airwaves in 2004 but he only recently has left radio itself, switching to sales the past four years after Z93 became Dave FM. And he wasn’t half bad at it.

Nonetheless, the 52-year-old has decided to retire today from radio and move to the North Georgia mountains. I talked to him last week.

He said the turning point was late last year when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer (he’s okay right now) and received an unspecified big financial inheritance: “It changed my outlook and priorities.” And though he enjoyed sales, “the stress of the business was aging me and I’m not ready to be aged.”

“I’m not saying I’m going to retire. It’s a lifestyle change… I expect to live long enough to be a burden to my children,” he joked.

He said he loved his 35-plus years in radio: “I’ve had more fun that I’ve forgotten than most radio people remember in their lifetime.”

Ironically, he said he made this decision to retire in his mind earlier this year and proceeded to have his three best sales months of his life. “Maybe it’s because I didn’t need it,” he said. “People sense desperation.”

Willard’s reason for switching to sales after Z93 folded in 2004? “They don’t fire sales people. Sales people drive newer cars. It’s not bad.” His clients included Inview Lasik Vision and Live Nation, the concert promoter.

Not a huge number of DJs do well in sales, but Willard said he had a good feel for the market. “You need to know what’s a good match, what will fly and what won’t fly,” he said.

Willard’s longest stint was at 96rock for 20-plus years. “It was like WKRP on steroids in its heyday,” he said. “If you can think of anything crazy, anything wild, we did it. I remember riding up and down the ramps at Bobby Dodd Stadium during concerts in one of those carts and interviewing Aerosmith in the radio booth at Lakewood.”

He recalls Van Halen in 1984 using one of the studios next to 96rock to do the syndicated show “Rockline.” “They had a parade of people coming in and out,” he said. “Just chaos! There was a stripper. I was in the next room watching this through the glass.”

As mid-day host, he recalls playing “You Are So Beautiful” for his newborn daughter. He also recalls talking about his divorce over the air. His most embarrassing moment? Taking a sledgehammer to a car at a tractor pull before 60,000 people in the Georgia Dome and nothing happening. “You could have heard a pin drop,” he said. “It was so funny!”

He also remembers losing the 96rock van after he drank too much and a buddy drove him home. Fortunately, a man at a bar he couldn’t remember going to called and got him his van before he got in trouble. He recalls getting pulled over for speeding but cops recognizing him and letting him off scot free. He was never suspended but one time he let a gal in a nightie into the van, hanging outside the window, causing him to end up with a caravan of cars behind him.

He was blown out of 96rock five days before Christmas in the mid-1990s. “They brought in a guy who woudl work for half of what we were making,” he said. “I was devastated, That was the worst Christmas of my life.”

Z93 gave him a new lease on life in 1997, doing nights, then days. But in 2004, he lost his gig again. “I was pretty freaked out,” he said. Ironically, the woman who took over the station as Dave FM, Michelle Engel (now gone) was Willard’s intern years earlier at 96rock.

Mara Davis today did a lovely farewell segment to Willard at 9:15 a.m.

“You’ve touched a lot of people’s lives,” Davis said. “I still get people saying, ‘What’s happened to Willard?’ … You were one of the greatest people I’ve ever worked with.”

Coolest concert: “I saw the Stones at the Fox Theatre in the front row,” he said. Best interview: Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. (oops—I wrote Yes, thinking Jon Anderson. Thanks for the correction, readers!)

He said he can be contacted (at least for the next three weeks) via this address: Willardfm@bellsouth.net.

-Jimmy Baron finished up his week as fill in for Zakk Tyler this week on Dave FM. What did you think of his stint? He worked it hard, interviewing George Stephanopoulus, Salman Rushdie, Warren Savage and Creed from “The Office.” And his mom texted him during his Stephanopoulus interviewing telling him he was talking too much. He ended his week with copious thank you’s to Dave FM program director Mike Wheeler and to Zakk and Jane.

“In the past couple of years, I’ve done a little bit of radio in other cities such as Philadelphia and Detroit and San Francisco,” he told the listeners. “People ask me what’s the difference doing it in those cities? The difference is this is my home court. I love this city. So it’s like when you go to a party and know everybody. You can be yourself compared to when you walk into a party for your wife’s work.”

And for those who want to email him, Baron can be contacted through his myspace page at www.myspace.com/jimmybaron

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7/10: No punishment for Giant Brian show, Kevin Avery in heels, “Last Comic Standing” locals, Warren Savage on Dave FM

Project 9-6-1 morning hosts “Giant” Brian Carothers and Shaffee won’t be punished for their comments about the teen who died when he was hit by a roller coaster, according to their boss Clay Hunnicutt, who was just promoted to a senior vice president job for programming for Clear Channel.

“We weren’t going to yank them off the air,” he said.

Six Flags Over Georgia pulled advertising from the station last week after they heard the pair facetiously discuss what to do with a decapitated head and interviewed a local company BioTrauma that cleans up death scenes. They deemed the comments “insensitive.”

Hunnicutt said the station is in talks with Six Flags and “they’re coming around. I don’t think it’s as bad as people make it out to be. They didn’t like the subject matter. That’s their call. They’re great clients. We respect their opinion.”

-He also said former Kicks morning co-host Kristen Gates is “in the mix” to replace Jamie Massey to be the female sidekick on the Cledus T. Judd morning show on the Bull but no final decisions have been made yet. Gates, who was booted from Kicks in the Leap Day Massacre at Kicks/no-longer Eagle, is now working part time at the Bull.

Hunnicutt’s reaction to Massey leaving for her Air Force pilot boyfriend in Phoenix, where she’ll work part-time at another Clear Channel country station: “She’s chasing love and you can’t argue with that.” Massey’s last day with Cledus is July 18.

-Warren Savage, the mellifluous former WSB-TV morning anchor who just got out of rehab for cocaine possession, spoke live for the first time Thursday morning to talk about his addiction and what led to him quitting in 2005.

He spoke with Jimmy Baron, subbing in this week for Zakk Tyler on Dave FM. He said he quit because he was fed up with the way the business was going, citing the Runaway Bride as frivolity he didn’t like. He admits it was “an unprofessional departure” because he broke his contract and didn’t even give the station two-week notice. He simply arrived, wrote a goodbye note and left. “In retrospect, I wouldn’t have done it that way.”

As a bass player, he joined a cover band in Las Vegas and said he got caught up in cocaine. “These guys were major partyers,” he said. So he left the band. But the coke habit did not stay behind. “When I returned from Vegas, I had a lot of money and a lot of time.” He was caught in 2006, first for marijuana possession, then a few weeks alter, cocaine possession. He just completed an 18-month rehab program and isn’t sure what he will do next, though returning to TV anchoring is a possibility.

“I pray and seek God’s voice,” Savage said. “I pray for His direction and His will in my life… If it involves another stint in media, I certainly would consider it.”

“I was an arrogant, egotistical person,” he added. “I really needed humility in my life.”

Early last year, a man who buys stuff from abandoned storage places ended up with some of Savage’s personal possessions and passed them on to me. I have pictures of Savage’s two cats and family (plus shots of him with Peter Jennings and Colin Powell) as well as awards he won over the years. There were also pawn shop receipts for items such as a Mac and a mountain bike. Warren, you can reach me at rho@ajc.com if you’d like your stuff.

-On a lighter note, Kevin Avery of 104.7/The Fish wanted to know what it was like to be in heels, an often torturous affair for women to look good. Here’s the photographic evidence of him with his on-air partner Taylor Scott:

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-I wrote a short piece for the print edition about two former Atlantans who are finalists on “Last Comic Standing.” The story is here.

Here’s some video of Ron G, who lived here from 1999 to 2005 and worked at the Punchline and Uptown Comedy Corner.

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And Louis Ramey(right), who worked the Punchline as a host in the 1980s and has headlined the club a couple of times this decade. He left town almost a decade ago but still considers Atlanta home.

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7/9: More Atlanta “America’s Got Talent,” news about Leslie Fram, Wayne Brown

I didn’t realize until tonight that there would be more from the Atlanta auditions of the summer’s biggest show, “America’s Got Talent.” They’ve stretched the first rounds of auditions to four looong weeks.

We had an awful falsetto opera singer, followed by a bizarro father and daughter karate/martial arts team in which they seemed to take pleasure torturing each other. “Very cool, very creative, and a lot of fun,” David Hasselhoff said. “That act is not going to win ‘America’s Got Talent,’ ” Piers Morgan said. Sharon Osborne broke the tie and they are going to Vegas but I can’t imagine it’s going to get very far.

After the first commercial break, they show a country singer I recall watching live. She wasn’t half bad but my memory is the praise was far greater than she deserved. Waitress Sarah Lenore, 19, who recently moved to Nashville, is trying to be the next Taylor Swift. She does Carrie’s “Before He Cheats.” Listening to her on TV, I like her more than I did live. She’s actually better than anything we have seen on “Nashville Star.”

“You’ve got to work on your individuality. There’s a lot of pretty blonde girls who play guitar. You have a great future,” Sharon said. “You have an amazing voice,” David said, calling her a “diamond in the rough.” She’s through to Vegas.

Others who make it through include Flambeau, a fire starter, and Rachel, a pole dancer, and an African dance troupe. SQ Entertainment, a dance group, is quite entertaining, if a bit too large in number.

Then 25 minutes in, they go back to New York and we can move on to other things:

-Leslie Fram, who was recently named program director of New York rock station WRXP-FM, has joined the morning show with Matt Pinfield and may be a permanent part of it. She’s a notorious workaholic who loves being on air as well. She was on 99X’s morning show in its various incarnations from 1992 until January 2008.

-I attended Wayne Brown’s going away part at Artistry in Midtown yesterday. He ran Radio One for eight years in Atlanta, building Hot, Praise, Grown Folks and Smooth Jazz. Brown is leaving to start his own company though he hasn’t revealed what that may be.

Here are some photos from the party I took: wayne-brown-gg-away.JPG

Wayne Brown wishes everyone at Radio One a farewell.

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Griff, close up and personal.

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Akini with Beyonce.

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Mike Roberts, formerly V-103’s morning host and now a radio station owner in Macon, with Grown Folks/Praise PD Derek Harper.

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7/9: Whatever happened to… Chris Krok?

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Former WSB-AM night-time talk-show host Chris Krok, who was being groomed at WSB-AM to be the next Boortz, was quietly dismissed last December just days after winning an Achievement in Radio Award at the March of Dimes fundraiser.

He’s been busy filling in for talk show hosts across the country and seeking new employment. And he’s finally answering a few questions for me via email. He shed no light on why he was dismissed. I suspect even he doesn’t know and he skipped over my questions asking him whether he was given any clue that WSB brass wasn’t happy with him. If he was bitter about his dismissal, he’s not conveying it in his email comments.

Krok, who worked at the station for nearly two years, has a Web site up dubbed www.chriskrok.com where he lists which stations he’s going to be working at in upcoming weeks.

He focused heavily on local issues and was often frenetic and passionate about causes. His biggest issue was illegal immigration, whch led to two big rallies, which drew hundreds of people. (That photo above is from the second one last year.)

Here are some of his answers to some of my questions:

What was your reaction when you were cut after two years on WSB-AM?

It’s radio. It happens. It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last!

Do you feel you improved and matured over your two years on the air?

Absolutely! The past two years were a fantastic growing period for me. [Program director] Pete Spriggs is the best boss I’ve had. He taught me a lot.

Obviously, the staff liked you cos you won that AIR award. How did people react when they found out a few days later you were gone? Any words of wisdom from Clark or Neal?

People were as surprised as I was. Clark and I went to IHOP! I brought the coupon, no kidding!!

What have you been doing since you left WSB-AM?

Full details, including a blog are on the new website: www.chriskrok.com. But for the most part, I’ve been filling in at great stations like WLS/Chicago, WMAL/D.C., KLIF/Dallas and in markets like Vegas, Portland, OR and Phoenix. I’ll be filling in for two network shows [including G. Gordon Liddy] later this month.

Tell me a bit about your Krok summer tour?

The Summer Tour concept came as we were creating the new website. It’s a neat way for listeners to see where I’m at and when I’m on..FUN! As to why I’m on all these stations…..As I Iook for my next opportunity, I get a chance to showcase myself. Some of these stations are checking me out for employment. Others love having a guy of my caliber on their station to fill in. So, it keeps my skills sharp while I pursue my next challenge in radio.

Any chance you think you can stay in Atlanta?

Who knows! We’d love to stay. If any news breaks, we’ll put it up on the site, I promise!

Have you listened to much Atlanta radio since you left WSB? Any shows you like? Dislike?

Not much listening, as I’m focused on national news and local news in the markets I’m busy filling in at.

What do you feel you contributed most to WSB while you were there? Highlights?

Getting out on the streets. Making causes and making them happen. Getting people passionate and stirred up. Doing it Krok-style, baby! Highlights? You can see them on the website, complete with pictures at www.chriskrok.com.

What did you like most about the WSB-AM gig?

A tie: my boss, Pete Spriggs and the resources!

What hot-button issue in Atlanta would you be honing in on now if you were still on the air?

As I mentioned, I’m focusing more on national stories and local stories in local markets outside of Atlanta that I’m filling in for.

And are you smoking more or less since you left the station? And are you jogging more or less?

I quit [smoking] last August, while still at WSB! I jog less, b/c my schedule is a bit hectic, filling in for different stations, different time zones and different shifts! You really want to see what I’ve been up to? Check out the blog on the website!! It has some interesting pics with me and the kids!

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7/8: TV viewing still going up, up, up

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Despite the Web, the iPod, textmessaging, et. al, people are watching more and more TV.

Nielsen estimates that the average American watched a whopping 127 hours of TV in May, up from 121 hours in May, 2007. That comes out to more than four hours a day.

Check out this New York Times story for more details.

I’m sure most people who “self report” TV watching would seldom admit that they watch that much TV. That’s an insane number if you think about it.

Online video viewing is up, too, though still relatively modest. The average person watched two hours and 19 minutes in May. That’s only 1/50th the amount of time vs. regular TV.

And surprisingly, mobile phone/iPod TV viewing is even greater: an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes a month.

Also, TV Guide provided some stats on the broadcast networks and the average age of various TV shows. CBS had the oldest median age (54), followed by ABC (50), NBC (49), Fox (44) and the CW (34).

The youngest TV show on NBC is “The Office” at 34 while oldest is “Dateline NBC” with 57.

The youngest TV show on ABC is “Supernanny” at 41 while oldest is “Dancing With the Stars (Results) at 55.

The youngest TV show on CBS is “How I Met Your Mother” at 45 while oldest is “60 Minutes” at 60. (That means half the viewers are over the age of 60!)

The youngest TV show on Fox is “American Dad” at 29, while oldest is “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” at 50.

The youngest TV show on the CW is “One Tree Hill” at 26 while oldest is “Smallville” at 38.

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7/7: Newnan’s “Bachelorette” DeAnna Pappas finds “man of her dreams”

Upfront, I have to say these dating shows, especially the “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” series, makes me feel kind of queasy inside. And definitely not in a good way. The journey is why viewers watch these shows, not the results (which seldom end well after the show is over.). Some find the fantasy exhilarating, captivating and romantic. Maybe it’s a gender thing, but I find it sickening, histrionic and when not feeling ill, just plain boring.

But alas, sweetie pie DeAnna Pappas (pronounce it De-ahhhna, not De-ANN-a) is from metro Atlanta so I feel an obligation as a TV writer to suck it up and take one for the home team. I barely got through last week’s show and am now about to embark on a two-hour trip through the hell that is the “Bachelorette” finale.

For those who don’t need to read any more, she picked Jessie, the cool snowboarder, and rejected earnest single dad Jason. She now says she’s engaged with him. We’ll see if they ultimately follow through with a wedding.

“I’m so in love with her,” Jessie said. “She’s my soul mate.”

She gives him the rose at 9:58 p.m. and I’m so glad it’s over. Wedding date: May 9, 2009.

“My connection with him is so strong,” she said. “I feel like I cannot live without him. I can definitely see Jessie by my side the rest of my life. I see a life that is full of love, excitement. He’s someone who gets me. He’s someone who makes me a better person.”

She told Jason in the post-show interview, that she made her decision close to the end of the process. “It had nothing to do with the fact you have a son,” she said. She said she was falling in love with him but wasn’t “in love.”

Going back to the beginning, we hear endless declarations of happiness and love from both guys. Endless!

Hey, at least we get to see scenes from Newnan! Her home is very suburban, very pleasant. “When I brought Brad home. everyone was completely accepting and thought we were going to be together,” she said.

“It completely crushed and crushed our family,” said DeAnna’s sister Chrissy.

“I want to be in love,” said DeAnna.

I was out and just got home. It’s now 9:40 p.m. and I’m on the DVR at 8:15 p.m. So I’m going to fastforward to the results, then backtrack. Or maybe not. Am I really missing anything?

I watch her reject Jason, the single father. “You have no idea how much I care about you,” she said. “I know my life would always be good for you. I’d always be safe and depend on you. Although I’m falling in love with you, I’m in love with somebody else.” Smack!

He’s shocked but doesn’t seem as devastated as Jeremy last week. “Why me?” he opines. “I was so ready to be in love again.” For TV purposes, the guy is a bore so no loss in that sense.

“I don’t wish pain on this on anybody,” Jason said in the post-show special.

Since she was rejected by Brad Womack a few months ago, she noted, “I know how he feels leaving.” Shoe’s in the other fit—but that’s because of the way the show is structured. In real life, she probably wouldn’t have led Jason along like that but she had no choice. The show requires a choice at the end and a rejection like that.

Jessie, the snowboarder, is the man. She opted for more adventure, the wild card, turned down the safer bet. I certainly like him more.

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7/7: Janet Jackson’s reality show auditions, National Geographic show rehabs Vick dogs

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The umpteenth reality show audition is being held Wednesday but it does have the pedigree of MTV and part-time Atlantan Janet Jackson. The show is seeking someone who can dance and sing, along the lines of a Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown or… Janet herself.

Registration is this Wednesday July 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Dance 411 Studio, 749 Moreland Ave. SE, Atlanta. More details from the press release:

Aspirants must be at least 16 years old and not appear older than 22 and must be able to both sing a cappella and dance their own personal style at the open call. If they impress the casting director, they will be invited to the second call back round where they will prove their worth in front of international dance luminary Gil Duldulao.

As part of the lead up to the open call, on the day before (July 8th at 6:00pm) at Dance 411 Studio (749 Moreland Ave., Southeast Atlanta, GA 30316), Gil will personally teach an original choreography in a large master class open to the general public (and press) free of charge.

-National Geographic Channel, aware of a potential ratings bonanza, is focusing on several dogs once owned and abused by Michael Vick. using its “dog rehab” show Dogtown. Mark your calendar. It’s coming out Sept. 5 ant 9 p.m.

Here’s some basic info via press release:

Viewers follow the journeys of four of the most challenging dogs — Cherry, Meryl, Denzel, and Georgia — as Dogtown’s team of dedicated experts works to help them overcome their violent pasts and live happier, healthier lives.

Dogtown, a shelter for lost canine souls, is part of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, one of the largest no-kill animal facilities in the country.

Here’s a video of what Dogtown looks like:

CHERRY

Cherry, who may have been used as bait to train more aggressive fighters, is terrified of people. It will take a lot of love and support to help him gain confidence. When he arrives at Dogtown, Cherry flattens himself to the ground and refuses to walk on a leash. By slowly introducing him to new faces and experiences — including a recording of dogs “laughing” — Cherry’s trainers begin to draw him out of his shell. Can Cherry overcome his extreme fear and possibly become ready for adoption?

MERYL

Meryl is seriously aggressive and was ordered by the court to stay permanently at Dogtown. Trainer Ann Allums loves a challenge and believes that a patient approach can help calm Meryl’s dangerous impulses. After she gains Meryl’s trust, Allums starts the dog on obedience training — always focusing on rewards instead of punishments. Meryl proves a quick study and moves on to agility training, seeming to gain confidence and self-control from her new skills. Although this unpredictable pit bull can never be adopted, she now has a chance for a happy life in Dogtown.

DENZEL

Denzel arrives with a potentially life-threatening illness, and Dogtown’s medical team must determine what’s making him so sick. He is diagnosed with a tick-borne parasite sometimes found in fighting dogs, which may mean the other pit bulls rescued with him are at risk as well. At first he seems to respond to treatment, but he soon relapses. Can a new medication help Denzel recover?

GEORGIA

Georgia’s body tells the story of her hard life. She has the scars of a prize-winning fighter, shows signs of having had many litters and had all her teeth pulled at some point in her past, possibly so she could be forcibly bred. Can this traumatized pooch learn to interact with humans and other dogs? To break Georgia of the bad and potentially dangerous habit of guarding her food, trainer John Garcia tries feeding her by hand — a risky maneuver. Even with no teeth, the dog’s powerful jaw could still do serious damage. Soon Georgia is making great progress and easily mastering basic commands. If she can pass Dogtown’s Canine Good Citizen Test, Georgia has a chance at a better life in a loving home.

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7/7: Jimmy Baron’s first day subbing for Zakk Tyler on Dave

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“This is seamless radio,” joked Jimmy Baron (right, from a photo shoot with what was then called Atlanta Jewish Life magazine a few years ago,). After two years off the air, he has a week-long temporary morning engagement on 92.9/Dave FM while Zakk Tyler and Jane Monzures are on vacation.

No, it wasn’t seamless by any stretch (and it never is the first day.) I had meant to catch him at 5 a.m. this morning but set my alarm 12 hours off so I woke up at 6:50 a.m., just in time to hear him say that.

“I’m sorry for the technical problems,” he said a few minutes later. “I’m not familiar with the controls. Hope you can get past that!”

But Baron just sounded happy to back on the air. For those of you who caught him, what did you think?

He was joined by former 99Xer Yvonne Monet and Chris Calandro on phones (with Denzel helping out). He was supposed to have WXIA’s Fred Kalil on to talk about Jeff Francoeur but forgot his number at home. He also had trouble getting a bit called “Have You Ever Met a Jew?” going after a long set up about going to the Mall of Georgia for July 4th fireworks. The dude he talked to thought Adolph Hitler was Jewish and that the way to recognize Jews is that they wear a Star of David. Baron had a field day with this, noting he wears a pin with a J on it; in fact, an extra S pin, too, to denote a “Super Jew.”

He did get a coup: Salman Rushdie joined the show live in studio to promote his new book, “The Entranchress of Florence.”

Baron tried to mine Rushdie’s days when he was in hiding for nine years after facing death threats for his book “Satanic Verses” but he moved on when it was clear Rushdie wasn’t in the mood, especially since it had happened nearly 20 years ago. “So ’80s,” Baron said. “There are fanatics who don’t like me and I don’t like them,” Rushdie said.

He took out nearly 30 minutes with Rushdie and it was actually pretty pleasant as Rushdie talked about his writing process, his love for ping pong (or “table tennis,” as Rushdie called it) and poverty in India, where he grew up. Okay, this is not normal Dave FM fodder and there was not a song heard so it’s easy to call this a tad indulgent on Baron’s part but why not? It was Salman Rushdie and he was in studio as opposed to doing a quick phoner.

From what I heard, this was really Baron’s show. Yvonne mostly ceded the mike to him on day one though she talked more during the news at 8:50 a.m. Tomorrow, the primary guest will be former 99X friend and ABC political commentator George Stephanopolous.

Zakk’s boss Mike Wheeler said Baron’s appearance is not to be considered an audition and that Zakk shouldn’t worry about his job security after five months.

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7/6: The Bachelorette DeAnna Pappas gabs before finale

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On Monday July 7, in an episode taped two months ago, ABC’s “Bachelorette” and Newnan real estate agent DeAnna Pappas picks her man: the straightlaced, earnest Jason Mesnik or the intriguing, adventurous Jesse Csincsak.

The self-confident, ever cute Pappas said last week that she’s been able to stay in touch and even see her fiance despite the secrecy.

“I love surprises,” she said. “It’s kind of exciting for nobody to know.” She said she has friends who have poster boards to track the men and have bets on who she’ll pick.

While many past contestants have seen their relationships fall apart in the time between taping and airing, Pappas said “things are perfect, absolutely perfect. I’m happy and engaged. I have my ring.”

For Pappas, the results were far better than last year when the most recent “Bachelor” Brad Womack bagged on all the ladies, including a heartbroken Pappas at the very end.

Her take on Jesse: “That snowboarder long-haired kid from night one wearing that crazy jacket—once you get past everything, he’s a wonderful human being. He’s that person who will always make you laugh. He puts me first.”

Jason? “I never had to wonder if he was a good father. [He’s a single dad.] He has a beautiful outlook on life and love. He’s very generous, very caring. And he’s always there for me.”

I’m rooting for Jesse because he’s more interesting from a TV watcher’s perspective but Jason would certainly be a safer, more stable pick.

I found tribute to the adorable Pappas on YouTube:

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7/5: WSB’s Warren Savage speaks to the AJC

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ABOVE: During Savage’s days as anchor at WSB-TV.

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ABOVE: His mug shot in 2006.

Former WSB-TV morning Warren Savage, fresh from drug rehab, spoke to my colleague Gracie Bond Staples about how his arrest for cocaine possession helped change his life.

He answered questions about why in 2005 he just got up and quit a high-paying, highly respected anchor position at the top TV station in town.

“I was burnt out, disenchanted,” he said. “I was losing more editorial battles than I was winning. I started feeling like I was an island in the newsroom. I’d become nothing more than a talking head of crime and negativity and I felt powerless over that.”

He said the fame got to this head: “I was self-centered, arrogant, egotistical. That was the crux of it. All of that clouded my view of what really mattered.”

His future? He’s not sure yet.

More details here.

And Warren— I still have some of your photos and awards in my basement, given to me by a guy who buys stuff from unpaid storage places. It’s all yours. Just contact me at rho@ajc.com.

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7/4: Cledus T. Judd is engaged, Jamie Massey leaving for Phoenix

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That’s Cledus and Jamie Massey on the first day on the Bull back in January.

For 94.9/The Bull’s Cledus T. Judd, hopefully the fourth time’s a charm.

The thrice married/thrice divorced singer/morning host met a massage therapist (the legitimate kind) while recuperating a few weeks back from a softball injury and fell in love.

“I”m off the market,” he said to me in an exclusive interview. “The first time I kissed her, I knew that was the girl for me. I fell about as hard for her as anybody in my life.” He plans to tell the radio listeners of 94.9/The Bull on Monday.

The marriage date is none too soon: July 18. Honeymoon: Destin, Florida. The gorgeous blonde’s name is Amy Cameron, 32, from Cledus’ hometown of Cartersville. “I’m going to give it a shot,” he said.

In other Bull news, for all you fans of Jamie Massey, she’s not only leaving town, but she’s taken, too. Massey, formerly of Star 94 and Q100 and a morning co-host with Judd since January, decided to follow her heart and move to Phoenix, where she has a boyfriend.

There, she’ll join a sister Clear Channel country station KNIX-FM, where she’ll work part time while also teaching horseback riding. Her boyfriend, Chad Jennings, is an Air Force fighter pilot. (And yes, that does sound like the name for a fighter pilot, eh?) Massey, who has lived here all her life, said her friends are upset but her family is supportive because they like the man.

She met him on an airplane flight in January. He was connecting to Philly from Phoenix and she was flying up to visit a friend there.

For the past few months, they’ve been flying back and forth but she felt it was time to just go for it. “It’s a little scary but I’m excited, too,” she said. “If I didn’t do it, I’d always wonder.”

Massey is bringing her horse Demure with her but she anticipates Demure won’t be too pleased with the 110 degree temps. “He’s going to freak out,” she said.

Her final day is July 18 on air. Cledus and Clear Channel. the station owners, are going to have to find another sidekick on top of Slam Duncan for him, probably another gal. (Kristen Gates is a major possiblity.)

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7/3: Rush Limbaugh gets $400 million contract

Rush Limbaugh, the king of talk radio, will remain so at least through 2016.

The radio personality, heard locally on 640/WGST-AM, told the New York Times he will be making $38 million a year for eight years, plus a $100 million signing bonus from Premiere Radio Networks, his syndicator.

He’s heard on 600 stations, with at least 14 million weekly listeners, according to Talkers Magazine.

Here’s the AP story.

Is he worth it? Obviously, he generates a huge amount of money for Premiere and is the highest rated show on GST. You can catch him from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays.

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7/2: Six Flags pulls advertising off Project 9-6-1 after morning show comments, Jimmy Baron subs for Dave morning show

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Six Flags Over Georgia has pulled advertising off rock station Project 9-6-1 after the morning show made “insensitive remarks” about Saturday’s accident regarding the teen-ager getting hit by a roller coaster, according to a Six Flags spokeswoman.

Six Flags spokeswoman Hela Sheth sent an email acknowledging this happened but provided no further details. (She did send the urls below of audioclips from the show.) She didn’t know how long Six Flags would stay off the station. (Six Flags typically advertises fairly heavily in the summer on radio and TV.)

No word from Clear Channel Atlanta Operations Manager Clay Hunnicutt, Project 9-6-1 program director Chris Williams or either “Giant” Brian Carothers or his co-host Shaffee. So I don’t know if there will be any punishment.

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The Giant Show offers podcasts of its shows. During yesterday’s show, Shaffee and Giant Brian (right) wondered what the park did with the teen-ager’s head. I’m not sure if that’s the point of contention but judge for yourself here.

They also interviewed a company that cleans up crime scenes called Biotrauma here.

Here’s part two with the company Biotrauma.

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-Jimmy Baron (right, with Bruce Springsteen), morning host at 99X from 1994 to 2006, will be subbing for Zakk Tyler and Jane Monzures next week on Dave FM. Most stations will run a “best of” or bring in an existing staff member to cover a morning show when it’s on vacation. So this is somewhat unusual and could potentially be a test run for Baron to replace Zakk, who has been around for about five months. (Baron actually did an overnight audition or two with Dave before Zakk was hired.) A few months before the Morning X was dropped in 2003, Fred Toucher was given a test run. He joined the show in the fall of that year. Baron has not had a radio gig since spring of 2006. He will be joined by Yvonne Monet, also a former 99Xer.

Mike Wheeler, the program director, said he didn’t want to disrupt dayparts by bringing Orff or Margot or Sully in. And Monet is going to re-join Dave FM on a part-time basis. “It’s been awhile since Jimmy had a chance to talk to Atlanta. It’d be good for everybody.”

Wouldn’t this worry Zakk, I asked. “That’s our morning guy. He’s doing great. He thinks it’s fine.”

-Satellite radio fans: another grim story about the prospects for Xm and Sirius..

Stock analysts expect both companies to slash programing costs (23% of total costs) significantly once they combine and the Howard Sterns and NFL’s of the world lose their leverage.

-A fan of Kelly & Alpha has started a Yahoo group called “Save Kelly and Alpha.” Here’s the site if you want to join.

-Mike Mitchell, the last original jock on the seven-year-old Praise 97.5 radio station, left the station in May for personal reasons. A replacement will be announced soon.

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7/2: America’s Got Talent’s Atlanta auditions finally air

This third episode of summer’s biggest show on NBC “America’s Got Talent” features auditions in Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta. Dallas first. And one of the first promising talents is actually from Georgia: Holly Harden, a country singer from Rockmart. She’s like our local version of “American Idol” contestant Kellie Pickler.

She’s small town, blonde, cute (though not quite as cute) and just a wee bit dippy. Her singing? Not quite as good as Kellie but she’s got something about her. And her sweater/fur get-up is not flattering. Nonetheless, she has something about her that makes you want to watch. Sharon was not a fan. Piers was all for it. David was on the fence. “She’s got potential,” Piers said. And I agree. She goes through thanks to David and the audience.

Dallas overall had the usual mix of painful and pleasurable. The good including great acrobats, an 11-year-old pianist, Chinese warrior dancers, a whopping 22-person dance troupe and a spot-on 72-year-old Frank Sinatra impersonator.

Chicago gets the middle third of the show. There we get a great brother-sister salsa team, a nauseatingly theatrical, overly chipper singing married couple wearing bright yellow shirts and a truly sickening 7 foot 3 inch self-described “freak” who runs a twisty straw through his nose, then blows fireworks off his chest.

Atlanta gets the final 30 minutes out of two hours, which tells me they didn’t quite get as interesting a crew of folks as the other cities. Shots of the Varsity, the skyline and the lines at Cobb Energy Center, with a James Brown singing in the background. Jerry Springer mentions the world’s largest aquarium the Georgia Peach, and the fact the Hoff grew up here.

They then show shots of folks waiting days earlier at downtown’s AmericasMart, as if the two are happening at the same time. Same trick they do with “American Idol.”

Annoyingly, the show does not identify a person’s city of origin so I have no clue who is from Georgia unless otherwise identified.

First up: 18 year old Alistair McQueen. “I spent years upon years rehearsing. I’m ready!” He is a stripper. Yes, a male stripper. Not gonna do it for this crowd! Sharon doesn’t X him so he is down to his skivvies. “If you’re going to do this thing, you need the right equipment,” Piers said. “You are severely lacking. I commend you for your bravery. I’d pack it in mate— literally.” “You need to eat,” the Hoff said.

Colburn Hartsell is yet another stripper. Michelle and Katie do pole dancing, which just looks painful. “It looked like two donuts attacking each other,” the Hoff said.

The Atlanta group Southern Belles bring back clogging, which made the top 20 season one. They dance to Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” and get a huge response from the Cobb Energy Centre crowd. I wrote about these women nearly five years ago. The leader Blake Bartlett was hardworking and very very serious about clogging. A version of the Southern Belles were finalists on ABC Family’s “Dance Fever” in 2003. Interested in clogging at their studio? Check out their Web site.

The most memorable act I got to see live a few months back was Dan Meyer, a sword swallower from Hartsville, Ala. The guy was scary good and he is in all the promos. “I can’t even watch this,” David said. He takes a two foot long sword and literally swallows it. Then he puts three swords in at once. It’s crazy! The Hoff buzzed him, “almost killed him,” Springer said.

“I think the audience would run away,” the Hoff said. “I don’t know if it will sustain the show and do an hour of this.”

“This show is about variety,” Sharon said. “It just amazes me!”

“It’s a very uncomfortable thing to watch,” Piers said.

Here’s a video from YouTube of his work:

The final few minutes feature an autistic nine year old David Militello (city not identified). It left him silent his first three years but then started singing. He sings “Ben,” that Michael Jackson about a love of a pet rat. He’s just okay, not nearly as good as that four year old girl from two weeks ago who sang “Somewhere Out There.” But he gets a standing ovation from the Atlanta crowd. “You sang that really beautifully,” Sharon said. “You just won the hearts of America,” David Hasselhoff said.

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7/1: Steve & Vikki joins B98.5 this morning after 17 years at Star 94

It only took Vikki Locke five minutes to say it and it cost her $100.

After taking the very first caller at her new gig at B98.5, Locke accidentally uttered “Star 94.”

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“I’m going to the Dark Side!” she said, moments after realizing her snafu at 5:05 a.m.

Steve McCoy, her on-air partner with Star 94 for 17 years until November, 2007, chuckled and cued the “Star Wars” music. “Ladies and gentleman,” she said, “I bet $100 any time one of us turns to the Dark Side. It took me five minutes!” (The $100 will go to charity.)

Minutes earlier, McCoy opened the show: “As we were saying before we were so rudely interrupted.” (He told my colleague Rich Eldredge in the print edition today that this was his planned joke and he used it.) Here’s that story.

“It’s the dawn of a brand new day,” he noted. “It’s been like Christmas Day for us.” (He hardly slept last night after eight months off the air.) The show did “Quickies From Vikki” gossip, at 40 minutes after the hour from 5 to 7. During the 5 a.m. hour, they took calls, dubbing it “Alive at Five.” And they thanked Scott Slade over at sister station WSB-AM for making the coffee, something they used to do at Star 94.

And while the team is new (Will Gara remains as producer, Mark Arum continues to do traffic and Jeff Hullinger from WSB-AM now does news), the show sounds very much the same.

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After the show, I caught McCoy (above) for a few moments. (Vikki had already been whisked away by sales folks eager to show her off to clients.). “It went remarkably smoothly,” he said. “If we hadn’t said it was the first day, I wonder how many listeners would have noticed.”

Tommy Sullivan, who was part of the morning team for more than a decade at Star 94, came by at 7 a.m. Sullivan was not hired by B98.5 but remains co host at “Atlanta & Company” at WXIA-TV. He will join Steve & Vikki every Thursday at 8 a.m. for an unpaid gig to talk about weekend events. Sullivan’s “Atlanta & Company” co-host and former Dave FM host Holly Firfer also came by.

Ludacris, shamelessly promoting his new restaurant Straits, called in (likely the first time he’s ever been on B98.5). Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Braves veteran pitcher Tom Glavine and McCoy’s neighbor and comic Jeff Foxworthy also checked in to wish them well. “All is right in the world now that you’re back,” Foxworthy said. Ryan Seacrest will be on tomorrow.

While on Star 94, the show aired from 5:30 a.m. to about 9:45 a.m.. At B98.5, they air from 5 a.m. to about 9 a.m. to accommodate the idea that people are out on the road earlier than ever. (The Morning Mess, like the Regular Guys, Frank & Wanda and the Bert Show, all go to 10 a.m., but Giant Brian, Cletus T. Judd and Zack Tyler also end at 9.)

After taking some callers excited about their return, McCoy at 5:17 a.m. said, “We won’t turn this into a lovefest.”

“But we love it!” Locke said.

“We always consider the listeners as family. We love that kind of feeling,” he said. Then he fumbled over the Web site address. (Hey—this is the first hour of the first day!)

According to that B98.5 Web site,, they are using the Chastain Park Amphitheatre Human Regeneration tour for a “return” concert starring Human League, Belinda Carlisle, Naked Eyes, Flock of Seagulls and ABC August 29. Those ’80s nostalgia acts actually preceded the pairing but who’s keeping track? The pair will also be at the Atlanta Pride Festival on Sunday, with Welcome Back Lunches at the different Ray’s restaurants (dates forthcoming.) The site also references a few new elements to the show. “The Ladies Room,” at 8:05 a.m. Wednesdays, will feature women talking about a variety of topics and Robanne’s Style File will include talk about fashion trends.

The Web site bio conveniently omits the name of their predecessor station, Star 94.

At 5:53 a.m., Vikki mocked Steve for going to Italy and then raving about the… gum.

Steve was naturally unapologetic: “I just noticed the flavor lasted for hours! Why can’t we have this in America?”

“You’re strange,” Vikki said.

She also teased Steve’s dedication to radio. “You will die in a radio station - probably this one!”

Vikki noted she “detoxed” on a beach for two months in North Carolina after she left Star 94 in November.

In his offtime, Steve noted at 7 a.m., he became addicted to the videogame “Call of Duty 4” on the Xbox. “I’m very bad at it,” he cracked. “I’m the only one who has been beaten by the French.”

And Steve & Vikki must be thrilled to have day one endorsements from Jim Ellis Audi as well as Airtran.

It appears they are playing four or six songs an hour, about the same as they did at Star 94, compared to 8 to 10 when Kelly & Alpha were on. So for folks who want less talk and more music and enjoy this style of music, well, you have no place to go for now on the FM airwaves.

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