Friday, June 10, 2016

"When news happens, we're there. When it doesn't, we make it up."

Introduction to EYE-FOCUS ACTION NEWS with Tawny Roto-Baez.

It's almost surreal for me to think that when I was doing my labour of love SPACE PIRATE RADIO, now in the mid-'80s and post KTYD, my major source of employment was as a newsman for KTMS-AM, Santa Barbara.

Of course, all this began when I left KTYD, there from 1973 till 1985, and went across town to KTMS-FM, now called 2KO ("Knockout Radio" What an awful handle!), actually KKOO-FM  (really should be 2K TWO O).  The AM news station still connected at the hip and both stations broadcasting from the CITIZEN KANE like Inner Sanctum of the Santa Barbara News-Press daily newspaper building.

It was a good gig.  Given the Evening Slot on the FM, the AM news station on my broadcasting right, one pretty much ran or baby sat both stations after dark.  I was technically an employee of the Santa Barbara News-Press, with an NBC affiliation on the air.  My writing for the alternative weekly papers, the News & Review and the Nightlight (which became The Weekly and ultimately both papers merged to become The Independent) made for an easy segue to writing for the daily as well.  The NBC connection gave us network cache and a hookup with the TV affiliate.  (On my Friday Evening shows, after my time had ended, I ran a stereo broadcast or simulcast of FRIDAY NIGHT VIDEOS in tune with the TV broadcast, sent out from NBC New York or Los Angeles.  This was not unfamiliar ground.  On KTYD we used to run a stereo reel to reel to broadcast along IN CONCERT on the ABC Network.  Obviously the NBC broadcast was safer, as our tape could get out of sync with the ABC show and cause the viewer/listener to have a random psychedelic experience.)

The two radio stations went through a succession of ownership changes in those mid-'80s.  The News-Press, owned at this time by the New York Times, had to cut the stations loose because of monopoly laws (now laughable), so our ancient home Downtown got shifted into a sinkhole on a street, mostly residential up the road in mixed area foothills.  With older '40s and '50s houses down the street, Westward; we near the corner, a Crack House having that honour, occupied by a drug addled police informer.  A little corner market opposite.  It was new.  New studios.  But pretty tacky in a sense. Sometimes I wasn't sure which one was the Crack House.

It wasn't all that bad.  It wasn't all that good, either.  Like when my car got vandalized by the psycho neighbor and he came at me with one of my removed windshield wipers.  Actually very comic, if it didn't have the threat of serious injury or death.  Parking on the street stopped and our non practical sinkhole driveway became de rigueur.

Being nocturnal for SPACE PIRATE RADIO and doing the weekends, added me doing late night news duty, recording feeds and such.  And I was Arts and Entertainment Editor for your News Authority ("Up Against the Facts, Man!").  Those were busy times with, as usual in radio, an ever revolving door of bosses and colleagues.  One man who was a fairly long turn constant and a really good boss, a good boss indeed:  John Palminteri. 

John was News-Director at KTMS pretty early on when I came aboard.  There were other News anchors and crew at the old News-Press building in 1985, but when we moved to the Sunken Gardens of Cacique Street, John ran the show.  I have nothing but pleasant memories of working with John.  Never an argument or clash of any kind.  This is because he was a pro, surrounded in a gallery of amateurs calling the shots.  John gave me the freedom in news and entertainment like I had on SPACE PIRATE RADIO.  He had a sense of humour and a sense of play in the work ethic.  I remember far more smiles than frowns.  And that can be rare in News.  (That's John in the picture, third from the Left.  I'm at the Far Left.  I'm always at the Far Left.  *giggles*)

When he had enough of General Managers who wanted to cruise late night in the Blues Brothers News Mobile looking for crime scenes and listening to "Smuggler's Blues," John left and went to my old turf KTYD.  And of course, his solid work on KEYT-TV.  We never did get that news helicopter, did we John?  *giggles*  Thank you, old friend.  Even if you wouldn't/couldn't take me to the Ronald Reagan shindig.  I understand.  I've seen the file.  more *giggles*  Thanks, anyway.

And talking about that photo.  Look!  We all have microphones!

That's Martha Bull, right of me and next to John.  In the van.  That's Jim Rome.  Yes, that Jim Rome of Sports News Fame.  KTMS was an early gig for him.  I had a show on the weekend Saturday Evening called ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE.  My co-host was Paul Hefti, seen leaning through two lovely ladies' faces on the right.  Paul was from the composer Neal Hefti family.  When Paul missed a show, Jim Rome stepped in.  It was good company, Folks.

ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE was a pretty hip little Arts & Leisure radio broadcast.  Paul would invite a musician or artist friend for half of the show, as I would a film, literary or musician person for my segment.  We had some cool people on.  Hector Elizondo sat in studio for a very fun interview.  I also had Shelley Winters, Tyrone Power Jr., actor Chris Mulkey, authors Jim Harrison and Erica Jong and an earlier unaired interview with Frank Zappa when he passed away.  Paul had some wonderful musicians in studio including a memorable set by Tom Ball & Kenny Sultan.  When we were discussing the influence of The Kingston Trio, I mentioned how much I liked the song "Zombie Jamboree"  I was rewarded with a spot on performance of the song, totally extempore.  Delightful.  The show also tied in with my late dear friend, Terry Boyle, manager of the art cinema theatre, The Riviera, as well as the local book and comic book stores.  These folks also co-promoted SPACE PIRATE RADIO, so it was really quite idyllic.

During those times, the Arts were really flourishing.  And the News, well...it was Mostly Good.  And we always welcome Good News.