KFMA Morning Show
August 22, 2000
STRETCHING the limits
Morning drive-time radio can become raunchy in Tucson,
especially if you tune in to alternative rock station KFMA.
By Jim Purdy
Some New York City sludge oozed into Tucson morning radio late last month when Frank
Brinsley joined John Michael on KFMA's morning show.
John and Freaky Frank have upped the raunch level considerably on KFMA, 92.1-FM.
They strive to joke the mornings away, helping listeners start their days with randy jokes and
raunchy bits - the more off-color the better.
On show No. 11 on Monday, of last week, the men explored the question of the day: Who is the
most annoying celebrity?
A caller suggests Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen could be candidates for the most annoying
While music is playing, the two radio men have a conversation.
"Hey, the Olsen twins are looking good these days," Brinsley says defensively.
"Hey, zip it up. The Olsen twins aren't even legal," Michael says.
With two minutes until they're live on the air, the two men scramble for a plan.
"Do you have your list ready of people you want to kill?" Michael asks Brinsley.
"I already did that," Brinsley says.
"OK, terriffic. Short list, eh?" Michael says.
Brinsley scurries to appease Michael's aching desire for funny bits.
He lands on a point of interest.
"Today's the last day to register to vote," Brinsley says to Michael, with a hopeful look and a
"Let's crank-call them," Michael says, intrigued by the possibilities.
While alternative tunes serenade the listening audience, the boys (Michael is 28 years old;
Brinsley, 29) tape-record a wacky conversation with the county voting bureau.
As he carries on a zany conversation, Michael sits at his control console, lights flashing as he
punches buttons and reaches for levers. He looks very much like Captain Nemo at the pipe
organ as he talks on the phone, adjusts sound levels and fires off volleys of sound effects.
He's almost as maniacal as Nemo, too, insanely seeking laughs.
The bit falls flat. Michael seethes.
"Wow. Marginal at best," he says grimly.
Now they're on the air live.
When all else fails, talk about the weather.
The night before, a tempest rocked Tucson. It becomes fodder for the show, in a way only John
and Frank could dream up.
"The best thing about a thunder and lightning storm is it's a perfect opportunity to beef around
your girlfriend," Michael explains. He switches to a higher-pitched voice.
'Oh, that was a good one; it shook the bed. But should it smell like that?'
" 'It's a sulfur storm, don't worry about it,' " Michael says, this time with a deeper voice.
Is there no limit to how low the two will go?
They reminisce about a show the week before when Freaky Frank bared his back to a hot body
wax to remove a few clumps of back hair.
"There's nothing like hot burning wax on flesh. But my back's all splotchy now. It looks even
freakier than it did before," Brinsley says.
"It really should be all or nothing, Frank. We should get that guy back in here," Michael offers.
"Yea, but it really hurts."
"Maybe if you sauced it up beforehand . . . you owe it to the ladies you meet online," Michael says.
Brinsley quit his job as music director at New York City's Jammin' 105, (WTJM, 105.1-FM) for
"My office was about twice the size of our studio is here,"
But he's been enjoying his short time in Tucson. Surely, he didn't have the atmosphere that
The dilapidated radio station sits beneath tall radio towers on Tucson's west side. The
ambience includes a catacomblike series of low-ceilinged corridors that snake their way
through the building that KFMA and KLPX (96.1-FM) share.
In KFMA's tiny studio, grungy, stained carpet overlaps some old-looking orange shag under the
CDs, from Goldfinger to Cake, Pearl Jam to Concrete Blonde, overflow from cubbyholes along
A handlebar-mustachioed Britney Spears ogles the men from a poster on the wall. As they brew
their radio show wackiness, a 6-foot-tall Captain Kirk cutout stands watch in the corner.
Both DJs took similar roads to these glimmering confines.
Michael got his start in radio when he outgrew his batboy job with the Memphis Redbirds. Not
wanting to throw him out on the street, the organization kicked him up to the broadcast booth.
He'd do some play-by-play work with the regular announcer in the late innings.
He worked at an alternative radio station in Memphis for a time, then went to college at the
University of Mississippi, where Michael worked at the college radio station. He honed his craft
calling charity football games or fraternity intramural football games for the student radio station.
He moved back to Memphis to start his professional radio career.
Brinsley went to school at Western Kentucky University, home of the Hilltoppers, until, "One day I
picked up my stuff and moved to Memphis."
That's where he met Michael, who was working at alternative radio station 96-X FM.
The two became fast friends and even shared an apartment together.
They worked together again at FM-100 in Memphis.
Brinsley moved from Memphis to radio jobs in Tampa and then New York City, where he worked
as a programming director. The radio station abruptly switched formats to jammin' oldies. He
couldn't wait to skedaddle, and he jumped at the chance to join his old friend as a
morning-show sidekick in Tucson
Back at KFMA, morning-show No. 11 flags a bit, at least by Michael and Brinsley's standards.
A station intern in promotions, Danya Paletz, walks into the closetlike studio to hand Michael a
memo. Like vultures, the two radio personalities start circling.
Brinsley's eyes spot the ears of a Garfield tattoo on Paletz's semi-exposed midsection.
Suddenly, she becomes a part of the show.
While talking innocuously about her tattoos, John and Frank pry ever so slightly into her private
life. In the course of conversation, she maybe reveals too much about her life.
After the show, Paletz is a little miffed.
"We start out talking about my tattoos and all of a sudden we're talking about my co-dependence
with my boyfriend. He's going to kill me. I promised not to talk about him on the radio anymore,"
With about five hours of air to fill - they get to the studio at 5 a.m. and entertain listeners until 10
a.m. - the men need to ponder plenty of gags.
Michael paces back and fourth, fueled by two cups of coffee and a desire to work up some
The off-air stuff is as good as the on-air stuff, often better because there aren't those pesky
Federal Communications Commission regulations obstructing the lowbrow humor.
While the music spins, John and Frank try to piece together the funniest caller-offerings.
Many are good. Some hilarious. Some not so good.
"It's often an exercise in being pathetic," Michael says. "I think that's why the listeners identify
A caller saves the day. In answer to a plea from a previous show, the caller tells Michael that he
knows two 30-year-old virgins. They'd be willing to go on John and Frank's show, too.
Michael swivels on his chair to face his friend. He rises to his feet, and his face reddens.
"Sweet!" he screams. "Today wasn't a total failure."
He jumps and pumps his fist in the air.
"You don't understand how excited I am. It doesn't matter what else happened in here today, we
have 30-year old virgins and soon we'll be bringing them to the public," he screams joyously.
"That's why we're in this business."