Erika Engle

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Airwaves and gigs
ebb and flow

DAN Cooke is back on the air, taking the reins at a top-rated radio show in Hawaii.

"The alarm was kind of tough to take at 3 a.m.," he said, but predicted he would get reacclimated to the grind of a 5-to-10 a.m., Monday-through-Saturday show.

Cooke is back at KRTR-FM 96.3, where he and then-air personality Austin Vali did the morning show in 1988.

"Now Austin is the general manager and vice president with a corner office with a view, and I've got a locker. It kind of makes you wonder about the choices you've made in your life," Cooke said, laughing.

"I did it 20 years ago when I was single trying to live at both ends of the day." Now he has a family that goes to bed at 8:30 p.m., which suits his schedule just fine.

Cooke cited time with his young children as the main reason for departing the anchor desk at KITV in the summer of 2002. He also was in the process of launching a subscription-based news service called News Fone. It folded at the end of last year and he stopped trying to resuscitate it in March. In the meantime, the veteran broadcaster has done free-lance public relations, video production and voice-over work.

Cooke's radio career started on the mainland in 1972, and he landed at Honolulu's old K-108 (KIOE-AM 1080) in 1976. His resume is an alphabet soup of radio and television call letters in Hawaii, Philadelphia and San Diego.

Cooke replaces Chris Reiser, who had been a morning personality on KRTR-96 since 1998, and who had partnered at times with comedian and radio personality Paul Ogata and broadcaster Chris Hart. Flying solo for the last four months, Reiser maintained the show's top-five ranking, until Friday.

"It was a shock," Reiser said. "I was terribly disappointed. I did a good job for them, the numbers (ratings) will show that, and I have no regrets. I wish them all the best."

There were no local positions to plug Reiser into, said Vali, who called him a "talented guy, a good jock and a good employee."

"We're looking for something else within the company (Atlanta-based Cox Radio Inc.)," Vali said.

KRTR tops the ratings in several female and adult demographics favored by advertisers, but the morning show midstream horse-change follows research, Vali said. "We made a decision based on our research that the station could grow a lot more in mornings."

Far and away the top-rated morning show hosts are Michael W. Perry and Larry Price on KSSK-FM/AM 92.3/590. They command Honolulu's only double-digit morning ratings.

Cooke is being groomed to become the next default morning radio choice. "Dan is, in my hopes, the next guy," Vali said.

Bob boots Breeze

Far more than the morning show has changed at KHUI-FM 99.5. It is completely changing format, and technical difficulties along the way kicked it off the air for a time yesterday.

The station apparently will not change its call letters, but its moniker will change from "The Breeze" to "Bob-FM," said General Manager Dan Manella.

The station will play hits from "the '80s, the '90s and whatever," with a library of 1,100 songs.

KQMQ-FM 93.1, a sister station that belongs to New Wave Broadcasting Inc., also plays music from that era.

Where "The Q" plays rhythmic, dance-geared music, "Bob is more of a rock-based station. It's not a format, it's a lifegroup," said Manella, delving deeply into radio consultant-speak. He confessed to being a consultant in a previous life, but credited Howard Kroeger for originating the format in Winnipeg, Canada.

The playlist will include artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Smashmouth, Pearl Jam and Godsmack. There are plans to add local music.

Calling the format by a name is designed to give the station a personality. "Bob takes things lightly," Manella said. "It's all about Bob. Turn your knob to Bob."

"Bob's just a regular guy. Bob thinks Eminem is just a chocolate candy."

Bob's audience will migrate from classic rock KAHA-FM 105.9, and adult contemporary KSSK-FM/AM 92.3/590 and KRTR-FM 96.3, he said.

"This is not a zero-sum game. The listeners are going to be coming from somewhere."

Not enough listeners migrated to "The Breeze" to keep its Hawaiian music on the air, but loyal listeners voiced their feelings to the station.

"Some of the anger is created by the fact that they feel the other three Hawaiian music stations aren't servicing their needs," Manella said, but it came down to a business decision.

"Being No. 4 in a format just doesn't work," Manella said.

The format debuted in the spring of 2002 and jumped from its No. 16 ranking to No. 8 by the summer. It hasn't maintained its position and dropped back to midteen rankings.

The traditional Hawaiian music bid aloha in the wee hours of Saturday morning, not long after two of its air personalities pressed the flesh at a station promotion at Gordon Biersch.

Hours earlier, Program Director Mahlon Moore, who also served as operations director for the five New Wave stations, was let go.

It was his birthday.

It was 35 years to the day since he got his first radio job, on his 18th birthday in 1968.

He was recently forced to move by his landlord's decision to make hay of the hot real estate market; he was then in a car-totaling crash.

"If things come in threes, then I'm pau," he told TheBuzz, with an audible smirk.

"I'm not bummed for me. I'm bummed for the station. I loved the station," he said. The station's mainland ownership doesn't "get" Hawaiian music, but Manella, from Wisconsin, "was a big proponent," Moore said.

"Dan loves Hawaiian music, it was like when he moved here he had discovered this whole new world of music."

Manella regretted the unfortunate timing but praised Moore's work. "I will forever appreciate Mahlon for the person he is and the broadcaster he is," Manella said.

Other staffers remain with the company.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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