Power Failure

Say it isn't so

Early last week, I was incensed to learn that Bonneville International Corporation, a company wholly owned by the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, announced it is acquiring what I believe to be the most valuable radio station we've got here in the 'Nix, Power 92. Bonneville will be completely eliminating its format and content, replacing it with a simulcast of the AM talk radio station it already owns, 620 KTAR.

I'm not alone here in my indignation. I'm a punk rock kid by nature, and Power is my music station of choice, as it is for my editor Michele Laudig, who's pretty goddamn punk rock herself. Our food critic, Stephen Lemons, rocks the Power all the time. Even my friend Vince Ramirez, a 43-year-old dad who drums for the country outfit Flathead, has Power on in his car every time I'm in it. Even in its Top 40 incarnation, hip-hop is something that crosses all age, ethnicity and class lines.

Bonneville claims that it's attempting to sell the brand to any takers so that Power doesn't cease to exist entirely. Unfortunately, that's a real long shot. After I heard news of the sale, I called Power 92 program director Bruce St. James -- whom I like despite the fact that he doesn't drink and he's a Republican -- and he schooled me on the real deal. There's a reason the Mormons are paying $77.5 million for Power 92: The company they're buying it from, Emmis Communications, owns a grip of radio stations, including Power 106 in L.A. and Hot 97 in New York City, but only owned one station here, Power 92. That made it an easy grab for the Mormons -- since it's Emmis' only station, that makes it the only single high-wattage frequency in town that's not owned by a company with multiple stations here, like Clear Channel or Infinity.

Tomato, to-mah-to: Carolina Cracker and his weapon of choice.
Mr. G
Tomato, to-mah-to: Carolina Cracker and his weapon of choice.

But there's not another high-wattage frequency on the market, and even if Clear Channel or Infinity wanted to replace one of its underperforming stations with Power 92's format and personalities, the undertaking would be immense. "The reality is that around September 1, Power 92 will likely cease to exist," St. James told me.

"Everything has its price," he continued. Despite the fact that Power 92 had record billing -- $13 million last year -- along with the ability to boast 400,000 listeners per week (putting it in seventh place for revenue out of 40 local stations), Bonneville offered Emmis a deal it couldn't refuse. "It's not a conspiracy," St. James went on. "It's the only single standing frequency with the wattage."

St. James doesn't believe that the Mormons are attempting to eliminate the only real hip-hop station in the 'Nix. He explained that it's simply the most obvious business decision to get KTAR, which actually used to be a cool talk radio station before Bonneville acquired it from Emmis a while back, onto the FM airwaves. Personally, I don't care what Bonneville's intentions are. I'm no religion-basher, but it certainly comes across as a church-owned company eliminating an element of street culture to promote a conservative agenda.

Consider this: Before Bonneville's acquisition of KTAR, the station's motto was "live, local, first," and had all local personalities. After the acquisition, my old friend David Leibowitz, the morning host, was replaced with Fox News' syndicated conservative commentator Tony Snow, whom President Bush just named as his new press secretary.

To put it in very simple terms, it's completely fucked that the fifth biggest city in America will be without a hip-hop station, thanks to the Mormon Church. "A lot can happen in four months," St. James told me, but he's not hopeful that the station will survive. I don't know what any of us can do to prevent Power from disappearing, but if you've got a cell phone with free long distance, you ought to call Bonneville at 801-575-7500, or call KTAR at 602-274-6200. Let them know what a goddamn travesty this situation is.

Affront Man

Cinco de Mayo's never meant a hell of a lot to me, but this year, when it fell on a Friday, I ventured into the foreign environs of Dos Gringos in Scottsdale for Corona's copyrighted holiday.

Naw, I'm not looking for fights with Scottsdale jocks -- I went because I'd heard that this local rapper kid Carolina Cracker would be doing his "tomato insult" show. The parking lot was barricaded off to accommodate the hundreds of damn bro's and Snottsdale sluts, and off to the right, after my friends and I paid five bucks for the privilege of their company, there was a plywood wall with holes cut out for Cracker's head and arms. About 40 feet closer to us, there was a table with cardboard flats of tomatoes to chuck at Cracker for another five bucks.

He looked like an emaciated Eminem, with a tomato-stained white doo-rag on his head and white wristbands. As some meathead threw the fruit at mach speed toward his head, Cracker told him, "You know what the difference between a jock and a homo is? Nothing. Why don't you go pat your homeboy on the ass, mommy's little champion?"

Dudes were pissed. More than one thought about going around the tables to whup this skinny kid's ass -- you could see it in their faces. At one point, Cracker actually had to remind the crowd that it was an insult show. That's what they were paying for.

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