Leon Kaplan drives Southern California
Craig Reynolds of Pasadena writes, “Enjoy your weekly articles. Might be interesting to do a paragraph on Leon Kaplan, KABC (790 AM) Sunday mornings 8-10 a.m. He takes calls on all kinds of motorized products, and celebrated his 40th anniversary in January. He was let go with all the other local talent but brought back to work for nothing.”
Good idea. Kaplan has been at KABC as long as I can remember. And he keeps hanging on in spite of changes at the station through the years. Back in 2014, Kaplan was going to leave the station on his own terms due to management wanting to shrink the show down to one-hour in order to make room for Los Angeles Kings-related programming, but an agreement was reached for him to stay, and stay for his full shift.
December, 2019 brought the announcement that all paid weekend hosts would be shown the door in order for the station to make up for years of neglect by cutting unnecessary costs … and owner Cumulus believes that on-air talent is such. But Kaplan decided he could make a ‘go” of it by being his own syndicator. I don’t have the exact details, but my understanding is that he now offers the show to the station for free in exchange for the ability to sell a certain number of advertisements.
Probably a better deal for Kaplan: if he owns the show, he can take it anywhere if needed, and since it still works for KABC, the station earns some points for keeping a long-running show on the air.
I am sure he doesn’t remember me, but the time I met Kaplan, he was a genuinely nice guy. His show is the longest-running continuous show on KABC, and Kaplan’s down-home style makes his show entertaining and fun to listen to.
Tom Burfield writes, “something you wrote Friday scares me. You encouraged FM DJs to ‘bond with listeners’ and talk about the coronavirus.
“Until recently, I listened to KFI (640 AM) and KABC almost exclusively. Since they switched to wall-to-wall coronavirus coverage, I’ve been spending most of my listening time with the FM music stations. AM news and talk stations, TV stations, newspapers and websites continuously drone on and on about COVID-19. The LAST thing we need is for FM music stations to do the same. FM radio is about the only place we can go for a well-needed respite from coronavirus talk. Please don’t encourage them to change that!”
Sorry about that! But that wasn’t my intention. I was thinking of ways to bond by talking with people (off air as well as on) regarding how they are surviving … fun ways to deal with being stuck at home … how to avoid others on walks … humor … basically ways to avoid exactly what you are talking about.
The idea being that we need to be reassured we can all get through this, and while we are basically stuck at home, we can at least try to have some fun.
The “Real” Don Steele would have been 84 on April 1st; the popular DJ, movie and television star passed away in 1997.
Stories of Steele are legendary, even aside from his tremendous professionalism on and off the air. Apparently while at KTNQ (1020 AM), known at the time as Ten-Q, he would play the studio monitors so loudly that other tenants in the building complained, forcing engineering to move the studio and install sound-proofing.
Steele often recorded himself on the air in order to listen back later and critique himself in order to improve; fortunately many of the tapes still exist and can be heard on various Aircheck sites including airchexx.com and reel radio.com. Even YouTube.
When I met him on a boat to Catalina Island sponsored by his home station at the time, the original KRLA (1110 AM), I found him to be extremely cordial, charming, and far more subdued than I expected. He was very reflective on his career, and made a longtime fan very happy that he was willing to speak with me.
Ken Levine worked with him and considers Steele not only a friend, but his idol. “For thirty years The Real Don Steele ruled the Los Angeles airwaves, most notably on 93/KHJ ‘Boss Radio’ in the 60’s and 70’s. Outrageous, electrifying, thrilling – that was Real on…and OFF the air., Levine writes. “I had the pleasure of working with him at two radio stations, K100 (now KKLQ, 100.3 FM) and TenQ in LA in the 70’s. He also fell off my couch stinking drunk one night and my wife still invited him to dinner again.”
Wife-approval means a lot. You can read Levine’s full tribute on the April 1st edition of his blog at kenlevine.blogspot.com.