(The following excerpts briefly traces Sweet Dick time at KHJ in 1983/84)
RADIO: May 8, 1983
‘BOSS’ REBOUNDS, ‘LOST’ IS FOUND (excerpt)
By James Brown
Yes, indeed, “The Boss Is Back.” If you been listening to KHJ (930) these past several weeks, those are
the words that keep coming at you. The Boss Is Back. Station officals hope so, anyway. KHJ’s “Boss Radio” used to dominate the L.A. marketplace n the those good old days of the 1960s – before the music died on the AM dial. And now, after years of struggling, and a brief flirtation with country music, KHJ has returned to the music of the 60s, to the slogans and the jingles of the ‘60s and…with fingers crossed…the success of the 60s.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle of the KHJ reincarnation – though definitely a major part of it – has been the
return of Dick Whittington as the new boss’ 6-10 a.m. morning man. It’s a somewhat incongruous setting
for “Sweet Dick.” After all, here he is at a station that really plays the “heavy hits.” And for Whittington, who throughout his career loved to talk about playing records yet seldom got around to it, this alone would have once been enough to send him packing. Not anymore.
“The music is fine,” Whittington said, “In face, I like most of it. But I don’t deal with the selection process, which is also fine with me. I’ll do a couple of bits an hour, have some fun and just generally be myself on the air. If there’s any change, that’s the big one. I’m not afraid to be Dick Whittington anymore.”
ON THE RADIO: February 7, 1984
Mrs. Iris Durham of Sepulveda awakened to a shock.
“I turned on KHJ Wednesday morning the way I always to and he wasn’t here!” said an outraged Mrs. Durham. “I called the station and asked, “Where’s Sweet Dick?”
Alas, Sweet Dick Whittington (the nick name he has used for two decades) went the way of all
unsuspecting deejays whose contract options have come up at a time when station management feels that fiddling with its format may boost its rating.
“It was a shock, being unceremoniously dumped,” Whittington told The Times. “It must have come from New York (headquarters RKO General, owner of KHJ-AM and KRTH-FM). I know, quite frankly, that KHJ must be in trouble to do something like this. I had the only (ratings) numbers they had.”
Whittington, who has a loyal audience that has followed him from station to station in the local market during the last 20 years, said he was given no warning of his dismissal Wednesday. At least par of the
reason may have been money.
He planned to renegotiate his annual salary, which was in “the low six figures,” Whittington said. He had worked at the station for about 10 months.
KHJ Program Director Rick Scarry said that Whittington’s dismissal was part of an overall shakeup at the station which will “fine-tune the music into the true adult contemporary station for Los Angeles.” Scarry
denied that KHJ intends to eliminate personalities with a taste for on-the-air comedy and comment like
Whittington’s but conceded that his brand of humor dose not fit into the new KHJ.
For the moment, Whittington’s spot is occupied by Mark Dennis, a KHJ deejay who previously broadcast
later in the day.
Whittington came to Los Angeles from San Francisco about 20 years ago to become a game-show host
but carved out a career as an itinerant deejay instead. At one time to another, he has brought his spiel to
KLAC, KGIL, KABC, KFI and KHJ. His forte is off-the-wall on-air phone interviews, perhaps the most familiar being his annual answer to the return of the swallows to Mission San Juan Capistrano: the return of the buzzards to the town of Hinkley, Ohio.
He register his displeasure by urging his followers to “do a Whittington” on issues to individuals who
oppose his point of view.
Each year, he dresses as Santa Claus and hold an adults-only lap-sitting for overgrown children who want to whisper their wishes in his ear. More than 1,000 showed up the Friday before Christmas at a universal City restaurant for this year’s event.
“Management people are such bureaucrats and so afraid of themselves,” Whittington said. “I suppose I am a strong personality, but why would they want to become a music machine unless they were FM? Why would you want to listen to just music on AM?”
Whittington points out that it isn’t the first time KHJ has dropped a morning deejay’s contract for having too much a strong a personality.
“The is the same station that dropped Rick Dees three years ago,” he said with a malicious little laugh.
KIIS-FM (102.7) packed up Dees’ contract, has built an entire format around his cast of satirical characters (John Revolting, Groaning Barrett, etc.) and is now the highest-rated station – AM or FM – in Los Angeles.