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By Danny Wicentowski
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Slaten complied and successfully completed ten hours of counseling. On July 25, 2005, the Supreme Court gave him back his law license.
Friends say folks always have one question when it comes to Kevin Slaten: Is "The King" an act?
"I didn't work with 'The King,'" asserts Wendy Wiese, formerly of KTRS. "I worked with Kevin. He could really connect with people. He could be unbelievably lovable and hysterically funny. There were plenty of times we would laugh ourselves sick, truly sick."
Adds Wiese: "But when you disagreed with him, you'd better come prepared. If you argued with Kevin, you were not going to win."
Most agree that the off-air Slaten is as opinionated as his on-air incarnation. Almost unanimously they describe him as "brutally honest," "committed to the truth," "principled" — in short, "a tempered version of 'The King.'"
Says Bob Ramsey: "Kevin really views things as black or white, good or bad. There are no grays with him."
There's also a side to Slaten that, in the words of several friends, "most people who listened to him would never believe or expect."
This is Slaten the softie — a sentimentalist who's a sucker for musical productions like Mamma Mia! (he's seen the stage version three times and the movie version once) and tearjerker sports flicks like Rudy.
Slaten the traditionalist — who insists on hosting his family's Thanksgiving dinners and on hoisting a huge, fresh-cut Christmas tree with old-school colored lights and chintzy tinsel.
Slaten the romantic — who showers girlfriends with flowers, candy and other symbols of doting.
Slaten the devoted single father — who sacrificed career opportunities to raise his only child.
And Slaten the good son, known for signing off his radio shows with "Love you, Mom, love you, Dad," and who delivered the eulogy at each of his parents' funerals. ("There was not a dry eye in the place," recalls his friend Mark LeGrand.)
Friends say Slaten is misunderstood. "I think everybody thinks he's a mean guy," offers Rick Lehman. "That he's hard to deal with, and so negative, and blah, blah, blah. But I think he's one of these people who are extremely honest with himself, and honest in general.
"I think the most interesting thing was to watch Kevin at his son's basketball games," Lehman goes on. "You could see how impassioned he was, because he'd get all pissed off at the refs and the coach. Well, as a single parent, it's a hard ride. And one way to look at it would be to say: 'He's a wack.' I took it as: 'Boy, Kevin really loves his son.'"
Among peers, on the other hand, Slaten has earned a rep as a shit disturber.
"He's not a victim. He's not a casualty. He's a bully. That's what he is," says the Post-Dispatch's Bryan Burwell. "He bullies people who don't play by his rules."
Burwell and others point to the well-publicized scrapes Slaten has gotten into, dating all the way back to the time in 1981 when he took a swing at a major-league soccer player in the middle of a game he was announcing. Slaten said at the time that the player had spat at him on his way to the penalty box.
In 1992 Slaten and Randy Karraker (now of KTRS) nearly scuffled after arguing about a Cardinals trade during a Sunday-evening sports show on KSDK-TV (Channel 5). "He pushed me and said something like, 'How dare you treat me like a dog?'" Karraker recalls. "I had said, 'Calm down, you're acting like my golden retriever.' But Frank Cusumano stepped in right away.
"His explosive temper is well known," Karraker adds, "but Kevin and I have gotten along since."
Bob Ramsey suspects the '92 fisticuffs in particular had a lasting impact on Slaten's career prospects. "Most management types don't care if their talent gets into a catfight with a guy from another station. But I think the arena legal issue haunted him for a while with industry management. I think that scared people a little bit," Ramsey says. "And I'm sure it frustrates Kevin. Regret is not the right word for it, but obviously he wishes it never happened. It's like, 'It's the old gunslinger' — you kind of get a reputation, create a perception, and all of a sudden it follows you around."
One gig Slaten would've relished was radio play-by-play announcer for the St. Louis Rams. Though he was among the top contenders for the job in 2000, Steve Savard of KMOV-TV (Channel 4) clinched the spot. "It's sad," Slaten told the Post-Dispatch in May of that year. "To think a Super Bowl champion would end up with an inexperienced person behind the microphone is nothing short of astounding."
In 2003 Slaten pointed to his "improvement as a person" in his application for reinstatement to the Missouri Bar: "I've learned to walk away from situations that could otherwise result in problems," he wrote. "This character change was all part of a life change for me that coincided with giving my life to Jesus Christ. My reaction today in the same situation that resulted in my suspension would be simply to walk away and realize what is at stake. In essence, I don't react anymore. I take a step back and consider the consequences of my actions. Maturity is a wonderful thing when it arrives in us."