Letters to the Editor

Published the week of February 16

Feb 16, 2000 at 4:00 am
I couldn't let the letter from the chickenshit who signed his/her/its name "Larson E. Whipsnade" in your last issue to go unanswered. I was a volunteer at KDHX before KDHX had a license or a frequency. I served several terms on its board of directors and was its treasurer during the early lean years. I was intimately involved in the hiring and firing of its first few managers. So I feel qualified to speak on the station's goals, objectives and methods.

The primary job of KDHX is provide a vehicle for alternative cultural, political and aesthetic viewpoints. It is also supposed to provide a bulletin board for the kinds of news and information that advertiser-driven media shy away from. There is never enough airtime to do both completely. Compromises are always being made. Someone's information or music or viewpoint loses its airtime, so that more vital information or music or viewpoints can be accommodated. When we wrote the constitution for Double Helix Corp. (the not-for-profit company to whom KDHX's broadcast license is issued), we established a system where committees of volunteer members approve and ultimately control what goes on the air. The manager and program director work for the board of directors through those committees.

Institutions tend to develop a resistance to change. When this happens to a community-radio station, the station begins to sound flat, old and predictable. It loses its edge. In the mid-1990s, KDHX was becoming the personal radio club of a bunch of pathetic old farts who were afraid of the edgy urban aesthetic that was emerging in our culture. They couldn't deal with the news that the Woodstock Nation is dead and there are new constituencies whose voices are missing from mainstream media. Larsen E. Whipsnade is typical of these neoreactionaries. He doesn't care if the station's service evolves as long as his buddies are on the air playing the same music and mouthing the same tired crap that keeps him comfortable.

The combination of Bev Hacker as manager and Tony Renner as program director is the best thing that has happened to KDHX since the invention of the compact disc.

Bev has fearlessly, and at constant risk to her job, fought for positive change at the station. She cleaned up a 20-year-old management mess, put the station on much sounder financial footing, revamped its business practices and opened our radio station's doors to entire communities. She dragged hundreds of Larson E. Whipsnades kicking and screaming into the new millennium. Her magnanimity and patience in dealing with these selfish relics has amazed me.

Renner brings to the program director's job an openness of mind and acceptance of diverse cultural notions that is mind-boggling in its breadth. He truly believes that every voice deserves to be heard. Both are willing to make hard decisions about which programming is a service and which is just more of the same. They both have a deep respect for the committee process we set up to ensure the station was dynamic and responsive to the community.

All the RFT's readers really need to do to appreciate the work Hacker and Renner have done is turn on their radios. They will hear the most dynamic, diverse and interesting programming in town. I am proud at how they are raising the media child we created so many years ago. It is reaching a level of maturity "Larson E. Whispered" could never understand.

Lew Prince

I am responding to the Feb. 9 letter to the editor by someone called "Larson E. Whipsnade."

For a period of nearly eight years I was a producer of a radio show on KDHX called The Brain Sandwich Show. Whipsnade was correct in that The Brain Sandwich Show was, in effect, canceled despite its popularity and/or fairly large and loyal listenership. The "official" story being circulated is/was that we refused a new time slot offered us. This much is true. However, both the offer and the eventual counteroffer were not "doable" for Jim Findlay, Jay Schober and myself. They would have had us on late Sunday night and cut us back to one hour (from two). We had already been moved a couple of times prior to that and been trimmed from our original three-hour slot. We have no doubt that these offers and cut in time were calculated to destroy the show. Thus, management's contention that "well, we offered them another time slot" has no real validity.

Whipsnade's other contention, "So much for the concept of community radio," appears to again be right on target. There are upset listeners out there calling for the return of The Brain Sandwich Show. To our knowledge, listeners' letters, e-mails and phone calls have been largely ignored and/or overlooked. If management isn't sensitive to what listeners want, then the "community" in "community radio" becomes a sad joke.

Jim, Jay and I wanted to make it clear that we were not canceled due to a lack of popularity or a lack of support during our pledge drives. We brought in thousands of dollars and lots of new members to the station over the years. In all cases we either met or exceeded our monetary goals, and for that we are justifiably proud. This is why we felt that it was a slap in the face for KDHX to do as they recently did to the show.

To those of you who have followed The Brain Sandwich Show over the years and enjoyed what we did, I say, "Thanks a million." We answered over 80 phone calls, expressing anger at our leaving and/or regret, on our last two shows, which is tremendous considering that we went up against the playoff games and the Super Bowl itself. I can be reached at 636-296-9911, [email protected] or at 28 Sandy Dr., Arnold, MO 63010.

Mike Madonna

Your recent article on KDHX was interesting but horribly one-sided. Why not talk to the KDHX fans who have had their hearts broken over the past year?

When Beverly Hacker canceled several excellent talk shows and cut the rest in half, my heart was broken. KDHX used to be a welcome alternative to the overly corporate KMOX, but now we have virtually nothing left. Yes, music is important, but so is intelligent local talk.

The greatest crime is what she did to the Break a Leg program -- the only show on the radio where theater artists are interviewed by real, working theater people, Debbie Sharn and Scott Miller. There is not another show of this caliber anywhere else on the airwaves, but the aptly named Hacker cut it down to a shameful 15 minutes on the air.

Is this her idea of "intelligent programming"? Is this her way of serving the community? She says KDHX shows should be something we can't get anywhere else, but that's what Break a Leg was, and she has nearly killed it.

Congrats to KDHX for its increased contributions, but don't expect that to last by killing the best shows.

Norman Christiansen

Regarding the Feb. 9 "State of the Arts" column on the dearth of performing-arts space: Let's forget the word "opera" for a moment, OK? There is a 500,000-square-foot magnificent building in our core downtown that includes one of the world's finest main theaters and at least four (two stacked theaters) on either side for up to five simultaneous performance capabilities, plus massive special-events, party, exhibit and civic-event space down below. So where is the space problem?

Kind of like the Kennedy Center, only better. Kind of like the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, only better. Kind of like Playhouse Square in Cleveland, but all in one building.

It can house many performing-arts groups, theater groups, dance groups and help them market, produce and draw. It can bring 1.2 million people a year into a pitiful-ass downtown that offers nothing. It can return to St. Louis from a 300-mile radius the two-night-stay year-round theater- and musical-theater-going tourist who now goes to Chicago, Louisville, Nashville, Tulsa, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Memphis, etc. And how many years in a row will the country's "white-hairs" want to go back to Branson?

It does not need a philanthropist but a group of businesspeople who actually want a return on their investment. The 57 naming opportunities in the building will give St. Louis its first true healthy private endowment for the arts.

The 2004 study and the ULI study were commissioned, controlled and paid for by the Fox, Grand Center and Kiel Partners with the sole purpose of destroying the Kiel Opera House for music. The proposed Smithsonian use was a fraud. Who knows what the blues/jazz plan is? Or the next plan?

We are the only city in the country without a performing-arts center in its core downtown. This is an economic, cultural and tourist-marketing disaster. Think big. St. Louis cannot afford to think small any longer.

Ed Golterman