​Cruisin’ in the Kingdom of KIIS

While the rest of America freezes in record low temperatures, California is bathed in unseasonal sunshine. It’s mid-winter in L.A. yet, a balmy 28 degrees Celcius as the Mustang GT thunders down the Santa Monica freeway and like the lyric in Don Henley’s Boys of Summer, I’ve “got the top pulled down, Radio on, baby.” It’s tuned to 102.7 KIIS FM, the ancestral home of it’s newly anointed Sydney namesake at 106.5.

The King of KIIS,  Ryan Seacrest, is on his throne. Actually he’s in Wichita or Bumscrat Idaho or some other equally exotic location as he does a week of American Idol on the road. No matter, he and co-host Ellen K have Alejandra on the line and it sounds live and local enough. Alejandra has signed up for a regular segment called Ryan’s Roses because she thinks her husband is cheating on her. To find out what’s really on hubby’s mind, Ryan will gift him a dozen roses to send to whomever he likes. Will he choose to send the flowers to his wife or the woman at work with whom she suspects he is having an affair?

We’ll have to wait another 15 minutes to find out as the station plays a thick bracket of ads dominated by phone companies followed by a couple of songs, shortened to fit in the ads. There’s no news either because that would interfere with the ads too. Meanwhile, the freeway traffic’s congealed to a sticky goo, the consistency of last night’s spag bag, that’s brought the mighty Mustang to a crawl.

In truth, like much of tinsel town, the car is mostly style with barely a nod to substance. It’s a very blunt instrument – both ergonomically and dynamically flawed compared to my Golf GTi back home. Nimble it ain’t and there’s no way to get comfortable in its shapeless seats. Nonetheless the car looks great with it’s muscular stance and thumping big V8 under the hood (American for bonnet). It gives off a glorious growl that would make the MGM lion wince in shame.

Just as the traffic starts moving again, we’re suddenly back with Ryan, Ellen and Alejandra.

Clearly the British nurse incident, that has yet to fully play out in Australia, has not gone un-noticed in the U.S. Before they make the call to Alejandra’s husband to award him the roses, Seacrest says to her pointedly, ‘Just to be clear, you are giving us permission to call your husband for the purpose we’ve discussed, right?’ She gives her permission. The sting is set into motion.

So as not to tip the husband off, it is the florist (or someone that sounds like one) that calls him to offer him the flowers, which he accepts. The florist asks what he’d like to say on the card. He says to write, ‘I’m just sending you these to brighten your day.’

‘And who would you like me to send these to?’ enquires the florist.

He opts not for his long-suffering wife, nor the woman she suspects but a third party. As it turns out, he’s quite the office Casanova.

At this point Seacrest gets on the phone and before the conversation goes much further, he says to the husband, ‘You realise, you’re on the air?’ He does. But 15 minutes of fame, or in this case infamy, seems worth more to him than the marriage that’s disintegrating around him for all L.A. to hear.

Well, not quite all L.A. but about 5% of it, which in a city of 18 million and over 100 radio signals is enough to catapult it to number one. Well, not necessarily number one – it depends on what criteria you use. Is it according to Nielsen or Arbitron? FM or AM is less important than whether it’s English speaking or Hispanic. In any case, KIIS bills itself as LA’s #1 Hit Music Station. Who could argue with that?

The freeway is about to come to an abrupt end. Go too much further and we’d fly off the end of the Santa Monica Pier. Turn left and we’ll end up at Venice Beach. Turn right, it’s Malibu. We opt for Malibu … we’ve heard you can get a decent cup of coffee there.

After more ads for more phone deals and Vegas hotels and a few more songs on what seems an extraordinarily tight rotation (I could swear I heard Jason Derulo’s Talk Dirty in the previous bracket, or the one before – or both) Seacrest and crew are back.

After Alejandra tells hubby she’s packing up the kids to stay at her mother’s house, it’s the listeners’ turn to tell L.A. what a slime bag this guy really is.

Ryan Seacrest is a class act. He’s the engine that keeps what could otherwise be a disjointed radio program pulling in the same direction. He’s the consummate voice of reason that keeps the freak show from descending into chaos. He never let’s the sleaze meter go above a ‘3’ or so. He is the broadcast professionals’ professional. With his impeccable manners, you’d be happy to invite him into your home for breakfast.

By comparison, you might baulk at having Kyle Sandilands share a bowl of Wheaties with your kids. Yet, for my money I’d rather listen to Kyle and Jackie O than Ryan and Ellen. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, or more simply put, localism at work. But to my ears, Seacrest is just a bit dry – or at least he was on this occasion.

Kyle and Jackie O, like the singer with a slight rasp in their voice, seem to be possessed of just a tad more character.

But for now, cruisin’ down the boulevard with what would be the wind through my hair, if I had any, the Mustang, the sunshine and KIIS-FM – in L.A. style – will do me just fine – with or without substance.

Going nowhere fast in the hotel driveway.   Peter Saxon

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