FM hosts revitalize AM broadcasting

In order for a radio pitch to be effective, it is imperative that the person making the pitch expresses some kind of interest. So, while recording an on-air promo for one local charity’s vehicle donation program, it seemed like a plus that talk radio personality Frank Kramer was endorsing the services so animatedly.

“They even accept planes, for Christ’s sake!” Kramer relayed to listeners.

Talking heads · After gaining popularity on the now-defunct FM station KLSX, the talk-radio comedy trio Frosty, Heidi and Frank are broadcast daily on 790 KABC, an AM station that airs news and commentary. - Photos courtesy of Daniella Maestasn

Talking heads · After gaining popularity on the now-defunct FM station KLSX, the talk-radio comedy trio Frosty, Heidi and Frank are broadcast daily on 790 KABC, an AM station that airs news and commentary. - Photos courtesy of Daniella Maestasn

Ordinarily, the enthusiasm would have been fine. This promo, however, was for the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles.

Considering the fact that Kramer mentioned the name of the Messiah in a spot for a Jewish nonprofit, the fallout from the slip-up was negligible. It could have been the regretful look he shot the control room immediately after making the ironic faux-pas or the fact that the mistake was too funny to get all that worked up about, but the most likely explanation for the lack of backlash is that this sort of thing has come to be expected from Frosty, Heidi and Frank.

“We’ve been told to hijack the station,” said Kramer, who along with Frosty Stilwell and Heidi Hamilton accounts for one-third of the talk radio comedy trio Frosty, Heidi and Frank.

The station being commandeered is TalkRadio 790 KABC, an AM frequency best known as the broadcast home of Dodgers baseball.

“KABC is like a heritage station,” Frosty said. “It’s a legendary set of call letters: KABC.”

The three new additions to the station’s morning lineup have been doing their best to complete the task they’ve been given — that is, revitalizing the AM talk-radio format.

Since making their AM radio debut on Oct. 5, KABC’s ratings for the weekday morning timeslot leapt a staggering 187 percent in the first eight days of being on the air.

Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon, Frosty, Heidi and Frank discuss the news of the day, though quotes around the words “discuss” and “news” are probably in order. Sometimes the conversation topics are timely and socially relevant, but most of the stories trucked out in the course of the show are gleefully inconsequential and bizarre.

To get an idea of the show’s roundabout meandering through topics, here’s the description accompanying the Frosty, Heidi and Frank Uncensored podcast for Oct. 23: “Guantanamo Bay, snoopers, chivalry, dating, magic jackets.”

In their new home on 790 AM, Frosty, Heidi and Frank have been handed a far older demographic than they’re accustomed to — the station management reports an average listener age of 67.

Beyond tugging down the mean age of KABC listeners, the vibrant personalities they bring to their three-hour show are expected to infuse color into the monotone landscape that is AM radio as most know it.

“If you listen to the AM talk stations in LA or any city that you want to listen to, it’s pretty much right-wing, conservative political talk,” Frosty said. “That’s not what we are.”

Frosty, Heidi and Frank certainly do make for an unlikely presence on the predominantly conservative and woefully low-fidelity AM airwaves.

The three Indiana natives represent a break from the convention of how an AM talk radio host is expected to look, talk or think: Kramer is a self-described “hound dog” with a penchant for the daily enjoyment of both marijuana and members of the opposite sex; Hamilton is a wine fiend and proud lesbian who reportedly to possess an eight-inch tongue; Stilwell, far and away the oldest of the group, is described in the lead-in to the uncensored podcast they record after the main show as the “overweight, middle-aged, sexually obscure one.”

“We butt-slam right into Sean Hannity,” Kramer eagerly pointed out. Sure enough, the Frosty, Heidi and Frank show does in fact precede ultra-conservative pundit Sean Hannity’s three-hour broadcast in the KABC weekday lineup. To any informed observer, the scheduling irony has all the makings of the setup to some sort of big cosmic joke.

Although the trio is practically a study in diversity with very few common interests that don’t come in a bottle or a can, they are fiercely loyal in their support of one another.

“We’re showing people that, you know, you don’t have to totally agree or be a part of whatever that lifestyle is [to defend it],” Kramer said.

He offered the example that, although she doesn’t smoke weed, Hamilton thinks of Kramer when someone asks her to sign a petition against a pot dispensary down the block and refuses. Similarly, when it comes to a gay pride parade, Kramer will usually be sitting right next to Hamilton, waving to the crowd.

The three co-hosts were also there for one another during their recent bout of unemployment.

The seven months of being jobless, which began in late February with the conclusion of their hugely successful experiment in FM talk radio on KLSX 97.1 and ended with the Oct. 5 kickoff of their current gig on 790 KABC, almost proved too much to bear for the talk-radio veterans.

“The audience feedback was great while we were off the air — the support was awesome,” Kramer recalled. “Everyone was saying, ‘We need you guys.’ But I didn’t realize how much I needed them, or I needed to have that outlet … I didn’t realize that this show was my therapy.”

Frosty, Heidi and Frank’s eight and a half-year stint on the novel FM talk station KLSX ended for reasons paradoxical at best.

“When we left KLSX, we left at number one,” Stillwell said. “So we left not through any failing or fault of our own, and the corporate people from New York acknowledged that. They said, ‘It’s nothing to do with you, you didn’t do anything wrong, it’s a corporate decision to save money to eliminate the entire staff.’”

Kramer revealed that the ratings bonuses alone that the three of them were due to receive would have been in the six-figure range, collectively. After so many successful ratings periods (year after year, they sat comfortably at the number one spot for the vast majority of their run on KLSX), they were a part of what was probably the most expensive station in the entire CBS radio chain.

Stillwell speculated that the cut-and-dry decision was an easy one for the dispassionate “bean counters on the other coast.”

“They looked at the payroll and said, ‘Wow, we’re paying this much to keep a station on the air? Let’s get rid of them and go to music for nothing,’” he said.

Heidi added, “We got punished for being successful.”

Kramer approached the others about doing a weekly podcast and on March 9, only 17 days after the dissolution of KLSX 97.1, the first one-hour Frosty, Heidi and Frank Uncensored podcast premiered on iTunes. The now-daily podcast, which was originally recorded in a studio in Santa Monica, Calif. and later in a recording studio Stillwell built in his own dining room (named “Rudy Dog Studios” in memory of his trusty sidekick and loyal pet Rudy Dog), is now recorded just down the hall from where the main KABC show is broadcasted, although in a visibly dinkier studio.

Seven months later, the trio’s savior came in the shape of a former authority figure.

“When we were coming down to the wire of our contracts being paid out, our old boss Bob Moore, who backed us up from day one at 97.1, [wanted] us to come over here and have the opportunity once again to do something that nobody’s ever done before,” Kramer said. “Let’s revolutionize AM radio, let’s revitalize that. Let’s get the defibrillator and shock AM radio back into reality and to be relevant again.”

Consider the paddles fired up.

10 replies
  1. Krystal
    Krystal says:

    I got introduced to FHF by my dad when I was 13 years old. I’m 20 now and this radio station is something I can talk and laugh about with my dad who I rarely talk with. I have never missed a show since and download every podcast they produce and will continue to follow them wherever they go. KABC is great and gets another listener out of me because of FHF and now 97.1 is no longer allowed in the car. Love ya Frosty, Heidi and Frank!!!


  2. Mikey
    Mikey says:

    We need these guys on the air more than ever. People have to realize that we are living in 2009 not 1909. I think it’s fair to say that the real non political shock jock radio hosts are gone. The weird thing is that FHF don’t sound like they are hosts. They sound like a couple three friends sitting in a bar having some fun kickass conversation that you get to here pumping out of your speakers. They don’t have that fake radio voice that most radio personalities have. Oh and for you boring old timers that are focused in on my grammatical mistakes…….It’s 2009 biatches.

  3. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I am from Phoenix AZ and have been listening to FHF since they replaced Howard Stern on our local station. I don’t think I have ever missed a show on air or podcast. I will faithfully follow them wherever they go!!

  4. Eyad
    Eyad says:

    I have been listening to FHF for more than 6 years; so funny and entertaining; and as other guys said about AM Conservative radio in LA has no place; big example Tim Conway JR; who was funny as hell at 97.1 but now after he moved to AM and changed his personality exactly like Glenn beck when he moved to fox; i have no respect at all to Tim Conway JR; and am sorry to spend the time listing to him; and am sure his show “i don’t even know if he still on the air”; am sure no one listen’s to his crap. but FHF are the fumiest group on the radio.

  5. amber e. smith
    amber e. smith says:

    I need these guys. I didn’t realize how much I needed them, or I needed to have that outlet … I didn’t realize that this show was my therapy.

  6. Matt Scott
    Matt Scott says:

    I’ve been an FHF fan for about three years, and cannot express how happy I am that Frosty, Heidi, and Frank are back on the air! FM Talk is dead, FM music is obsolete in a world of iPod’s where you can hear any song on demand rather than the crap and commercials you’re being force fed. Internet radio is shaping up, but FHF are giving it one last chance to turn around or be left behind!

    Thanks Frosty, Heidi, and Frank!

    -Matt from Canada

  7. Calvinator
    Calvinator says:

    Most People are center to left in Los Angeles and the conservative talk radio in this city has no real place. As well as people are sick of hearing the politic of hate radio. FHF are entertainment, current events and news story oriented. Frosty, Heidi and Frank are up front, pragmatic, and make you laugh! After listening to them you begin to feel like they are your friends. We are lucky to have them here in LA.

  8. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    I have been a loyal listener of the show since they were on Star 98.7. KABC did themselves, FHF and us listeners a HUGE favor by putting them back on the air!!! So thank you KABC for giving us back 3 more hours of FHF because a one hour podcast is just not enough!! I love you guys and will follow you wherever you go!!!

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