The atmospherics in the Seattle AM radio world-at-small is roiling like a Baghdad meat-shoot after BlatherWatch broke the news of low-rated veteran broadcaster Mike Siegel's firing from KTTH morning drive and his replacement by rookies Dan Sytman and Dave Boze.
It's been in the air all week. Nobody's surprised that Siegel's been thrown in front of the bus. BlatherWatch has been reporting forever how poor his ratings have been, how far he's been losing to such as KOMO morning news, KIRO morning news, KVI's Kirby Wilbur and even Air America.
In the last book, he got just 1.7 % share of adults age 25-54; up from 1.4% the book before.
Siegel's dogged, he's bright, he's experienced- he's an attorney for god's sake- but he doesn't have a style that makes you love him. We think that's key for any performer.
Siegel started in Seattle radio in 1988 working for the legendary Brian Jennings on the old KING
1090AM. After being fired there, he followed Jennings over to KVI, where Rush Limbaugh was just coming on, Kirby Wilbur was still a real estate appraiser, and John carlson was on unemployment after his KIRO TV gig ended.
Self-described as a liberal, he was never really trusted by local conservatives, even after he said he became one. We remember a lot of eye-rolling going on by the likes of Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson back when Siegel was at KVI. The standing joke was that Siegel could be a conservative in the morning and a liberal in the afternoon.
One of our sources on wry said: "Siegel's reinvented himself more times than Madonna...we can only pray he never makes a music video in a leotard." We'll second him on that, especially after seeing him do the James Brown Wednesday night.
He could be dazzlingly hypocritical and situational in his conservatism. Like last summer when he vacationed in France after months of French-baiting and calling for boycotts of French produits a la his old friend Bill O'Reilly.
Siegel's ties with Bill O'Reilly goes back to the '90's when the Grand Bloviator was still anchoring the trashy syndicated TV tabloid, Inside Edition. He convinced O'Reilly there was a conspiracy of high-profile pedophiles whose tentacles (testicles?) extended from Seattle to Olympia. It was supposedly headed up by a high-ranking Seattle Police official and covered up by Mayor Norm Rice (who Siegel always passionately hated). O'Reilly came to town and tried to confront Hizzoner with a camera crew, but Rice ducked him, and the story went away. O'Reilly went home to NY presumably to pick on cripples, little old ladies and get active in the loofah culture.
Siegel's most famous excess and firing and the end of an ascending career is detailed in our definitive but hilarious KVI Radio: An Irreverent Histoire:
Siegel had success confronting Seattle establishment politicians and officials over a wide range of issues. He shed real light on the weird Wenatchee sex/civil rights abuse case and Olympia's OK Boy’s Ranch scandal and made national news by exposing Frugal Gourmet Jeff Smith’s juvenile sexual dandling abruptly ending the food celebrity's TV and publishing careers.
But his investigations didn't involve the shoe leather and sourcing that constitutes responsible journalism. Callers, many with personal agenda unrelated to the public good, would phone on-air tips to be followed up by Siegel. This led to raw rumors flying around and someone was bound to get hurt. Ultimately it was Siegel and KVI radio.
In 1996, Siegel encouraged (or at least didn't discourage) on-air discussion about an apocryphal sexual incident involving Mayor Norm Rice who was running for governor. Rice held an emotional press conference denouncing the rumors as "hate talk." Siegel was fired.
In 2000, Siegel got a big break when he was hired to take over Art Bell's national overnight UFO paranoid/paranormal Coast to Coast after Bell was to retire. But after about 6 months, Bell came back and Siegel was out of work once more. He had tried national syndication in the early '90's which hadn't worked out either.
After a couple of years doing fill-in work all over the country, and a full-time, half-pay job in Long Island. Siegel, in January, 2003 landed the morning slot on the Entercom start-up KTTH, hopeful competitor to KVI, from whom Siegel had been fired so publically and humiliatingly.
But Siegel's show degenerated into a tedious early morning lecture series relieved only by such exhilarating regulars as Stefan "Pass the Danish" Sharkansky, Bob "the Bagel" Williams, Chris "Krullers" Vance and "The General" who runs a sound end BBQ joint and waxed poetic with Mike (the "reverse Oreo") about sweet potato pies. Nobody called, nobody listened.
Can Siegel ever work in the Seattle market again?
Our guy "Joe," a radio pro says, "Siegel...made a career off short term deals with broadcasters who'd abandoned their "search for excellence" long before the passing of [management guru] Peter Drucker." So maybe he can...if Frank Shiers can get work, goes the theory, so can Mike Siegel.
Brian Maloney, Radio Equalizer, conservative radio blogger and former KVI and KIRO talker says, "Mike Siegel may have difficulty finding further work in Seattle, but I wouldn't underestimate his ability to find opportunities elsewhere. Even though the ratings aren't there, Siegel is well-connected in talk radio and has many people he can phone.
But he might be surprised how much the industry has shrunk since the last time he was looking for work. Many of his old friends have been run out of the business by consolidation. I see no chance of a return to KVI for Mike, but stranger things have happened."
Stay tuned for more analysis and upcoming changes at KIRO and KTTH we believe will be coming.
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