By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
Then, late at night on March 21, there is a devastating posting. Bruce Elliott, co-host with Michael Perrick of the political-satire show Thursdays at Nine and a DJ with Kill Radio from the very beginning, has killed himself.
Matt DeMello’s show followed theirs each week. ”I‘d go in there with a six-pack of beer, and they’d usually stick around. We shared a lot of conversation about Hawaiian music.“ Though DeMello found out about the death earlier in the evening, he says it didn‘t fully hit him until he entered the radio room. ”I’m used to walking in and there‘s loud comedy going crazy. When I walked in that night, it was empty and dark, and there were plants and flowers everywhere. It was silent, except for Willie Nelson playing quietly on the radio. It was the saddest Willie Nelson record you could possibly put on. To this day I still don’t know who did that.“
It is Friday night, and Mauricio Figuls (a.k.a. Rev. Mo) has dedicated his show, Rumble City Inspector, to Bruce Elliott, hosting a sort of on-air memorial to which all the Kill Radio DJs are invited. Figuls has tousled jet-black hair and a mushy, open face with dark, tender eyes. ”Tonight we‘re playing the music Bruce liked, the music he put up with, the music he drove us to,“ he says, his speech somewhat garbled. Then he throws on an LP of classic Indian film soundtracks. ”Bruce had a large collection of trucker music, and he was an obsessive Beatles fanatic.“ Figuls estimates that, at most, 20 people are currently listening. But he leans in and cradles his mike with both hands as if it were drive time.
In two weeks there will be a ”proper“ memorial service for Elliott at a ”gay- and leather-friendly church,“ as one invite puts it, in West Hollywood -- to which more than 200 people will show. But at the moment, few are here: just Figuls’ wife, Martha, sunken into the couch with their 4-year-old daughter, Mavis, and Michael Perrick. A part-time actor who played the ”alternative-looking guy“ in a national Mattel commercial, Perrick is slumped in an office chair with wheels, rolling himself back and forth in the center of the room. Over and over again. His head is shaved but for a narrow 5-foot-long ponytail wrapped tightly in colored twine that loops twice around his neck. A trio of small silver a hoops hang from his nose, and an additional 23 piercings run along the edges of his ears. A close friend of Elliott‘s for 11 years, he’s the one who found the body.
But no one is talking details. Instead, they eat, they listen to music -- Bruce‘s music -- and they laugh and they dance. There is ”stoner food“ strewn about: orange soda, BBQ chips, Fig Newtons. As more people trickle in, adding to the buffet, the noise level rises. Soon Martha is up and swaying with Mavis. Perrick shimmies into the center of the room, tall and gangly, pierces jingling, and does a ”Superchicken“ dance: hands in the air, fingers wriggling, strutting back and forth. Figuls pops on a tape from Thursdays at Nine, and Elliott’s voice goes out over the air.
On the radio room‘s community board, where the weekly agenda is handwritten in thick blue marker, it now says: ”Bruce D. Elliott, With all love, for ever and ever. We go on for you.“
There are tens of thousands of radio stations on the Web. According to Arbitron, the listening base for online radio is significantly up, from 6 percent in 1998 to 25 percent in 2001. While only 7 percent of wired households have high-speed connections, that number is expected to double in the next year. It’s such a ”hot“ topic, in fact, that if you put out an online request for an expert in ”the future of Internet radio,“ it might fill your voice-mail box, crash your computer and reunite you with a childhood friend. But the term ”Internet radio“ is still vague, encompassing anything from a teenager in her bedroom uploading CDs onto a personal Web page, to KROQ.com, to Live365.com, a free service that helps you customize and launch your own radio station (all vegananimal-rights music by vegetarian artists, say) and then integrates you into its directory of 34,091 other stations -- all of which it runs ads on. And then there are Internet-only radio sites with anywhere from two to a large collective of DJs, broadcasting as a business.
Dublab.com, a ”cross-genrecross-era“ radio site based in L.A., sees itself as a Ben & Jerry‘s of the Internet. ”We’re definitely a business,“ says Mark McNeill, a.k.a. DJ Frosty, ”but running within a capitalistic environment and making money, you have a lot more opportunity to give back to the community.“ According to McNeill, many local stations went down with the dot-com crash: Soundbreak, Spike Radio. There are probably just a few dozen Internet-only radio sites left here, he estimates, and a handful of them, like Grooveradio.com, are part of Enigma Digital, a group of Internet stations recently bought by radio giant Clear Channel Communications.