Technically, Johnson was here stumping for the New York Post, which will begin same-day home distribution in Los Angeles later this month, but that was not the topic of the day. Bonaduce started right in talking about his drinking days back in New York and how one morning he arrived at his DJ job barely sober, bruised and covered in puke and wondering what the hell happened, only to open up the Post to read Johnson going on about how he was drunk as hell running around in clubs the night before. So maybe this was sweet revenge or maybe this was just their morning shtick, but either way it was open season.
The first target was Johnson's style. He showed up wearing a black Izod golf shirt with a pair of Ray-Ban-style glasses hanging from his neck.
"Hey, Richard," Bonaduce said, "the '80s called, and they want their wardrobe back."
Never mind that Johnson's got a tough-guy image. He once wrote, "The only thing Mickey Rourke can box is pizza," and when Rourke claimed Johnson was hiding behind his column, the next day's "Page Six" carried his reply: "Hey Mickey, anytime, anywhere."
Bonaduce stands 5-foot-skinny to Johnson's more-than-6-foot frame, but that wasn't stopping him from questioning Johnson's sexuality. That didn't go over so well, considering Johnson's both mildly conservative and recently separated. But, then again, Bonaduce's got that silly goatee and is wearing snakeskin boots — so go figure.
All of this was slightly surprising, perhaps, because Johnson didn't come to town to find himself in the line of fire, but to be the guy pulling the trigger. His quarry? The Los Angeles Times.
See, the Post isn't just moving in on L.A., they're aiming to take over. The way they figure it, Los Angeles is full of New York transplants just aching for their kind of coverage. In the past few months, the Post opened a printing plant in nearby Ontario, California, and has been busy getting into newsstands and setting up corner kiosks.
"We fill a need," says Johnson. "The L.A. Times is much too serious for gossip. Plus, this is such a one-industry town, the Times can't do what we do. Everyone knows each other too well. They can't go have dinner with friends one night and write bad about them in the morning; they'd step on too many toes, they'd lose all their contacts."
And maybe he's right, but even the Post's famously fanged take on American celebrity has its limits. Soon after Johnson left 98.7 to head down the road to Sam Rubin's morning show on KTLA (Rubin, coincidentally, works for the Tribune Company, which owns the L.A. Times), he was pushing right up against those limits. In the time it took to drive from one station to the next, over in Iraq, Operation Shazam had commenced. What followed may have been one of the strangest pieces of on-air theater in recent radio history.
Sam Rubin fled the studio to broadcast live in front of the Film Academy where the Oscar folks were busy trying to decide if their awards show must go on. He Ô
interviewed passersby about the future of the Oscars and the future of the war, while simultaneously interviewing Johnson about the Post coming to town and the relative importance of his work (Ladies and gentlemen, gossip in a time of war!). And at the same time, the radio station kept cutting both Johnson and Rubin off to go to Channel 5 news, which was somehow feeding CNN's Wolf Blitzkrieg's live coverage from Baghdad. Overtopping all three were interviews with people calling in to support our troops or prognosticate Academy decisions or both.
Rubin, not knowing what else to do, opened the floor to Johnson, who, not knowing what to do, went into late-night infomercial mode: "Well, if you want to subscribe, just head to our Web site, ny post.com, or call 1-800-552-7678."
And then Sam Rubin said something like, "That was gossip guru Richard Johnson, thank you very much, and now, back to the war."
I was driving down Sunset Boulevard and looking at all the movie billboards for Paramount and Sony, and it occurred to me that they were just throwing money at me. Effectively, that's what advertising is. People don't think of it that way, but I looked into doing some for myself, and it costs tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars to do a real campaign," said D.B. "Dan" Weiss.
Dan was driving up Fairfax on a Tuesday evening, heading for Hollywood's Virgin Megastore, where he planned to take a more cost-effective approach to promoting something — himself.
"I figure, I can't afford to throw gobs of money at people, but I can give them enough for a cup of Starbucks coffee."
He took a sip from his own to-go cup, withdrew a single dollar bill from the breast pocket of his suede jacket and handed it over. Either side of the bill had the word www.luckywanderboy.comwritten on it in Sharpie marker.