By Hillel Aron
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By Jill Stewart
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Fans of Big Boy’s Neighborhood will recognize him as Tattoo, whose initial notoriety began back in 2000, when he had the dubious statement permanently etched just under his hairline to win Lakers playoff tickets. The stunt earned him a regular spot on the show, where his habit of losing on-air bets has earned him further questionable inkage, such as a rendering of Lindsay Lohan’s face over his heart. Today, Tattoo’s just lost a wager with the morning show’s primary pinup girl and voice of estrogen, Luscious Liz, regarding Tupac’s friendship with Tony Danza. Now he’s scheduled for a tattoo of Danza’s face and the line “Who’s the Boss?” on his back. He makes a Burger King run while Big Boy continues to explain his career trajectory.
“I did the overnight show from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., and Power liked it and asked me to do it again,” he remembers. “After the second night, they offered me the evening shift, which at that time was 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. The ratings were great, so they moved me to afternoon drive time, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.”
With Big Boy’s popularity growing both in the streets and with advertisers, it wasn’t long before the station approached him about taking over the highly contested morning slot, radio’s Holy Grail, where most stations generate the lion’s share of their revenue.
“I didn’t want to do it,” he shrugs. “I was kicking ass on the air in the afternoons, I could go clubbing at night and sleep in the next day. It was a nice setup. But once I saw the competition of doing mornings, I got sucked in. There were a lot of people that said I couldn’t do it. So I did it not to prove them wrong, but to prove me right.”
With his morning show — a rollicking circus of prank phone calls, celebrity gossip and hip-hop hits — ruling the morning airwaves over the past eight years, Big Boy’s reign hasn’t gone unchallenged. The stiffest competition came in the form of popular black comedian Steve Harvey, who hosted the morning drive for Power 106’s most direct competitor at the time, The Beat 100.3 FM, starting in the autumn of 2000.
“It wasn’t a problem,” Big Boy says with a dismissive wave. “I’ve always had other stations put up programming to ‘get me,’ on every shift I’ve worked. The mornings have been no different. Steve was the guy, and he hit the ground running. But Steve never fell into any of the media bullshit; neither did I.” Big Boy vehemently denies rumors of friction.
“Steve is like my brother. He brought a class to L.A. radio. He respected me and I respected him. The only problem for me was that he couldn’t be on my show anymore. There’s enough money and people out here in L.A. for everybody.” (The Beat has since switched formats; Harvey, now based in New York, hosts a nationally syndicated morning show aired locally on KDAY-FM.)
Around that same time, Power 106 debuted the first of an ongoing series of notorious billboards to promote Big Boy’s morning show. It featured the eye-popping image of the DJ wearing nothing but silk boxer shorts under the title “Morning Obsession,” a parody of the day’s Calvin Klein cologne ads.
“Even now, I still trip out when I see [my billboards]. I never get used to that feeling, and I hope I never do.”
It was early 2002 when Will Smith visited Big Boy’s Neighborhood. At one point during the show, Smith confronted Big Boy about his health. When the DJ laughed off the warning, Smith got serious with him off the air.
“Will was like, ‘But what about your heart, Big?’ He was really concerned.”
But his size didn’t bother Big Boy in the least. “I’ve never been unhappy in my skin. I was always the big dude you wanted to be around, that had ladies and was happy. I was never at home being sad about being fat or getting teased. I never got teased, though, because kids knew I’d crack their teeth out,” he guffaws with a sly grin. “I was able to accommodate for my size; it never slowed me down, even at 510 pounds. If I needed a suit, I could have one made. If I needed a car, I just got a truck.”
Eventually, he struck a deal with Will Smith. Smith would pony up $1,000 to charity for every pound Big Boy lost, initially challenging him to shed 50 pounds. He dropped from 510 to 399 through a stringent diet and regular exercise. But like so many before him, he slowly began to put weight back on. With the pounds came new and unforeseen health issues.
“I’d been plus-sized ever since I was 5 years old. I never had high blood pressure, diabetes, none of that shit. But when I lost so much weight and started putting it back on, it was a shock to my system. There were times my legs would go numb. I couldn’t even walk through the airport without having to stop and rest. I’d never noticed my weight before. Now it felt like I was wearing a fat suit. I started to feel real, real bad, to the point where I thought I was going to die. That’s when I realized that if I wanted to live, I would have to do something fast. I didn’t care if it jeopardized my status as ‘Big Boy.’ ” Soon, he was considering gastric bypass surgery.