Straight From the Mouth
The Morning Mouth's April Interview with Mark & Mercedes
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2009 Talentmasters Inc.)
How many years now at Mix? (mention names of all cast members, including lengths of stints.)
Mark: Mercedes and I have been at KMXB for twelve years. We arrived from KJMN/Denver in March of 1997. J.C. Fernandez is our Executive Producer and has been with us since 1998 (aside from a four year stint in Washington D.C. that eventually brought him back to Las Vegas) and Blair Davies just joined the show in February as our Assistant Producer.
JC: I started working at Mix 94.1 in August 1997. I would do an occasional street stunt for M&M, but I started auditioning as their producer on May 1, 1998. They officially gave me the job on August 1, 1998.
What's been your trick to getting along well? What's kept your morning marriage intact?
Mark: I think the key is to truly treat the relationship as a marriage, because that's essentially what it is. We've become pretty good at reading each other over the years and know when it's time for a heart-to-heart or when it's simply time to give each other some space.
Mercedes: I think the key is that I genuinely like, care about and respect these people. Sure, everyone has their ups and downs but I love them like they were brothers and Blair and I have already bonded!
JC: Between 1998-2001 I never had one issue with M&M. In 2001 I left for Washington, DC; that's when I realized how good I had it back in Vegas. I returned to Vegas in September of 2005 and everyday I am just happy to be back with the team. I think I could walk into the studio and Mercedes could punch me right in the nose and my response would be "It's okay, it's okay, I am just glad to be back with you guys." Since Mercedes works out I would then drop to my knees in pain!
Mark: In the early days, I used to throw hissy fits when equipment didn't work, but quickly learned that life is way too short and that blowing up at engineers at 6:00 in the morning doesn't motivate them to help you fix things. Go figure.
Mercedes: I don't have hissy-fits. I just get very quiet and pout until I put my big girl panties on and get over it.
JC: I got a great hissy fit from my Washington, DC days. What should you do when the host of your show calls the co-host the "C" word? And, what do you do when he does this during your annual charity drive in studio full of volunteers? Events like that made me love M&M even more. I do recall one M&M hissy fit. I forget what the argument was about but it was between us and the PD. At the end of the meeting Mark told the boss that he better get out our contracts cause we might want to be getting out of them by the end of the day. At that point I actually blacked out and came to about 20 minutes later when it was just the three of us sitting in our office. I was only 1 year into this great ride and I thought it was all over after that meeting.
Did you ever have a Des Moine's Moment? You know, the sport's station that didn't turn the mic off all the way and then, under a commercial listeners got treated to a dozen "F-bombs." Ever have one of those moments?
Mark: Nothing that bad. Mercedes has a habit of playing YouTube clips from her laptop that she hasn't previewed...and I have a habit of overlooking the "explicit" warning from iTunes when playing song hooks from time to time. The dump button is a beautiful thing.
Mercedes: I'm sure everyone on the show would agree that I'm the one that has to be bleeped...not even for my language! For playing stuff off of my iPod. What can I say? I like to listen to some f***ed up s***.
JC: I remember a while back. We were doing a remote from a bar and we were standing next to the marti. We all had a few drinks us at this point in the evening and I started questioning the sexuality of one of our jocks. I forgot that she was able It just doesn't work.
Mark: That was an interesting scenario that would have reunited us with PD Charese Fruge, who has since returned to KMXB. Aggressive interest from a station across the street made management much more nervous than any of the Los Angeles talk. Mercedes: There were some very exciting offers both in and out of the Vegas market during that time. Mark and I ultimately decided that Mix had been very good to us and that we wanted to stay. But to answer your question...pretty close. Strike that. Real close.
JC: I actually left in January of 2001. I went to work with Billy Bush at WWZZ/ Z104 in Washington, DC. They let Billy go before I got to town. I went onto work with 11 different variations of a morning show. Too bad things did not work out for Billy.
Last time you graced our cover, MIX was it. Now, you're on in Sacramento, too. Was this something you planned, or did CBS (owner) come to you and say "Hey guys, ready for syndication?"
Mark: CBS approached us on this one and so far, it's working extremely well. The staff at CBS/Sacramento is top notch and has gone above and beyond to make us feel welcome and promote the show.
Mercedes: We never set out to syndicate our show. We've been very successful in Las Vegas and we have never taken that for granted. Sacramento actually approached us about syndicating and at first we were pretty hesitant. A lot of questions came up...will it piss off our Vegas listeners, will Sacramento ever embrace a morning show out of Vegas, where are we going for lunch, what is the best Neil Diamond song of all time, etc.? After we got back on task, we decided, "What the hell?" We knew if we didn't give it a try we'd always regret it.
Are other affiliates in play?
Mark: Being discussed as we speak.
How does this work? Do you just throw a switch and BAM! You're on in two places, or is there a lot of back and forth cues?
Mark: It's fairly simple, actually. The show is sent to Sacramento via ISDN and since KMXB and KZZO have virtually identical playlists, we feed the music as well. We have a "network outcue" at the end of our stopset sweepers and then sync a hard rejoin out of local spots, promos, traffic, etc.
Mercedes: If we sign on other affiliates, we're going to have to shoot it out through a satellite or something like that...I don't speak engineer.
JC: My focus is on the start of the show. With one market we just feed the show down the ISDN and we try to start as close to 6:00 a.m. as possible. During the 5 a.m. hour I text our Sacramento board op to give him the exact starting time.
How do you mix local topics for both markets without alienating one with the other?
Mark: It's difficult...we simply can't be as local as we would like without alienating a significant portion of the audience. That's just the reality of syndication. Our goal is to focus on "hot button" topics that appeal to both markets and character development. We strive to create compelling content based on the events of our daily lives and the lives of our listeners. Real, raw and relatable. This is what we've done from day one and it's what we do best.
We don't highlight the fact that the show originates from Las Vegas, but we don't hide from it either. The built-in celebrity factor is a definite advantage when it comes to booking guests and there is a pretty hip and unique feel that the Las Vegas "brand" brings to the table. We try to use that to our advantage when it makes sense.
Mercedes: I don't think we would ever subject ANY listener, Vegas or not to Celine and Barry talk unless the topic was, "Who would you never want to see naked." I think that being in Vegas actually helps...people in other parts of the country are interested in Vegas...they want to hear about the glamour side, the celeb side. If we were in Amarillo, TX, and this is not a slam in any way, it would be different because Amarillo doesn't have the title of "Entertainment Capital of the World." We don't hide the fact that we're in Las Vegas, but we don't dwell on it unless there's a big story from here.
Have to ask: when you have relatives come to visit, where do you take them in Vegas?
Mark: The Palms, Red Rock (off the strip in Summerlin) and Encore are personal favorites.
Mercedes: I take them to the Palms if we're going to get our par-tay on...great restaurants and clubs there. If they want to see a show, there are two must-sees...Jersey Boys at the Palazzo and LOVE at the Mirage.
JC: My relatives never visit me (insert sad face here).
One other question I must ask: The most you've ever won or loss while gambling?
Mark: My first week in town, I won a couple thousand dollars playing Blackjack. I lost it the next night. I then lost another thousand trying to win it back. Lesson learned...you can't live here and gamble on a regular basis. to live in the state that state income-tax free. But, if I had to guess, I'd say the most I have won is $4000, the most that I've lost, $1000.
JC: I am not a big gambler. I think the mos I ever won was 1,000 bucks. This was back in college, so back then it felt like I hit Megabucks!
Nice to see that Charese Fruge is now back in the fold at 'Mix. How does that work with Cat Simon who's the local PD? Who does your show actually answer to?
Mark: We answer primarily to Charese...she travels between San Diego (KSCF) and Las Vegas (KMXB) each week and handles the day to day operations along with APD Brandon Bell. Cat Thomas (Director of Programming) and Bob Proffitt (SVP/Market Manager) are fantastic managers and only get involved when necessary.
Mercedes: Actually, Cat Thomas oversees the FM's in our cluster and but we primarily deal with Charese...she's in town two days out of the week. It's great to have her back.
After doing the show so long and so successfully, do you still have critique sessions?
Mark: No...but I am undoubtedly, my own worst critic and overanalyze the show to death.
Mercedes: No critique sessions but we meet after every show and discuss it together and if Charese is there, we will meet to pick her brain or get ideas for the show.
Okay, putting all of you on the spot: Mark retires tomorrow: If you could pick anyone you wanted to take his place, money not an object, who would it be?
Mercedes: Hmmm, that's tough...I'd either ask JC to come on as a host or I'd beg John Mayer to do it because he's funny as hell.
JC: I really could not imagine working with another team. Put if I had to pick I would say JohnJay or Rich (the shorter one, is that Rich??), or Bert out of Atlanta. Mercedes wins the $200 million dollar mega ball lottery and say adios. If you could pick anyone you wanted to take her place, money not an object, who would you pick?
Mark: Tough call...I really respect and admire Sarah Clark (KLLC/San Francisco) and Lisa Foxx (KYSR/Los Angeles).
JC: It is hard to find great female talent in this business. Laura Cain from San Diego, or if money is not an object, then I would go big, perhaps Scarlett Johansson. I would gawk at her for a few days then retire.
JC gets hired by Barry Manilow to produce this Vegas Act. If you could pick anyone you wanted to take his place, money not an object, who would you pick?
Mercedes: Wow...this is tough. He does so much for us. I'd pick Yankee Pete from Ace & TJ. I'm sure they'll just love me for saying that...
Mark: Another tough call...J.C is the best Producer in radio, but I am a huge fan of Yankee Pete (WNKS/Charlotte), Little Tommy Sablan (KMYI/San Diego) or anyone who can give me meds. I would need them after losing J.C to Barry freakin' Manilow. C'mon!