Straight From the Mouth
The Morning Mouth's December Interview with Hollywood Hamilton
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2007 Talentmasters Inc.)
Have you always been called Hollywood?
The nickname of Hollywood was given to me when I was a little boy. Growing up in Las Vegas during the 1960's my father was a comedian and the entertainment director for several major Hotel & Casinos. My dad use to dress me up in a little tuxedo and sometimes bring me out onstage with the showgirls for laughs. One night as I was sitting backstage watching his dancers run back and forth changing their costumes a showgirl stopped and said, "Look at you in that tuxedo, you look like little Hollywood." Ever since that night my family just called me Hollywood to bust my balls and it just stuck. By the way that was considered an outing with my dad -- Friday nights I'd get to go backstage.
I remember when I went from a more music daypart to mornings, I'd etc. Having made these switches yourself, do you go through the same routine?
You've got incredibly creative disc jockeys out there and then you've got your entertainers, but nothing's worse then hearing it get twisted. Because of the fact that for the last ten years companies have been telling on air talent throughout America to "make it quick," or, "say what you need to say in 30 seconds" it's almost impossible to cultivate DJs into radio personalities. When a night guy or afternoon jock gets a shot at mornings a lot of times they'll sound like DJs in the morning with no sense of comedic timing. That's because they're so used to getting their breaks done quickly. It's getting more and more difficult for the majors to find great morning personalities that have the whole package. That's why you see these companies hiring outside the box and constantly f*cking it up. And don't even get me started with these taped shows and prerecorded shifts, what is that?
At presstime, Whoopi Goldberg just exited mornings at WKTU. Are mornings in back in your future?
Hold on, let me shake this crystal ball that's sitting right here on my
You've worked in a lot of great markets and stations. Who were the jocks along the way that made the biggest impressions on you?
When I was a kid I used to love listening to Broadway Bill Lee on KFRC in San Francisco. The station was AM and I could just barely hear it late at night from another state. There was something incredibly magic about great jocks on AM radio in those days. Also when I was working on KIIS-FM for years studying Rick Dees's every move that was tremendously influential as well. And then there was working on the same station with legendary PD/morning man Scott Shannon at Z100, learning from him and at the same time getting the shit beat out of me nightly, taught me a lot. And of course the timing of Howard Stern cannot be duplicated.
Going back to the major market thing, a lot of personalities reading this may wonder "What does it take to make it in a mega-market like NY, LA, Chicago, etc. What do you think? If I'm a young jock in Savannah, GA, what do I need to start doing now to make it to a major?
I can only tell you what worked for me. Never get comfortable in anyone town or city. Keep moving up the market ladder stay away from parallel moves. Keep improving your sound and continually updating that air check. Get press on yourself and build that press kit. Become friends with major market talent, email them and tell them they're the greatest, what ever it takes. See if they'll sit down with you and maybe go over your work. More talent is coming up and getting on weekends through the 'who you know' program. Along the way stay away from anchors like getting married two or three times, having tons of kids and a fat mortgage. ...A DJ trying to get to a top 5 city is much like a fugitive running from the law, keep it light and keep it focused.
Just for fun, what does a jock in N.Y. make doing a remote?
Depending on the remote and the personality they'll make anywhere from $500 to $1000. Ten years ago it was a lot different, it was under the table. These days you do the remotes just to get out, now it's all about the big endorsements that's where the moneys is.
I was seventeen years old. My parents were issued a cease & dissest from the FCC for their kid broadcasting on an illegal pirate radio station. It was through that bootleg station that a hometown program director gave me my first real paying job; it was 2am-6am at $240.00 a week.
Okay, show stuff: Over the years, tell us the things you've done on the air that were your proudest moments?
Racing in the Long Beach Celebrity Grand Prix on ESPN or different Celebrity charity events such as the Chrysler Celebrity Ski Classic. When it comes to actual on air moments it would half to be being part of the opening lineup and signing Z100 New York on the air or signing my very first syndication deal with Disney back in the late 80s. "Hangin’ with Hollywood" on the main stage at Disneyland every Sunday night. It was America's biggest live remote & celebrity stage show, it was a blast.
What's it like getting guests in NY or LA?
I've heard some horror stories about the competition amongst shows. Believe me, getting guests on any show in any market takes an act of Congress. Having a celebrity driven syndicated countdown helps but it's tough. Any jock will tell you there is nothing more rewarding then a great interview; it's those bad ones that will kill you. Janet Jackson walks in and she doesn't feel like speaking today, ya know the Janet-quite-and-shy interview, that can be tough. The only way to save that type of interview is you just never run out of questions. Don't get me wrong I've had her on her good days as well. Speaking of the Jacksons out of all the years of doing interviews the one guy that I just couldn't lock down is her brother Michael. Over the years my favorite is Madonna, she has no problem hanging up on you during an interview, and she has. Also any and all hip hop artists, never at a loss for words and always have something to say and plug.
What are your 5 absolutes that you do before every day's show?
#1 Know your happenings. If it's happening in your city you've got to know about it. #2 Leave your problems outside the studio. #3 Exercise, workout and find out if there’s anything he needs of you on the air. #5 Say a small prayer, you never know it could be your last shift.
Tell us about your syndication? Do you manage it yourself? How many affiliates are you up to?
The Weekend Top 30 Countdown will be in its tenth year this February. The show is recorded in real time; we record the Pop version on Wednesday nights and the Urban version on Thursday nights. I sit in New York with the scripts and our guests and the staff and engineers are sitting in the USRN studios in Los Angeles.
Any thoughts on PPM?
Being in NY, it's gotta be on your mind. I love PPM! It's about time; true radio listening habits are finally out now. The program and the software are mind blowing. It's going to bust the bubble of some stations and make others say "Oh my God, they are listening to us after all." More then ever marketing and promotions have got to be on point. Make those appointments.
So Imus returned to New York this month. What did you learn from that whole experience?
I've never had any huge respect for shock guys. Who do you think has it easier? The shock jock that hardly has any rules and creates ratings by being able to shout out pretty much anything he or she wants? OR the radio personality that speaks to a broad range of listeners, grabbing big numbers as they work within boundaries. Elvis Duran, Ryan Seacrest, Rick Dees, Big Boy, Kidd, these are true radio personalities that have had to live within boundaries there whole career and have had mad success.