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Radio Silence

Morning show host Darian O'Toole outlives Alex Bennett, but not by long

By Zack Stentz

Founding fathers and political sparring partners Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the very same day in 1826. (July 4th!) Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty fell together over Reichenbach Falls. The Achaean Greeks razed the sacred walls of Troy to their foundations, only to get overrun by their own Dorian neighbors within a generation of the victory. So it seemed only appropriate that Bay Area morning show hosts and radio rivals Alex Bennett (105.3) and Darian O'Toole (98.1) should be yanked from the airwaves within days of each other.

Bennett was the first to go, leaving the air for the last time July 11 without giving any indication that Friday's show was to be his last. (The news was leaked in the Chronicle the same morning.) The station cited a steady audience erosion as the reason for Bennett's dismissal (get his side of the story online at http://monkey.hooked.net/m/exile/absentia.html).

After vamping for two weeks by playing music in the drive-time slot, the station ended July by hiring popular and genuinely funny stand-up Johnny Steele to take Bennett's place. (I was hoping for Greg Proops, but alas, it was not to be.)

Rival broadcaster O'Toole wasted no time in gloating, having previously announced that driving him off the air by garnering superior demographics was her raison d'etre. But O'Toole's reverie was to be short-lived; she too fell victim to the ax, as her parent station switched format from '70s oldies to "urban contemporary." O'Toole's pale face was distinctly out of sync with the new order at 98.1, but she's rumored to have been offered drive-time slots in New York or Los Angeles, her "ovaries with attitude" shtick being well-suited to the realities of post-Lilith Fair, female-dominated playlists.

Still, her abrupt departure does leave a hole in the testosterone-soaked environment of Bay Area radio. And Live 105 ditching Bennett feels a bit like Dracula selling his coffin. In any case, Bay Area airwaves won't be the same.

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From the August 1997 issue of the Metropolitan.

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