So on Friday, Oct. 23, "The Cort and Fatboy Show" was calmly, unceremoniously cancelled by KUFO's new owners. The show's hosts -- Cort Webber and Bobby "Fatboy" Roberts -- were shown the door. Later that day, word got out that the much-loved "Rick Emerson Show" got the axe, too.
Cort and Fats have become good friends over the past three-and-a-half years of Friday movie-gab appearances. Maybe the highest compliment I can pay them is that they're the same funny, generous, big-hearted, down-to-earth nerds off the air as they are on the air -- a rarity. I've also developed a sincere respect for their radio craft, which is so much harder than they make it sound. (I even made a comic strip about it.) I love these guys, I love their love of Portland, and I loved being on their show and tagging along while they were putting together amazing communal experiences like "Firefly at the Mission" and "Battlestar at the Bagdad."
And I'm hardly alone in that love. I think it's telling that within hours of their firing, the following things happened:
- Dozens of media geeks and pros from several different local outlets converged on the Horse Brass for an impromptu "cancellation wake." Here's a picture.
- Popular local podcaster "PDX Sucks" threw together a stunningly angry online tribute that kicked off with a relentless stream of supportive voicemails from listeners. (And they're still leaving messages, apparently.)
- And a bunch of fans had a new non-KUFO message board up and running by the end of the weekend -- and were trying to back up the entire online history of both cancelled radio shows for safekeeping before KUFO decides to wipe it from cultural memory.
I'm biased. Two friends of mine just lost their livelihoods in yet another ruthlessly zero-notice (if fairly polite) broadcast-industry firing. But I'm not going to rail too much against KUFO's new owners. It's their train set. If they want to crow about how "local" their new ownership of KUFO is going to be, and then a few months later replace two of the most local, well-liked radio shows in Portland with a new staff that includes a guy from Philly fired for playing a racist song parody; a fellow from San Diego named "Ditch" who specializes in prank calls; a dude from Seattle named "The Ricker" who started a band there called "Courtney Killed Kurt," says "bro-ski" entirely too often, and apparently got in trouble in 1999 for some politically incorrect shenanigans of his own; and a local jock who once engaged in one of the most mind-blowing examples of on-air recklessness in radio history ... well, hey, KUFO's new owners totally get to do that.
And furthermore: If KUFO's new owners want to follow their firings of well-liked locals with an aggressive, weird publicity-stunt campaign that depicts their "new and improved" station as a maurauding, flesh-eating alien horde descending on our city, well, um, that's a really interesting choice. (It's certainly more interesting than when the new owners put TVs playing nothing but Fox News Channel in every broadcast studio in the building. That was just annoying.)
And finally: If the new KUFO wants to piss off the local media right out of the gate by giving out the newsroom phone numbers of TV stations and alternative publications as an on-air prank? Hey. Go nuts.
And by all means, KUFO: Feel free to let a Twitter account that wants to represent you make fun of DJs you just fired and, while it's dishing out insults, make fun of DJs who were recently fired by other local stations. You stay classy. (UPDATE: "KUFORules" tells me that those last two tweets were part of a prank spoofing KUFO, and that he is very disappointed in me as a reporter. Huh. UPDATE 2: Have since called KUFO's Susan Reynolds; she tells me "KUFORules" is not an official KUFO Twitter account. Let's replace "huh" with "whoops"; feelings about friends made me careless.)
Anyway. Cort and Fatboy announced on KGW's "Studio @ The Square" tonight that they plan to keep podcasting. They've already moved their URL, which they own. And they're still hosting midnight movie screenings. Their next one is "Raising Arizona," Nov. 6 at the Bagdad. I hope they find a new media berth soon. They deserve it. The rest of this post is an unsorted list of links to media coverage and online listener response to the firings of my friends, which I've been collecting over the past few days. It's an overwhelming reaction -- Portland media has seldom seen the like. I hope other radio stations in town are paying attention. If anyone else finds anything to add, feel free to link it in the comments or drop me a line. -- Cheers, Mike Russell.
"Cort and Fatboy in first full interview since KUFO massacre" -- Oregon Media Central
Talk Box: Fired KUFO DJ's on the new direction of media -- KGW's Studio @ The Square (video)
Well, Fuck. Cort and Fatboy Just Got Fired. -- Portland Mercury
Shake-up at KUFO leaves Emerson and his crew off the air -- The Oregonian
"The Cort and Fatboy Appreciation Thread" -- Mehfugees forum
"The Rick Emerson Show Appreciation Thread" - Mehfugees forum
The KUFO Facebook page -- at this writing, the wall posts by Emerson and "Cort and Fatboy" fans have a remarkably vitriolic tone.
Cort and Fatboy: Just not enough hair on their chests for new KUFO. -- Willamette WeekJ-Dubb's Theatre: The Day the Radio Died
Oops, it happened again! -- Tim Reilly's Press Club
Live like a Mehfugee! -- Geek in the City
Cort and Fatboy We Will Miss You!!!! -- videolog entry by erikolson100
"MSPaint comic inspired by KUFO's 'refueling.'" -- by "therealthing"
"Boycott KUFO for firing Cort and Fatboy!" Facebook group
"The New KUFO: Cue Tool's Eulogy" -- OurPDX
New KUFO PD: 'We're just here to have fun, man' -- Oregon Media Central
"Hitler Learns of Alpha Broadasting's Firing on KUFO" -- Why yes, it IS a YouTube "Downfall" remix full of Portland-media in-jokes.
"Rick Emerson returns to radio -- for an hour" -- Oregon Media Central
"K-U-F-Oh, holy crap." -- Live Wire! Radio