10 Questions with ... Jim Villanucci
July 16, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
KDWN/Las Vegas, KVBC (Hot Talk 105.1)/Las Vegas, KOGO/San Diego, KKOB/Albuquerque, and now KXL (FM News 101 KXL)/Portland.
1. How and why did you get into radio in the first place? What drew you to work in radio?
I have a mechanical engineering degree. I worked as an engineer for two years or so after college, and was very bored. I started doing open mic nights, and nine months later i was on the road doing stand up. I freelance wrote for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" as well during this time. I was also listening to a lot of talk radio in the early '90s. I lived in DC for awhile, and listened to Mark Davis. When i was in L.A., I listened to Marc Germain. I knew i had to try it. They sounded like they were having a lot of fun.
2. You were a major success in Albuquerque for years, and now you've started anew in Portland -- what's been the biggest adjustment in moving to a new town? How does it compare to your arrival in ABQ from San Diego, and before that in San Diego from Vegas?
Every market has its nuances. Portland is a super friendly big city. The social rules of engagement here are very precise. It's like Cincinnati, or Indianapolis-polite times 10. I have gotten adjusted to it, and I like it. I'm weird and quirky, and outgoing, a natural fit for this market, I hope.
Albuquerque was very good to me. Albuquerque, is weird and quirky, in a good way. Almost a little Portland in the desert. I loved New Mexico, and loved the people, culture and history.
Vegas is a fun town, obviously, but difficult to own, there's too much going on. My time in San Diego was short, it was 1996, the year of consolidation. I think I worked for three different companies in one week.
3. You're more of a libertarian than a doctrinaire conservative, so from your perspective, do you see talk radio embracing a more varied range of political opinions as we move forward? Should it?
I'm about half way between a mainstream conservative and a full-on Libertarian. Most Americans are Libertarian, they just don't know it. Yes, that is the future, I am the future (he says, laughing out loud).
4. Looking back on 14 years at KKOB, what's the fondest memory you have of that time -- what would you say was the best moment of that phase of your career?
I helped get an innocent marine out of prison. He went to prison for killing a home intruder, on his front lawn. Long story.... But he was innocent, so i kept talking about it for almost two years. They had a new sentencing hearing, and let him go. His dad came to see me to thank me. That was my proudest moment in show business. Me and Larry Ahrens were on the air together for over 12 hours on 9/11; my friendship with Governor Gary Johnson, all the great friends I made. My top sales guy Joe O'Neill now owns and runs the local ESPN afilliate; I am very proud of him.
5. Are you using social media in conjunction with your show? If so, how: is it a show prep tool, a means of engagement with the audience, or something else?
I agree with other hosts who have talked about this; This is not my original idea, but most of us are doing social media backwards, i.e, you start your show, throw out some tweets. This does not do much for you. You need to start the social media convo the night before the show. Get it rolling on Facebook and Twitter. This does many good things:
a) It road tests the topic b) It promotes the show c) It's fun d) Duh
6. Who have been your mentors and inspirations, in radio and in life?
In radio: Art Bell was an early friend and mentor at KDWN. Marc Germain, Mark Davis, Lars Larson, I consider mentors.... Milt McConnell, Scott Mahalick, Bob Proffitt, at Alpha obviously. David G. Hall.... Andrew Paul is one of the best young PD's in the country and is a friend. Joe O'Neill at ESPN Albuquerque. Laurie Cantillo has been very helpful.
7. You have a comedy background. Who and what makes you laugh?
Chris Rock, the late Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Steve McGrew, and Brian Regan. And the Master....Phil Hendrie.
8. Are you optimistic about the radio industry or pessimistic? About talk radio? About the country?
Optimistic. Whatever the new delivery system is for radio, I'll be on it. Talk radio will get better and more diverse, and there will be some massive tech invention that will save the U.S.
I'm not interested in trash talking, 'cause I am fortunate to be in a good place, and i am happy, and lucky, but let's just say that I don't understand some business models. For example, my local show in ABQ grossed a lot of money one year, like $2.1 million gross, and I was paid less than 10 percent of that... and I was fine with it. So my question is, why all this focus on syndicated shows that ROI much less?
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ___________.
I'll paraphrase the late Jim Valvano: laugh, love, think, cry. That's a good day,
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career so far?
Make good friends and keep in touch, ya never know who will help you down the road, And it's a long, long fun road.
Advice to younger radio people: Make friends, network. Most of my opportunities have come from networking with other hosts who are now in management, like Andrew Paul at KXNT in Las Vegas; he was a local host in ABQ, we stayed in touch, and he has been a great friend. Other random friends: Mark Davis, Tom Becka, Joe O'Neill have all been tremendously helpful.