Game Over. Game On.

JUNE 2009

uFC sTar in TraininG Tempe’s Ryan Bader is a bad dude in a very good way alls Wells ThaT sTarTs Wells Cards rookie Beanie Wells is ready to get going

Kiss FM’s JohnJay and Rich
Why a-list celebs and superstar athletes love the dynamic, dominating radio duo as much as average listeners
Plus: Todd Walsh — WiTness To sPorTs hisTory KirK Gibson’s son may be headed To The nhl someday beaT The summer heaT — Cabo and oranGe CounTy vaCaTion Gems

8 is noT enouGh Beautiful Victoria Azarenka of Scottsdale is rising fast in world tennis rankings he’s been WiTh The Sun Devils, Suns, Coyotes and Diamondbacks In their front office

JUNE 2009



eing radio stars isn’t all glamorous. First of all, the hours suck. Don’t believe me? Well, you try getting up at 3:00 a.m, then kissing your sleeping wife and kids goodbye 20 minutes later, five days a week. The pressure can be immense. A morning show at a majormarket, big-time radio station drives the ship for the entire station, and magnify that a bit when you consider the station we’re talking about fits under the biggest radio company umbrella in the world, Clear Channel, which never hesitates to let its talent know that if the ratings aren’t high, you just might fly. But when planets align, talent meshes, management cooperates and your product is flat-out superior to anything else going on at that hour, anywhere, well, listeners flock and you create the kind of buzz and success that Johnjay (Chandler native Johnjay Van Es) and Rich (St. Louis native Rich Berra) are living at 104.7 KISS FM. (Carrie Moten is the third personality on the show and often the sensible voice of reason who does a great job of both prodding the two guys along and reeling them in when she has to.) If you haven’t heard the show yourself, you are in the minority. You apparently don’t like starting your day laughing your ass off. You certainly don’t get to hear the conversations this dynamic duo have DAILY, wait, correction, damn near HOURLY with A-list stars in sports, TV, movies, music and just entertainment and pop culture in general. Seriously, you’d think Paula Abdul would have something else to do besides call in to the Johnjay and Rich Show multiple times a week, or invite the fellas to the ultra-private debut of her smokin’ hot new single. You’d think one of the finalists on Dancing With the Stars, Gilles Marini, would have something, other than the number one radio duo in Phoenix, as his personal good luck charm. Or maybe Enrique Iglesias could find another backup guitar player than Rich, or Kurt Warner would have someone else to take to the Super Bowl with his family than Johnjay. I’m not done. How many local radio show hosts dance with Ellen on her show? I’ll answer that. I can only think of two. Who hangs with U2’s The Edge? Or answers regular phone calls from Luis

Johnjay and Rich, the hosts 104.7 Kiss FM, have A-List biggest and most loyal fans.
Gonzalez, Matt Leinart, Larry Fitzgerald, Jeremy Roenick and anyone else who’s anyone. That’s one of the most unique things about Johnjay and Rich — yes, they have the unpublished private digits of all these people, but it’s the stars who usually call them! Not because they have to, or the star’s publicist is putting a gun to his or her head. It’s because they want to, and it makes for great radio, great ratings and a great future for the morning leaders in every significant, (that means revenue producing) demo in this and many other markets. “From day one, our goal was to be Arizona’s morning show,” Johnjay explained to POST as we kicked it with the duo after a recent show in their Clear Channel studio near Sky Harbor Airport off Van Buren. “We pushed that agenda everyday and we let everyone know about it. It took five years to get there and man, the ride was great.” Here’s how the ride started. Johnjay and Rich were working in Texas, at separate stations in Dallas and Houston, when they both were at a crossroads in their lives and careers. They were doing fine, but each wanted to find something special. Be part of something not just unique, but once-in-a-lifetime, impossible to duplicate, rewarding, fun and different. Making a lot of money would be cool. Being heard nationally would be nice, but they wanted to do a show they created,

JUNE 2009


of the most dominant radio show in the Valley on celebrities and sports superstars as some of their
that fit their personalities, that just felt right. They both were humble, and at the same time self-confident enough to know that if they stayed with a formula that they had in their mind, busted their tails and found the right radio laboratory to work on fine-tuning the vision they shared, they could create a great show. It’s really that simple, yet think of all the things that had to fall into place. First they had to meet each other, and that happened at a radio convention. Their strengths and styles were different enough where, together, it created a coherent and distinguishable voice. Before they launched the show, they interviewed each other for hours on end, in person, on the phone, non-stop talking and scripting and brainstorming to see if what they initially believed was true — that they had found something in each other they probably wouldn’t find anywhere else. Rich runs the board and is kind of the air traffic controller of the show, and a steady and level mind that keeps everything on track. He’s able to see the big picture of what they want to accomplish collectively, and the trust they share is strong, palpable and a big part of what’s helped launch them into a morning show elite status that few ever fly in. Johnjay is a daring mad scientist behind the microphone. He’s like a Formula One driver who just got the keys to a brand new Lamborghini and turned it loose on the 101. It’s going to be a fast, exciting and unpredictable ride, but he knows exactly what he’s doing, which is why he can lead listeners down paths they never could believe they would go down. Of course, if he does wrap it around a tree or light pole, Rich is there behind him with a tow truck. Listen to some of the segments and see how Johnjay expertly prods and pushes without begging, sounding condescending or outwardly humiliating people that call in. The listeners tend to do it themselves because the hosts have created an atmosphere on the show that makes listeners feel they are one of us. The secret is: they really are. Sure, the show is syndicated now and very popular in Portland, Colorado Springs and a handful of other markets, but it’s that common man approach and relaxed, conversational vibe that has made it a ratings monster. “Money was never a motivator,” Johnjay told us. “I did that once in my career and I will NEVER take a job because of money again. It’s about family and quality of life and happiness! My dad told me when I was a kid, ‘do what you love and the money will come. Find something you love to do and you’ll never work again.’ I’ve found that to be 100% true.” David Khalaj, a friend of Johnjay and Rich as well as a close personal friend to most big name sports stars in Phoenix, knows there is something special about Johnjay and Rich that makes athletes feel comfortable around them.

JUNE 2009


“They are on top of their game. They are so genuine, incredibly genuine human beings. When you are around them, you are dealing with real people. There’s no motive, everyone is equal. Whatever they say comes from the heart, and that’s what makes them so special because they are just as kind in person as they are on the radio.” The biggest star in the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals, echoes David’s thoughts. “Johnjay and Rich are to radio what Joe Montana and Jerry Rice are to football. They get me going every morning. I love those guys and would do anything for them.” Kurt Warner felt strongly enough about them to take them to the Super Bowl in Tampa on a private jet. No, I’m not making any of this up. Usually celebs or superstar sports jocks will cozy up to radio jocks if they are selling something, not just because they have built up close personal relationships with them. It just doesn’t happen very often. Johnjay is a fan of the personalities of sports but certainly not what you would consider a sports fan. Rich grew up in St. Louis, where it’s almost mandatory you follow the Cardinals baseball team at least. “I think Rich knows more than Johnjay when they are talking sports and that’s what makes it so comical,” former D’backs star Luis Gonzalez said. Gonzo is also a good friend, who took a trip with them and their wives to LA on a private jet for an Enrique Iglesias concert last year. “They are like the guys next door. That’s why whatever happens in their personal life is shared and completely out in the open. They talk about it, and it’s hilarious. They kind of represent two opposite viewpoints, and then you have Carrie in the middle, kind of the mediator or voice of reason. I’ll text them regularly during a show; if a bit falls flat, I’ll give them a hard time. But they are just great guys to be around.” Johnjay has an explanation why athletes enjoy the approach the show takes when talking to them. “I’m sure it’s partly because when they come in the studio they’re probably surprised that their stats never come up, old plays never get brought up or questions about a game. In fact, I don’t even know how to use sports language, to tell you the truth. We don’t ask them sports questions. Now, that’s not on purpose, I just don’t know these things. “We ask questions that you never hear a sportscaster ask. I think we ask questions that would come out after hanging with somebody for hours. After you get the stats out of the way then you get to the human stuff, that’s what we like. We ask them what TV shows they watch, where they buy their clothes, how do you go to dinner in one car and get a reservation if you have seven kids? We also talk about the incredible charity work these guys and their families do.” They might not follow sports stats very closely, but the numbers they are putting up right now are pretty impressive. The Johnjay and Rich Show is number one in the key demos of total listeners 18-34, total listeners 25-54 and women 2554. They actually are number one in a total of 37 demos. They reach over 250,000 listeners per week in Phoenix alone, well over half a million when you take in their syndicated audience. Maybe that’s part of the reason they appeal to so many sports

Bove Left: Johnjay and Rich were the personal guests of Gilles Marini at Dancing With The Stars, here with his partner Cheryl Burke. Above: Johnjay and Rich on the set of American Idol with their close friend Paula Abdul. Left: Johnjay and Rich hang with U2 legend The Edge.

personalities and entertainment stars — it’s all about scoreboard. Sports stars instantly respect results and winners and know what quality looks and sounds like. A star like Paula Abdul is savvy enough to know a strong following in Phoenix helps record sales and total eyeballs for American Idol, but her friendship with the duo, which started with Rich, is really amazing. They are in touch via text or phone almost every day and Paula is a regular on the show. “She’s very funny,” Rich said. “Very cool and very clever at this business. She’s got a heart the size of Camelback Mountain. She’s very spontaneous and calls at all hours with some very funny outlooks. I’m not sure why she likes us and continues to go on the radio with us because we’ve gotten her in some HUGE trouble with things we’ve gotten out of her on the air, but it is very real. She’s been to my house. My dog, Penny, the poodle... peed on Paula Abdul. That’s friendship!” When they aren’t chatting with celebs, they are talking about the crazy things that happen in their life, or doing a bit on the radio that often veers into something you can’t stop listening to. It would be interesting to see how many listeners have strolled in late to work thanks to “War of the Roses,” “Second Date Update” or “Confession Update.” It happens all the time, because they have the ability to take ridiculous scenarios, like a confession a listener wants to get off their chest, then crank up the conflict by making them do it live to that person, and pouring enough gas on the fire by egging both sides on to hopefully start a fast moving brush fire, if not a full-on inferno, of radio entertainment.

JUNE 2009


“From day one, our goal was to be Arizona’s morning show. We pushed that agenda everyday and we let everyone know about it. It took five years to get there and man, the ride has been great.” -JohnJAy VAn Es
“We try not to go too far,” Johnjay told POST. “Sometimes things just happen, like in real life. I just go off the top of my head. Rich is genius though, because he thinks things out at a hundred miles an hour and rarely crosses the line. Plus, we have Carrie, the ‘mom,’ and she’s supposed to keep us in line. I will say that when we are in commercials, you’d be surprised at the sick, sick mind of my life partner Rich Berra.” Rich offered his perspective on how they’ve mastered the art of constantly walking right up to a line, dangling their foot over it, hovering it there for awhile and seriously consider crossing it, if it makes good radio. “On the air, I would never dream of pulling Johnjay back. I like when he takes us down a road of trouble. That’s what makes the relationship fun. Sure, there are meetings that we never escape from, mostly me, because Johnjay will leave in the middle to go to yoga, but that’s our deal. “We know sometimes we are going into uncharted waters and that’s cool. If it works, we love it. If it doesn’t, then we have the ability to take the audience with us and feel with us the emotion of its sweeping failure. We have done pretty well mostly by just ‘moving ahead without direction.’ There are a few times here and there where we take a step back and realize our ideas weren’t good, but mostly being a bit oblivious to consequence has served us well.” While the show will continue to grow and expand to markets all over the United States (they are in five other markets outside Phoenix already), home base will always be Arizona. This is where the mad conversion of talent was born and perfected. As Johnjay and Rich pointed out, there is no better city to do this in than Phoenix, because there is always something going on that’s relevant nationally right here in the Valley. In the last couple years alone, we’ve hosted the Super Bowl and NBA All-Star game, welcomed Shaq to the Valley, had our NFL team go to the Super Bowl, had Jordin Sparks win American Idol, a Mesa woman win Biggest Loser and that’s just a tiny portion of what’s gone down. Besides, if they ever moved to LA they’d have to kick Ryan Seacrest’s ass in the ratings there, too, and, who knows, he might cry. For the sake of Phoenix listeners, let’s hope Johnjay and Rich have permanent bags under their eyes and bedtime of 9:00 every night for the foreseeable future. In the changing world of local TV news and the disintegration of the importance of the local newspaper, there is one thing we know for sure, people still have to drive to work in the morning to jobs they really don’t like. In that car, or while they’re getting ready, it’s a pretty cool thing to have Johnjay and Rich (and Carrie) help get us through the day by opening up their normal yet glamorous lives and sprinkling it with the attention and love they get from their friends and guests that are the people you see every night on TMZ or SportsCenter or Entertainment Tonight.


JUNE 2009

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