What happened to Joe Frank?
April 25, 2004 4:13 PM   Subscribe

What Happened to Joe Frank?
posted by ghastlyfop (25 comments total)
As an LA Mefite, I can confirm that Ruth Seymour has to go for the benefit of KCRW.

KPCC is kicking their ass eight ways till Sunday and while Ruth is clenching her fist tighter and tighter over the KCRW crew.
posted by Argyle at 4:26 PM on April 25, 2004

Joe Frank is/was a genius.

We need him now!
posted by digaman at 4:29 PM on April 25, 2004

I swear, for a minute I thought you were posting about this guy. We'll there in sorta the same line of work. Maybe they could collaborate.
posted by jonmc at 4:44 PM on April 25, 2004

Dear Ruth Seymour,

I'm not contributing next year if you're still at the helm.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:50 PM on April 25, 2004

Premise: I never heard this show, know exactly nothing about it but from what I read...

Nor was the studio engineer's failure to bleep out the offensive word grounds for firing Sandra ...I guess she used some "offensive word" on Air so Ruth fired her , further showing what an asshat she is ?

I'm asking the fans because it seems tangentially connected to what FCC is doing to Stern fans (Stern being indirectly kicked by FCC because of his "pandering and titillation").
posted by elpapacito at 5:04 PM on April 25, 2004

"You know exactly who this is. I'm waiting on the platform at Mapleton. I'll be wearing a yellow cardigan, a plaid skirt, rubber sandals and a swastika armband."

I hope Joe is all right. He kept sounding like Spalding Gray through much of that recital.

I swear, for a minute I thought you were posting about this guy

I was wondering if he was one of these guys.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:22 PM on April 25, 2004

The story of Sandra Tsing Loh shows that some people can make lemonade out of the most bitter lemon.

Joe Frank, on the other hand, retains his curiously appealing sad-sack self-pitying tone no matter what happens. He inhabits the role of cosmic schlemiel so brilliantly.

I actually did wonder where he had gone after I saw American Splendor--Joe Frank is the Harvey Pekar of the airwaves, after all.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:26 PM on April 25, 2004

Joe Frank is awesome. I haven't heard many of his radio dramas, since I started listening late and irregularly, but his monologues are nearly always good and sometimes amazing. The "reality" shows (at one point he referred to them as "radio verite", I think) are also pretty damn powerful, too. I didn't even know he had gone off the air until KCRW took down their (incomplete) archive of his shows; looks like he's starting to host them himself.

It was pretty amazing that they hosted his show at all, really, much less at 11am on Sunday mornings. (If I remember right, it was on right after Harry Shearer's Le Show—or maybe it was the other way around. At any rate, an incongruous transition.) Unfortunately, the guy who said "If you need one word to describe bland, uptight, middle class, yuppified social climbing sellouts afraid to make waves: it is KCRW." is probably right.

Did any MeFites go to the Joe & Loh Unplugged thing?
posted by kenko at 6:27 PM on April 25, 2004

Yeah, it used to be on right after Le Show.
posted by inksyndicate at 7:14 PM on April 25, 2004

I love KCRW because of Jason Bentley, Sandra, Joe and the content they provide. When Jason starts his sets with Willian Orbit's "Like water from a vine leaf" I know we are in for a wonderful evening.

However, I HATE the management there with a passion.
posted by gen at 7:53 PM on April 25, 2004

William Orbit, that is...
posted by gen at 8:59 PM on April 25, 2004

I've got some really choice eps on Minidisc somewhere. His epic monologues set to the repetitive loops are simply the BEST possible thing to listen to on a long drive. They make the time go by at warp speed.
posted by n9 at 7:52 AM on April 26, 2004

Anybody care to offer a little context here, for the benefit of the universe-that-is-not-LA?

All I'm getting is a few ex-radio employees forced off the air by someone they consider overbearing and perhaps unbalanced. The undertone is "I didn't deserve this; I want my job back", which sounds really stupid when you consider they're basically asking for the same treatment. Is there some deeper meaning here?

If this guy really was any good, he'd have a job doing something somewhere. At least, that's all I'm seeing here. Anyone care to elaborate on why I should give a fuck?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:16 AM on April 26, 2004


The station we are discussing is KCRW, the dominant public radio station in LA. It is based out of Santa Monica City College, hardly an academic powerhouse.

Somehow they ended up with the pole position in LA public radio and with any case of power, politics result.

The station was known for airing and developing content that was non-traditional to public radio: non-news based entertainment.

Music, spoken word, and radio theater were all part of the mix. Compared with other public stations that were almost solely news and politics focused, KCRW was something different.

Ruth Seymour, as head of KCRW, has been relentless in enforcing her view of what KCRW should be. Anyone that stands in the way is plowed over. If this lead to good things, I think you wouldn't hear complaints. As you can see, there are plenty of complaints.

IMHO, she's been removing the 'something different' that was KCRW and attempting to turn it into a political power in LA. Getting rid of entertainment like Joe Frank & Sandra Tsing Loh to make room for more news programming.

The why you should give a fuck is the continuing trend to remove independence and creativity from the radio. First we saw it in commercial radio ala Clear Channel, and now we are seeing it in public radio ala KCRW.
posted by Argyle at 10:43 AM on April 26, 2004

Was he the guy who had that deep voice and would talk over some kind of triphop music, about this and that? It was on Sunday mornings. I loved that stuff, it was so strange but so normal at the same time, is that him?
posted by chaz at 10:50 AM on April 26, 2004

Joe Frank: When Ruth is angry, she attacks aggressively. She will level a shocking charge and, as you attempt to refute it, she will interrupt with even more breathtaking and outrageous accusations. Your mind, stunned by these surprises, goes into overload. You can't think fast enough in the face of her relentless attacking and interrupting and shouting over you and leaving you no opportunity for rebuttal. Just as you gather yourself to respond to one insult, she opens a new line of attack. It's a scorched-earth destroy-everything-in-front-of-her kind of argumentation.

This is a letter-perfect description of my penultimate conversation with Ruth Seymour. (During the one after that, I was fired.) Joe does not exaggerate.

The station we are discussing is KCRW, the dominant public radio station in LA.

It is arguably the most influential public radio station in the United States.
posted by chuq at 11:13 AM on April 26, 2004

The station was known for airing and developing content that was non-traditional to public radio

she [Ruth]'s been removing the 'something different' ...Getting rid of entertainment ... to make room for more news programming.

OK, so these announcers were producing content that was unusual for this type of station, and got fired for it? The Horrors! Next they'll be allowed to fire DJs at country stations for playing Eminem!

Sure the station manager sounds... well, like something other than a positive life experience, but it doesn't sound like the end result is all that surprising. And why can't these people find other outlets if they pull in a good audience?

I'm still not in the giving mood... sorry.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:14 AM on April 26, 2004


I think you are missing the point. The audience liked what they (Frank & Loh) were producing. The station manager did not.

The station management lied about Frank's firing and made up the concept that KCRW would lose their license because the word 'fuck' was not bleeped one time.

It's not about being 'allowed' to do anything. ghastlyfop posted the link about the story behind what happened to Joe Frank and the behavior of Ruth Seymour. Those of us that know about KCRW were discussing it.

If you don't find it interesting, go find another thread to piss on. I mean, heaven forbid every Mefi link isn't interesting to you...
posted by Argyle at 12:01 PM on April 26, 2004

It is an interesting thread even for public radio listeners who are not in the LA area. As in a local station carries Sounds eclectic and ummm... forgot the other program title sorry. Thus I have some interest in what happens at the station. Frank has an unique voice, not something you can just slot into most radio lineups which is prob. why he hasn't been snatched up... Which leads to an interesting general question/thought. It seems a shame that artists that can't afford their own agent must also learn the whole promotion racket in order to survive. Living with an artist it strikes me that promotion, publicity, business taxes are not exactly the easiest of things to master if your talent lies in artistic creation
posted by edgeways at 12:40 PM on April 26, 2004

Argyle, please accept my deepest, most heartfelt apologies for not worshipping the obvious perfection that is Joe Frank, and failing to pray that the world would revolve in such a way as to benefit him exclusively. Apparently that's the only comment that would satisfy you.

Geez, click on a link others apparently find interesting, wonder what all the fuss is about, get crapped on. Just lovely.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:18 PM on April 26, 2004

er, seriously GITM I'm not trying to crap on you but your posts did step on some toes "If this guy really was any good, he'd have a job doing something somewhere. At least, that's all I'm seeing here. Anyone care to elaborate on why I should give a fuck?" whether intentional or not. The thread was/is about someone these people admire and you kinda trivialized it. Essentially you don't have to give a fuck and that is well and good, but I don't think anyone wants to try and convince you otherwise about a topic that could be pretty subjective (where Joe Frank is any good or not and should we care?).
I'm not trying to be offensive and hope it didn't come off as such.
posted by edgeways at 2:35 PM on April 26, 2004

GhostintheMachine, I linked to some archived shows. In my opinion they're not his best, but if you want to know what all the fuss about Joe Frank is, why not listen to, say, "Mountain Rain" or "Bad Karma" (or both)?

Chaz: that's the guy. I believe he electronically altered his voice to make it lower, but I'm not sure about that.
posted by kenko at 4:44 PM on April 26, 2004

Maybe now that Joe has gone public about his situation, KPCC will make him an offer he can't refuse to join Sandra in Pasadena. I'm already down to one hour of 'CRW a week (Harry Shearer), not being all that musically eclectic.
posted by wendell at 5:40 PM on April 26, 2004

KCRW has been on a downward path for a long time now, and by a long time I mean decades. I'm surprised Joe Frank had lasted as long as he did there.

This is not to say I wouldn't have him back given the choice, as I would in a heartbeat. I remember many a lazy Sunday spent lounging around with my roommates listening to Joe Frank's wonderfully surreal and creative monologues.

All you "free-marketers" wondering why if he's so good he can't "find an audience", since when has the lowest common denominator of popular opinion and mass media marketing ever picked something truly worthwhile? Since when has real genius and artistry and risk-taking ever been truly awarded while an artist was alive? You live on what fantasy planet now? And how do I get there?

Joe Frank should consider finding a smaller station, one that has webcasting, or consider webcasting on his own. He should also question why he would even want to go back to that hellpit.

My opinions of KCRW are admittedly colored by volunteering at another Southern California station - KUCI 88.9 FM in Irvine - which was forced to move from 89.9 when KCRW was able to upgrade their broadcasting license and transmitter.

This was a total mess, as it forced us into a smaller broadcast footprint that was shared by a number of other public stations. (It is also shared by what appears to this day to be an unlicensed music station that's either broadcasting "directly" on 88.9 or is broadcasting near it with a filthy-dirty transmitter rig that bleeds over a wider slice of the spectrum, far more than anything legal would be allowed to.)

KCRW isn't really that original. KUCI has the longest running (live DJ!) electronic dance music show in SoCal, with hundreds upon hundreds of accomplished guest DJs, live artists and more. (Mixmaster Morris, Carl Craig, DJ Taylor, Sandra Collins, much, much more. KUCI brought ambient artist Robert Rich out of hiding for his first "sleep concert" in a decade. Do I need to mention more? Carl f'ing Craig!)

KUCI also has a wonderful spoken word, eclectic and "radio theater" program called The Darkling Eclectica that's been running for 21 years. Yes, Michael Payne is a dork and no where near as urban as Joe Frank, but he's a funny, creative and amazingly nice dork.

KUCI and public radio in general has tons of other great programming. Yeah, some of it is damn awful. Welcome to real public radio done by unpaid volunteers, not paid professionals.

So many SoCal - *cough* OC *cough* - artists and bands that have "made it big" - like MTV big - with major thanks to KUCI for their first radio plays and even live radio gigs.

You say you live in SoCal and haven't heard any of this stuff or even heard of this station? Thank KCRW for it's wonderful practices of diversity. A long time ago, even while the station was broadcasting at a mere 15 watts, you would have heard KUCI over most of the Southland before KCRW stole KUCI's signal, audience, and broadcast footprint.

LA MeFites, don't send KCRW your money. Trust me, they really don't need it. They raise millions in funds every time they do one of their fundraisers. Their yearly operating budget is enormous, with or without NPR grants and support from the school. They're smack dab in the middle of one of the wealthiest segments of Los Angeles, if not the entire US, notably the Wilshire District.

Comparatively KUCI will raise maybe $3,000 - $6,000 at its yearly fund drive, which only barely begins to cover the operating costs of the station. (The rest, thankfully, is covered by UCI and the UC system.)

Send your money elsewhere. Send it to KPFK. Send it to KPCC. You could even send it to KUCI. Or directly to Joe Frank. Just don't send it to KCRW. You can be sure that the rich little old ladies in the Wilshire District will continue to feed KCRW's voracious appetite.

And finally - to wrap up this not-so-little rant about the evil that is KCRW - KCRW does more harm than good in it's self declared "eclecticness". Over the past few years even KUCI has attempted to emulate KCRW as if it'll somehow make the pledges and donations roll in faster, as if it is somehow a noble thing to aspire to be blandly and safely "alternative" with none of the risk-taking.

This last part was for you, KUCI, particularly the stuffy management that has reigned lately. Some of you guys really suck, and as a former DJ and staff you know who you are and you probably know who I am. Go soak your fat heads, maybe it'll help with the swelling.
posted by loquacious at 6:29 PM on April 26, 2004

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