From the Beast to Friedo to Captain Curtis, here’s what happened to local radio hosts

·8 min read

One spends his days at his Kendall home, playing Mr. Mom and selling stocks. Another sells medical equipment. Another earns a paycheck working at a Palm Beach car dealership.

With myriad changes in local radio during the past two years, several familiar voices — who were once comfortable companions on a South Florida sports fan’s ride home from work — now live out of the public eye, working jobs that don’t involve debating the Dolphins’ quarterback situation or whom the Heat should target in a trade.

“I miss radio every day,” Josh Friedman, known to WQAM-560 and 790 The Ticket listeners as “Friedo,” said in a recent phone conversation, 22 months after his midday show with Alex Donno was canceled.

“I haven’t listened to a lot of talk radio locally. It’s too hard. That was my dream job.”

The number of familiar voices who left the South Florida sports-talk airwaves during the past three years nearly outnumbers those who remain.

Greg Likens (by choice) and Friedman, Curtis Stevenson and former UM center Brett Romberg all have left local radio, and Amber Wilson recently announced her imminent departure. Zack Duarte, a personal trainer, went from a nightly presence on The Ticket to an occasional fill-in after WQAM and 790 eliminated local weeknight programming.

Brian London lost his job as 790 The Ticket’s assistant program director and morning co-host.

Andy Slater, who breaks a lot of stories on Twitter, lost his job at WINZ because of Marlins disputes, but quickly resurfaced at 640 Fox Sports Radio, where he has hosted a talk show the past three years, keeping alive his streak of 13 consecutive years doing radio in South Florida.

Donno and Orlando Alzugaray are independently looking for their next project after Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas on June 6 discontinued his streaming sports-talk service, OnSide Radio, after just eight months.

On the national-with-a-local-twist radio front, Dan Le Batard, Jon Weiner and their Mike Ryan-led supporting cast left ESPN (and the local radio airwaves) to create a new media company and strike a $50 million-plus deal with DraftKings. Their programs are now airing on YouTube.

The list of people doing a weekday sports radio talk show in South Florida has never been shorter.

They could sit at one large table: WINZ’s Jeff DeForrest, 640’s Slater and the WQAM-and/or-The Ticket cast of Joe Rose, Zach Krantz, Brendan Tobin, Leroy Hoard, Jonathan Zaslow, Marc Hochman and Channing Crowder.

So what led to all of these departures? Many were the result of budget cuts at co-owned WQAM and 790. The two stations eliminated local programming at night and began simulcasting the Hochman/Crowder show, thus saving the cost of paying two separate afternoon drive-time broadcast teams.

“We were in the first round of what turned out to be five rounds of layoffs,” Friedman said of his own departure. “Some were COVID related. We weren’t. Some people I considered bulletproof were laid off.”

And Mas’ decision to abandon his streaming venture — which featured Alzugaray, Donno and other hosts broadcasting from Inter Miami’s Fort Lauderdale stadium — left about 10 people out of work. Mas declined to explain his decision.

“Fortunately for us, several folks around South Florida have reached out to me about continuing what we’re trying to create: a true South Florida station dedicated to our local teams,” Alzugaray said.

“...I grew up in a station that had its pillars like [Neil] Rodgers and [Jim] Mandich, but also developed [Steve] Goldstein and myself to continue a tradition. I’m hoping we find the right partner or partners who truly want to build something that matters and creates a foundation.”

Stevenson, who worked as former Dolphins legend Mandich’s sidekick and later as The Ticket’s afternoon drive host, doesn’t miss the tumultuous nature of the business.

“Mad Dog told me when I first came into it in 2000 that it was an [expletive] business; let’s just say it still is,” Stevenson said of Mandich, who died in 2011 after a battle with cancer. “Look at how many talented hardworking [people] are out of a job right now.”

Stevenson said he’s “very happy” working as a salesman for Mullinax Ford in West Palm Beach.

“People ask me all the time about radio,” he said. “I miss the games and people, but that’s it. The best thing was getting out of it and having control over my job security.”

Friedman still deeply misses it. Aside from doing a weekly podcast with Donno that airs on Sirius XM radio, he has mostly spent the past 22 months watching over his 13-year-old daughters and trading stocks.

“I’m not day trading,” he clarified. “Stock investor might be a more accurate description. I’ve earned twice as much as what I did in any year in radio. I study it. My brother is a big stock trading guy. I hold things for weeks or months before selling.”

But... “I would give anything to get back on the air,” he said.

“I remember the very last show that Donno and I did from Twin Peaks in Davie and Donno was wrapping up and I was thinking, ‘this feels so natural and this is what I was born to do.’ And that was the last segment I ever did. I always thought how lucky I am. I was passionate about it.”

Friedman has limited his broadcasting search to South Florida because “we would have to move to get back on the air, and I would not uproot my wife and our daughters.”

Wilson announced last Friday that she was leaving her job as Zaslow’s midday partner on The Ticket, explaining off the air that she wants to devote “more time to my law practice at the law firm I have with my husband — Lindsey Wilson PPLC — and hosting on ESPN Radio on weekends nationally on a fill-in basis. This is the right time for me and my family to make this move after five truly wonderful years at 790. But it was not an easy decision.”

Likens, after losing his gig as host of the Finsiders when the program was canceled, worked regular part-time shifts on WQAM and The Ticket but decided to leave the business two years ago, opting for a job as territory manager for DB Surgical, a medical device distributor. And he was candid in explaining the reasons he opted for a career change.

“Generally speaking, I don’t miss radio and am very happy with my decision to make a career change,” he said. “... During my 13 years, I found that radio was bereft of professional management and there was a steady decline in the amount of resources dedicated to it. There was a pervasive attitude in sports media that you should feel lucky to have your job. Ironically, there was very often poor communication in the communications industry.

“What I do miss are the relationships with former co-hosts and interacting with the loyal audience who tuned into my shows. Making a connection with listeners across South Florida — and beyond, thanks to online streaming — was a deeply fulfilling experience. The ability to express my opinion on the latest sports news/games and the rush you get when broadcasting live are elements of radio that you can’t replicate in other professions.”

Donno, on the other hand, isn’t ready to give up on an industry that he loves. “I do not plan on leaving broadcasting and content creation,” he said. “Just trying to figure out what’s next.”

London, known to listeners as The Beast, was laid off by WQAM in November 2019, took a job managing the Cooper City office for a company that teaches computer coding to young people, lost that job because of COVID-19 and has since gone back to school. He’s taking online classes at Lynn University; in December, he will get an MBA and a media management graduate degree.

“I don’t want to do corporate radio again,” he said. “I’ve had two pretty bad experiences in corporate radio. I’m working on how to monetize digital and audio platforms.”

For now, in between classes, he operates his own YouTube channel and plans to start a podcast later this summer.

“I would love to start a company that would get the gang back together,” he said of his former morning cohorts. “The happiest I’ve ever been in my professional life was working with Tobin, Leroy [and producer Robbie Cambo].”

He still gets recognized occasionally. A general contractor doing work on his Cooper City home, after seeing his name, said to him: “You’re that Brian London?”

“Yes,” London said.

“The Beast!” the contractor said.

Friedman, meanwhile, hopes that a South Florida station will remember his good work and give him another shot.

“I’m not sitting here sulking, but I was for a while,” he said. “I am not going to feel sorry for myself. There are people in a heck of a lot worse [situation] than I am. I have to deal with it.”

Here’s my Thursday Dolphins story on Tua Tagovailoa, where he stands and some interesting comments from NFL people as the team’s offseason program ends.

Here’s my Thursday Dolphins notebook with a bunch of nuggets.

Please follow me on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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