New Jersey’s Francene Cucinello, ‘Francene Show,’ radio host, dies of heart attack, aneurysm at 43

Francene Cucinello (kooch-in-EHL'-oh), the popular host of WHAS radio's "Francene Show," has died after suffering a heart attack and aneurysm. She was 43. In a statement issued by the hospital Friday, her family said Cucinello suffered a heart attack Monday, followed by a brain aneurysm Wednesday and died at 3:15 p.m. EST Friday. She had hosted the show since October 2003 and worked in television in Ohio, Maryland and Tennessee. Her talk show gave her a chance to interview politicians and other newsmakers, and she was not uncomfortable challenging their views. Afternoon host Terry Meiners said the phone lines were "absolutely blowing up" with people calling to express their sympathy. A public memorial was scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at Southeast Christian Church. Gov. Steve Beshear called her "one of Kentucky's most beloved radio personalities" and said she he was saddened by her death. "I considered her a friend, despite her tough questions, and I enjoyed our frequent interviews on her show," Beshear said. "People felt like they knew Francene because she was so open and honest, and her death is a terrible blow to the community. She was savvy, warm, whip-smart and compassionate." U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said in a statement that he sends his condolences to Cucinello's family friends and WHAS co-workers. "Francene's open debate on a wide-range of political and social issues kept Louisville talking, and that's one of the reasons her show was so popular," McConnell said. Attorney General Jack Conway said Cucinello "contributed greatly to the public discourse" in Kentucky. "Francene never minced words and frankly, she made me a better public servant," Conway said. "When I was on her show talking about the issues, I knew she and her listeners were holding me accountable," he added. A native of New Jersey, Cucinello attended West Virginia University where she had her first job in radio as a disc jockey. In addition to her job at WHAS radio, Continue Reading

Radio host ‘Piolin,’ a new citizen, stirs Latino voters

HUNTINGTON PARK, Calif. — "Despiertese!" Wake up! It's 4 a.m., and Spanish-language talk show host Eddie Sotelo is jump-starting his listeners — janitors pushing brooms in dark office buildings, truckers on the road, fast-food cooks flipping sausages for the breakfast rush. Most Americans have never heard of the small-framed Sotelo, known as "Piolin," or Tweety Bird. But the loyalty of his listeners, many of them immigrants like himself, has helped propel his syndicated show, "Piolin por la Manana," to the No. 1 morning radio slot, regardless of language, in markets from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Dallas, Las Vegas and Chicago, according to Arbitron. This means that in an election year when the elusive Hispanic voter could be crucial, Sotelo has the presidential candidates' ear. Between corny pranks and laugh tracks, he's using his soapbox to get Latinos engaged in the political process and to keep candidates focused on what matters to his community. In live interviews, he has pressed Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama for plans regarding the mortgage crisis, the economy and immigration reform, which has gotten little air time from English-language media. His influence with his audience comes from being one of them — an immigrant who makes no bones about having entered the country illegally 22 years ago in the trunk of a car, who shares their hopes of a better life, their Catholic faith, their love for pick-up soccer on the weekends and the upbeat strains of accordion-driven ranchero music. So when he urges listeners to become citizens, as he did in May, and to cast a vote, as he will do for the first time in November, other new Americans pay attention. "I listen to him every day, and it's affected my opinion," said Emerita Palma, 43, one of the more than 50,000 gathered in Huntington Park, a suburb of Los Angeles, to watch Sotelo host a celebration of Mexican Independence Day last month. As Mexican flags waved and a screen above Continue Reading

Ex-radio host gets 7 years for kid porn

SAN FRANCISCO - A former San Francisco radio talk show host and former Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to more than seven years in prison Thursday for distributing child pornography. Bernie Ward, 57, pleaded guilty in May to one count of distributing child pornography. Prosecutors said investigators found dozens of pornographic images of children as young as 3 on Ward's home computer, including masochistic images of children bound and gagged. "He traded in the currency of children's suffering," federal prosecutor Steve Grocki said. Ward, a father of four known for his staunchly liberal views, hosted a nightly radio show until the station fired him when the child pornography indictment was made public in December. A Stanislaus County woman who exchanged sexually explicit Internet messages with him called police after Ward sent her a photograph of two children engaged in a sex act. She also provided police with transcripts of a conversation where Ward said he was aroused when his daughter walked in the bathroom while he showered, according to court documents. "I find it extremely troubling that a parent would say the things he wrote in those messages," U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker said before sentencing him to seven years and three months. Ward's attorney, Doron Weinberg, had argued for five years, the mandatory minimum prison sentence. He cited numerous letters of support Ward received after pleading guilty and Ward's volunteer work. Weinberg has said Ward downloaded the child porn for journalistic research. "It's clear that it ended in a dark place," Weinberg said. "Bernie Ward is a good man." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Billy Bob Thornton gets surly, stonewalls radio host

Actor—oh wait, musician—Billy Bob Thornton, gave a Canadian radio show host the cold shoulder after taking offense to how he was introduced. The Oscar-winner was insulted when Jian Ghomeshi, who hosts CBC’s Studio Q, referred to him as, well, an Oscar-winner. Thornton’s publicist, Arnold Robinson, later told CNN that the star "simply elected not to engage with the interviewer because of the direction of the interview from the outset." He added that Thornton took the reference to his movie career as an insult to his musical endeavors. The star was on the CBC radio show to promote his band The Boxmasters' latest album. When Ghomeshi introduced the band, in which Thornton drums and sings, he noted the star was also an "Oscar-winning screenwriter-actor-director." Bad move. From then on, Thornton’s answers were vague and unhelpful. When Ghomeshi asked if his band was only together for two years, Thornton responded, "I don’t know what you’re talking about." The host rephrased the question, but Thornton again replied, "I’m not sure what that means." Thornton eventually admitted he was being evasive because Ghomeshi had been “instructed not to discuss” his film career. The two came to a temporary truce to talk about the Boxmasters’ new album, which Thornton described as “cosmic cowboy music,” but the star continued to hold a grudge. The band was supposed to play a song at the end of the interview, but Thornton did not perform and walked out of the studio. And the Oscar Thornton did not want mentioned? He got that for crafting the screenplay for the 1997 film "Sling Blade," in which Thornton plays a former psychiatric hospital patient who settles in a small town. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Boston radio host suspended for ‘criminaliens’ remark

BOSTON — A Boston talk radio host has been suspended for calling Mexican immigrants "criminaliens" and emergency rooms "condos for Mexicans" during a discussion about swine flu. Boston's WTKK-FM host Jay Severin was suspended indefinitely Thursday. According to an audio clip of a Monday show, Severin complained that the U.S. wasn't doing enough to prevent the spread of swine flu. He then said "tonight we will let the usual 5,000 criminaliens that come across the Arizona border ..." referring to Mexican immigrants. During a conversation with a caller complaining about immigrants receiving health care, Severin said emergency rooms had "become essentially condos for Mexicans." George Tobia, Severin's lawyer, did not immediately return phone calls. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Radio host Michael Savage incites protests with autism comments

WOR radio talk show host Michael Savage, who makes a good living being outrageous, found himself in the middle of a new firestorm Monday after he branded most autistic children fakers who just need tougher parenting. "In 99% of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent?" Savage said last week in remarks that lit up the Internet over the weekend. "They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz.'" A few dozen parents protested outside WOR Radio, demanding Savage be fired. They called it ironic that a loudmouth known for rants about immigrants, Jews, Muslims, gays, Democrats and nonwhites would go after innocents who often can't even verbalize. Ed Moffitt, 75, proudly showed a picture of Bob, his 8-year-old grandnephew. "Bob can't speak. He never called Savage any names," Moffitt said. "We are dying to hear him say 'Mommy' or 'Daddy.' And [Savage] says that he is just acting out?" said the boy's grandfather, retired NYPD officer Bob Moffitt. "It hurts me." WOR said they couldn't be held responsible for what Savage says because he is a syndicated host broadcasting out of San Francisco. "We regret any consternation that his remarks may have caused to our listeners," the station said. On the air last night, Savage said his comments were "ripped out of context" by "far left Stalinists." He said he was talking about kids who were "misdiagnosed," but repeated his contention that most children who are called autistic aren't really sick. He appealed for sympathy by telling listeners of his brain-damaged brother, Jerome, who died at 20 in a Staten Island "snake pit" hospital without ever having spoken a word. "Maybe, after all these years, this silent brother can speak up in defense of his brother," Savage said. "I know firsthand what it's like to have a child suffer in front of Continue Reading

Knoxville’s Moll Anderson to appear on Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show Friday

Knoxville's Moll Anderson will take part in Harry Connick Jr.'s talk show, "Harry," on Friday.The syndicated talk show airs at 9 a.m. weekdays on WVLT, according to the show's website. While on the show, Anderson will talk about her New York Times and USA TODAY Bestseller, "Change Your Home, Change Your Life with Color: What's Your Color Story?"The 2017 book focuses on colors, how to create colorful spaces through interior design, stories and designs from Anderson's life and a journal to help readers find out their own connections to color.In addition to being an author, Anderson is also an interior designer, philanthropist, television and radio host and life stylist, according to her website, Continue Reading

Radio hosts push Usher’s buttons

Watch what you say about Usher's lady! The formerly press-shy R&B star is so mad for his fiancée, Tameka Foster, that he has been calling radio hosts to blast them for making fun of her. According to syndicated host Tom Joyner, the mild-mannered Grammy winner recently threatened to "whup my a-" after Joyner joked about rumored tension between Foster and Usher's mom, Jonetta Patton. Joyner said Usher called him off-air to complain about claims that Foster urged him to "fire" Jonetta as his manager. (Word is Usher was particularly unamused when Daily News contributor Jawn Murray quipped to Joyner during the broadcast: "I wonder if he's going to put a pink slip in her Mother's Day card?") Joyner and sidekick J. Anthony Brown made much of Usher's fury last week aboard the Fantastic Voyage Cruise, where LL Cool J, the O'Jays and others performed during a Caribbean benefit for historically black colleges. "Who's afraid of Usher?" asked Joyner, prompting laughter from ship guests. Joyner and Brown even invited anyone in the audience who knew Usher "to tell him we're not afraid of him." Usher is also said to have called WBLS host WendyWilliams and Hot-97's Angie Martinez to "ask them to lay off Tameka," a source tells us. The personal call to Williams comes as a surprise to those who remember Usher hurling curses over his shoulder as he dashed away from the deejay on the red carpet of the Soul Train Awards a few years ago. (This was after Williams had invited Foster onto her show - only to kick her out of the studio when Foster failed to deliver the expected dish on why she was fired as Usher's stylist.) "It's so out of character for Usher to take such a handson approach to the media," said Murray. "He must really love this girl." Usher rep Chris Chambers said, "I don't know of my client calling or threatening anyone. Radio personalities are going to talk about current news. We can't put a muzzle on anybody." Usher may have good Continue Reading

Talk-show fans still tune in big-time at Rush hour

Rush Limbaugh remains the most listened-to talk show host in America, according to a semi-annual estimate in the trade magazine Talkers, with at least 13.5 million people tuning him in at some point during the average week. Sean Hannity is a close second with at least 12.5 million. Then there's a drop to Michael Savage and Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who Talkers says each have at least 8 million listeners a week. Limbaugh and Hannity are heard locally on WABC (770 AM), Savage on WOR (710 AM) and Schlessinger on WWDJ (970 AM). Talkers says its figures are based on station reports, Arbitron "and other sources." and are not precise ratings data. The top 12 for spring 2007: 1. Limbaugh, at least 13.5 million 2. Hannity, 12.5 million 3. Savage & Schlessinger, 8 million 4. Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, 5 million 5. Neal Boortz, Mark Levin, Dave Ramsey, 4 million 6. Mike Gallagher, Michael Medved, 3.75 million 7. Jim Bohannon, Clark Howard, Bill O'Reilly, Ed Schultz, Doug Stephan, 3.25 million 8. Bill Bennett, Jerry Doyle, George Noory, 3 million 9. Rusty Humphries, Kim Komando, Lars Larsen, Jim Rome, 2.25 million 10. Bob Brinker, Dr. Joy Browne, Tom Leykis, Mancow, 1.75 million 11. Alan Colmes, Thom Hartmann, Hugh Hewitt, Lionel, G. Gordon Liddy, Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes, 1.5 million 12. Dr. Dean Edell, Bill Handel, Opie & Anthony, Michael Reagan, 1 million. GOSPEL GATHERING: "Hip Hop With Substance," hosted by Anthony Worgs, Sundays at 7-10 a.m. on WMSC (90.3 FM), will present "The Battle of the New Jersey Choirs" tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at Symphony Hall in Newark. Worgs says many people don't understand how hip hop is related in style and message to other musical styles. AROUND THE DIAL: WFUV (90.7 FM) starts its fall fund-raising drive today by starting to count down its listener-voted "top 90 essential artists." Expect folks like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell and the Beatles to score well. ... Former President Continue Reading


Black radio hosts, like their colleagues, figured to spend yesterday morning bantering about eating too much turkey and heading back to work. But the story of Sean Bell, the bridegroom who died Saturday in a hail of police bullets in Queens, changed that plan. "We started with the light stuff," said Jeff Foxx, co-host of the "Wake-Up Club" on WRKS (98. 7 FM). "But we realized very quickly that wasn't what the listeners wanted yesterday. They wanted to talk about this case. So that's where we took it. You go in with a game plan. But you end up making a lot of calls at the line. " It's not that any station planned to ignore the case. "It was on my mind from the time I heard about it," said Egypt, co-host with Donnell Rawlins on WWPR (105. 1 FM). "I knew we'd talk about it, which is why I reached out to family members and Sean Bell's fiancée. " The Bell case also became the dominant topic at WQHT (97. 1 FM) with DJ Envy, Michael Shaun and Research. Ann Tripp made it the lead news story with Steve Harvey on WBLS (107. 5 FM), and it was prominent on Deepa Fernandez's "Wake-Up Call" over WBAI (99. 5 FM). It added up to an often intense post-holiday morning on the radio. "But that's what radio can do," said Egypt. "It can give you something light and fun, then shift to something serious. " Making extra time for the Bell story, said Foxx, served the listeners: "We could go into more details and aspects of the case, not just give it a sound bite. " Besides Egypt's interview with Bell's fiancée, Nicole Paultre, WRKS, WQHT and WWPR talked with activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton and Councilman Charles Barron, as well as police officers, who had a wide range of perspectives - from defending the shooters to saying it sounded like procedures were violated. "And lots of regular folks just wanted to talk," said Foxx. "Local radio can let them do that. " The Bell case was also the focus of Sunday's local black talk shows, like Continue Reading