"Coffee Radio" was a short-lived adventure. KOFY was formerly "THE CITY"--KKCY, which was purchased in 1989 by James Gabbert, a notorious San Francisco media maven, who parlayed a small FM station into multi-million-dollar television channel 20. His reputation was such that a large group of KKCY listeners formed a coalition which petitioned the FCC and made other legal moves to make sure that Gabbert continued the much-liked eclectic format of KKCY. Gabbert signed an agreement to that effect with severe penalties if he broke it.
He hired Thom O'Hair to be Program Director and Bonnie Simmons as Music Director. Other old KSAN'ers included Norman Davis, Dan Carlisle, Tony Kilbert and Bobby Dale. Gabbert promised to keep his hands off the programming and he kept his word---for about three hours. Then he started calling the booth, complaining about certain records he was hearing. What Gabbert really wanted was a "soft rock" format station. His idea of a typical listener was "Freda in Hayward, who lives in a trailer, has a bouffant and is seriously overweight."
The whole thing went down fast. O'Hair, who refused to relay format demands from Gabbert to his air crew, was fired six weeks into the job. O'Hair was no dummy and had an ironclad three-year contract that guaranteed an arbitrated settlement. He ended up getting his full three years' salary. (Not that it mattered much, in the end--the IRS took most of it.)
The City Coalition, several hundred members strong at this point, challenged Gabbert and after legal action collected $240,000 as his penalty for breaking the agreement. Gabbert didn't seem fazed by any of it and plodded ahead with his concept of duller, more familiar radio.
The DJ's were picked off one by one. Dan Carlisle had enough and went to Gabbert to demand a payoff. He ended up getting a few thou to leave quietly and paved the way for similar payoffs for the others who refused to play Gabbert's trite format. Bonnie left, then Peter, who did a blistering last show that must still give Gabbert nightmares if he heard it, and finally when they asked Norman to stay on and play format radio, he declined to continue.
In spite of all the opposition and chaos. KOFY broadcast some damn fine radio for a few months. Nancy Walton's early evening shows were remarkable for their taste and eclecticity. Gabbert never knew what he missed out on. He killed what could have been another KSAN with his limited ideas on programming. The basic difference was that O'Hair and his staff respected their audience and Gabbert didn't.
The first memo from Thom O'Hair
Short aircheck collage of Norman's KOFY show