- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

It’s official: News-and-talk radio station WMAL-AM (630) has hired former Iowa representative and “Love Boat” star Fred Grandy to be co-host of its morning show.

Mr. Grandy earned enthusiastic reviews during a two-week tryout with co-host Andy Parks this month. Management at the ABC-owned station said it received hundreds of calls and e-mails praising Mr. Grandy’s performance.

“Fred has had such interesting experiences, from serving in Congress to being on an Aaron Spelling show. He brings a unique perspective to radio,” said Chris Berry, WMAL’s president and general manager.

Mr. Grandy played yeoman-purser Burl “Gopher” Smith on “The Love Boat,” which ABC aired from 1977 until 1986. He represented Iowa as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 until 1995, then ran Goodwill Industries for five years.

“There is nothing quite as challenging as doing radio, particularly talk radio. You can’t just be funny. You also have to be accurate,” said Mr. Grandy, a fill-in host at WMAL for five years before beginning his permanent gig this week.

The “WMAL Morning News,” which airs weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., debuted in July with three hosts: Mr. Parks, Bill Press and Jane Norris.

The daily bickering between the liberal Mr. Press and the conservative Ms. Norris turned off many listeners, especially old-timers who remember when the easygoing Frank Harden and Jackson Weaver were hosts of WMAL’s morning show.

Fixing the program became the top priority of Mr. Berry, a respected ABC executive who arrived at WMAL in December.

Mr. Press left the show in May to focus on his MSNBC series, “Buchanan and Press.” Ms. Norris is under contract with WMAL until the end of the summer but she is not expected to return to its airwaves.

Political talk will still figure into the “WMAL Morning News,” but it will be less shrill than its previous incarnation, Mr. Berry said. He hopes listeners of all political stripes will tune in.

Mr. Grandy considers himself a moderate, joking that he offers “a little something to offend everyone.”

When Mr. Grandy left Congress and became president and chief executive of Goodwill Industries, he registered as an independent.

The Bethesda resident said he intended to rejoin the Republican Party but never got around to it. He held a fund-raiser last year for Republican Constance A. Morella in her attempt to hold onto her House seat in Maryland’s Eighth District. Mrs. Morella lost to Democrat Chris Van Hollen.

Since leaving Goodwill in 2000, Mr. Grandy has done some lobbying but he said he’ll give that up to focus on his new gig.

Meanwhile, Mr. Berry said his next goal is finding a program director to replace John Butler, who resigned in April. According to the whispers around the WMAL water cooler, Mr. Berry asked Mr. Butler to leave. Mr. Berry wouldn’t confirm that.

“There’s still a lot I’m working on,” he said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Around the dial

Saturday evening at 7, NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4) will air “The Comfort at War,” a half-hour compilation of Doreen Gentzler’s recent reports on the USNS Comfort medical ship.

Last night, ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) was scheduled to air “Behind the Scenes,” a look at places most folks never see, such as a West Virginia bunker designed to secure government officials during crises.

Two local news documentaries in one week? Did someone set the Wayback Machine to the 1970s and forget to tell the Channel Surfer?

Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139.

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