The Sound and the Fury : Cat Stevens Radio Dispute Widens to Other Stations

Times Staff Writer

Thanks to Cat Stevens, Salman Rushdie and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a whole new kind of programming has hit the Los Angeles airwaves, revolving around rock, talk and censorship.

Oldies rock stations KRTH-FM (101.1) and KLSX-FM (97.1) had pulled Cat Stevens recordings from their playlists as of Tuesday, with KRTH deejay Brian Beirne even going so far as to break several Stevens albums on the air.

And a censorship brouhaha between rival talk show hosts at KFI-AM (640) over protests against the ‘70s pop artist grew uglier.

Suspended KFI talk show host Geoff Edwards, ousted from his morning program on Monday for his refusal to condone a KFI-approved incineration of Cat Stevens recordings, plans to hold a press conference today, according to his longtime business manager Howard Borris.


But author Chuck Ashman substituted for Edwards in his 9 a.m. to noon time slot Tuesday and station management remained as silent about the suspension as Edwards.

KFI general manager Howard Neal said he could not comment about any aspect of the fracas beyond his admonition that Ashman would be sitting in for Edwards temporarily. Neal said that the proposed record burning--conceived by afternoon talk show host Tom Leykis and approved by KFI program director George Oliva--would go ahead as planned sometime this week. (The station has not released a specific time or date.)

Neither Oliva nor John D. Furman Jr., vice-president and director of broadcast standards for KFI’s parent company, Atlanta-based Cox Communications, returned The Times’ phone calls on Tuesday.

Edwards was suspended after he refused to broadcast promotions for the incineration during his own show on Friday. Edwards maintained that Leykis’ record burning is as much a kind of censorship as the censorship that the stunt is supposed to illustrate. Leykis came up with the burning idea to protest Cat Stevens’ reported support of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s death sentence against novelist Salman Rushdie. A Muslim, Stevens now goes by the name of Yusuf Islam.


“The idea of protesting censorship by burning someone’s records is ridiculous,” said Carole Hemingway, host of a rival talk show on KGIL-AM (1260). “You get whiplash just thinking about it.

“And now they’ve gone even further,” she continued. “I mean, Geoff Edwards says he’s not going to play promotions for the burning on the radio too which is another form of censorship!

KRTH’s Beirne played Stevens’ hit “Morning Has Broken” during his midday program on Monday, stopping it in the middle and announcing that he would break all of his Cat Stevens records.

He also announced that KRTH would be removing all of Cat Stevens’ recordings from KRTH’s cassette library.

KLSX program director Tom Yates said he had ordered an end to playing Stevens’ recordings on Friday.

“It’s really kind of sad because the guy they’re talking about is not the Cat Stevens we knew,” Yates said. He said he does not condone destruction of Stevens’ albums, however.

“One thing I want to be real clear about is this: Censorship is censorship,” he said. “Record burning or compact disc trashing is the same as book burning. We can’t condone Nazism no matter what. . . . We’re dealing with a simple protest and that means not playing Cat Stevens, but I wouldn’t burn it. Ever.”