Geno Michellini, Familiar Voice to L.A. Rock Fans as KLOS Drive-Time DJ in ’80s and ’90s, Dies at 77

Geno Michellini, a familiar voice to Los Angeles rock fans as the afternoon DJ during the ’80s and ’90s on KLOS, died March 2 at age 77. The death was not widely reported until Monday.

An official obituary written by friends David Forman and Frank Martin said he “passed peacefully at home of natural causes with his beloved cat Bud Bud by his side.” Michellini’s death follows by about five months that of fellow L.A./San Francisco DJ Dusty Street, with whom he was said to be especially close, helping care for her before her passing.

Michellini held down the afternoon spot on album-rock giant KLOS from 1984-94. He also hosted a syndicated program called “Power Cuts” on the Global Satellite Network. “You can’t really believe it’s happening,” he was quoted as saying of his sudden ascent in a top market. “I went from being out of work to the number one station in Southern California and a national radio show all in the same day.”

His signature phrase, “How Ya Doin’” — inspired by his friend Joe Walsh) — was emblazoned in KLOS’ familiar rainbow-surrounded bumper stickers. “Bang the Drum” was another catchphrase, coming off his ritual playing of Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day” to begin his program every Friday at 4.

A seven-minute comedy segment called “The 5 O’Clock Funnies” was a key part of his program during drive time, and Tim Allen credited his first appearances on the show in early 1989 as giving him his big break. After playing seven minutes of Allen’s standup for the first time, “in 24 hours, the station got 500 calls,” the DJ said.

Born into a military family as Theodore Eugene Dunmire, the future Michellini first began broadcasting from the Philippines on Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam war. Work back in the states as a pop DJ on stations in Thousand Oaks and Stockton led to his real calling, doing free-form rock radio on KSFM in Sacramento, KOME in San Jose (for six years) and, in 1982, KMEL in San Francisco, where he also served as music director during a two-year stint. It was the KOME station programmer who convinced Dunmire that he needed a name with “more pizzazz.”

After moving to Los Angeles and KLOS in 1984, Michellini “survived half a dozen program directors” over the following decade, as his official obituary puts it, and did not always suffer them gladly as corporate programming became tighter and playing even one song outside the playlist became a no-no. “I’m not good at being told to shut the fuck up,” he said. “I’m the kind of person that if you make suggestions, I’ll listen. But if you tell me that I can’t do something and won’t tell me why, or I don’t agree with the reasons why, I’ll fight you.”

In 1994, KLOS alarmed longtime listeners by first dropping Michellini and then, shortly afterward, Joe Benson and Bob Coburn. Some saw it as heralding the end of the age of the “mellow” FM rock DJ — a thought amplified at the time by KLOS program director Curelop, who told the Los Angeles Times of the firings: “I have great respect for Joe, Gino and Bob, but if we’re going to present a more up-tempo, more current approach, we need talent that at least comes up to the level of the music in terms of energy.”

Following his KLOS departure, Michellini went on to have air slots on KFI (doing a Sunday morning talk show), KCAL in Riverside, KLSX and, his obituary says, “a stint back at KLOS for a fraction of his old salary” from 1999 to 2003.

Michelllini’s obit writers say he “never recovered from Dusty’s death” last October, “but in the last weeks of his life, he seemed to find a measure of peace. He quit Facebook and was planning a trip back to Tahiti when he died in his bed Saturday, March 2nd at around 2 a.m., an old John Huston documentary in his laser disc player and Bud Bud on the pillow next to him.”

The obituary further notes that Michellini was cremated and, per his wishes, had his ashes scattered into the ocean from a coconut in Manhattan Beach.

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