Gregg Hunter, Longtime Radio Host in Los Angeles, Dies at 87
Listeners wound down with him as he broadcast 'Weekend World of Entertainment,' 'Meet Me at the Derby' and 'Niteside L.A.' on KIEV-AM.
Gregg Hunter, who spent four easygoing decades on the radio in Los Angeles talking about restaurants, music, television and classic movies, died May 15 in Los Angeles, his rep, Michael Sinclair, said. He was 87.
Known as "the friendliest voice on the airwaves," Hunter worked at KIEV-AM from 1968-98 and hosted such programs as Weekend World of Entertainment; Meet Me at the Derby, where he interviewed the likes of Henry Fonda, Dore Schary, Hume Cronyn & Jessica Tandy, Carol Channing, Cyd Charisse, Tom Hanks and Jay Leno from a booth at the Hollywood hotspot The Brown Derby; and Niteside L.A., where he fielded calls from listeners who wanted to chat or ask questions about show business.
Hunter generally avoided hot-button issues on the air. "There's plenty of shouting and political controversy around the dial," he said, "but it seems to me that late evening should provide a time to wind down and relax."
In 1994, he became the first radio personality to receive an Award of Excellence from the National Film Advisory Board, honored for the "wealth of knowledge about films and entertainment he presents nightly to his audience."
When Salem Communications purchased KIEV in 1998, Hunter segued to CRN Digital Talk Radio Networks and worked there until 2015.
Born in Springfield, Missouri, Hunter was a son of a manager of movie theaters in the Midwest, and he got his start as an entertainer performing between films. He moved to New York and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where his classmates included Grace Kelly and Vince Edwards, and Columbia University.
A song-and-dance man who composed more than 100 tunes, he signed with Fox and came to Los Angeles, but it was "a bad career move," he said. "The studio brought me west and promptly forgot I was on the lot." Still, he decided to remain in California, working at radio stations including KPOP, KFVD, KLWN and KMLA-FM before joining KIEV, then a 500-watt outlet. (It would gradually grow to a powerful 20,000 watts by 1998.)
"We signed off at sundown," Hunter recalled of his beginnings at KIEV. "The format was strictly golden oldies. The idea of interrupting the music with talk concerned the station owners. They thought people might tune out. In the beginning, I had exactly five minutes on the air during weekday traffic time. I learned to write really tight copy and to talk without pausing for breath."
The station converted to a talk format in 1975.
Hunter also performed in nightclubs; wrote dining and entertainment columns for the Glendale News-Press; co-founded the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and the California Restaurant Writers Association; and hosted a local cable variety show.