Pop Philosophy

Street closing; not enough coffee, man

There's nothing clear about itClear Channel Communications caught a lot of flak recently for passing around to its affiliate radio stations a list of songs deemed potentially upsetting in the wake of the airplane attacks ("Censorship can be good," Sept. 26). Following the ensuing media fallout, the San Antonio-based conglomerate established a relief fund for the families of those made jobless by the tragic events. Money changes everything -- or so the company figured. Besides a few sniggering jokes, Clear Channel seemed to have steered clear of PR danger. Until now.

Last week, Joe Cunningham, general manager at Clear Channel-owned local urban station KMEL-FM (106.1), fired longtime Community Affairs Director "Davey D" Cook. Cook is a revered figure in the hip hop community, having been the host of KMEL's public affairs show Street Knowledge since March 1991. "The idea [for the show]," Cook explains via phone from his East Bay home, "was to leave people empowered or informed." The show aired on Sunday nights from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. and combined two hours of discussion geared toward young people of color with an hour of tunes by local independent hip hop artists. Over the years, Cook and the program gained national recognition, leading to him speaking in front of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Democratic National Convention. Well-known figures like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Hillary Rodham Clinton have appeared on the show. More recently, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Alameda, Contra Costa) gave her first major interview to Street Knowledge after voting against expanded presidential military authority, and "Boots" Riley of the Coup discussed his group's new album cover, which depicted the World Trade Center blowing up. Sounds like the kind of talk that Clear Channel executives might deem overly sensitive.

Cunningham says the elimination of the position and the show has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the economy, stupid. "We've all been hit very hard by the situation," Cunningham says via phone from his S.F. offices. "It's like United -- we can't continue to function the way we have been." As for Cook, Cunningham says, "It is very difficult to accept anyone leaving the KMEL family, and we're sorry to see Davey go." Obviously, Cunningham's pain isn't so great that he feels obliged to stop the "consolidation" of Cook's job with that of "someone in the promotions department."

Asked what he'll do next, Cook says he's not sure yet. "I'm still dealing with the shock of it. I'm still in a daze." The irony of Clear Channel putting together a fund to help families of the unemployed and then adding to the ranks of the jobless may give Cook something to stew over. But his biggest beef is that the decision was so sudden. "I was never given a chance to find sponsors or anything," Cook says. "They didn't ask what I could've done within the community. I could've found people to sponsor the show."

For the time being, Cook can still be heard on KPFA-FM (94.1) on Fridays from midnight till 2 a.m. If you'd like to express your displeasure with Clear Channel and KMEL's decision, send an e-mail to joecunningham@ clearchannel.com or call 538-1061.

No use crying over spilt coffee It seems like only yesterday I was heralding the opening of the renovated Coffee Gallery in North Beach. In fact, it was almost two months ago ("Everything old is new again," Aug. 15). During that short time the club has gone from booking local and touring indie rock bands, spoken word poets, and no wave DJs to booking ... nothing. Talk about your quick turnarounds.

Two weeks ago, booker Dani Eurynome handed in her one-month notice to the Coffee Gallery's owners. "They just weren't doing what they negotiated with me," she explains via phone from her other booking gig, the Stork Club in Oakland. According to Eurynome, the club managers failed to fix sound problems and purchase equipment they had promised to get; were taking a larger percentage of the door receipts than originally agreed; and sometimes didn't charge admittance at all (making it awfully hard for the bands to get paid). "I told them why these things were a problem, but they didn't seem to care," Eurynome says. (The owners, Sharron and David Seto, did not return phone calls seeking comment.)

Then, on Sept. 26, Eurynome found out that the show she'd booked for that night -- and all performances afterward -- had been canceled. She scrambled to reschedule as many bands as possible, either at the Stork or in S.F.-based clubs like the Voodoo Lounge, and then severed her ties with the Coffee Gallery. When asked if she thought the venue would host further shows, she said, "I couldn't recommend anyone working with them." Indie rock fans across the bay should cry little sweatered tears as another opportunity for live music disappears into the fog.

 
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