(This is an excerpt from Chapter 25 of Towers in the Sand: The History of Florida Broadcasting. It picks up where Russ Morley, program director of WRMF-FM in West Palm Beach in the 1980-1990s, was describing Jennifer Ross’s unusual path to radio stardom.)
“If you said ‘Kevin Kitchens’ in Palm Beach and Broward counties in the late-1980s and ’90s, people would probably respond with, ‘and Jennifer Ross.’ That was not part of the carefully honed plan. Morley sensed something special when Elena LaFazia showed up at his office for a job interview in the early ’80s. ‘She had moxie,’ a contralto voice from years of smoking, and Rhode Island street smarts. But first the name had to change. For no specific reason, ‘Jennifer Ross’ was chosen. Her first job was as the field reporter for a public service segment called ’60 Seconds,’ a knock-off of the famous CBS television news magazine. Ross would come up with a Question of the Day and go out into the community to record comments from the public, editing them into a one-minute package that aired several times a day. ‘What do you think about the killings in Libya, that sort of thing,’ said Morley. ‘Well, I think it’s awful what they’re doing in Libya.’ That evolved over time to co-anchoring the morning news on WRMF, a three-minute segment. ‘She started hanging around the studio after the newscast. She had such a perky personality—she didn’t seem to fear anyone or anything.’ Kitchens and Ross hit it off, but not in the typical morning team mutual admiration society. ‘Theirs was a love-hate, brother-sister relationship whose genuineness kept them No. 1 in the morning drive slot,’ wrote [The Palm Beach Post‘s Tim] O’Meilia, who referred to them as a ‘Tracy-Hepburn match.’
“(Interestingly, in the ten years Ross was teamed with Kitchens, she never received star billing or compensation. It was always the Kevin Kitchens Show. ‘You know how it is,’ said Morley. ‘Sometimes you have to leave to change the way you are viewed. [At WRMF] she was viewed as the newsgirl who comments outside the newscast.’ It wasn’t until Ross and Kitchens moved to WEAT-FM in 1995 that she got co-billing and became the second-highest paid radio talent in the market. Kitchens was number one.)”
The WRMF story includes a fictitious woman known as “The Mercedes Lady,” a musical format so tight that they even engineered out a guitar riff in “Easy Like Sunday Morning,” and a list of dos and don’ts that often infuriated the sales staff. Read all about it starting on page 458. Click here to buy the book.