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New York Daily News
Numero Uno: He's The Shock Jock Who Outgrosses Howard Stern
His Risque Morning Radio Show Beats Howard Stern - In Spanish
By ROBERT DOMINGUEZ
June 10, 2003
New York's most popular morning radio host was talking about sex - as usual - on his show last week.
More specifically, he was taking calls from listeners about the strange noises people make while doing it.
When a caller went into graphic detail about his romp with a deaf and mute woman, the morning guy and his studio cohorts encouraged the listener to mimic her guttural moans of passion over the air.
Then the host did his own over-the-top imitation of a hearing- impaired woman in the throes of ecstasy.
Howard Stern, right?
No, this was Luis Jimenez on "La Mega" (WSKQ/97.9-FM), whose "El Vaciln de la Maana" (which roughly translates to "The Morning Party") has now topped the mighty Stern here in the ratings.
And he's accomplished this by beating the self-proclaimed King of All Media at his own game: being outrageous.
"We don't try to be like Howard Stern - we're funny more than shocking," Jimenez told the Daily News. "We only care about making people laugh. We actually don't like to offend. It's the last thing we want to do."
Broadcast in Spanish from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., Jimenez's show scored a whopping 6.2 in the most recent Arbitron ratings - beating Stern, who had a 6.1 (the numbers refer to the percentage of the radio audience).
The shows have been fighting for morning supremacy for several years, often trading places in the ratings.
"What gets me is that people think that just because the show is in Spanish, [our ratings] somehow don't count," says Jimenez, who has been the host for 10 years. "But we see it as an even bigger victory for a Spanish show to be No. 1 over a Howard Stern."
Jimenez, joined by sidekick Moonshadow and a group of cronies with names like Boca Chula, Shorty and El Papi Chulo, fills the show with jokes, skits, song parodies and the occasional prank call heavy on sexual content.
Much of the humor is rife with double entendres - in Spanish.
There's a technician who mans a bleep button that's supposed to keep expletives off the air, but his reflexes are notoriously slow. In just about every show, vulgar Spanish words - mostly slang for male and female genitalia - sneak by.
With a straight face, Jimenez explains that what might be a dirty word for one Hispanic nationality has a totally different, clean meaning for another. "There's nothing wrong with these words," he says.
Jimenez was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Florida as a teen. A childhood friend, George Mier, helped him land a part-time job in production at an Orlando radio station. When Mier became program director at WSKQ in 1993, he offered Jimenez a job.
Jimenez had a string of co-hosts and sidekicks, but it wasn't until he was paired with Junior Hernandez in 1998 that the morning show's popularity soared.
He says the low point of his career was when Hernandez died unexpectedly that year. "I quit right after his death. There was no way I was going to go back on the air and try to be funny when my partner just died ... but they told me the show must go on."
On the strength of "El Vaciln's" bawdy appeal, WSKQ is now in a three-way tie for third place in the overall ratings with a 4.2% share, behind music stations Lite-FM (WLTW-FM) and Hot 97 (WQHT- FM).
"El Vaciln" is the No. 2 morning program, behind the all-news AM station WINS (6.6%). ("Stern" is first among the highly coveted 25- to 54-year-olds; "El Vaciln" is second.)
Some of Jimenez's antics have landed him in trouble - but they had to do with on-air pranks, not sex.
Two years ago, police stormed La Mega's W. 56th studio when Jimenez said gunmen had burst in and shot several workers. Another time, his claim that the Lincoln Tunnel was flooded caused a flurry of panicked calls and tied up rush-hour traffic.
"The [station execs] just said, 'Be careful,' " says Jimenez. "Other than that, they let us do our own thing."