WGRX-FM hopes for calling stars


Someday Prince may call. Maybe even The King.

At least, WGRX-FM hopes so.

The station is giving away $1,000 to the listener who can convince the "biggest" star to call in and chat with the morning disc jockeys, Dave Marcum and Jack Taylor.

Sportscaster Jim McKay called last Wednesday, followed directly by Grant Shaud of "Murphy Brown." So far they're the best-known of the 17 local or national celebrities to phone in during the three-week promotion that ends Thursday.

Local big shots who've called include Bert Jones, former quarterback for the Baltimore Colts, who called from Louisiana where he now runs a lumber mill, and Marty Bass, who does news for WJZ-TV 13.

Early last Friday, Shari Belafonte, star of "Hotel" and Slim Fast commercials, rose from sleep at her sister-in-law's urging and gamely tried for 20 minutes before getting through, she told the DJs after finally getting on the air.

The station has the sister-in-law's name but doesn't know where she lives or how to get in touch with her. If she wins, they'll announceher name so she can claim her $1,000 prize. (The station has not recorded the names and addresses of all of the listeners who have convinced stars to call in, according to Mr. Marcum.)

While Ms. Belafonte's sister-in-law may be somewhat elusive, the way she'd spend prize money was no mystery for Ms. Belafonte, daughter of Harry Belafonte. "It will be for the first couple of books for my nephew, who was born just a few weeks ago," said the actress.

Like other famous callers, a groggy-sounding Ms. Belafonte remarked on the early hour. The West Coast time difference accounts in part for why the station hasn't had more call-ins, Mr. Marcum says.

Pam Cocker, wife of rock star Joe Cocker, called one morning just before 10 and tried to convince her husband to get up, but had no luck. Mr. Marcum and Mr. Taylor, the morning DJs, even told her that the call would count if she could just lure him to the phone and get him to grunt.

The creator of the contest, Dallas station KHKS-FM, claims to have had more success reaching the stars. As the first station to air such a contest, and being an hour closer to Hollywood, KHKS-FM says it got more calls and stars of greater magnitude than copycat stations. Tonia Schilling, morning show coordinator for KHKS-FM, says their early June contest drew everyone from Mel Gibson to basketball star Shaquille O'Neal.

Rosie O'Donnell of "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Another Stakeout" fame called in, as did eventual winning caller Billy Crystal.

Dave Kraddick, morning DJ at KHKS, was inspired to run the contest by another morning show where KHKS listeners called in and told their tales of a brush with fame. He was amazed at how many people actually knew stars, and his idea for a new promotion was born. He posted his idea on a computer bulletin board for morning show DJs, and now stations all across the country are shooting for the stars.

KHKS's contest may still be the best to date, though, for catching those calling stars. Billy Crystal may have won, but he probably wouldn't have had Marlon Brando not been

disconnected when he called collect

from Tahiti. Another close caller was Frank Sinatra, who phoned in during a weekend, so it didn't count.

But it was the other one that got away that thrilled Ms. Schilling.

"When Mel Gibson called, it made my whole year," Ms. Schilling says, although he called just minutes after the contest ended.

WGRX's contest will be a bit more difficult to judge, Mr. Marcum says. Grant Shaud, who plays the neurotic producer Miles on "Murphy Brown," told WGRX DJs that he didn't think he was famous enough to win, but the listener who encouraged him to call, Jennifer Davis Hope, disagrees.

Her brother, Guy Davis, had been Mr. Shaud's roommate at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Mrs. Hope is the only listener so far to pledge her possible winnings to a charity, namely the Public Justice Center, where she is assistant director of tenant advocacy.

"As soon as I heard about the contest, I just thought it would be an innovative way to get money for the public justice center," says Mrs. Hope.

Mrs. Hope will find out Friday if her organization is $1,000 richer. But Mr. Marcum says Jim McKay has a good shot, as well as Grant Shaud.

Says Bob McLaughlin, promotions and marketing director, "If it continues to pick up momentum like this, we may hold out to see who we can get.

"Elvis? You never know . . ."

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