After five years of radio silence, Mike Esparza, namesake of The Mikey Show, is set to return to the airwaves Thursday, July 27, where he will hold down an afternoon DJ shift on KFMB-FM.
Esparza was last heard on FM-94/9, where he anchored the morning Mikey Show from January 2010 until he was fired in March 2012.
Esparza’s frequent on-air proselytizing about his status as a born-again Christian alienated some longtime FM-94/9 listeners. Esparza was booed at a December 2010 Black Keys show at UCSD’s RIMAC presented by FM-94/9.
Esparza regularly ended his Friday show on FM-94/9 with a 15-minute religious “testimony,” unheard of in commercial radio. Esparza critics say Mikey’s preacher character hypocritically conflicted with Mikey’s bilious shock-jock character: he once falsely said on air that the 91X program director beat up special-needs kids.
Insiders say he came to FM-94/9 seven years ago when that station more than tripled the $300,000 base salary he was getting at “Rock 105.3.” There is no indication what his new salary may be.
The news of Esparza’s return to the airwaves amazed some of the employees of the Lincoln Financial media group of stations that owned FM-94/9 when Esparza worked there. “The major reason he was fired is because he brought a gun to work,” says one of those employees. Other former Lincoln Financial employees confirmed that story.
Esparza was hired to work at KFMB-FM by Mike Vasquez. Some insiders wonder if Vasquez, who also talks about his Christian beliefs on the air, was motivated to rehire Esparza because of their religious parallels. Insiders say Vasquez had full knowledge of the reasons behind Esparza’s 2012 firing, because at the time he was program director of sister station KIFM, which was just down the hall.
When Esparza negotiated his lucrative contract with FM-94/9 in late 2009, The Mikey Show on Rock 105.3 was regularly number one among listeners 18–34. But things “started to unravel,” according to one of his former coworkers. There were some Nielsen/Arbitron ratings periods in 2011 where The Mikey Show at FM-94/9 did not even make the Top 20 with that desired 18-34 group.
KFMB-FM program director Mike Vasquez says Esparza will not have “free rein” to do "whatever he wants,” however he said he respects Esparza’s “storytelling” and “remarkable talent that will translate well to a rock and roll audience…. He will not be doing religious rants. He will be doing a compelling rock-and-roll radio show.”
Although Vasquez says he was aware of the gun-totin’ charges made when Esparza was fired five years ago, “I did not have any official confirmation from any of my superiors about that…. I know I’m not same person I was 5, 10, 20 years ago. Mikey is a man with a good heart who I have no problem bringing home to have dinner with my family…. He certainly is not dangerous around the workplace.”
Vasquez says he is aware of Esparza’s “perceived baggage,” but that “there are two sides to every story. Sometimes you have to go with your gut.” He says Esparza’s religious views “did not play a part” in his hiring.
KFMB-FM announced Esparza would be joining their air staff on Monday, July 24. KFMB-FM’s top-rated Dave Shelly and Chainsaw Show made no mention on the air about the arrival of Esparza on their show the next day.
When DSC arrived at KFMB-FM in 2010, Rickards was not kind to Esparza. “I heard [Rickards] go on the air and say Mikey was a hack who would steal material from the DSC show,” says a former member of The Mikey Show. Another current employee of KFMB confirmed that.
DSC anchor Dave Rickards, never known to back away from controversy, politely declined to make a comment for this story.
An email request for comment to Esparza was not returned.