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lawsuitart With help from fellow Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics writer Spike Steffenhagen, I browsed a stack of local music-related lawsuit files and found a bunch of fascinating untold tales of courtroom battles -----

The music industry is rife with stories of deranged celebrity stalkers. A VH1 special on the subject included excerpts from Madonna's court testimony against unwanted admirer Robert Dewey Hoskins (who was sentenced to ten years in state prison for making 'terrorist threats' against the singer), J-Lo's fear of fandom ("I have nightmares that I'll end up like Selena and be killed by someone from my fan club"), and the Bjork devotee who attempted to mail the Icelandic object of his obsession a live bomb and then videotaped his own suicide.

Rare, however, are tales of rabid radio DJ fans.

Of course, disc jockey worship was much more common in the years before automation revolutionized (or at least mechanized) the radio industry, reducing the presence and influence of the on-air personalities who once orchestrated the musical tastes and social inclinations of millions of listeners.

playmisty The dark side of audiological obsession formed the basis of the 1971 Clint Eastwood thriller "Play Misty For Me" (the actor's directorial debut). Portraying a jazz radio DJ for station KRML in Carmel California, Eastwood's character finds his life upended by a high-strung female fan who repeatedly calls his show to request her favorite song, the Erroll Garner classic "Misty." This seriously disturbed stalker, chillingly enacted by Jessica Walter, wages a campaign of seduction that instead results in her attempted suicide and eventual death, managing along the way to ruin the DJ's job, his relationship with a longtime girlfriend and ambushing his maid with a butcher knife.

"Hey, this is your psycho freako, don't come home, freakout, freakout person. Hey dude, you never served me with that restraining order…I'm waiting on you to serve your f-ing restraining order, --hole. Come on now, big boy, let's do it…have a good night, f-ing --hole."

The preceding isn't dialogue from "Misty" – it's transcribed from a recorded voicemail message left for DJ Todd Braun (on-air moniker "Todd Kelly"), allegedly recorded in December 2000 by a female listener in San Diego, Karolin Sickles.

The real-life psychodrama he claims to have endured at her hands resembles "Play Misty For Me" in many ways. Except for the part where the stalker falls off a cliff to her death, and ignoring the unlikely circumstance of a radio DJ who can actually afford his own maid.

Kelly says that Sickles "terrorized" him over several years while he DJ'd at three different radio stations. In December 2000, KGB owners Clear Channel Communications, Inc., his employers at the time, filed a restraining order request against Sickles, seeking to keep the former fan-turned-fanatic from contacting Kelly, either in person or over the phone, for a minimum of one year. "I am afraid that she will escalate her behavior, including possible violent conduct," stated Kelly in the request. "She appears to be highly delusional, believing that I am in a romantic relationship with her. She also appears to be stalking me, following me to my promotional appearances and monitoring my movements in and out of the Clear Channel broadcast studios."

Sickles first began calling in song requests while Kelly worked at KIOZ/Rock 105.3 from 1993 through 1997. He didn't come face to face with her until working for XHRM at their National City headquarters. "During the summer of 1998," according to Kelly, "Ms. Sickles came to the radio station late at night during my on-air shift and pressed her face up against the glass window of our studio. I did not know her but assumed she was a listener who wished to make a request. When I opened the door to see what she wanted, Ms. Sickles grabbed the back of my neck and tried to kiss me. I immediately pushed her away and told her to leave and closed the door to the studio."

Kelly became aware of the woman's identity after recognizing her at promotional events and connecting her to the increasingly disturbing phone calls which followed him to station KGB 101.5 in April 1999, after he took over the 7:00 p.m. to midnight slot. That's when he began recording his voicemail messages.

"You just can't give up. You just cannot f-ing just like let it go…you have your life, you have your strippers, you have everything that you possibly f-ing want and everything you're doing in my life and what you're doing with me and my kids, I don't understand. I don't get it and I'm really like tired of it, okay? I'm tired of like staying up 'til midnight and dancing. I'm tired of like doing all that crap that I do for you and I don't receive anything back…you're a big f-ing star now, okay?"

Kelly denies that he and Sickles ever had anything remotely like a relationship. "This is absolutely not true. I have never seen Ms. Sickles on a social basis, am not involved in any romantic relationship with her and have only seen her at promotional appearances I make for the radio station."

One of those appearances took place in March 2000 at the downtown Hard Rock Café. "Ms. Sickles became very angry that I was talking to other people at the bar. She walked over to me, was visibly shaking and began shouting at me. She then punched me in the stomach with her fist."

Returning to the disc jockey booth, Kelly informed KGB promotions assistant Erica Gonzales of the assault. Gonzales says "I saw Ms. Sickles following Mr. Braun [Todd Kelly] around while he was talking to other bar patrons, especially other women in the bar." She notified security to evict Sickles but, before guards could arrive, the woman tried to gain entry to the booth and Gonzales refused to let her in. "Ms. Sickles then angrily swung her arm at a group of glasses on a nearby table…I was hit with the contents of some of the glasses. After this incident, the security personnel removed Ms. Sickles from the bar. While this was happening, she was screaming 'don't come home' at Mr. Braun and was telling the security personnel that she was actually in a relationship with him."

"I don't want to be with you no more, okay, and I want to be let go and I'm serious and you might think I'm a psycho freak and you can tell your friends that I am, but you know and I know it's time to let it go, Todd. It's time to f-ing let it go…I'm not gonna f-ing hang on no more, there's no reason for it."

During a November 2000 phone call, Kelly says "Ms. Sickles stated that I 'had some explaining to do.' I told [her] that I did not know her, I have never been in any type of relationship, romantic or otherwise, with her, and that her behavior was disturbing to me. Ms. Sickles became very angry on the phone, began breathing heavily, growling and shouting at me. I told [her] that I was concerned and was considering getting some type of restraining order against her…[she] growled at me and hung up." He says that night he watched fearfully over his shoulder for Sickles as he drove home and that he couldn't sleep once he got there.

Early December: "I spoke with officer Doug Reinhart of the San Diego Police Department," remembers Todd Kelly. "Officer Reinhart informed me that Ms. Sickles had made a complaint to the police that KGB and I were stalking her by placing 'bugs' and hidden cameras in her home. [He] also indicated that Ms. Sickles had described my truck, including my license number, and she had also accurately described the car parked next to my truck in the Clear Channel parking lot that day."

On hearing this, Kelly immediately checked his voice mail, finding two messages from Sickles, including one where she shouted at him and called him an "a-hole" and a "f---er."

"I'm tired of like the thing that you've done to my work…when you know that you have bugged the place, we know that, you know that, everybody who knows you knows that and yet you don't f-ing let me go…you're not living by the border anymore, you're f-ing uptown, f-ing like just let it go, just let it f-ing just like go."

On December 11th, Kelly turned the recorded voicemail messages over to Clear Channel's attorneys, Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, and on the 14th the entertainment conglomerate filed a lawsuit (GIC759466 Clear Channel Communications v. Sickles Karolin) at the downtown county courthouse on Broadway, seeking to "prohibit civil harassment" on the part of Sickles. Monetary damages weren't an issue – the order sought only to prevent her from "engaging in the described conduct toward all Clear Channel employees" in the San Diego area and to ban her from "all promotional events conducted by Clear Channel radio stations."

The order was granted with no opposition filed by Sickles, requiring her to stay 100 yards away from Todd Kelly's workplace and home and from any public events where he appears under penalty of possible arrest and prosecution. Karolin Sickles has dutifully adhered to the court order, but this doesn't preclude her from responding to inquiries regarding the suit.

When I contacted Sickles by phone awhile back, she said the friction between her and Kelly began when she used to call the DJ at Rock 105.3. "I told him a joke and he said he'd take the joke [and repeat it] over the air and then he said that I was a racist. He had all these people calling in and saying that I was a racist and that's not at all what [the joke] was about."

As far as the restraining order goes, she says, "It was pretty unpleasant because it was based upon what one person who has a microphone can say about one individual…[he] said some things about me and when I turned around and tried to defend myself he got his attorneys involved and those declarations you find there [in the courthouse file] are all based on lies and hearsay. He then tried to say that I was crazy. They had a court appointed psychiatrist come out and visit me and even the psychiatrist and police officer that with me said that I wasn't crazy."

Sickles denies stalking the DJ and she tells me that statements sworn to by other Clear Channel employees should be discounted. "I hope that whoever was a part of all that [lawsuit], Coe Lewis and then there was another girl named Erica [Gonzales, promotions assistant] and just a whole bunch of people were involved, all those people signed those declarations under penalty of perjury. And every single one of them lied." She never pursued legal reprisal, however, neither disputing nor replying to the original complaint in any way.

"I had him, Jay, I really had him, I really could have took them all down…honestly, I believe that some people know the truth about what he said and know that he lied. He really committed perjury and I really could have had him, I really could have had him good, but I was exhausted. The attorney was free, it wasn't anything about money, I could have totally done it but I was tired…I just decided it was easier not to fight it, to let it go."

As of 2003, Todd Kelly was an on-air personality in San Bernadino. I asked Sickles how she feels about Kelly now. "It just didn't turn out to be a good thing and I wish Todd all the best…I feel like the guy has a lot of good qualities and that he's a good guy. I think also that he tried to sell himself as a person that he's not. He puts himself under all this pressure to be this person that he's not so that people like Clear Channel can make money and that's basically what it's all about…I've made it a really big point to stay out of his way."


Dmonstrations have canceled their overseas summer tour, due to a falling out with Germany-based Dial Booking. According to the band, Dial had only confirmed around half the dates, even as the band prepared to depart for Europe.

“We couldn't afford the gear and van rental for the whole month without shows booked every day,” reads a band press release. They say they tried to reach their contact Matthias at the booking agency, “but it is obvious that he has more important or pressing issues in his life right now. We were waiting over two months to get a final response from him.”

“This is frustrating due to the fact that we had over eight months to plan this,” says the band. “However, we aren't willing to risk the potential to incur a substantial debt due to others’ lack of planning and professionalism. Our decision was also greatly influenced by the recent events with our friends Mika Miko, who happened to go through Dial Booking and ended up getting the runaround in Italy and losing $1,500 of their own money on their recent trip. Our friends Die! Die! Die! have also been waiting to hear of dates, and as a result of this, they have cancelled their [overseas] tour too.”

Dmonstrations plan to record a new album this fall, and they say their 2008 tour of Japan, arranged through a different booking agency, is still on.

Like this blog? Here are some related links:

OVERHEARD IN SAN DIEGO - Several years' worth of this comic strip, which debuted in the Reader in 1996: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/overheard-san-diego/

FAMOUS FORMER NEIGHBORS - Over 100 comic strips online, with mini-bios of famous San Diegans: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/famous-former-neighbors/

SAN DIEGO READER MUSIC MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/sandiegoreadermusic

JAY ALLEN SANFORD MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/jayallensanford

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