Following the announcement of Whitney Houston's passing yesterday (Feb. 11), Emmis-owned adult R&B radio station WRKS (98.7 Kiss-FM) New York went into all-Houston mode, playing the star's numerous hits and fielding calls from grieving listeners looking for a place to share their sadness - and hear her music.
"I'm in shock and disbelief," said one caller. "I'm crying, singing and dancing."
Kiss weekend air talents Cocoa Chanelle and Bugsy manned the mic last night, along with program director Jay Dixon.
"It's sad. It's unbelievable," said Dixon. "I can say that being here tonight and sharing this pain with New York is helping me through this.
"(Houston) was such a tremendous part of our lives. We're feeling what the city is feeling right now, and broadcasting (essentially) from her hometown, Newark (N.J.)" (Houston was born in the city Aug. 9, 1963. She later attended Mount Saint Dominic Academy in nearby Caldwell, N.J.)
The trio also remembered that Kiss helped launch Houston's career, as the station played her earliest singles in the mid-'80s.
"I'm drunk with sympathy," said Bugsy. "We saw her battling (with drug addiction) and we felt for her. You felt like she was gonna be ok..."
In a sentiment that could double as an open letter to radio groups that rely on voice-tracked DJs on weekends, he added that "this is one of those days that the radio is important."
"To go through this with everyone is comforting," said Chanelle.
Listeners who phoned in praised Houston's music, while noting that her family was squarely in their prayers.
"That was my girl," said one caller about Houston. "And, I hope that someone is there to console her daughter and her mom."
"I'm so overwhelmed, I had to pull over," said another listener calling from her cell phone while driving (hopefully on a hands-free headset). "I have to drive home right now, but I can't move. I really can't move. This is so unreal. Condolences to her family. This is something we did not expect."
"I worked in the school system and I always wanted students to sing 'The Greatest Love of All'," a former music teacher shared.
"She's still the greatest."