J.C. Corcoran, a KTRS radio host who has talked himself onto and often off the air at seven radio stations in the St. Louis area, knows all about lawyers and lawsuits.
“You can say whatever you want to say on the radio as long as you say it correctly,” says Corcoran, who has been in broadcasting in St. Louis for more than 26 years.
He has, all the same, faced lawsuits from plaintiffs ranging from former radio executive Karen Carroll to the manager of the Steam Heat Dancers.
As a plaintiff, Corcoran won a $370,000 verdict in a lawsuit alleging a rival radio disc jockey, DC Chymes (Isaiah Wilhelm), and an intern, Tim Melton, faked an attack by Corcoran at a live broadcast of a charity event and called police.
Corcoran’s contracts have to take into account reaction to his comments: He reportedly was suspended in late November for some angry tweet exchanges; at his last station, KIHT (KHITS 96), remarks in 2008 about Ameren and an African-American executive after a power outage landed him with unwanted time off.
In a phone interview, Corcoran weighed in on contracts, lawyers, the motivation for filing lawsuits and the time it takes for them to spin out.
Why do you think people file lawsuits against you?
People do it for publicity. Lots of people think I’m just an easy mark. You come after me with a stone, I’ll come after you with a hammer. It’s cost me a lot of money.
How much have legal issues cost you?
I had a bitter custody battle with my ex-wife for 13 years; that was easily $200,000. Setting that aside, I would say half a million. Two hundred thousand of that is just contractual.
Who handles your contracts?
Jeff Gershman, of Stone Leyton & Gershman, has done all but one contract. He incorporated me in 1985 and has done everything for me for 26 years. He does absolutely exquisite work.
After you left KHITS, you still got paid for a year. A lot of people would like that kind of deal.
They were not allowed to take me off the air for more than two weeks. They pulled me off the air. At the end of two weeks, I said, ‘You can’t do that, it’s a breach of contract.’ [Station manager] John Beck’s response was … ‘See you in court or ride it out.’ Fast forward to Emmis [Communications’] three or four waves of more massive cuts. They needed to cut into the bone. So they dropped me. They realized if they didn’t pay me, they’d go back and be in court anyway for the breach of contract two years earlier. I have a very lucrative bonus plan developed in all my contracts that they would still have had to pay. They saved a lot of money. It looked like lunacy, but they were protecting themselves legally from the earlier breach. They felt I would not want to sit around and not work and I would eventually ask for a reduced buyout, which eventually I did.
How often have you been sued?
The famous one was the Steam Heat Dancers. There was some objection to my presence and their presence at the same event, blah, blah, blah. I said it was common knowledge I’d banged six of them anyhow, which was a joke — to an extent, because I had had sex with one of them. There was a financier, they put a guy out there as if he was in fact filing. The documents we subpoenaed had [late KMOX general manager] Bob Hyland’s writing all over it. …They suggested settlement the day trial was going to begin, and it was pocket change. As is the case with so much of the stuff, it’s not real lawsuits; it’s competitive jealousy. They get a lot of publicity, and my name gets dragged through the mud. The only lawsuit I was ever involved in where there was trial was the Steve [Shannon, DC’s partner] and DC thing and I won it, and won it big time, and no one reported on it.
What do you think about the attorneys you’ve dealt with? Have they been good or bad?
I’ve had both. I’ve seen some sleazy attorneys, and I’ve seen some very surprised attorneys. I’ll tell you something about Tom Caradonna; he represented Steve and DC. I think Tom’s a good guy. The discovery process and the depositions were very heated. There was a lot of screaming, spitting across the table, things like that. When I went into court I had a halo above my head. I know for a fact that threw Tom off. He kept trying to light a fire under me, and I just sat there and let him go on.
You said on the air recently that you’re involved in another lawsuit. What is that about?
It’s against a nursing home in Chicago. We put my father in a nursing home, and a couple of days later he suffered a massive head wound. I can’t wait to get in front of a jury. My father died four years ago. It’s been a long four years anticipating a resolution.
Is that frustrating?
I’m just used to it by now. I think 99 percent of the public is never involved in a lawsuit; those people will get frustrated. I’m involved so much in this kind of stuff I sort of know what to expect.