Monday, June 19, 2000

DJ not the man he used to be - and more

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Brian Douglas walked up to me in the fitness center, and I didn't recognize him.

        Even if I had been in his WKRQ-FM (101.9) studio, I might not have known him.

        At 230 pounds, he's two-thirds of the man he once was. The bleached blond hair also fooled me.

        “I haven't felt this good since I was 18 years old. I feel awesome!” said Mr. Douglas, 40, Q102's morning DJ.

        Since 1998, the Mason resident has dropped 115 pounds. To help others do the same, he has become a certified personal trainer. That's the kind of guy Brian Douglas is, always willing to help his friends.

        So when he has not been playing the hits on Q102, he has been hitting area gyms with friends and co-workers helping them shed excess baggage. His missionary zeal about fitness has been exceeded only by his passion for new music, which won him a national Billboard award and a new Porsche in 12 years at Q102.

        “People who see me now, don't recognize me, or they just say "Wow!' said Mr. Douglas, who co-hosts 5:30-10 a.m. on Q102 with Mark “M.G.” Garcia. “A lot of them ask me how I did it,”

        The short answer: He's been eating smart and exercising regularly.

        “I woke up a couple of years ago and realized I could do this,” he said. “I had very bad habits and a lack of knowledge about food. I ate late. I ate crap. I ate grease.”

Turning point
        The former Kings High School football player always was overweight. He never realized how the late-night pizza and partying had taken a toll on his body until he saw himself on the Rosie O'Donnell Show in December 1997 with former Q102 DJ Johnjay van Es. Mr. Douglas had ballooned to 345 pounds.

        “I saw the tape and I freaked out. I just lost my mind,” he said. “I was always self-conscious about my weight, but never that self-conscious.”

        It also occurred to him that each additional pound could be cutting short his life with his wife, Jan, and their two children, Zack, 7, and Savannah, 4. (He also has a 16-year-old daughter, Sarah, from his first marriage.)

        “If not for me, I wanted to lose weight for my kids. I didn't want to be dead at 45, and not be there for them,” he said.

        So he took his 50-inch waist and XXX-Large body to a health club, where owner T.C. Sferra became his biggest supporter and best friend. She taught him about nutrition, and guided him through regular workouts, at her Bodymasters club.

        “The hardest thing was walking into a gym at 345 pounds. I thought everyone would look like Ken and Barbie, and I looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy,” he said.

        He started packing chicken breasts and vegetables for lunch. He has stuck to his diet six days a week, treating himself with some Gold Star Chili or LaRosa's on the seventh day.

        “I love LaRosa's pizza, but now I eat one or two pieces, not a whole pizza,” he said.

        He has tried to drink 11/2 gallons of water every day, and snack on high-protein Extreme Body bars.

        “I look at pictures when we first met,” Ms. Sferra said, “and I don't recognize him. He's like a different person.”

"Fat pictures'
        While some people can't go anywhere without a day-timer, Mr. Douglas carries a book of “fat pictures.” One glance at his fat former self with Rod Stewart, Amy Yasbeck or Rosie O'Donnell quenches his desire for Gold Star or LaRosa's.

        The fat photos also have helped him convince others that if he could lose weight, anybody could. He recently completed a six-month program to become a certified personal trainer through the International Sports Science Association.

        “He knows what it's like, having been overweight. He really feels the need to help people,” said his wife, who got an interesting reaction from the family Christmas photo last year. “About half of my relatives said, "Are you still married to the same man?'”

        Her husband's willingness to help also has made Mr. Douglas Q102's most versatile personality.

        It seems like the long-time afternoon DJ is on his millionth temporary assignment as morning host. He has worked with — or in place of — Chris O'Brien, Jim Fox, John “J.B.” Brown, Linda Welby, Terry Boyd, Johnjay and Shark & Shelli. He was drafted again in March when Bruce Maimes was fired, after the Q102 morning show was beaten in the ratings by Clear Channel's recorded WKFS-FM (KISS107.1) morning show.

        Mr. Douglas has been the only on-air constant through six owners in 12 years (Taft Broadcasting, Great American Broadcasting, Citicasters, Jacor Communications, ARS and now CBS's Infinity).

        “I love the radio station, and I know they needed help. I told them I'd do it until they found the right show,” he said.

"The coolest job'
        Chuck Finney, Infinity's Cincinnati operations manager, thought he had found the right guy for mornings — but he hasn't been able to convince Mr. Douglas to take the gig.

        “I'd love to have Brian in the morning, but he doesn't want to do it. We're still searching for an outstanding morning talent,” Mr. Finney said.

        “I'm a night person. I like to stay up late.” said Mr. Douglas, who goes to bed by 9 p.m. and wakes up at 3 a.m. “But I'm not complaining. I'm not digging ditches. I have about the coolest job in the world. It's all I ever wanted to do.”

        A move back to afternoons would let him be more involved with Q102's music selection again. His uncanny knack — we can't call it a golden gut any more — for picking hit songs earned him Billboard magazine's music director of the year in 1995.

        He also won a new Porsche in 1993 for having the nation's best rock music instincts. Mr. Douglas finished first among 250 program directors in predicting how well new records would sell in the Active Industry Research (AIR) competition. Mr. Douglas had been among the top AIR finishers the last two years.

        “The biggest rush is hearing new music, before anybody hears it,” he said.

        Blessid Union of Souls, and some national bands, have asked him to critique their new CDs before they were released, he said. Stations in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Atlanta also have tried to lure him away. But he's not interested.

        “This is my hometown,” said Mr. Douglas, who started in radio at WCNW-AM (1560), a Fairfield religious station. “I've got a great gig and I love this city. It would have to be an amazing job for me to leave here. I have the best job on the planet.”

        He has the same resolve about his weight.

        “I've talked (on radio) about how much weight I've lost, so I can't put it back on,” he said, clutching his fat picture book.

        “I'll always keep these to remind me. My life is like a whole new person. I'll never go back to that. Never.”

        Good. Then I'll recognize him the next time.

        John Kiesewetter is Enquirer TV/radio critic. His column appears Monday and Wednesday. Write: 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202; fax: 768-8330.