I am always impressed with people who successfully reinvent themselves, crushing adversity along the way with persistence.
Phil Roberts, whose last day as a producer at ESPN-1420 (KKEA) was Thursday, has done it twice.
When I first heard Phil's voice on the sports talk station I found it very familiar. It took me a while, but I eventually realized where I'd heard him before: Phil Roberts was Fil Slash, one of my favorite DJs when I used to listen to more music than banter on the radio.
Fil Slash was a cool dude with an edgy persona, working the night shift at KPOI from 1993 to 2005, playing classic rock and — when he could get away with it — other good stuff that wasn't on the corporate play list. To me, Phil Slash was what rock'n'roll was all about.
As often happens in radio despite how good you may be at your job, Fil was let go by KPOI, replaced by an automated show. He really needed another job, so he took what would be considered a downgrade and an entry level position as a board operator at KKEA.
Fil Slash was the front man with his own show at KPOI. Phil Roberts was a behind the scenes guy at KKEA.
"Since I've been in radio so long I'm familiar with all the equipment," Phil said. "And I always liked sports."
Two years ago, he became the producer of the Bobby Curran Show, Monday-to-Friday, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. It's not an easy task, as it entails booking guests and screening calls in addition to running the board.
Phil excels at securing guests, including some big name ones like columnist Rick Reilly.
"He's the best guest-getter, best producer I've ever had," Bobby said. "Tough shoes to fill."
The two have a good chemistry.
"Bobby helps me immensely by telling me what he wants," Phil said. "Another favorite guest is Mike Pesca of NPR because he and Bobby always have great discussions."
Program director and "Sports Animals" host Chris Hart is also a former DJ, so he knows that even if you consider yourself a sports fan there's a learning curve to being a successful sports media professional. He said Phil learned quickly, but his best attribute was dependability.
"He already had radio experience, so that was good. That helped him hit the ground running," Chris said. "Phil also has a quality that is surprisingly hard to find in the work force today: consistency. He never called in sick once and he was late just once. Since he's the first one in in the morning that sets a good tone for the entire day. To have a guy who is that dependable is rare."
"Chris and Bobby saved me by giving me a chance," Phil said. "They hired me when no one else would."
Phil is also a published author. "Waikiki Tiki: Art, History and Photographs" is in its second printing, and Phil is working on volume two. But that's not why he's leaving his job.
"It must be love," he says, and it is. Phil, at age 50, is getting married to Marcella Lee, a woman he dated in the 1990s and recently reunited with.
Phil also gives free tours in Waikiki for people interested in tiki. The last one before he leaves for the mainland next week is 3:30 p.m. today (Friday), starting at the entrance of King's Village.
Phil has certainly lived up to the moniker of "Slash," in terms of versatility: DJ/producer/author. Soon he will add "husband."
We've become friends over the past two years. I will miss him, and I think even though his contributions may seem small the Hawaii sports community will, also. But mostly I am proud of Phil and happy for him.