Frank Ski, the dominant radio morning personality in town for 14 years until 2012, celebrated his 50th birthday last month at his eponymous restaurant, punctuated by a visit from legendary R&B singer Stevie Wonder.
Wonder sang "Happy Birthday" to Ski before several hundred fans at Frank Ski's in Buckhead, which is now three years old.
For Ski, this was both an honor and not terribly unusual. He hobnobs with bigwigs all the time.
At the same time, Ski said he invited people who had birthdays in May just like him to come by - regular folks, not celebrities. He purposely kept the A- list celebrities to a minimum, save for Wonder.
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But that's a serious Grade A celebrity, eh?
Ski is a paradox that way.
He was hugely popular on V-103 as a morning host for 14 years, No. 1 virtually that entire time until he left at the end of 2012. Besides being hard working and always prepared, he was able to handle serious issues and pop culture fluff with equal aplomb.
Yet people on this blog would complain constantly about how he is an elitist name dropper.
He is no young pup, having just turned 50. Yet in 2012, he felt it was the right time to seek his own path via syndication, which is why he left V-103. (CBS Radio, which owns V-103, couldn't accommodate him with syndication.)
Since last September, Ski has been commuting between Atlanta and D.C. to host an afternoon show on R&B station WHUR-FM. But he is not an employee of the station. Rather, he is running his own show, in hopes to eventually expand his reach beyond D.C.
"It's tough flying back and forth every week," Ski said in a recent interview. "I wish I was doing this 20 years ago. It would have been a lot more fun. It's work."
But he said ratings have improved at WHUR since he joined the station.
And though he has been off Atlanta airwaves for more than 17 months, he has not been forgotten.
Ski maintains a high-profile in town thanks to his Frank Ski restaurant, which doubles as a lounge at night. Streetz 94.5 has hosted parties there. He DJs on weekends when he's in town. He hosts plenty of events there, private and public. And he makes sure the service and food is top notch. (Yelp reviewers give the place a respectable 3.5 stars out of 5.)
Now he's planning his path back to Atlanta radio. The most obvious homes would be Kiss 104.1 or Majic 107.5/97.5, both which skew older than V-103.
Ski wouldn't say who he's talking to but there's no doubt he has had discussions with both stations. And since syndicated shows (Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey, respectively) own the morning hours, it's likely Ski would angle for an afternoon post. Both stations currently air local two-man shows in the drive-time slot. (Kiss has Art Terrell and Roy Wood Jr. while Majic has SiMan and Chubb Rock.)
"We have options," Ski said. "There are a lot of people who have interest. There are a lot of people who want the show."
But Ski has a problem: both stations are pulling in really strong ratings. Kiss finished the most recent May Nielsen Audio ratings at No. 2 and Majic was not far behind, tied for third with V-103. So neither station is necessarily itching to make major changes.
Ski himself isn't gloating about V-103's slippage in the ratings since he left. (The station, third overall, remains No. 1 18-34 and 25-54.)
"The competition as gotten better,' he said. "And change is always a difficult thing. I don't think it's because they don't have the talent. Everybody is extremely talented. I just think it needs to be coordinated right."
He said his morning show with Wanda Smith was undeniably mainstream, drawing teens to seniors, a rare act in this day and age of niche audiences.
"We dealt with a lot of issues in different ways," Ski said. "Audiences knew what to expect."
To him, V-103 is a brand that people know and love. But without citing specifics, he felt "they allowed people to come on the air that were not an extension of the brand. When that happens, especially on the younger end, they go somewhere else."
When he replaced Mike Roberts in 1998, Ski said he tried to follow Roberts' path and just placed his own style to it.
He has nothing but sympathy for Ryan Cameron's challenges as Ski's morning replacement. Cameron put a group together in the mornings last year relatively quickly. In Ski's mind, Cameron didn't have enough time to find the best team for himself. "I think it was unfair to put him in that position," Ski said. That's why, he said, they had to start over at the end of 2013 and bring back Wanda.
Ski believes the Ryan and Wanda will be a success. "They have to get in sync," he said. "It will happen. Trust. me."
He isn't 100% sure the Breakfast Club, a syndicated show out of New York City recently added to Streetz 94.5, will click in Atlanta, especially since Rickey Smiley is already well established on Hot 107.9.
Ski is now working seven days a week but hopes to take Sunday offs at some point. On his WHUR radio show, he now has a comic (Joe Clair) as his entertainment point person and he hopes to add a female co-host soon. Once he has his whole team together, he said, he'll start pushing for syndication. And even if he does multiple markets, he hopes to localize each show as much as technology can allow it.