Liz Fulton, former newscaster, news director and sidekick to Rick Dees on KIIS-FM (102.7) passed away May 7 at the age of 61 from what is described as natural causes, though I have trouble understanding what is natural about passing away at such an early age.
She predated Dees on KIIS by two years. In 1979 while Dees was just beginning his time at KHJ (930 AM), Fulton started at KIIS-FM as a news reporter, and was later made the station’s news director. She was the consummate professional, and brought respect to the station which had been suffering an identity crisis after a series of failed formats.
In 1981, under new management, Fulton was paired up with Dees, who was pushed out of KHJ when that station changed to country music in November, 1980. And it may have been Fulton who helped Dees make his mark in Los Angeles at KIIS after a lackluster debut on KHJ. Within months on KIIS-FM, Dees -- along with Fulton and the rest of the staff -- were setting ratings records not seen on an FM station ever before.
Fulton was the George Burns to Gracie Allen. The Dickie Smothers to his brother Tom. More importantly, the Joni Caryl to Robert W. Morgan, who was earning his own huge ratings on KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM) at the time and would eventually go directly against Dees from the studios of Magic 106 (now KPWR, 105.9 FM).
She also kept her job as news director, and was the voice of the station’s hourly public affairs segments when stations ran such programming.
But not everything was as rosy as it seems. In late 1990, after being fired from the station for reasons some say have more to do with how she looked than with her skills, Fulton filed a lawsuit against the station and owner Gannett alleging that she was let go because she was not ”sexy enough” for Dees and his live appearances, though on-air she was acceptable enough to earn the nickname “Rugburns” ... and while she used that as part of the suit, it seemed at the time she went along with the joke.
Indeed, the sidekicks for Dees after Fulton, as well as during her absence from 1984 to 1987 when she left to have a family, were never as professional news-wise as was Fulton, and one could argue that they did have that young sexy look that Fulton said Dees desired. I personally think Dees never had a better sidekick than Fulton, and had she stayed perhaps Ryan Seacrest wouldn’t have been able to take over the show. But that’s another column.
Regardless, Dees told Don Barrett of LARadio.Com that he had connected with Fulton again after many years and they had a good time together. Dees is expected to be part of a tribute to be broadcast live in the near future from the LA Radio Studios at Ports O Call in San Pedro. I’ll have details when that comes together; In the meantime, I’m getting tired of writing obituaries for my radio friends.
I did not know Andy Rush, though he is a veteran of KNX-FM (now Jack FM, 93.1), KMPC-FM (now KSCA, 101.9 FM) and until he died, he was in the production room at The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM). He passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack; he was only 60.
The columns of the last few weeks should be a reminder to everyone: life is too short as it is, and your friends and loved ones can be gone before you expect it. Take the time to call someone you have not spoken with lately. Like Dees and Fulton, get together and bury the hatchet. “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” as my friend Lisa White always says, “and it’s all small stuff.”
It truly is.