In Georgia, Big Boy underwent the somewhat controversial procedure known as the duodenal switch, where not only is the stomach reduced, but the intestines are also rearranged in such a way that most food calories aren’t absorbed.
“I told myself that all I had to do was wake up,” Big Boy says of the operation. “When I woke up and none of my dead homies were there, I knew it was all good.”
Complications still linger more than three and a half years later. But Big Boy’s condition is nothing like it was in the months immediately following the procedure.
“I couldn’t stop losing weight. I’d get lockjaw and a bad taste in my mouth. I was fainting a lot. I just started to decline. My body couldn’t hold any proteins or nutrients. When I’d sit down, I could feel the pain in my back from the bones being so brittle. One time on the air, I just blacked out and busted my head open on the console. I’d gone from morbid obesity to malnourished.” While his smile never falters, it’s obvious the experience weighed heavily on him.
“There were times I was so out of it that the producer would position the microphone so I could lay on the floor of the studio to do my job. I’d be so delirious I would drive to work and not know how I got there. I had to have a catheter put into my chest to pump nutrition directly into my body. That went on for like two months. It was so bad I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was always in the hospital.” One particular stay provided the clarity and motivation to stay focused through recovery.
“I was taking a walk through the ward, dragging the IV bag with me on the stand like Tony Soprano, and I was noticing that everybody else was older. So I was throwing myself a pity party, really feeling sorry for myself for being so messed up so young. I heard an emergency over the intercom, and doctors and nurses all started running to this one room. When I looked inside, there was a woman there on a bed, and someone was pumping her chest, and her family and doctors were all there, and her eyes and mouth were wide open. But she just looked dead. In that moment, I realized that I didn’t have any problems. This lady wished she could walk around the hospital dragging an IV.”
Ultimately, Big Boy had part of his gastric bypass surgery undone just to allow his body to sustain itself.
“I would never, ever advise anyone to get the duodenal switch,” he sighs wearily. “A doctor said I was that one-in-a-thousand case, but damn.”
Big Boy’s postsurgery illness forced him to put the brakes on a growing side career in movies (Charlie’s Angels 2, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo) and TV, such as Entourage and Fastlane, Fox’s bombastic but short-lived action drama directed by McG. “If that show came out now, it would work,” Big Boy insists. “We were just a little ahead of the curve on that one.” Still, he’s been able to press forward with a syndicated radio show, Big Boy’s Hip-Hop Spot. But his loyalty lies with Power 106, and the citywide sea of listeners who tune in daily despite much ado about the medium’s long-predicted demise.
“Radio is like home. You can always come back to it. We’ll leave the light on for you,” he deadpans in his best Tom Bodett. “It comes down to personality and appeal. Radio will be here, even in spite of satellite. People already have more than enough stuff to pay for. Look at Howard Stern, who had 12 million listeners on radio. He doesn’t have a third of that on satellite. He blames the listeners, when it’s him that left them.”
For an accidental career, radio has served Big Boy well, and he knows it. He’s racked up a serious cache of accolades, including Personality of the Year three times at the Radio Music Awards. There are also two Marconi Radio Awards, considered the Oscars of radio, from the National Association of Broadcasters. And despite professions that he wasn’t so deep into it growing up, he has a solid knowledge of Los Angeles’ radio history and is quick to give respect where it’s due.
“I come from the school of originality, the days of KDAY with Russ Parr in the morning, who had great alter-ego characters like ‘Bobby Jimmy’ ” — a possible precursor to Big Boy’s own phone prankster, “Luther Luffeigh.”
“Back in the day, Power 106 was all alone where the industry was concerned, because we focused on hip-hop,” says Big Boy. “We were like the bad boys of L.A. radio for playing the music of the streets. They said we’d never be able to build anything in sales because of it. Now, everybody’s playing hip-hop. But what’s happened is that everybody’s on the same songs. If you hear a classic Tupac record on the radio, it could be Power-106, KDAY, KIIS, Jack, the Beat, any of us. It’s not like I can and you can’t, but not everyone can do it like me. So it comes down to which one you choose to push that button for you. Is it Big Boy or Ryan Seacrest? Tom Joyner? The choice is yours.”
Big Boy has made his own choice. In the studio, huge picture windows offer an impressive view of the mountains looming in the distance. He’s now engaged to his longtime girlfriend (after proposing onstage at a Mariah Carey contest no less), who stood by him through all the drama and gave birth to their son in February. Big Boy leans back in his chair and shoots a broad smile. “This is the life, right?”