By Michael E. Miller
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It's 9:45 a.m. in a packed studio near the corner of Douglas Road and SW Eighth Street in Coral Gables. Two DJs have sleepy-sounding Latin music heartthrob Enrique Iglesias on the line.
"Enrique, talk to me about that kiss you gave the guy in the gay dance bar," goads one of the jocks.
"He was an ex-boyfriend," responds the unlaughing star, who has long been besieged by rumors about his sexual preference, but still plays along.
"Thanks so much for your call," the other host breaks in.
"But who was the man and who was the woman?" persists his partner.
Joe, a 40-year-old with a goatee and kind brown eyes, and Enrique, a brash 33-year-old with a dark beard and a splash of platinum hair, made their name on El Zol (95.7 FM) but quit in March 2007 after an FCC fine and a tumultous relationship with station managers. They returned to the air in Miami last week on La Kalle (98.3 FM). Now they plan to stir up trouble, just like they did before. "A lot of crank calls, a lot of interviews," Enrique says. "Headaches and controversies."
Plus they'll add an array of on-air characters. "Nobody's going to be left out," Enrique says.
The pair met 10 years ago, after Enrique, then a North Miami Police officer, called El Zol to inquire about a song. The program director introduced him to Joe, who hosted a morning show.
"It became a fatal attraction," Joe laughs.
In October 2002, they teamed up on El Vacilón de la Mañana (Joker in the Morning) on El Zol. A regular segment was "Castro Te Llama," in which they used the dictator's voice to call Cuba and ask people to do things like iron El Comandante's pants.
They first achieved international notoriety in January 2003, when they called Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez using sound bites of Castro's voice. Chávez responded, "Hello, Fidel!" and a bit later Enrique yelled, "You're finishing off the Venezuelan people!" and they identified themselves as DJs in Miami. Chávez shut his mouth.
Five months later, the pair pranked Castro. They culled Chávez sound bites and Googled their way to a switchboard number. Joe pretended to be an operator with Chávez on the line. They were eventually patched through. "It was easier for us to get Fidel Castro on the phone than Chávez," Enrique says. "We thought that ... there's now going to be a protocol because, you know, there's these jerks in Miami crank-calling us. Nothing. We got right through."
After a few minutes of chitchat with El Comandante, they announced they were calling from Miami. Enrique called Castro an assassin, and the track-suited dictator cussed them out. "I'm happy to say that we [called him a killer] because that's what he is," says Enrique, who, like Joe, was born to Cuban parents.
International attention, death threats, and an FBI inquiry followed.
Trouble started in 2004 when the Federal Communications Commission fined El Zol $3,500 because the pair didn't tell Castro the call would be aired. The duo collected the money in pennies from listeners. The rift between El Zol's managers and the pair grew. On March 5, 2007, they quit on-air. Sound engineers pulled the plug with 45 minutes left in the show.
Following a vacation in Mexico and Puerto Rico, they landed a Univision Radio deal for a show on La Kalle (105.9 FM) in New York. But after a few months of calls and pranks, they returned to South Florida and began the new show. To warm up their fans, the duo built a plywood raft the first week of March and loaded it onto a boat that dropped them three miles from shore around 4 a.m. Friends alerted the media. Both English and Spanish stations covered the story straight. Telemundo ran a segment about the arrival titled "Llegan balseros" ("Rafters Arrive") that showed the dripping-wet duo running to land with their caps turned backward.
On March 13, the day they stirred Iglesias, the DJs led a parade of real and fictional characters onto the Miami airwaves on El Show de Enrique y Joe on La Kalle 98.3. Here's how it went:
4 a.m.: Producers arrive at the Coral Gables studio, where Enrique and Joe have camped out for two days. A set of bongos in the corner sits under a silver disco ball. Above the door is a José Martí quote about a speaker being remembered for what he does rather than what he says. Enrique has it tattooed on his left forearm.
5:50 a.m.: Cristina Ferrero, Joe's wife and the pair's manager, leads a prayer. As soon as it ends, Harold Valenzuela, a.k.a. Capitán Bajapanties (Captain Drop Your Panties), yells, "Party time! We're gonna have a party!" as he prances around the studio, which is packed with more than 20 personalities, friends, reporters, and a TV camera.
Then Carlos Cuellar, an Afro-Cuban, who explains his character as "I'm the black man," jokes, "We've already started bad. The black guy doesn't have a mike."