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.
Playful but not hateful, crass but not crude, Enrique Santos and Joe Ferrero get away with it. They're like the frat boys you can actually talk to — wise guys who aren't assholes.
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."
5:59 a.m.: "Silence, please!" shouts a producer. Enrique and Joe reach across the console and shake hands. Theme music starts and about four people including Joe begin dancing, spinning, and doing salsa moves. Joe humps the air. When the show goes on-air, cheers, a trumpet, cymbals, a cowbell, and maracas explode.
"We're back live again on La Kalle in Miami," Joe greets listeners in Spanish. "Thanks for all of the love you've given us for so many years."
6:15: A groggy five-person African-American a cappella choir sings a song in English about celebration. "Now in Spanish!" Joe prompts them. They look confused.
6:30: Rapper Pitbull arrives wearing a black sweatshirt that reads, "God's Gift." "We have Mr. DUI, Mr. Pitbull," Enrique jabs. The pair anoints him the show's godfather.
"That doesn't mean I have to buy gifts for birthdays or anything like that?" the rap star asks.
7:20: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen calls to welcome them. Enrique proudly informs her they're planning to put a stripper pole in the studio. "Saludos a George Bush," Joe bids her farewell. "I'll give him some sausage in person."
7:53: Joe makes a fart noise while standing for an interview with Univision reporter Pamela Silva, who looks stellar in a babydoll dress and spiky silver heels. Enrique and Joe poke each other behind her back. Joe asks, "What are you doing this afternoon?"
8:20: Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez calls and one of the show's personalities, impersonating record promoter Elba Morales, asks if he is her "baby daddy." Alvarez changes topics and declares it Enrique and Joe Day. "And we proclaim that no one has to go to work today!" Joe responds.
8:30: During a break, the crew chows on empanadas, croquetas, Egg McMuffins, and Cuban coffee. DJ Africa, who spins dance music and reggaeton during interludes, strips his shirt and presses a nipple into Enrique's face.
8:36: Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina arrives in a guayabera. Cuellar grabs the mayor's left arm and looks at his watch. "Careful with that pickpocket," Enrique says. Robaina declares it Enrique and Joe Day in Hialeah too.
9:06: The pair plays a reel of past crank calls in which they ask elderly women: "Have you had sexual relations with Fidel Castro?" Some tell them it's not their business; others hang up.
9:15: Rodolfo Frometa, director of Comandos F-4, a Miami group plotting a military takeover of Cuba, enters the room and Joe announces, "I'm going to call National Security."
"It's the Cuban Rambo," Enrique adds.
"Deep down, they are very respectful," Frometa tells a bystander.
10:45: During a break, Enrique asks a producer: "How much time do we have?... I haven't had time to go to the bathroom."
10:50: Don Francisco of Sábado Gigante is the last bold-face name to call. They thank him for a tie he sent after their call to Castro.
10:58: Fourteen phone lines that have been ringing nonstop with calls from well-wishers are still flashing green. With the end in sight, a relieved Cristina makes the sign of the cross. None of the remaining callers will make it on air. A minute before the broadcast ends, Mikey Machete, a producer, leans over to a reporter and says, "You don't have to be crazy to work with these people, but it helps."