TAMPA - It's war, people. War, I tell ya.
Bubba the Love Sponge Clem returned to the Tampa Bay airwaves Monday morning — on WHFS-98.7 FM, as was expected. He and his on-air cohorts spent their first few hours hurling taunts and insults at his morning show rival, Mike "Cowhead" Calta, who took Clem's spot at WHPT-102.5 "The Bone."
The two personalities, who characterize themselves as bitter enemies, spoke by phone on the air. According to Clem, Calta said on the radio that he would punch Clem in his "fat face."
Adding a bit of theater to the war of words, Calta parked his tour bus — which touts his radio show and his band, Pitbull Toddler — outside Clem's studio off Cypress Avenue in Tampa's Westshore area.
Inside the studio — which is tricked out like a nightclub with full bar and stage — staffers walked around in camouflage T-shirts emblazoned with "Operation Bury the Bone."
Clem was perched, throne-style, at his workstation, which has the trappings of a DJ booth, while his sidekicks sat at floor level facing him.
Just after 9 a.m., Clem hosted the media for an on-air Q&A.
He confirmed some things that have been widely reported, and offered a few further details:
Cox fired him (not his words) in August and paid him his "seven-figure" compensation to stay off the air until Dec. 31.
He was wooed by Clear Channel's iHeartRadio and gave serious consideration to returning to WXTB-FM "98Rock," where he started his Bay area career. CBS radio was also part of the "bidding war," Clem said.
When CBS vacated the market by swapping stations with Beasley Broadcast Group, Beasley vied for his services "in the 11th hour," Clem said. "And gave me an offer I couldn't refuse."
Clem did not provide financial details of his deal with Beasley.
He did reveal that the new operator, which owns six Tampa Bay stations, is building 98.7's programming around Clem's a.m. show, and will have a plan in place by February.
Asked if his talk-intensive show could change, perhaps to include music, Clem said he was not sure, although he has final say-so. "We have veto power over the format they pick," he added, referring to Beasley. "At the end of the day, we're kind of our own bosses."
Clem also alluded to a potential move to another dial position owned by Beasley. That is widely believed to be WRBQ-FM (Q-105), which has a much stronger, market-wide signal than WHPT.