Minor Celebrity

Photo by Jeanne RiceThe girls playing basketball last Tuesday at the 36th Street courts in Balboa were using a regulation WNBA ball, but it's doubtful any of the guys on the sidelines cared. The girls screamed at and flagrantly fouled one another and traveled more than they dribbled, but no one cared that the ref's whistle never blew. No one cared because the girls were wearing bikinis.

“This isn't fair,” yelled one girl just before the first two-minute basketball game. “There's five of them and only four of us!”

Jim Trenton, the game's commentator and former radio jock, whom you probably know better as the Poorman, just smiled and shrugged. “That's Bikini Basketball.”

Welcome to Poorman's Bikini Beach, Trenton's latest attempt to revive his radio and TV career. His target demographic: “Males aged 15 to DEAD!!”

“I see this almost like Hefner and his Playmates, except it's Poorman and his Bikini Girls,” said Trenton, who has done the Poorman shtick on radio and TV for 20 years. “Newport Beach has some of the most beautiful girls in the world. They're like oranges on a tree on a sunny day.”

The show is embodied in its title: for 30 minutes each day, Trenton and a dozen girls in bikinis smile and frolic for the camera. His girls are mostly high school students he found sunbathing outside his oceanfront house in Newport Beach. In fact, seven of the nine girls playing basketball last Tuesday were 15- and 16-year-olds fresh out of high school for the summer. The others responded to an ad Trenton placed in a newspaper.

“I called him last night at 10:30,” said Kelly Rosvold, a 19-year-old blonde and aspiring actress. “I didn't think he'd answer, but he did. He was really excited.”

Trenton wasn't just excited because Rosvold and the other teenagers fill a bikini. For him, the girls represent another chance at personal salvation—a return to the standing he enjoyed during the 12 years he spent at KROQ (106.7 FM). Trenton became famous for something other than spinning discs: he helped create Loveline, a late-night, sex-advice call-in show, a kind of aural Jerry Springer Show that depended for its thrills on the willingness of naive callers to disclose their sex lives for Trenton and the show's medical doctor.

Despite Loveline's success—it has become one of MTV's top-rated shows—Trenton was fired in August 1993 after playing an on-air joke on another KROQ DJ. His career collapsed, leading to embarrassingly brief stints on Power 106 and Groove FM, as well as last year's short-lived Anti-Radio program, featuring local unsigned bands. Until Poorman's Bikini Beach, Trenton's most recent foray into TV was a disastrous run on Pat Boone's KDOC television station, where he tried to do the Loveline format on his own. That gig thudded to its end when Trenton appeared on air wearing nothing more than a ball cap over his crotch.

It's hard not to notice the similarity between Bikini Beach and The Man Show, which is hosted by current Loveline host Adam Carolla. That show began airing on Comedy Central last week. The principal difference is that Corolla's show runs on a national cable network and Trenton's appears on a UHF station that runs Spanish-language broadcasting until 6 p.m. and Asian programming after 6:30 p.m. Poorman's Bikini Beach fills the intervening 30 minutes.

“I hope the show goes national,” said Trenton. “But if it doesn't, I'll still meet a lot of girls. Of course, once the camera goes off, they all go away and I go back to being just ugly Jim.”

While the camera's rolling, Trenton's girls engage in all sorts of activities, most of which would be routine, or even unwatchable, were it not for their skimpy apparel. In various segments that aired this week, the girls rode water slides at Wild Rivers; discussed the war in Kosovo, the implications of using a fake ID and the latest Star Wars film; danced in a music video filmed in Trenton's garage for the unsigned LA band Mad Gadget; engaged in a “taco-salad fight”; and nearly stopped traffic while playing basketball on the Peninsula. Trenton plans more sports, including bikini balloon toss, tag-team sand wrestling and a suntan-oil rub-off.

And the girls don't seem to mind. When asked why they let Trenton film them prancing around in the skimpy swimsuits that are also their only obvious compensation, they responded with a chorus of “To get on TV!” as if that's the most obvious reason in the world.

Yet when Trenton asked them at one point if they had a lot of friends waiting to watch the show, one girl said no because she was “kind of embarrassed.” When guys across the street from the basketball courts started appearing at their front doors with cameras, one girl became annoyed. “Who are all these people watching?” she asked.

“They're freaks who have no life,” responded another.

The “freaks” who honked their horns and cheered when the girls were running up and down the basketball court illustrate the greatest criticism Trenton will get concerning his show—that he's exploiting young girls.

“I expect to hear that,” he said. “But there's absolutely nothing sexual about this. To me, this is comedy, like a variety show, except the co-hosts are all in bikinis.”

Indeed, when the camera's off, the girls are by themselves, giggling about boys and hair and typical high school stuff. And in any case, Trenton has already lined up an impressive string of advertisers, including the Orange County Market Place, Diedrich Coffee, Wild Rivers and Rusty's Swimwear, which supplies the girls' bikinis.

“We've known each other a long time,” said Troy Potts, head of TPA Media, which handles advertising for the Long Beach club Live Bait. “Hey, he's homegrown, so I thought, 'Why not?'”

A couple of hours before the basketball game, Potts directed a commercial for Live Bait on the sand in front of Trenton's house. As the girls pulled in their stomachs and pretended not to shiver in the freezing wind blowing off the water, Trenton stood between them wearing gray shorts, a bright orange shirt and a wide-brimmed blue hat. The commercial was for the club's “homemade” bikini contest every Sunday. It took 10 takes, with Trenton reading the copy directly off the script.

“Basically, he calls me whenever he needs money,” Potts joked during the shoot. “We're committed for five weeks, but we'll probably stay with him through the year. Hopefully by then, he'll have some older talent.”

Poorman's Bikini Beach airs Mon.-Fri. on KRCA (Channel 62) and on most cable outlets at 6 p.m. Call your cable company for show availability.

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