A Legendary Life
Throughout his long career, Holly-wood insider Mike Evans has met countless big-name celebrities, from John Wayne and Jimi Hendrix to Magic Johnson, Pete Rose and more. He’s even hosted a show since the mid-’90s called On the Road with Mike Evans, which provides his radio and podcast listeners from all over the country with exclusive info from the entertainment and sports industries.
“I first started covering Hollywood back in 1963. I know a lot of celebrities, a lot of publicists, agents, managers,” declares the Hawai‘i-born Evans, whose celebrity news and gossip segment continues to be broadcast each weekday during the Perry & The Posse show on KSSK.
With the surplus of industry connections he has, it’s not unusual for Evans to be deluged with fresh intel to share.
“I’ve got more than I can handle,” he states matter-of-factly.
Yet, even though his career has been a veritable who’s-who of interviewing industry luminaries, his personal backstory can also be considered nothing short of legendary in itself. In fact, the longtime Hollywood radio DJ and sportscaster is the inspiration for an “as told to”-style book titled Imposters: Two Boys Who Fooled America by author Richard Blade.
Based on a true story, the novelized Imposters was released just last month. Evans believes the book has what it takes to be adapted into a movie.
“Everybody that’s heard the story, that’s read the book and has known the story forever, says it’s an unbelievable story,” he declares.
Imposters covers a period in the lives of Evans and best friend John Thomas, two teenage boys raised in Torrance, California, who, for three years beginning in 1966, led a life on the lam from the FBI by assuming the identity of an obscure doo-wop duo called Johnny & Jesse.
“A lot of (the book) has to do with the Vietnam War,” explains Evans. “Back in those days, I was very anti-war. During the whole book you see that there are FBI people that are chasing me. Some of it is very funny, some of it is very surprising.
“One of the chapters is us in Hawai‘i, where we talk our way into The Monkees’ room (prior to the band playing at) the NBC (Neal Blaisdell Center),” shares Evans, 73. “There’s a Hawai‘i connection to it with a whole funny story.”
All of these wild events took place early in Evans’ life before he became a well-known DJ at the legendary radio station KROQ in Los Angeles.
By his own admission, Evans’ personal and professional life has been quite strange and tangled, but it also has been an exciting tale.
It starts with his father, a career U.S. Navy man, who was transferred from Long Beach Naval Station to Pearl Harbor in the 1940s. Tragedy struck the family early after Evans’ mother died in his childhood.
“Other than my family, Hawai‘i is the biggest thing in my life,” says Evans, who lived on Tusitala Street and attended nearby Ala Wai Elementary School. “Growing up in Hawai‘i, I was able to spend (time) with my dad (and enjoy) the aloha spirit. I remember marching down Kalākaua Avenue the day we became a state.”
The family later relocated to California and, while living in Long Beach, Evans chose to quit high school at age 16. Till this day, he hasn’t regretted his decision.
“I’ve been blessed. I’m a high school dropout. I didn’t like high school and I’ve always loved the media,” Evans explains.
Almost immediately, he took a job as an intern at news station KFWB. Evangelist Billy Graham was the first celebrity that Evans ever interviewed. During this time, he also interviewed music giants Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Frank Zappa.
Later, Evans switched over to KRLA. “It was 1963. That was when I met Sonny (Bono). Casey Kasem and Bob Eubanks were disc jockeys at the station. Sonny was a record guy and I was only 17. I was working at the station as the flunky helping Bob Eubanks and he brought The Beatles to the Hollywood Bowl,” Evans notes.
He also met people who would change his life forever. They included noted music agent Jerry Heller, who eventually had a movie made featuring him called Straight Outta Compton. Using know-how gleaned from part-time work for Heller, Evans started booking the musical act called Caesar and Cleo at high school basketball games.
“After only a couple of gigs, they started using their names, Sonny and Cher … I was with them in the studio when they did Look at Us and the hit I Got You Babe,” Evans reminisces.
“From 1971 to 1974, I sold a syndicated daily baseball interview show that ran in nine markets every day, Monday through Friday, and I traveled with the LA Dodgers and (California) Angels,” he adds.
One vivid memory he has is of a special person he met when the Angels visited the Washington Senators during the 1971 season.
“We walk into the manager’s office and I’m sitting there talking to the manager of the Washington Senators, and that was Ted Williams. That was a big deal,” says Evans of the Hall of Fame player for the Boston Red Sox.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Evans’ career became a whirlwind of excitement. For example, he did a gossip segment for the National Star and was the West Coast sports and entertainment editor for the New York Post.
“I got to interview everybody from John Wayne to when they sent me out to East Lansing (Michigan) to interview Magic Johnson when he was still in college. And I was in some movies, Fast Break with Gabe Kaplan,” he recalls. “I had a chance to do a one-on-one with John Wayne, which was really a treat, which was about a year before he died. Great, great guy.”
“From 1981 to 1989, most of those years I worked at KROQ in Los Angeles, which was the biggest, hottest radio station in the country. I did mornings there, and also mid-days there. But three different times, twice I quit and once I got fired, and all three times I left KROQ, I went back to Hawai‘i,” Evans remembers.
In the islands, he joined KPOI in 1983 as Mike “The Hose” Evans. Three years later, he teamed up with Jay Stone at I-94 and then again two years later at the FOX.
Another twist in Evans life came during the early ’90s.
“I started pitching this Hollywood gossip and big-story commentary radio feature for morning shows,” he recalls. “I started calling morning show friends that I had around the country to see if they were interested, including Michael Perry, who I’ve known all these years.”
This resulted in Evans making a daily report from the courthouse during the 1994 O.J. Simpson murder trial. Beyond Hollywood, however, he has covered a number of significant events, including the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attacks — not to mention multiple presidential inaugurations, World Series and Super Bowls.
“Of everybody I’ve ever met — presidents, movie stars, Ted Williams — there’s only been one person I was so in awe of I made a fool of myself,” he says.
That man was astronaut Neil Armstrong, who he was introduced to by baseball manager Tommy Lasorda during a game.
“I shook his hand, and went, ‘You walked on the moon,’ and he goes, ‘yeah,’ and I kept shaking his hand, and I go, ‘You’re the first human to leave the planet and go to another sphere. There’s nobody in the world like you’ … finally Tommy said, ‘Mike, let go of his hand.’”
In recent years, Evans and his wife, Cheryl, have divided their time between their houses in Palm Springs and Dallas, and traveling to visit their children and grandchildren.
“I’m a golf fanatic, and I play golf four to five days a week,” Evans adds.
Above all, Evans confesses he still has fond memories of his days in the Aloha State.
“Being raised in Hawai‘i and it being my home, I miss everybody,” he says, adding he longs for local food, especially malasadas. “It’s so much a part of my life. It’s just the best. The happiest times in my life were growing up in Hawai‘i.”