Rick Dees has the voice America loves and he's hoping the country will get to like his face too.

His nationally-syndicated radio show, "The Rick Dees' Weekly Top 40," reaches 400 stations (none in the Washington area) and several overseas markets on the Armed Forces Radio Network. As the morning personality of KIIS-FM/AM in Los Angeles, Dees wakes up the bleary-eyed of Southern California weekdays with a variety of wacky voices, comic skits and pop music.

Now Dees has broken into the talky-turf of late-night TV, a bruising business that has chewed up and spit out such Johnny-wanna-be's as Alan Thicke, Joan Rivers and most recently Pat Sajak. But Dees claims he isn't worried how his new "Into the Night" will fare against the likes of David Letterman and the king, Johnny Carson.

"I've chosen not to talk about the competition," Dees says by telephone from L.A. "Everyone who has done late-night {television talk shows} is such a wonderful talent. My competition is the pillow. We're on so late, if we can keep the person's head off the pillow, we've succeeded."

But what about Arsenio? "People are not as loyal as you think," he says. "Thanks to the advent of that zapper, you can sit in your bed and change the channels. People just aren't that loyal."

Dees has done a ton of interviews in the weeks preceding the show's debut and taped 250 promos for ABC affiliates in a few hours' time, but today his voice sounds broadcast-perfect: a mellifluous tone and full of the kind of enunciation heard only in speech classes. "I say, 'Hello, it's me, Rick Dees, I'd love to take you into the night,'" he says repeating the promo spot in that inimitable semi-croon.

In conversation, he's genial, even downright California-mellow (although he's a native of Jacksonville, Fla., and grew up in Greensboro, N.C., where he started his radio career). And he's boyishly handsome -- he looks much like an adult version of teen star Kirk Cameron -- which should serve him well on the small screen.

But on television, things have to move. So "Into the Night" is fast-paced -- Dees tends to skitter around the set and make frequent trips into the audience. Cut-away segments feature Bob Perlow, the "correspondent of chaos," and a Deputy Barney Fife imitator (based on Don Knotts' character in "The Andy Griffith Show"). The show can also be loud: House band Billy Vera and the Beaters boom into and out of commercial breaks and announcer Lisa Canning practically screams the introduction.

In format, "Into the Night" is much like the others that have preceded it. No matter how much Dees claims that he's not concerned about the competition, executive producer Jay Wolpert seems to rely heavily on formula. There is a monologue, which Dees writes himself and says is not really a monologue ("As I see it, it's not your classic monologue. I just make up things that happened to me that day.")

There's the standard patter between host and bandleader, much like the Johnny-Doc and Letterman-Shaffer exchanges. There's even an absence of a desk to suggest Arsenio Hall's casual interview method.

But Dees, 38, says his show is for everyone, not just the young and hip. "I'm aiming for everybody," he says. "Have you ever met anyone who's 80 who wants to be 80? I assume these people who are watching TV would love to be somewhere in that young-thinking category."

Dees' ability to appeal to the hipster in everyone is probably the reason he's been so successful. That and the fact that almost everything he's touched has turned to gold. He's hosted "Solid Gold," the nationally-syndicated music show most notable for its scantily clad, gyrating dancers. He had a gold record in 1976 with "Disco Duck" (the record went on to sell 4 million copies and qualify for platinum status). Dees even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which isn't gold, but it shines as bright as all the rest. And for the past six years, Billboard magazine has named him Number One Radio Personality in America.

He's Mr. Ubiquitous. Mr. Peripatetic. If you held a coat hanger above your head, you'd probably pick up a Dees transmission: Hello, this is Rick Deeees from Los Angeleese and you're tuned into "The Rick Dees' Weekly Top 40." If you rent "La Bamba," you can see his smilin' face as Ted Quillen, the man who helped launch the career of singer Ritchie Valens. And if you happen to see "Jetsons: The Movie," currently playing at theaters, listen for Dees as the voice of Rocket Rick.

What's a guy to do with a schedule that has him on the radio in the morning and then on television at night? "My family members take a number," he jokes. They would be wife Julie Dees, a voice artist and comedian, and son Kevin, 11.

But the advantage of being a radio personality, says Dees, is that it allows for improvisation, which makes the day go faster.

"I enjoy doing things quickly," he says. "In the morning, I just sit there and talk about music on the radio. To me, it literally feels like getting up and walking into the next room and talking on the phone to my family."

He feels the same way about "Into the Night," although he admits television carries more restrictions.

"It's all orchestrated and choreographed but there's a loose feeling to it," Dees says. "We're going to throw stuff at you that challenges you a little bit."

On the other hand, this is only late-night fun.

"It's not brain surgery," he says. "A thousand years from now no one will remember the name Rick Dees. I just love what I do."

"Into the Night" airs at 12:30 a.m. on 7 and 13, but WJLA will move the show to midnight after Marion Barry's trial is over and with it, a weeknight update, "Marion Barry: His Day in Court."