Peter Deibler, a high-energy, mischievous radio personality known to listeners in the Washington area and across the country only as “Kane,” died March 6 at a hospital in Rockville, Md., of acute respiratory distress syndrome, according to his attorney, David Bulitt. Mr. Deibler was 43.
In a prolific career, he had spent more than two decades as a purveyor of largely PG-rated fare designed to attract teens and their mothers to his morning show on Hot 99.5 (WIHT) in Washington and on stations in Baltimore and Tampa; his afternoon show on a handful of other outlets; and his Sunday evening syndicated program, which aired on more than 100 stations.
Mr. Deibler, whose Hot 99.5 show launched in 2006, had been off the air since last spring, but he remained under contract to the station’s parent company, iHeart Radio, Bulitt said.
In the years before satellite radio, the Internet and podcasting dissolved broadcast radio’s near monopoly on the ears of American commuters, “The Kane Show” was one of the more popular examples of an entertainment package that found a middle lane between raunchy shock-jock programming aimed at young men and more serious news and talk fare.
As parents ferried their kids to school each morning, he played Top 40 hits, delivered celebrity gossip, highlighted community charities and enticed his mostly female audience with outrageous tales about nasty, clumsy, two-timing men.
Mr. Deibler had “the sort of buzz around him . . . that we haven’t heard on many broadcast radio morning shows in the last 20 years,” said Sean Ross, vice president of music and programming at Edison Research.
The ever-changing cast of co-hosts and sidekicks on “The Kane Show” always seemed to be riddled with personal animosities.
Danni Starr, who worked as a co-host, wrote in an Instagram post that a “long line of women who [worked on the show] disappeared from the air as if they never existed [and] disregarded the constant gaslighting on the air. . . . His cohosts have had to do therapy because of the abuse we endured.”
The incident, which led a Montgomery County judge to issue a temporary protective order barring Mr. Deibler from his wife’s home in Potomac, Md., came during a contentious divorce, Bulitt said. The couple divorced the next year. Prosecutors dropped the assault charge when Natasha Deibler stopped cooperating, according to the state’s attorney’s office in Montgomery.
Mr. Deibler — who adopted the stage name Kane as a tribute to one of his mentors, Top 40 DJ Kid Kelly — cultivated controversy to help boost ratings. In 2007, when Brown was jailed in Massachusetts for failing to make child support payments, Mr. Deibler negotiated on the air with Brown’s attorney and arranged for his station to put up the $19,150 to get the singer sprung.
In exchange, Brown agreed to spend a week on the radio with Mr. Deibler discussing where he had gone wrong and how he might turn his life around. But Brown spent only 10 minutes on the air with Mr. Deibler and refused to answer questions about his troubles.
“It’s personal,” Brown said on the air. “I thought we wasn’t going to talk about that.”
“So you snowed us,” Mr. Deibler replied.
Brown hung up, the station said he had failed to keep his end of the bargain, and Brown refunded the station’s money, which Mr. Deibler announced would be given away instead in a promotion called “Pay It Forward,” donating $1,000 each to 20 listeners who “promise to make the world just a little better.”
Mr. Deibler’s best-known routine was “War of the Roses,” in which he would call a man — usually a listener’s husband or boyfriend — and offer a bouquet of roses to be delivered to the woman of his choice. As the man’s wife or girlfriend listened in surreptitiously, Mr. Deibler would egg the man on into revealing details of his illicit affair, all of which would be followed by a brutal on-air confrontation. It was never quite clear to what degree the skits were staged.
Mr. Deibler did not invent the routine — credit is usually given to Los Angeles DJ Rick Dees — but it became a staple of his show, as did less controversial fare, such as his cute stories about raising his daughters.
Peter Brandt Deibler was born in Danbury, Conn., on April 7, 1977. He launched his radio career as a high school intern at KC101 in New Haven, Conn. He first went on the air as a DJ at Syracuse University’s student-run station and soon picked up work as a night DJ on a local Top 40 station.
After graduating in 1999 from Syracuse with a degree in advertising and design, he worked in Danbury as a DJ and then moved to WFLZ in Tampa, where he hosted “The Extreme Show,” which eventually spread to stations in 17 cities.
In 2000, Mr. Deibler came to Washington to work at XM Satellite Radio, where he was program director of several music channels and a DJ on the service’s ’90s outlet. In 2003, he returned to Tampa and then came back to Washington in 2006 to start the Hot 99.5 show.
Survivors include two daughters, Samantha and Sophie; his parents; and a sister.
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