Art Astor is a renowned entrepreneur and collector. He was born in Fresno to Armenian-immigrant parents. After a tour in the Army Air Corps (earning him the Air Medal with four clusters) he took a communications degree from University of Southern California in 1949 on the G.I. Bill.
Degree in hand, he started in TV as what he described as `the Armenian Dick Clark,' but that was more than 50 years ago. Since then his efforts have mostly been off the air in radio sales and management. He has been involved in the Southern California broadcast industry ever since. Among other positions he has held, he headed the sales department at Los Angeles station KHJ during the great `Boss Radio' days of the early sixties. Back then, it was possible for one AM radio station to have 40 percent of the listening audience.
In the 1970s, while general manager of KDAY, he got the legendary Wolfman Jack to come across the border from Mexico to come to work in L.A. Many of those radio tapes still exist and can be heard on the air on AM 1510 in the Inland Empire.
By the late seventies, Astor was in partnership which owned KIK-FM, a country station out of Orange County. By 1982, he had bought out his partners and, with the purchase of an AM/FM operation in the Bay Area, he became the proud owner of the Astor Broadcast Group.
The history of the Astor Broadcast Group is the history of Art Astor.
Radio companies are a lot like Disneyland. They are never quite complete. The Astor Group has been just that way. Stations have been acquired. Stations have been sold.
An FM and two AM signals in the San Diego area were added. The FM was sold in 2004. KIK-FM was sold off just before that.
In 1999, Hank Stickney, owner of the Quakes, sold his Rancho Cucamonga radio station, known as The Muscle, to the Astor group. The calls became KMXN with the name AM 1510 applied to it to let people know where it is. The name has stuck, but the call letters later became KSPA.
In early 2004, when it was decided to remodel the transmitter site at 9th and Vineyard, the station made a temporary move to the corporate offices in Anaheim.
The signal remained the same. The official city of license was still Ontario, but the studios were still down in Orange County by the year 2005. Oddly enough, those studios were also the site of an incredible collection knows as Astor Classics.
Back in the seventies, Astor fell in love with a 1967 Jaguar 4.2 sedan. That car became the start of a remarkable collection. Nearly 200 `rolling sculpture' are now the heart of an amazing fleet - from a 1925 Dodge Bros. car to one of the largest private collections of Packards in the area.
Each car is as original as possible and all are drivable. In fact they all get out on the road sooner or later. Many famous names are attached to these cars including Orson Welles, Cary Grant, Admiral Nimitz and even Howard Hughes.
The collection also includes rare console model radios, early TVs, including a prototype from the 1939 Worlds Fair. Slot machines, telephones, prewar toys, juke boxes, autographed photos of Hollywood greats are also all part of the collection.
As a boy Astor had wanted a good watch but his family couldn't afford ones. Now he owns almost 200, including rare and expensive ones, Hopalong Cassidy watches and pocket watches.
Astor Group was planning to open a multipurpose event center to put the entire collection on proper display as a special attraction for groups looking to hold their functions in a most unusual atmosphere.
AM 1510 has developed a penchant for collectibles too. The grand traditions of Astor's Alma Mater, University of Southern California, can be heard, including the recent BCS championship game. Broadcast legend George Putnam airs `One Reporters Opinion' at noon each day. And the late, great Wolfman Jack holds sway every night at 6:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays). The rest of the day the music of people like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin add to the sound.
In fact Astor's loyalty to the school remained apparent as he wore the cardinal and gold colors at least once a week and carried the football and basketball broadcasts on KSPA, his Ontario station.
In this age of corporate broadcasting, where programming people in New York issue memos every day on what to air to people 3,000 miles away, the Astor Broadcast Group remains one of the last of the independent entrepreneurships in Southern California.
As for 2005, AM 1510 was one-third of the broadcast part of the company. KCEO, and a rarity on the AM band, and classical music, KFSD 80, were located in North County San Diego.
At nearly 80, Art Astor could still be found in one of his offices every day. Of course which office he could be found depended on whether he was working on plans for the event center, getting ready for a major car show, developing the international syndication of the Wolfman Jack shows or planning new ideas for Ontario's AM 1510.
In 2004 the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce presented Art Astor with a lifetime achievement award.