Las Vegas Sun

September 2, 2014

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Q+A: Sean ‘Hollywood’ Hamilton

Las Vegas native Sean "Hollywood" Hamilton has come a long way since the days when he tossed newspapers onto the Wayne Newton compound, sneaked into Circus Circus to play slot machines and watched showgirls change costumes.

Today 42-year-old Hamilton is one of the nation's top radio DJs, hosting the syndicated show "Weekend Top 30," which features countdowns of the week's top songs (mainstream/rhythm) and interviews with music celebrities.

Heard by an estimated 2.5 million listeners in more than 200 cities each weekend, his program is no longer available in his hometown. It was on KLUC 98.5-FM from 2000 to 2005 but was dropped when the station changed its programming.

In addition to appearing in his nationally syndicated show, Hamilton can be heard weekday afternoons with co-host Goumba Johnny on WKTU, a New York City FM station that has Whoopi Goldberg as a morning disc jockey.

Hamilton, whose real name is Timothy Bello, is the son of drummer and comedian Al Bello and big band singer April Ames.

He recently talked to the Sun by telephone from New York.

Q: Are you actually a native of Las Vegas or did you just grow up here?

Born in Las Vegas and grew up there and Reno. Went to Chaparral High School (in Vegas) my freshman and sophomore years and then we moved to Reno. My dad was Al Bello. He was a comedian and entertainment director at a lot of casinos in the '60s - Thunderbird, Dunes. That's how I got my nickname, Hollywood. When I was a kid, Dad used to dress me in a little tuxedo and sometimes bring me onstage. When I wasn't on I'd be backstage - what a childhood - and the dancers used to come off to dress and undress. One of the dancers gave me the nickname, Little Hollywood. That was considered an outing with my father - on Friday night go backstage.

What part of town did you live in?

I was raised on a ranch, near Wayne Newton (South Pecos and Sunset roads area), which we sold a few years ago. There were four ranches down there at the time. We were the only ones out there in the '60s and '70s. Wayne, us, a few other homes. That was it. His back yard was his front yard, where he kept his horses. I used to have a paper route in 1973, '74 - around that time. My mom used to get up in the dark and take me in her station wagon to deliver papers. I used to watch Wayne in his robe get the paper I would throw out for him. I could never get it down that long driveway. He'd have to come way out to get it. I didn't have the arm.

What was it like growing up in Vegas in the '60s and '70s?

When I was a kid I used to take my lunch money and we skipped school and went to Circus Circus and played slot machines, back when you could get away with it. I used to come home from school and anybody could be in our hot tub, from Telly Savalas to Don Rickles to Sammy Davis Jr., who always came over for dinner. It was kind of weird growing up in Vegas. Reno was a lot more strict. I liked Vegas more. We lived in Vegas till '78, but when we moved to Reno we kept the house in Vegas because my dad worked in both towns. He became entertainment director for Harrah's in Reno and the Mapes hotel. I finished high school in Reno.

How did growing up around the entertainers in Las Vegas affect you?

I learned that show business is such a difference from any other. When I worked my way into the radio industry, I didn't look at myself as a radio DJ. I just looked at myself as being in show business. I think that was from the upbringing.

Why did you go into radio rather than some other aspect of entertainment?

I don't know why. I just knew I loved music and I loved to talk. In 1979 I was about 15, I built an illegal radio station in the basement of our home in Reno. The FCC shut it down. It just stemmed from that. From there I took off. Your typical DJ, playing records, talking and news and so forth. It just sort of grew from there.

You've interviewed a lot of people during your career. Any favorites?

Madonna. I always love to talk to Madonna. She's incredibly sassy. Janet Jackson is always lot of fun, although very timid and quiet. She's one of the toughest interviews you can do because she says nothing and it's one-word answers, but if you can have fun with Janet you've really accomplished a lot. Beyonce is always a lot of fun. Britney Spears. I love interviewing people. I have done it ever since I was a kid. When my father, in Vegas, used to bring over all these major celebrities I found myself at the dinner table talking and interviewing.

Is it difficult to get the interviews?

Nah. These artists want to get on national radio. They've got to promote their product. There's Ryan Seacrest, Casey Kasem and me. Those are the three shows celebrities come after to get heard.

What do you do when you aren't broadcasting?

I'm doing some acting. I just finished a movie called "Hyenas," a horror film. I play a hunter, hunting down these hyenas that are attacking people. It's a horror story/thriller. I've been doing a lot of television. And "Weekend Top 30" just hit our 10th year.

Radio has changed a lot since you entered the business. Is it in danger from competition from satellite and podcasting and all of the other technology?

There are so many choices, but radio will never go away. It will never lose to satellite. It will never lose to podcasting. People will always want that localization. They want to be informed. They want to be entertained. They want to laugh and they want to hear music, and you're only going to get that from local radio, not from satellite.

Howard Stern went to satellite. Was that a mistake?

Look what happened to him. He took the money and ran with it. He collected all that money to go to Sirius and now he's out of sight and out of mind and nobody cares anymore and he's doing terrible. His initial subscribers aren't resubscribing. Don't get me wrong. I'm a friend of Howard's. I love Howie to death. Howard was the King of All Media. But he took the money and ran to satellite just to get paid. He got paid and now nobody cares about Howard Stern anymore.

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