Don't Drink the Sponsor

Everyone points out the irony to Marco Collins: the former VH1 programmer, record label honcho, and radio exec lost his last full-time job due to drug abuse. He had to leave 91X last year when he stopped showing up for work.

He's been hired by Southern Comfort as the face of the SoCo Music Experience concerts. He will MC all five shows at different U.S. cities. His band interviews will be seen on a Jumbotron screen in between bands and then will be viewable on Southern Comfort's website. Southern Comfort is paying a lot to underwrite the shows. All five are free of charge. The Southern Comfort brand is trusting in Marco to be its spokesman.

"Being active as opposed to being out of work is much better for Marco," says marketing executive Brent Walla, who hired Collins to host the SoCo fest. Walla says he does not expect Collins to endorse Southern Comfort or any other alcoholic beverage. "We spoke about that in great detail," says Walla. "The days of the concert promoter and the backstage partying are gone."

"I don't see it as a threat to my sobriety," says Collins. "People ask, 'Are you sure you can get sober in the same industry?' But the music industry has its own network of support [for recovering abusers]. My sobriety is not about being in any job or any city. It's about emotional stability."

And Collins maintains that the days when the radio industry was soaking in drugs went out with WKRP. "It's not like it was in the '80s when everyone was doing blow." He says he's considering getting back into radio and was recently offered a chance to audition for a DJ gig at a station in San Francisco. Collins currently programs three different stations for slacker.com, a local company that provides multiple music channels à la XM or Sirius.

After his 91X "crash and burn" last fall, Collins spent six weeks in a highly structured rehab in Georgia. It was paid for by the Grammy's, which funds a recovery program for music industry veterans.

"I'm very grateful," he says. "But when I first got there it was a son of a bitch. I was ready to run. I was miserable."

Collins admits he has backslid more than once. "I'm like the Energizer Bunny. I don't give up. Like they say in meetings, 'Keep coming back.' I have no other options. I could lay down and die, or I can get up and keep fighting."

The Flaming Lips, DJ Z-Trip, the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Galactic, and Delta Spirit appear at the SoCo Music Experience August 25 downtown near Park Boulevard and Imperial Avenue. It is free. Must be 21.

Near press time, it was announced that Marco Collins would rejoin the 91X DJ lineup this weekend.

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