And Now for Our Next Guest….
The radio DJ put me on “mute” and I could hear him talking to the morning show producer as the commercials played in the background. “Who is this guy? Why are we interviewing him? The hell’s his name, anyway?”
You know it’s going to be a bad day when it’s ten seconds before the commercials end and the DJ of the #1 station in the market doesn’t know who you are, what you’re doing there or what he’s going to ask you.
Welcome to the organized, disciplined phenomenon known as Morning Drive radio.
As a devoted listener to morning show DJs, I’ve always loved their zany, crazy acts. After doing over thirty radio interviews promoting a book, I can tell you this much: It’s no act.
Everything about morning radio is unpredictable—when you’ll go on, if you’ll go on, how you’ll go down.
Given the nature of my book (gay sex and relationships) I would have bet my advance that only female-skewing stations would have me on the air. Certainly, the positioning of the book reflected the appeal– “What Women Can Learn from Gay Men About Sex” and “Seven Ways Women can turn their Duds to Studs.”
I wasn’t just wrong I was wrong on stilts. Of 35 radio interviews I’ve done across the country, 33 were on macho, hard rock stations with almost exclusively male audiences.
This, of course, made me as nervous as a dog outside a Korean meatpacking plant. I readied myself for the shock jock onslaught but it never really came. Why? Because most DJs operate by the seat of their pants. Or the one sitting next to them. They not only don’t know who’s coming up in the next segment, they don’t know why, either.
The first few interviews were so awkward I forgot why I was there. Once, out of sheer desperation I turned the tables and interviewed the DJs. “Is it ethical for straight men to pretend they’re gay to seduce women?” I asked. The DJs took it and ran, the phones rang off the hook and suddenly the interview took off. Especially after I gave my answer: “Yes, it’s unethical. But I highly recommend it.”
That’s when I learned my first radio lesson: You’re not there to hit home runs you’re there to pitch them.
If newspapers play “get the story,” and television plays “Gotcha,” then radio plays the fool. DJ’s love the unexpected and maybe that’s why trying to put some structure around my interviews never worked. Even when I emailed or faxed “suggested questions” they’d lose it or refuse to look at it.
A station in Los Angeles perfectly captured the DJ unpredictability I came to learn. They actually opened up the phone lines without warning me (as a newbie to the broadcast world I’ve never fielded on-air questions).
The call-in segment turned into a version of “Queer Eye for the Straight Bed.” A guy asked me the best way to pick up girls. “Make her laugh,” I said, “and you’re halfway up her leg.”
The phones lit up like a Syrian bombing run.
Because most of the DJ’s are macho men talking to alpha males they’re never too far from saying something homophobic. Nobody ever said anything patently offensive to gay men. You know, like “Kmart” or “beer belly.” But they came close. One DJ said, “I don’t know dude, picturing two guys having sex …it just creeps me out.”
“I know what you mean,” I said. “I feel the same way when I picture my parents doing it.”
I love morning radio. Being a guest on it makes me appreciate it even more. The other day I was driving in my car, listening to some morning jocks yucking it up. I wondered who was coming up next and it occurred to me… so did the DJs.