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Sunday, June 29, 2014

LGBT Radio Stations

Happy Pride Weekend!

Through most of the early 20th century, most LGBT media was in print. And very underground. But there were plenty of nudge-wink songs on recordings and in night clubs. In the 1920s and early 1930s, there was a musical trend called "The Pansy Craze", which featured cross-dressing performers that was very popular in large cities before the Great Depression began. But after, it was a different story.

The very first known attempt at creating LGBT oriented radio happened in 1933 when a musical revue called Boys Will Be Girls, starring female impersonator Rae Bourbon was broadcast live over San Fransisco radio station KFWI. But the program barely started when police raided the club (which was heard live over the air) and Bourbon was arrested.

While freedom of the press was one inconsistent thing for LGBT media, freedom of speech over the radio was another altogether during the early and mid 20th century. Anything even casually referring to homosexuality was forbidden over the airwaves.

But LGBT oriented radio has around longer than you might think. It's beginnings were on radical, anything-goes progressive community radio stations such as WBAI New York, KPFA Berkeley and KRAB Seattle. 

In 1962, WBAI-FM New York aired the very first known completed  LGBT-oriented radio program, a roundtable discussion called Live and Let Live which chronicled the lives of 8 area gay men. After the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and through the 1970s, LGBT radio programs began appearing on Pacifica and unaffiliated public radio stations. KRAB-FM Seattle broke new ground by featuring weekly LGBT programming such as The Women's Survival Kit, WE: Women Everywhere and Amazon Media. Even one with a very tongue in cheek title Make No Mistake About It, It's a Faggot and a Dyke.

From a 1975 KRAB Radio listening guide. Image: krab.fm
However, this upswing for LGBT radio in the 1970's was seriously cut short in the 1980s after a new wave of social conservatism swept across America during the Reagan era. Programs that once aired frank discussions on LGBT issues were forced to tone down. Even as AIDS was becoming epidemic. Many LGBT programs simply vanished.

The fear was brought home when a lesbian program host on KRAB was intimidated by the FBI.     

In 1998, an upstart radio network called The Triangle Radio Network was formed in Palm Springs, CA and was carried on two Seattle area radio stations.

The network initially consisted of two small AM radio stations in the Seattle area, KBRO 1490 AM and KNTB 1480 AM (licensed to Lakewood, WA, a suburb of Tacoma.) 

The network consisted mostly of daily personality talk programs with some music added (the selection was up to whoever was on the air. I've heard everything from thrash metal to country) and electronic music overnights. It didn't have any real consistency, like Proud FM. It also appeared to be skewed to an older audience and completely missed the younger demographic. Being on low-fi, staticky monaural AM radio didn't help. 

(KBRO sticker from 1984, during their run as a soft rock station. Image: Radio Sticker of The Day)   
And KBRO, with only 1,000 watts and a tower in it's city of license across Puget Sound in Bremerton however has the added curse of having only a noisy rimshot daytime signal inside Seattle on the graveyard channel of 1490 kHz, which severely hindered nighttime reception outside of Bremerton. 

And KNTB on 1480 was even worse, It had daytime signal problems in Tacoma and it had to drop nighttime power to 111 watts

And when you can't even be heard 7 miles from both your own respective transmitter sites at 2am (did I mention this was on AM radio?) Well, you've got signal problems.

The Triangle Radio Network was never able to attract a sustainable audience. They never appeared in the Seattle/Tacoma ratings and major advertisers then were reluctant to advertise on a upstart network with no ratings. Especially one that was so niche and potentially controversial in 1998 and they folded in 2001. KBRO and KNTB are now Spanish language affiliates of ESPN Deportes.

But there's a few terrestrial AM/FM radio stations today that are programmed for the LGBT community and there will be more to come. I once talked to a marketing consultant a few years ago. He told me about it and he explained why; They're influential on others, they set the trends in everything. Many are upscale. And they like to shop.  

He emphasized those last few words with all the delicious, hand rubbing zeal you'd expect from a go-getter money guy. 

One of the difficulties of programming a commercial LGBT oriented radio station is what would you play? You can't necessarily target an entire genre of music on someone's sexual orientation any more than you can target an entire genre on someone's gender. Everyone is different. 

While there are entire sub-genres of music made by gay and lesbian artists specifically for the LGBT community, these artists are mostly unknown independent acts. And none of it has had any commercial familiarity or popularity outside of a very niche audience - even within the LGBT community itself.

And talk for the LGBT community is very difficult because while the range of topics are infinite, some of them are still unmentionable on the air in some more socially conservative backwaters at the risk of starting license threatening and very expensive and epic legal problems with government broadcasting regulators (such as the FCC in the United States and the CRTC in Canada)
CIRR 103.9 FM, (103.9 Proud FM) out of Toronto, Ontario Canada is the only terrestrial commercial LGBT oriented station that seems to have risen above all that. At first listen, you'd have a hard time telling the difference between Proud FM can any other CHR/Top 40 station on the dial. It's musical format mostly skews in that direction, with some upbeat '70s/'80s/'90s pop hits thrown in. It's just a feel good wall of non-stop party music.

Weeknights feature the syndicated Perez Hilton radio show (segments are pre-recorded and done as "voice tracks", dropped in between songs and commercial sets, similar to how John Tesh's program and Delilah is done on Adult Contemporary radio stations.) Weekends feature electronic, house and dance music and specialty programming. 

If you came for any torchy Judy Garland ballads, Proud FM probably isn't for you. They even play a strange upbeat dance remix version of "Someone Like You" Adele - one of these versions, I'm not even going to try and find which particular one.

(And if you think that's weird. You. Ain't. Heard. NOTHING. Yet. Not sure if Proud FM plays this. But hearing that Adele remix threw my AADD off on yet another tangent and I just had to see how many other modern Adult Contemporary radio ballads got that treatment. - L.)  

It's decidedly upbeat for a reason. First, depression sucks. Second, feel-good party music is better for a commercial LGBT station because it crosses over across the demographic spectrum, attracting straight people as well.

(Playing Proud FM also works for those unpleasant scenarios when you are absolutely out of Thorozine.)

However, Proud FM is not the very first attempt at a 24/7 LGBT commerical radio station.

3JOY 94.9 FM (Joy 94.9) Melbourne, Australia is currently the longest running all-LGBT radio station in the world and has been broadcasting since 1993.

And as this was going to print, a new low power FM station is going on the air this summer in Portland, OR. KPQR-LP 99.1 FM (Wild Planet Radio) is currently streaming now and their format musically is very similar to Proud FM.

Reader's Digest......Electronics?

You probably don't instantly think of your grandma's favourite magazine when it comes to audio equipment. But it is true. Reader's Digest really did sell stereos, radios and tape machines under their own brand name in the '60s, '70s and '80s.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"'A' My Name Is Alice" Donny & Marie Osmond (1976)

Somewhere, deep down in the 9th circle of hell sits a jukebox.

It's seen better days.

On selection A-1 of this particular jukebox is this song.

You are hearby warned.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The School Lunch Crisis

Image: KCPQ-TV
You may have heard about the outrageous incident in Kent, WA recently when a student who was 26 cents short on his school lunch card was not only denied his lunch, but the lunch was tossed in the trash and the student was humiliated in front of his peers.


It's not just in Kent, but around the nation and for far too long, we've been hearing similar reports of children being denied school lunches and bullied by the very people serving them due to an inability to pay.

It is a national embarrassment. And enough's enough. This is the United States of America. These are our kids, not inmates at a North Korean prison camp.

There was a time my mom couldn't afford my school lunch money. The lunch ladies served me anyway and gave me a form to take home to my mom about the reduced or free school lunch program. She'd send me back with it next day with her information. I still got lunch. Problem solved thereafter.

Why can't it still be this way?

Sometimes parents lost jobs, sometimes there would be financial hardships. The principals and teachers knew this and they would eagerly talk to parents and see if their kids qualified for reduced or free school breakfast/lunch programs until they got back on their feet. Sometimes a bully took your lunch money. It made no difference. You still got a decent lunch.

And we funded these programs well during the '50s, '60s and '70s. Granted, it wasn't the greatest taste explosion for some of us.

I couldn't wait for pizza day!
But for others, we'll never forgot them because they got us by and we looked forward to them, no matter what they seemed like to us.

People then never viewed it as a problem. Or as "socialism". Or any myriad of disgusting and completely WRONG analogies that never even appeared in the public discourse until the 1980s when the Reagan administration made devastating cutbacks in public education and drastically reducing funding for school lunch programs. A precedent that has only gotten worse.

Since that time, public education funding has dropped even further, leaving school districts to make up the balance in unpaid meals or to serve special alternate lunches for indigent children (a concept I find revolting because it marks poor children in the lunchroom, making them targets for bullies. Poor children in the school lunch program deserve exactly the same lunch offerings in the same portions as everyone else.)

School lunch programs were once viewed as an investment in children. An investment that has paid off incalculably since the 1940s. And we never thought twice about it. And it's time to let our representatives in Congress know we view it that way again. Because it is an investment in our children's education. And one of the worthiest.

But instead of talking about it, some of us are DOING something about it.

Come to Louie G's Pizza in Fife, WA Friday July 11th at 7:30pm for a spectacular all ages benefit show featuring cutting edge Northwest music from Boneshaker, Alien Nation, Q-Dot, Mister Von and Gossamer. Proceeds to go to a special fund to help needy local school children afford school lunches. A great night of music and fun for all at the Northwest's BEST place for live music, food and fun for the whole family. Voted among the Best in Western Washington by KING-5's Evening Magazine.

And please donate what you can to help.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

RIP Casey Kasem

From Kerri Kasem's Facebook page...

"Early this Father’s Day morning, our dad Casey Kasem passed away surrounded by family and friends. Even though we know he is in a better place and no longer suffering, we are heartbroken. Thank you for all your love, support and prayers. The world will miss Casey Kasem, an incredible talent and humanitarian; we will miss our Dad"

A part of my childhood died this morning too.

Rest well Casey. We will never forget you.



Monday, June 02, 2014

Milk (2008)

"Milk", starring Sean Penn and Josh Brolin is about San Fransisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, an openly gay businessman who had gotten sick of not only watching other gay people being harassed and bullied by a stiff city establishment but other minorities such as African Americans, the poor, elderly and people with disabilities being used as scapegoats and the first to suffer in any major city decision of that time. He not only stood up for the underdog, but he championed them. He put PEOPLE first - something a lot of politicians only pay lip service to. Milk actually did something about.

Milk transcends being a mere gay bio-film. While Milk's sexuality is never too far off, the real gist of the movie is how he gave the system a major wake up call and how he paid the ultimate price for standing up for what he believed in. From his beginnings as a flamboyant camera store owner in the Castro district of San Fransisco to the political battles he fought against the city and self-righteous anti-gay crusaders such as Anita Bryant to finally being elected city supervisor of San Fransisco and the turmoil that followed, especially from his biggest opponent, Dan White who assassinated Milk and San Fransisco Mayor George Moscone.

The story of Harvey Milk is a fascinating one for me, having read The Mayor Of Castro Street by Randy Shilts several years ago.

HIGHLY recommended reading!
I always loved his appeal to the social outcasts and how he worked to level the playing field for all people. We sure as hell could use a guy like him today.

One could only wonder what could have been had he not been assassinated. He most likely would have ended up mayor of San Fransisco and would probably have made it to Washington DC by now. I'd take Harvey Milk anyday over Diane Feinstein.

Harvey Milk never got the recognition he truly deserves for not only breaking down a LOT of doors and glass ceilings for gays and lesbians, but for inspiring all of us that the underdog can lose many battles, but still win the war in The Good Fight. The people know a true hero when they see one.