Voices in My Head

Although I’m somewhat reluctant to admit this, I probably listen to more talk radio than most 70-year old Teabaggers.  Because of the nature of my job, I have several hours alone each day at work, performing tasks that, to put it mildly, leave my brain less than fully engaged, and the three-hour shows, punctuated by weather, news, and traffic, create a rhythm for each workday, and often fill me with ideas to write about as a bonus.  Although my primary station is KPOJ in Portland, I spend enough time working in LA to have thoroughly absorbed the quirks and charms of KTLK, LA’s progressive talk station, as well.

Aside from the shows themselves, which are mostly nationally syndicated, both stations field a stable of local talent that read the traffic, local news, and weather, and in a couple of cases, these snippets are as riveting as the shows themselves, sometimes not in the way they intend.  Take Nancy Bond, who reports on the always interesting subject of LA traffic every fifteen minutes on KTLK.  Her voice is low, bordering on breathy, and elegantly alluring as she relays, say, the usual disasters in the bewildering confluence of ten-lane freeways they call the “Orange Crush,” an errant mattress blocking lanes on the 405, or the latest spectacular multicar pileup in Cahuenga Pass.  But there’s an added twist for the careful listener; a minor speech impediment that just occasionally reveals a slight trace of Elmer Fudd with certain L’s and blended R’s, which are particularly arresting when she tries to say “Sigalert,” which is obviously rather often, or “Sepulveda,” somewhat less so.  The poor thing must have been beside herself when, after the 2006 elections, the station adopted “Progressive, the new mainstream” as its tag line, and she had to attempt to say it at the end of every report, sometimes less than successfully.  I know I almost fell off a ladder the first time I heard her purr, “Pwogwessive, the new mainstweam.”  Everyone else clearly loves this as much as I do, because she’s been there for years, providing needed entertainment for stuck-in-traffic Angelenos as they wait raptly for the next flub.

Replacing a colorless Clear Channel drone, KPOJ recently, in a stroke of pure genius, hired Christina Hernandez to do the traffic here in Portland, and her voice is so kittenishly sexy that by the time she gets to her sign-off, “…and online at  620 KPOJ, dot com,”  which she languidly sighs as though there were a pole handy,  lefty men all over the metro area are undoubtedly rearranging their shorts and loosening their ties (in the unlikely event that they’re wearing them), especially when lack of major tie-ups and the clock require her to stretch out that “dot com” a bit.  She doesn’t need a speech impediment to be riveting, and can certainly look forward to a long and lucrative voice-over career selling Viagra, or perhaps ice to Eskimos, if for some reason the KPOJ traffic thing doesn’t work out for her.

Sadly, my favorite talent of all was jettisoned when Air America stopped doing its own news and threw in ABC’s pathetic excuse for a news feed instead.  Given that the whole point of progressive talk was to offer an alternative to the M$M, I considered that a pretty dumb cost-cutting move, and some great talent was lost.  When the excellent Joanne Allen  was off duty or on vacation, her fill-in was Emily Hoffman.  Hoffman apparently studied her craft by listening to the female news anchors of the 70′s, who strove to sound tough and hard-boiled, like real reporters in a male dominated industry;  her tone was so urgent and portentous, those R’s in “Air America Radio” so hard and drawn out for effect, that I constantly wondered whether it was serious or a consciously comic shtick.  Unlike Allen, who wrote her news straight up, Hoffman wrote hers with an edge, peppering reports with things like “Holy conflict of interest, Batman” and when she read the news, you knew you were listening to a proudly liberal station.  Some days, her 60 seconds was the best part of the hour.

They say that talk radio essentially saved AM from irrelevance when it emerged in the 1990′s;  more importantly, it revived the craft of the voice, as each of these fine talents show.  Before right-wing radio and consolidation turned the AM dial into a homogenized wasteland, popular radio personalities at local stations gave everyone a common frame of reference, which progressive talk is now doing in more liberal enclaves like Portland and LA.  That’s a great development; as Nancy Bond would say, it’s the new mainstweam.

29 Comments

  1. rmp says:

    Now that you mention it, most of our traffic reports are done by women. Some sexy, some dopey-bored, some matter of fact professional. It makes sense that when you are stuck in traffic to downplay your frustration by creating fantasies, saying happens all the time so what, or your a professional stop feeling sorry for yourself.

    Damn I sure have a tendency to analyze everything. I doubt any of my kind of thinking goes into the selection of these broad cast mavens. Can’t believe any radio producers would be as perceptive as a Hag.

  2. cocktailhag says:

    Well, I think even the dumbest producer knows that sex sells, hence Hernandez…. As Randi Rhodes tag line says, “she puts the “broad” in broadcasting.

  3. timothy3 says:

    Hah, nice post, CH. I don’t know if I ever mentioned, although I now live in Boise, that I grew up in LA and remember quite clearly the vocal mannerisms, tones, etc. of the radio people there. There was a guy at KFWB that gave sports reports so authoritatively you’d think it was God himself telling you that the Dodgers won and how they did it. I felt like a rabbinical student, nodding, nodding, bowing rhythmically.
    Anyway, a nice post on an interesting topic.

    • cocktailhag says:

      What prompted me was how mesmerized I’d become by Christina Hernandez; who knew that “dot com” was such a sexy thing to say…. I guess it’s about how with the right voice, the content almost becomes secondary, the medium completely overpowering the message.

  4. heru-ur says:

    Like posting at UT, AM radio bring out the worst in people. The callers are often way over the top and say things that (I hope) they really don’t mean. If 20 million Limbaugh ditto heads really believe half that stuff; then we are in some serious trouble right here in river city.

    Good post, by the way.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Thanks, Heru…. It was a default post that had been rolling around in my head, along with “dot com,” for a week or so. I do find that liberal callers are less crazy and misinformed than righties, but that could be my liberal bias.

      • heru-ur says:

        No, you are right about the right wing callers; they are nuts. I think most of it is an act though — talking big and tough. Stuff like the old “nuke ‘em back to the stone age”; when they would be horrified at the real use of the weapons on any civilian population. I don’t listen to any of it anymore. Heck, I would rather hit my toes with a hammer than listen to the economic theories of the average man in the street.

        Come to think of it; reading the last thread over at UT is much the same. It must be that Glenn has taken off or something.

        I think this place has better “vibs” as we said back in the day.

        • cocktailhag says:

          I make it a practice to close my UT window after 12 hours or so in the absence of a new post; there’s a degenerative process, like a party where only the drunks remain, that makes me feel compelled to flee. I think the problem with righty callers is that they simply aren’t working with the same set of facts most people have. It’s like going into an Alzheimer’s ward for help with a crossword puzzle.

  5. karrsic says:

    Pwogwessive, the new mainstweam.

    Reminds me of Madeleine Kahn in Blazing Saddles. Lili Von Shtupp, singing:

    Here I stand, the goddess of desire / Set men on fire / I have this power. / Morning, noon, and night, it’s dwink and dancing / Some quick womancing / And then a shower. / Stage door Johnnies constantly suwwound me / They always hound me, with one wequest. / Who can satisfy their lustful habits? / I’m not a wabbit. / I need some…west

    : )

    • cocktailhag says:

      I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never seen that film; now I absolutely have to.

      • heru-ur says:

        One of the funniest movies made in this country. In the top 25 at least.

        I wish I could see it again for the first time.

      • karrsic says:

        For a sneak peak of the awesome Madeline singing the song above:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-pmpgrYQgs&feature=related

        • cocktailhag says:

          That was great Karrsic… Even better than “Yes! no no no no no no, yes, no no no no no yes, no no yes,” etc from “History of The World.”

          • Pedinska says:

            Or,

            “Seven always was my lucky number.” (followed by an orgasmic aria)
            From Young Frankenstein.

          • dirigo says:

            Just read a story today indicating that most dogs have minds equivalent to two year old humans.

            So, thinking of mass media assumptions, and people like Michael Powell, former FCC chair, or Rupert Murdoch, they all must think we’re a country of mutts.

            – ? -

            Sexy traffic reporters are just part of the matrix.

            I have a sexy voice too, and I could deliver recipes in a provocative way; but where would that get us?

            – ? -

          • cocktailhag says:

            You do have a sexy voice, Dirigo, and it would be perfect for reading the traffic reports, or the phone book, for that matter. Neither you, nor Nancy or Christina are going to necessarily lead us to the promised land, but it’s better than listening to, say, Pat Buchanan.

          • cocktailhag says:

            Pedinska… (opera voice) “Ahhhhh, sweet mystery of life at last I found you!”

          • dirigo says:

            With sufficient compensation and a decent amount of time, I think I could get numbers good enough to bury Buchanan.

            No shit.

          • cocktailhag says:

            I’d rather bury him with a shovel… but your way would do, too.

  6. sysprog says:

    Once upon a time, I googled one of my favorite radio voices, and I clicked on her Facebook page.

    It reminded of how I once went to a conference and met – - in person – - a certain person whom I had previously met only via telephone – - on which this person had been mildly flirtatious for a couple of years (ahem, ahem, well within the bounds of business etiquette).

    I don’t have a radio announcer’s voice but I guess my voice must have a little something.

    At the opening of the conference she spotted my nametag, glanced at my face, and then there was a slight sigh, and a quick small ripple of disappointment, before she smiled and said hello. Oh well, I guess I’m not as cute as I was forty years ago.

    Good rule of thumb:

    Those smoky-voiced radio people that you know only via aural intercourse?

    Don’t go to their Facebook page and see their face.

    Just leave it to your imagination.

    • cocktailhag says:

      So right you are, sysprog. When I worked in the lighting business, I fell in “love” with a supplier or two over the telephone, only to be horribly disappointed when we finally met. Conversely, because of my deep whisky voice, customers would come in and about fall over when I turned out to be a fit, blond 25-year old, rather than the AARP member I sounded like on the phone.

  7. timothy3 says:

    Conversely, because of my deep whisky voice, customers would come in and about fall over when I turned out to be a fit, blond 25-year old, rather than the AARP member I sounded like on the phone.

    Too funny.
    My experience has always been something like this:
    Her: “Oh, you’re that guy Tim I met over the phone. Yeah, nice to meet you, too. Well, you’re pretty much what I expected. Say, do you have the number for the nearest Yellow Cab?”
    Me: “Sure, I thought you might want that.”
    Her: “Thanks. Boy you’re a little guy, aren’t you?”
    Me: “Sez yer Mom!”
    Then we part amicably.

  8. tinkertoot says:

    Don’t be fooled by that kittenish voice, often ending sentences with a subtle growl. I’m absolutely convinced that style is being cultivated in broadcasting and advertising. No doubt careful marketing studies revealed that people respond and cooperate better with that voice style. I’m hearing the higher-pitched soft porn style of female voice all over the airways. Voice coaches everywhere must be teaching it. It’s also just part of our youth culture and celebrity worship(ugh). It’s total marketing manipulation.

    Still don’t believe me? Just listen to the movie actresses’ voices going back a decade and more. Also listen to old commercials. Marlene Dietrich, Rosalind Russell, Jane Fonda…where are those voices now?

    • cocktailhag says:

      I think you’re right…. Although less smoking might have something to do with it, too. (That’s the cocktailhag perspective, anyway)

      • tinkertoot says:

        So you agree (but you can still like Christine’s voice — it’s ok!) We’re probably a disappearing breed ;)

        Also take note of the new female voices on NPR. They brought a new local announcer during the “American Routes” show, which features the roots of American popular music. The music is often bluesy, usually with that edge. That “enticing” little voice just irritates me!

        A better example of good journalistic voicing: Beth Hyams