This is In Deep, I’m Angie Coiro. This hour’s guest is coming right up. But first – these thoughts.
Growing up in Indiana, I was a kid out of place. I was too young to be a hippie or a peace activist or to call myself a feminist. But what was right and wrong started seeping through to me from those movements. I lived the inequality of growing up with an old-world Italian dad who treasured his sons and endured his daughters. (Luckily, Mom called him out on that once in a while.) Also lucky to have a sister whose subscribed to Mother Jones, and Whole Earth Review, whose record player wailed out Janis Joplin and the Doors, in this pop- and country-loving town. And because of the flower children I heard on the radio, I knew of San Francisco – where gentle people wore flowers in their hair and spread the new vibe of love and forward motion. When Mom gifted me the 45 single I burst into tears. Indiana was not my home. Maybe San Francisco was.
When I finally got here – before the Google busses, while Steve Jobs was a star only in his fledging industry, while the Castro was still flamboyant and the Mission a hodgepodge of races and classes – it was everything I’d hoped for.
In the late eighties, one of the stars of the San Francisco radio dial was Live105. I knew alternative and new wave but I’d never heard any blend like this. A set could segue from a hard, loud, post-punk diatribe right into Enya’s meditative cooing. Long past the years when I was its
target audience – and long after corporate consultants made all music radio less than it was – it’s still my go-to music station.
Or it was. I don’t know now.
Live105 offered the new, the different, the unexpected – very much in the spirit of San Francisco. Except for a few easily avoided time slots, you didn’t hear dehumanizing, sexist humor. It was OF the city, where the joy grows from a bed of diversity and the best of human nature.
Yesterday I headed home from a voiceover job – I was in great spirits. Tired of pre-recorded music, I skated around the dial in search of the new. I landed on Live 105.
A young male voice began to introduce a phone segment. As best I can reconstruct, it involved placing a call to a co-worker who was not at the office – something like that. And the DJ started describing his woman colleague.
She was the type of girl – “girl”, he said – who – well, you wouldn’t cheat on this kind of girl. Or maybe he said this was the kind of girl for whom you would cheat. I was unloading the car – it only kind of soaked in – that he was not leading not with her on-the-job savvy, or her contributions to the workings of the station – but by delineating – by weighing – her attractiveness.
Just as I pulled out the keys I thought – wait – what the hell? Did he really just reduce a colleague to her sexual desirability? ON THE AIR??
Now that kicked me right back through the years.
My early days of radio were so close to what we see on “Mad Men”, you’d wouldn’t believe it was the early eighties. But it was. You could be Joan or you could be Peggy, but either way you had to plot and parry to be treated like an equal, like a legit, adult human being.
I remember talking to the sales manager, Dave – deep in a discussion about a client contract – when Alan, the resident frat boy, came bursting into the conversation with news of a new track. His words plowed right over mind like a tractor trailer gone berserk. Of course, he wasn’t even looking at me, but at the man I was with, and acknowledged not at all that I had been mid-word. I looked at Dave and said, “Well, I guess we’ll finish this conversation later.” The general manager was two desks away. He promptly hauled me into his office for being disrespectful to Alan.
Every 40+ professional woman in America could tell you some version of these scenes tied together: struggling against a traditional, anti-feminist job; now watching slack-jawed as the “liberated, equal” professional young women of today are reduced to a sexual rating scale in a public arena.
I went on Twitter to share my dismay. Live105 tweeted back gleefully that they’re glad I was listening. Realization that their employee had publicly reduced a co-worker to her sexual assets – with full confidence that it was just fine, with no awareness of his place in the historic chain? That realization was nowhere to be found.
San Francisco has changed, a lot. So has radio. And so, I guess, has my go-to radio station.
For In Deep, I’m Angie Coiro.