Friday, 8 June 2012

Time to Reflect...

I read some news last week and it made me do a little reflecting. Like any good blogger, I thought I'd share my thoughts. Cathartic and yet self-serving. Two components of decent blogging.

The place where my internet radio show "The Lesbian Lounge with Denise & Donna" got it's start and very first home, G.I.R.L. Radio, aka:  is powering down after 7 years.  I read the Facebook post and felt instant sadness. As of July 31st, GIRL Radio will no longer be. The domain will go up for sale. No more dance mixes, pictures of rock solid boy abs, or broadcasting at the gayest of gay boy bars. I'll admit, it's been a while since I've browsed the site, but I do keep up. For a while, it was all I knew.


I got bit by the radio bug a long time ago, around 2003, I think. I don't even remember exactly how it came about, either, but I somehow was working at an FM station called Party 93.1, out of South Florida for a gay morning show. It was one of the first nationally syndicated gay radio shows to hit the airwaves, and it was called "Issues Over The Rainbow".

It aired at 6:30am on Sunday mornings. My segment, "Chick Chat" (I hated the name, which was suggested by the host) on the all gay men show was 4 minutes long and I had to share it with two other girls, Fay Tatiana, who is still a radio DJ, and Rachael Robinson of MTV's "Real World/Road Rules Challenges" who is...still riding that wave, I guess. It was a humble start, I'll say. I heard just the other day that the old station is back, trying to bust into the HD Radio scene.  Interesting to know there are still a few party people out there who won't let the dream die.


So, my radio "fame" consisted of four minutes on a 56 minute show that aired at an ungodly time... on a Godly day. But, I took the opportunity and I ran with it. I started hosting at a monthly women's spoken word night, and went to a few events to represent the radio show, where of course, no one knew my name. When the broadcasting company decided to change formats, overnight, to an alternative rock station, we were all let go with no notice and not even a "thank you". So, I'd have to say, my first experience in radio wasn't that great and I have no idea why I even decided to continue after that.

Actually, I do know. I got a call from one of the producers, a while later, who had found his way into a whole new realm of work that he explained as "internet radio". He told me he was working for a company that was launching a bunch of diverse shows that would stream broadcasts via a website, so people could listen world wide, there was no FCC regulations, and it was free, as opposed to Satellite radio which was just starting to catch on around that time. He asked if I would come in and pitch a show to the owner, who was looking for something "lesbian-ish, yet would appeal to straight men, and would have a butch/femme feel to it".  Those were my guidelines. He also said the owner was okay with it being (big red flag here!)  "as dirty and nasty as I wanted", because, again- no FCC regulations on internet radio.  It was at that moment that I created my own show, "Dirty White Chicks", and for the very first time, no one was telling me that I had to wrap it up after  3 & a half minutes.

I was thrilled that the company liked my idea enough to greenlight it. They even suggested I add some Fetish Life stuff to the show, swear & cuss MORE, and review porn sites from "a lesbian's perspective".  Umm..Okay, I guess. It was the stuff every show creator wants to hear! I had assembled everything I wanted-  I had my best bud, Donna, doing our "Big Gay News" as a reporter named in "Butt Crack". I had a sexy fetish kitten, Lisa, from Tampa, who would report on a different fetish topic each week (ranging from golden showers to infantile fantasy, to rope play, to fetish party protocol) and we had a big burly Hispanic guy named Jorge, aka: "Johnny Bravo" as our producer, who would find the BEST and funniest clips to play at the most appropriate times, as well as get us on & off the air.  The show itself was as tight as I could hope for considering a first timer like myself putting the ideas together- I had segments like, "Lesbian Tips for the Straight Guys", I had interviews with porn stars like Sophia Rossi, in fact- a bunch of the Vivid Video girls, I even had Summer Haze sit in and host with me once! I would read straight from Jenna Jameson's book "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star", I would review a porn site each week and I would get callers to phone in fake orgasms on the air for prizes, like sex toys & porn DVD's .  It was all very "morning zoo" with a lesbian, pornographic twist.

Okay, I know- how sexist and un-PC it all sounds, right?  IT WAS! I won't lie- it was horribly wrong on every single level, but it was totally fun...for about 28 shows. That's when it all got to me. I started feeling like the worst lesbian ever. I wouldn't promote the show to my LGBT community because how dare I do something so degrading to women. I couldn't talk about it with my family. I couldn't feel proud about it.  I tried suggesting that we take it in a different direction, but the owner & producer didn't want to hear about it. They even started looking into those XXX conventions, talking about sending us to Vegas and L.A. But, I didn't like appealing to the their target audience, I didn't like ramping up the worst part of myself to make everyone laugh, and...possibly jerk-off.  I was sick of it. Then the station owner asked if I would drop the news segment and that meant firing my best friend, Donna. That was the last straw for me, and my decision to leave felt long overdo and VERY right.

So, I quit. They tried everything to get me to stay, even telling me I was in breach of my contract and they could sue me (for absolutely nothing but the content, which I was REALLY fine with THEM keeping!) but I walked away. It was the first time in 6 months I didn't feel like a dirty, sexist pig. I mean, hey, I like Howard Stern, but I don't know how he lives with himself sometimes. Well,  he's not a lesbian so...I'm pretty sure nothing bothers him.

To this day, I still cringe at the fact that there's documented proof of the "Dirty White Chick" shows we did floating around on the internet. I know if I ever sell a best selling book, or achieve some remote higher level of fame for whatever reason-- some raging asshole reporter will throw that shit up up for media grabs faster than a Kardashian sex tape. 

It was around that time that I found G.I.R.L. Radio on the internet, because I loved the club anthems and dance mixes they streamed. I emailed them asking if I could pitch an internet radio show for lesbians to him that could possibly be a part of their line-up. The owner wrote me back almost immediately, and before you know it, we were on the phone and I was telling this fabulous southern gay man all about my last 6 months,  and how I wanted to do something different. I pitched him a show that would focus on up to the minute POSITIVE lesbian content- from films, to books, to music, to events, businesses, websites, trends and of course, a few laughs. It was just my luck that the owner was looking for some lesbian content to diversify the site. Within days, Devan Christopher, owner of G.I.R.L. , was on a plane to Fort Lauderdale from Atlanta. Shortly after landing, he was at my kitchen table tickling my cats, and commenting on the insane amount of air freshener wafting through my condo. He looked over my contract that I had signed with the company putting out "Dirty White Chicks", and showed me exactly where it said I was obligated to 26 weeks of shows. I was now up to week 30, so I had more than fulfilled my contract and I had nothing to worry about since walking away. He never once questioned the content I was presenting to him. He never gave me guidelines or suggested I change anything. He offered help if asked, where the format was concerned, but never "made" me do anything, often admitting he knew nothing about lesbians, and this was my territory.  He then pulled out two brand new shiny contracts, one for me, and one for Donna, and from that moment on- "The Lesbian Lounge with Denise & Donna" was born and given a home on G.I.R.L. Radio.  


He taught us everything you can possibly imagine over the next three years- timing, promotion, business, technology, branding, licensing, royalties, contracts and sponsorships- like both a big brother and a college professor.  I have so many fond, faggety memories of the trips, the Pride Festivals, Orlando GayDays,  and even him sneaking into the all-women resort of Pearl's in Key West to hook up our speakers at our first WomenFest. It was the best time, really. Although it wasn't all fun & games- this was a business to him. For us, we were two fat, funny chicks, who were a hit with a new niche of women- the ones that weren't into clubbing, or flash & dance nights, who had kids, who didn't fit into size 6 skinny jeans, but who still wanted to have a good time. Donna and I were having some serious & stupid fun. We didn't know anything about business, we just wanted to make friends, turn on a microphone and be funny. We didn't want to sell advertising, we didn't want to schmooze with potential clients, we didn't want to try and collect money from business owners that we knew on personal levels. So a lot of the time, I know if poor Devan could have reached through the phone line and slapped us in the face, he would have. So, yes, there were meetings, conference calls, arguments, misunderstandings, fights, and tears - as expected when you have something that your passionate about. But, the stuff I hang onto most of all are the laughs. We did have a ton of laughs with that sassy Gayfer.

One of my favorite memories is when Devan called into our show to announce, live on the air,  that we had over a million downloads in just 3 years. It was a proud moment for all of us, I think. We were doing a show that we could be happy with, proud of, and that our community liked. 

Without Devan, there is no telling if The Lesbian Lounge would have ever got off the ground. So, for that, I'm most grateful. He took a chance and he had the patience and perseverance to deal with us giggling idiots on a daily basis.  But, even more than that- and this is huge: he gave us the opportunity to break away and bloom even more- by selling the very brand & business he helped create back to us when it was time.  That was how  was born and how we are able to still be with you. 

So, it's really hit me after reading about G.I.R.L. Radio closing down this summer, that I'm a better person for having the privilege to work with Devan Christopher. I'm still not making a shitload of money. I still hate to try and "sell" myself for advertising. I'm still hosting gigs that sometimes only get 50 people in attendance. I still have to get myself to venues, pay to get in, and repeat my name 4 times before the promoter remembers they even booked me. I still have no clue how to "run a board", plug in a microphone, or how to negotiate my ryder. I still have to hang my own banners, book my own gigs, and carry my own fucking bags.  I still cry about wanting so much more. But I feel blessed to be hanging in there, like every hungry performer that feels a few inches away from super stardom. And thanks to Devan, I have my very own platform to be the rock star I think I am every week. 

In the past 7 years, we now have over 3.5 million downloads, our monthly podcast totals have exceeded my wildest dreams, we have a show guest list that boasts Jane Lynch ("Glee"), Sharon Gless ("Cagney & Lacey", "Queer As Folk"), Fortune Feimster ("Chelsea Lately"), Ilene Chaiken ("The L Word"), Daniela Sea ("The L Word"), Stacy Codikow & Lisa Thrasher of Power Up Films, editors from Curve Magazine, SHE Magazine, LOTL, and Bound Magazine, CEO-Shannon Wentworth of Sweet Travel, God-des & She, Angela Robinson ("DEBS"), Guinevere Turner, Kate Clinton, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Heather Peace ("Lip Service"), Harriet Braun ("Lip Service"), Sophie B. Hawkins, Cathy DeBuono ("We Have To Stop Now"), Jill Bennett ("We Have To Stop Now"), Nicole Conn  ("Elena Undone"),  author Karin Kallmaker of Bella Books, Kate McKinnon ("Saturday Night Live") and so many more. 

We've hosted so many years at GayDays, WomenFest, Pride Festivals up & down the state of Florida, World AIDS Day Concert, and now in England: The Go-Go Festival, L-Fest, and Birmingham Pride. We've been on the Inaugural Sweet Cruise, and we've been to Los Angeles for the premiere of Power Up's "Itty Bitty Titty Committee" at the Sunset Theaters on Sunset Strip. We've made loyal, steady business partnrships along the way, but more importantly friendships that I cherish. 

We've got over 1700 Twitter followers and thousands of Facebook friends, and our circle grows daily.

I've met my idols, I've met crushes, I am living the life I want to be living after being in a stuffy, oppressive office environment for 17 years, I've met & married my wife, I've moved to another country, seen parts of Europe I could only imagine and I still have my best friend in the world on the other microphone every week as we continue to give our now global fan base the best show we can- all because this really cool gay guy told me I could do it... seven years ago. 

So, thank you, DC...and all my best wishes for whatever you do next...