When I was a colored Catholic (budding lesbian) kid in Boston in the 60s I thought like many teens, I was the only one who felt alone and full of anxiety. Then I started listening to night time radio. I had a little transistor I snuggled up with and fell asleep to the voice of Dick Summer who played an eclectic selection of music and told stories and asked questions about life and the world and made thinking a good thing. He was like a California guy, or at least what I imagined one would be. His humanist perspective shaped me as much as the Civil Rights Movement did. His musings out loud are part of what confirmed for me I wanted to be a storyteller even though I had no idea if anyone would be interested in my story.
Then I moved to New York City and there in the middle of the night was the Night Bird, Alison Steele. It was like Dick Summer had called her up and said 'take care of this kid!' Her sensual voice and sharp insights wafted on the radio air waves and made transitioning from home to being on my own bearable. I think she was part of the reason I took to writing vampire stories so easily. Everything seemed better at night.
I love radio and listen to all kinds of music. Radio has always seemed to be the one place we could all visit at the same time and have similar experiences. Hearing Muhammed Ali (then Cassius Clay) win his big fight or listening to "The Shadow" when the TV was broken or Selected Short Stories...radio made communication and community for me. When I sit down to work on my fiction I turn on the station that suits my direction that day...R&B, Rock, Country, Classical. When I drive I have my 6 buttons tuned to my heart's desires or when I'm in a hotel in a new city I go up and down the dial and listen to what the city listens to.
Then I moved to San Francisco in 1993 and did my scan of the stations. It was, unfortunately, when they seemed to be decreasing. We lost KABL for a while but the Internet seems to have rescued it. Now I can listen to those songs we call middle of road but weren't in 1959...Patsy Cline...Duke Ellington! The Quiet Storm is a franchise now so I can hear soft-focus R&B almost anywhere. And I can even hear New Orleans R&B on my computer...heaven.
But it is the DJ as much as the music isn't it!? When I discovered Dave Morey on KFOG I felt at home. Dick Summer and Alison Steele had sent the message west. Great voice, great perspective, great music. It's a morning show but we all have to wake up some time. And most importantly he seems to get the concept of community. We're listening because we want music but also because we want to connect, to feel part of a community of listeners, of citizens. This is the danger of mass corporate ownership of radio stations...standardized formats take the personality out of radio and take the personality out of a city. The DJ is the one thing radio has going for it that no other medium has challenged. The art of being a good DJ is more than the voice and the music being played. It's knowing about connecting to people, whoever they might be out there in listenerland. Whatever it is Dave Morey has it. And to put icing on the cake...he's gay!
Driving to work one day I realized that, and almost swerved off the road. I had to pull over. Listening to radio in the middle of the night as a gay teen, I thought I was alone. The DJ was my lifeline to balance and the possibility of a 'live & let live' world. Now here was a DJ who was gay...no muss...no fuss...on a ROCK station! This was not public radio but ROCK! I know it's 2008...I work for a gay foundation...I publish books....I'm about to get married. But this is a ROCK station! And he is a 'live and let live' kind of guy. He can voice his opinion w/out needing to squash all disagreement beneath his heel.
That's not so easy...we're all more easily cynical, snarky or self-righteous. One need only listen to the crowd at a presidential speech to know that. I'm not sure why "Kill Him!" would seem like an acceptable opinion in a public forum. We're losing that civility and human kindness in this culture too fast and it's ironic that when I think of who embodies those qualities---a radio DJ is the first person who comes to my mind.
Dave Morey probably doesn't think of himself as a gay icon...so I'll just say his is the voice that made the morning worth it for this colored lesbian kid after all those nights feeling alone.
Thanks for giving us a couple months warning. Happy Retirement Dave!