Between corporate takeovers, format changes and, quite literally, the omnipresent threat of satellites looming overhead, the average life expectancy of local radio stations these days seems to only slightly exceed that of say, a Betta fish.
Set that gloomy backdrop to the prospect of a female jock looking to anchor a major rock morning show — sans a sidekick, no less — and now we’re looking at average career lengths rivaling the shelf life of cornstarch.
Then there’s Lazer’s Leslie Rivers, still standing (or more accurately, sitting five hours a day) after all this time. Occupying the rarefied airwaves of the Valley for more than a decade now.
The Crawler caught up with the silver-tongued survivor to learn more about the path that landed the East Lyme, Connecticut, native behind the knobs at Lazer’s East Longmeadow studio. Here’s the skinny:
Leslie Rivers: I got my first radio gig by walking into a local station with a self-made news demo. I did get my degree in communications, but a paper resume can get lost in the shuffle too easily. So, introducing yourself in person isn’t a bad idea. It’s also smart to always bring cupcakes.
Crawler: So, was it more baked goods that helped bring you to the Valley?
LR: No [laughs] … I was working at 104.7 The Wolf, based within Mohegan Sun, when the program director from Lazer knocked on the window and offered me a morning gig. He had been listening to me for months and thought I’d be the perfect fit.
Crawler: Interesting. I mean, it appears that many morning teams are veritable boys clubs, right?
LR: He actually hired me with a male co-host, who tried to sell me as the bimbo. I hated it. The next guy they hired did the same thing. Those guys didn’t last long. Who wants to hear a guy berating and belittling a woman in the morning? It’s not good radio and, unless you’re a misogynist, it’s not entertaining. A lot of jocks want to be Howard Stern, but there’s only one Stern. He’s brilliant at what he does and it can’t be duplicated. But, I will say my co-worker and close friend Pat Kelly could give Howard a run for his money. The great thing about Pat is, he’s hilarious without being cruel.
Crawler: At the risk of sounding Eddie Haskell-ish, you’ve had some pretty great moments yourself.
LR: I’d say interviewing a variety of interesting people that performed at the Mohegan Sun — boxers, MMA fighters, musicians, actors, chefs, comedians and Ben and Jerry were definite highlights. My biggest career highlight of all is doing mornings, solo, and as a woman … in a rock format no less. It is pretty unusual.
Crawler: Any cringe-worthy moments along the way?
LR: I asked the band Kansas where they were from … does that count? Seriously, not a proud moment. Another lowlight was dealing with the massive egos — and cheap cologne — of previous partners. Sorry. I just had to.
Crawler: Anything particular to which you attribute your sustained success?
LR: At the risk of sounding cliché, I care about people, sometimes too much. I’ve also been told by the sales team and management that I’m super easy to work with and when asked to do something, 99.9 percent of the time I say “K, no problem!” Also critical to career longevity is preparation. I read and listen a lot. I ask questions. I’m curious. Topics are the mainstay of my show. I’m always searching for that gem that will inspire an emotional reaction. I’m also genuinely curious about people’s stories and experiences.”•
Catch the Nightcrawler on Wednesday mornings with Leslie at 6:20 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. on Lazer 99.3 FM.
Gary Carra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.