10 Questions with ... Cynthia Fox
September 17, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- 1977-1987 KMET/Los Angeles
- 1987-1989 101.9/The Edge/Los Angeles
- 1990-1992 Night Trax with Frazer Smith for TBS-TV
- 1993-1995 KLSX/Los Angeles
- 2003-2013 KLOS/Los Angeles
- 2013-The Sound/Los Angeles
1) What was your first job in radio?
My first paid job in radio was running the tape delay on Sunday nights for the GM's Talk show on KMET -- using actual tape and bleeping out the bad words! After the show I was a board op until 6am
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
I fell in love with radio because of the opportunity to work at two legendary campus radio stations. KUOR at the University of Redlands and KXLU at Loyola Marymount University. They were run by the students, so you had a chance to learn from your peers. I spent every spare moment I could at the stations, helping to put albums away, anything I could. I don't think any of us contemplated having a career in radio; we were having too much fun! Very free-form and creative. I'm sorry to learn over the years that there are less and less chances for students to learn in this fashion; fewer campus radio stations and from what I have heard, some of them are tightly formatted and don't give the students a chance at creativity.
3) You've had a unique place in LA Rock radio history that includes many years at the legendary KMET/Los Angeles. Can you give us some of the highlights of the "Mighty Met" years.
Gary Zacuto, an intern at KMET from KXLU gave me an opportunity to be a board op and be an intern at the Mighty Met ... and I was very, very fortunate. One thing led to another, and Sam Bellamy was generous and kind enough to offer me a shift on the air. I worked weekends, then overnights for a year and then I was on the air full-time doing middays!
The KMET era was incredible -- Sam Bellamy gave her team the opportunity to be creative and funny on the air ... and the chemistry worked! Jeff Gonzer and Ace Young in the mornings, I did middays, Jack Snyder in the afternoons, Mary Turner evenings and Jim Ladd at night. Also ... Pat "Paraquat" Kelley ... who did hilarious afternoon newscasts and we did the "Fish Report with a Beat" together after Mary Turner left! Everyone was on the same wavelength musically; we all enjoyed each other's shows and each other's sense of humor!
Plus we loved the listeners -- and they enjoyed our enthusiasm and humor. KMET was a unique blend of intelligence and fun. We took the music seriously, we got involved in serious environmental and social causes ... but because we made it fun, we got a lot more response and involvement.
There are so many highlights of those years! Being #1 in the ratings spoke to the fact that we were a great team! Cultivating that generous team spirit is a true art ... and it really grew for us. There were all kinds of magical moments for us; how about the time Pink Floyd invited us to be a part of The Wall shows at the Sports Arena? It was mind blowing to be on that stage. And how about Bruce Springsteen in studio with Mary Turner ... that's a legendary interview.
Jim Ladd's eloquent commentary on air the night John Lennon was killed ... that brought comfort to us all. Jeff Gonzer on the news explaining why it was important to KMET to be playing Little Steven's anti-apartheid record "Sun City" ... you see, we could be funny and silly, but we also had depth and many dimensions. That's why the listeners loved us and the artists, too! I was grateful for the opportunity to interview so many artists -- Pete Townshend, the Edge, David Gilmour, Bob Geldof, Tom Petty, Los Lobos, Heart, Brian May of Queen ... it was a remarkable time.
4) In the early '90s you also worked with Jim Ladd and several former KMET and KLOS jocks at LA's Classic Rock station KLSX. What can you tell us about your experience there?
KLSX was an interesting challenge -- could a station that coupled Howard Stern in the morning with Classic Rock the rest of the day actually work? Well, we did the best we could! The feedback we got from listeners was that Howard Stern listeners were not necessarity Classic Rock fans and vice versa.
The bonus I found from the experience was the opportunity to volunteer for our local PBS TV Station KCET, hosting on camera pledge breaks during concert specials ... and that proved to be a very positive collaboration. I went on to host hundreds of specials over the years and interview many artists at KCET -- Ringo, Mick Fleetwood, Brian May of Queen, Heart, Chrissie Hynde, John Densmore and Robby Krieger of the Doors ... it worked so well because we were able to help our non-profit broadcast colleagues with our special brand of enthusiasm and fun that comes from doing radio. It really boosted their pledges! You see, you do learn a few things in radio that apply in other fields!
5) After KLSX flipped format to FM Talk, how long was it before you moved over to KLOS? Give us the scoop on your KLOS years.
The 10 years at KLOS were truly heart-warming. Rita Wilde and her team had built a quality radio station that was honest, reliable and trustworthy. The listeners were treated with respect-no bogus contests (that ripped off the consumer) and dedicated to delivering the best experience. Plus an absolutely remarkable history of public service ... the KLOS Blood Drive that is the nation's largest blood drive; it's gone on now for 35 years. The American Red Cross now depends on the KLOS listeners to get through the summer months. And again, that was a serious cause that was built on fun ... we promoted it in a fun way, broadcasting live at several blood drive locations ... and because of that, our listeners saved a lot of lives! That's the power of radio. Awe-inspiring !
In addition, as a creative person I found it fun to work with the KLOS web team on creating new features for the KLOS website. I did scores of podcasts ... interviews with artists. I also embraced the videoblog feature, which gave us more opportunities to do interesting interviews or even go out into the community and create videoblog features about historical rock music sites in Los Angeles, etc. I took our team to Slash's auction of personal memorabilia and that was a great videoblog featurette!
6) Now you've joined former KLOS personalities Joe Benson and Rita Wilde doing part-time and fill-in at KSWD (The Sound) in LA. How was that reunion?
It's great to reunite with Joe Benson and Rita Wilde at The Sound! Joe is a phenom, a walking encyclopedia of rock, but he's also able to deliver it in such a warm and funny way. Rita has a great passion for radio and music ... and a great sense of calm and purpose. Plus I love the spirit of The Sound; it's dedicated to quality and teamwork, plus it doesn't underestimate the intelligence of the listeners. Dave Beasing and his team have created a great sensibility.
7) There's quite a Classic Rock battle going on now in Los Angeles between KLOS and The Sound. Having spent all those years at KLOS and now working for The Sound, what's your perspective on this competitive environment?
It's very healthy to have two competing Classic Rock radio stations; it will bring out the best in both. KLOS has a certain sensibility and The Sound has its own -- and I think the listeners benefit. I appreciate the imagination and fun and quality of The Sound and its undeniable team spirit. The studios are beautiful and I feel there's a real dedication to creating an environment in which everyone's talents can blossom. A free and open exchange of ideas, which fosters even more creativity and innovation. That's what you want -- a radio station that is endlessly creating moments that touch and astonish the listeners, a station that can create really intriguing and fun features ... and a radio station that can truly foster a great relationship with its listeners. Listeners love to feel that "this is my radio station." Radio is personal!
8) Let's talk about social media like Facebook and Twitter. How much do you personally utilize social media for connecting with listeners?
Social media is a fantastic tool. isn't it? I love it, but let's not forget the power of meeting and talking with listeners face to face. And mentioning their names on the air! That means so much. It's all about creating community and trust.
9) Let's focus on the Classic Rock format now. You've worked for some of the best Classic Rock stations in America. What's your take on the format today and in the future?
I love Classic Rock because it celebrates true quality and innovation ... and there is still so much we can learn from the artists who invented this medium. How does one create and make a lasting impact? And I would love to see more humor and imagination allowed to blossom in radio; the listeners really love it!
10) Here's the fun question. I would imagine you have quite a few "Rock Star" stories. Do you have any "family-friendly" stories you can share with us?
People have been enormously generous to me over the years; JJ Jackson of MTV was kind enough to introduce me to Pete Townshend ... and a few months later Pete remembered me and sat down and did a interview with me for KMET. (this was in 1982; the Who's first 'final' tour!) As a Who fan, I was of course thrilled and learned a lot. Another artist who has always been kind to me is Dr. Brian May of Queen. Their whole approach to their work is to aim for the highest quality possible ... and that extends to how they interact with fans and others. A very good life lesson. I've had a chance to interview Dr May several times over the years at KMET, KLOS and KCET-TV and he's always been a true gentleman.
Plus, over the years I've learned so much from other artists ... from the causes they've supported, whether it's environmental, social causes or educational causes. One can really make a difference. That was the big takeaway lesson from the example of U2. I loved their inspiring music; I even had a chance to meet Bono during the KMET days and thank him for the inspiration ... so when the Edge says rock music is a life force, it really can be a force for positive change!