‘GODDESS OF THE AIR’ SOUTH FLORIDA RADIO HASN’T BEEN THE SAME SINCE THE VERY IRASCIBLE AND INQUISITIVE RANDI RHODES GOT HER CHANCE TO KILL OR BE KILLED
Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL) (Published as Sun-Sentinel) – August 3, 1993
Author/Byline: By JOHN HUGHES, Staff Writer
Randi Rhodes is earning her title as the Goddess of South Florida radio.
Somewhere out in the Miami night thoughts that might have gone to artists or to barroom preachers are being snatched from the cosmic synapse and funneled into the vortex stirred by an insatiable mind.
The air has just been sucked right out of the studios of WIOD-AM. Independent thought is hers alone and the brightest minds in 50,000-watt distance are dimmed by the light of her on-air glow.
Randi Rhodes rules. It is 8 p.m. and this is her bygod time. So sit down and beg her to not kill you.
This night she is raving about a newspaper ad by a right-wing religio- political group craving ”decency in America.”
”These are the first people who will tell me I’m going to rot in hell because I’m a Jew,” Rhodes says. ”You preachy, hypocritical little bastards, you.”
This is a radio show that has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
The ”blonde” Goddess, wearing an ankle-length floral-print dress over 4- inch platforms, is holding a huge microphone like a softball on a stick and spitting out so much truth-laced sardonic wit that lesser talents could bathe for days in the spillover.
When Rhodes is rolling, one of her sentences can go for five minutes with no breaths except to suck fire from a Parliament Light.
And here’s what the listening audience misses: She sneers like Elvis. Except the Goddess doubles what the King did. That is, both sides of her full upper lip curl like a lusting stud downwind of a fresh mare.
She is watching Adam Kirschner, her producer with too much energy, but she sees no one. She is somewhere in a zone reserved for home-run hitters and shopping club hosts, where at any moment she could cross her metaphorical home plate or sell that 40,000th hand-painted glass figurine without ever knowing where the time had gone.
”Let’s take a call from Dan, in Tampa,” she says.
The caller says he’s 13 years old.
”Thirteen! Listen to what you’re saying!”
Dan tells her that all his friends think Randi is soooo cool, and that he even called her once from a pay phone in New Port Richey when he was visting his grandmother. Rhodes isn’t hearing it.
Now she’s jabbing her cigarette into the air where the boy’s bloodless face might be if he were across the board from the Goddess instead of across the state.
”Go out, play a little ball!” she screams. ”Get a pogo stick, buy a hula hoop if that’s your thing. Just get out of your house and have a 13-year-old life.”
Now the caller is Bubba, a fiddle player and a regular.
”Bubba! You got a song for us tonight, Bubba?”
Bubba says he’s going to play Devil Went Down to Georgia.
So now the radio fans have Bubba playing fiddle over the telephone from some unseen room, broadcast from this unseen room into the unseen rooms of her loyal (except for nights when the competition broadcasts the Marlins) ”clients.”
Rhodes joins Bubba: ”The devil went down to Georgia, he was lookin’ for a soul to steal …”
She recites every word and never blinks. The Goddess is a spongebrain. She misses nothing and keeps more than even she needs.
”Randi,” says another caller, ”you sound like my aunt from New York.”
”I sound like everybody’s aunt from New York,” she says.
It is, in fact, her commoness, Rhodes will tell you, that is her uncommon appeal.
”My life is so normal,” she says, ”that if I just speak to you from a normal life, you know I’m not making it up because it happens to you too.”
Randi Rhodes’ life isn’t nearly as ”normal” as it was before last September, when she was in public relations and only part-time on public airwaves (a weekend jock at WSHE-FM).
When WIOD dropped Hank Goldberg from its roster, Rhodes got her chance to kill or be killed, due in part to the persistence of her fiance/unofficial manager, Jim Robertson, a former producer at the station.
Inspired by her mentor and undisputed Champion of South Florida radio, Neil Rogers, Rhodes was an immediate hit. In her first ratings period, Rhodes was the No. 1 radio attraction for her time slot among men ages 35-44. And even if her audience may sometimes seem to be the gathering spot for misfits, drunks and potheads, it’s still the most sought-after audience in the demographics- addicted world of radio.
She had guest appearances — some regrettable — on Cable News Network, A Current Affair, Montel Williams. Her name, so recently unknown, was being used in sentences that included the names of radio’s most notorious, most successful.
Ten months later, she mixes humility with $$elf worth. After 13 years in radio, mostly on intelligence-impaired FM, she knows enough about the business to say this:
”I would never base my self-esteem on radio. That’s ridiculous.”
But isn’t it an ego boost?
”When (Jim) looks at me and says I did a wonderful show, that’s an ego boost,” Rhodes says.
”… Before (in FM) you were the girl with the sexy voice, but this is the kind of thing where I really do believe you have to bring some talent.
”I learned from Neil Rogers to not compromise, and from (WIOD’s afternoon team) Rick and Suds I learned to have fun. … All you have with (the listeners) is a bond that ‘I’ll be myself with you if you’ll let me be myself.”’
She was just being herself in May, when Rhodes refused to take part in WIOD’s coverage of Miami’s non-reaction to the William Lozano verdict.
On that Friday evening when all South Florida media panted for trouble, Rhodes’ show was pre-empted by live news reports from WIOD reporters with nothing to report.
Rhodes was asked to co-anchor. She refused, saying she would not hype an unnecessary media frenzy.
When forced into the show by a question from the station’s news anchor, Rhodes unleashed her feelings.
”When did we become Channel 7 and you become Rick Sanchez?” Rhodes said to the anchor, Chuck Meyer. The boards lit up with callers applauding Rhodes’ honesty and agreeing with her position.
If listeners buy her (which they have), the Goddess figures her station manager ought to buy her, too (which will be seen when contract time comes in September).
”It’s a wonderful job,” Rhodes says, then adds with the hardest working giggle in show business: ”Hopefully, it will be a high-paying job. We can’t stress that enough.”
(Rhodes won’t discuss her salary except to imply that the station got a deal on the first contract, and that she expects to even things out on the next.)
The Goddess pukes.
Before every show, Randi Rhodes needs a moment by herself to make peace with her bowels.
She has no format, no topics, no crutches, no net. That can be a frightening thing.
So every night at about 7:50, Randi Rhodes gets a little sick.
Then she makes 92,000 listeners a week feel better. Or at least feel something.
A woman calls to say that Randi has said some unfair things about lesbians. (The Goddess’ own sexual preference has occasionally been the subject of caller conversation, fueled by her comments about attractive women.)
Rhodes, who has been on a roll, grows weary of the woman’s rambling.
”It doesn’t bother us if you’re a lesbian,” she tells the caller. ”It bothers us if you’re a stupid lesbian.”
She hangs up, and takes a break, during which she says this about how her show is perceived:
”Why some people think this show is mean-spirited, I don’t know. It’s fun. It’s my job to have fun with these people. I don’t think I’m mean. I’m loud, but I’m not mean.”
Another caller, Gabriel, turns a call into an interview.
”Randi,” Gabriel asks, ”where do you see yourself in five years?”
The Goddess giggles.
”I see myself in Plantation Acres, sitting poolside in a muu-muu with a cigarette holder saying ‘Hey, pool boy, you want to make a middle-aged woman happy?”’
–Real name is Randi Somethingelse.
–Age 35, engaged to Jim Robertson, a pre-law student at BCC.
–Was in the Air Force from 1977-79.
–Drives a $35,000 Volvo. Gets it free from a sponsor.
–Pulls her eyebrows, but is smart enough to blame it on trichotillomania.
–Used to be a truck driver, but for a period of time more brief than the lying reporters at A Current Affair would have you believe. It was more like a few months.
–The first thing she bought when she signed her WIOD contract was a waterbed from which she later did a show.
–Some people like her. Some don’t. Some call her show to say they don’t listen to her.
–On the air, 7-10 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. WIOD-AM 610.
–Quote: ”When you don’t know what you’re doing, how you gonna organize it?”
Caption: PHOTOStaff photo/ROBERT DUYOS(color)
Memo: Informational box at end of text
Index terms: PROFILE; RANDI RHODES; DISC JOCKEY Record: 00216046 Copyright: 1993 News and Sun-Sentinel Company