roar head

steph crew
Chris Levoie, Faith Lamont,
Randy Newell and Stephanie Miller


"Stand-up is one of the most difficult things to do on radio, because radio is a medium in which
the listeners demand that the person they are hearing is real"


steph
On the TV set of
"The Stephanie Miller Show"




She predicts that
Rush Limbaugh
will fade out.




stephbrd


In the "Zone" studio of
"The Stephanie Miller Show"




The feminist/comedian talk host

BY SHIREEN ALAFI

She drives men wild when she purrs; so they listen when she roars. Stephanie Miller is single-handedly holding up the women's side in the afternoon fight for listeners' attention. The station that's "not just a guy thing anymore" has pitted her against KFI's John & Ken, KABC's Larry Elder, KLSX's Conway & Steckler and KIEV's Ray Briem. You can find her defending her gender from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m on KTZN 710 AM, "The Zone."
The comedian/actor and new afternoon-drive talk host on the "lifestyle" station champions liberal causes - defending gays, women, Hillary Clinton and the President. Her polar opposites on the dial are found on the FM talk station 97.1. Tim Conway Jr. and Doug Steckler are the founders of NOM - National Organization of Men - and the membership list is growing geometrically. They even established a NOM website.


What's Miller's view of the FM talk station?
"Sounds like a boys' locker room over there."


Although the new Zone talent insists she's "not into radio wars," she keeps playing her theme song, Helen Reddy's '70s anthem, "I Am Woman." But she's not a broken record. Just like all the other talk hosts, she tackles the hottest issues of the day. Her right-hand woman and executive producer, Faith Beth Lamont, finds topics that are "relevant to the audience, unbelievable, controversial or funny." Even if the topic isn't intrinsically funny, the comedian finds a way to get a laugh. At her new home on the Zone, the structure of the three-hour show at 3 p.m. is similar to her evening gig at her former address, KFI 640 AM, now her competition. She opens with a rousing dance song, followed by "Stand-Up News," comedy sketches inspired by the day's headlines and Hollywood gossip. She's famous for her exaggerated impersonations. Her favorite targets are: Cher, Sharon Stone, Katherine Hepburn, Valley Girl "Clueless" types and Roseanne - even ardent feminists aren't immune.

When a guest or caller offers an idea, Randy Newell - her "comedy genius"- often plays a famous line from a movie coupled with a line from a well-known song to express Miller's thoughts. On a recent show, the new city law on panhandling was the hot topic. Newell cut to the '50s Silhouettes song with the famous chorus line: "Get a job, doo, doo, doo, doo, get a job.""I'm the only person in this time slot - and maybe in talk radio - who's really doing a comedy show," she declared.However, a national expert on talk radio and editor of Talkers Magazine warns that her approach is perilous.
"Stand-up is one of the most difficult things to do on radio, because radio is a medium in which the listeners demand that the person they are hearing is real," Michael Harrison said. "There's something about stand-up - although it may work on TV or stage - it comes across on the radio as contrived shtick. That's what makes Stephanie Miller very special and different. She's still able to do shtick on the radio and still meet the medium's requirement for realness."

The executive producer of "The Stephanie Miller Show" is familiar with Southern California's reception of Miller. Lamont reported that Miller was No.1 in the Republican stronghold of Orange County when she was at 640 AM. "The people you think would absolutely hate her absolutely loved her," Lamont recalled. "When I worked at KFI, we did a lot of research; and she was No. 1. She was also voted basically the most entertaining person on radio in L.A."


Miller couldn't resist adding,
"Howard Stern was No. 2; I was No. 1."


The popular host is affectionate with her team in the studio, often engaging them in her conversations during the show. Lamont loves to kibitz with the boss - both on and off the air. She met Miller when she screened calls at KFI, where she worked with such heavyweights as Dr. Laura Schlessinger. A de facto member of the team is Beverly Gagliano, the news, traffic and weather reporter whose calming voice darts in and out every 15 minutes. "I tell her my policy is: It's your show; I will jump in when you tell me,"

Gagliano explained. But the self-proclaimed feminist host doesn't discriminate against the opposite sex in her hiring practices. Three young men even the gender score in the studio. Randy Newell is the comedy writer/producer and screener; Jeff Shade is the "comedy voice guy extraordinaire" and assistant production director. Chris Levoie applied for the engineer position on Miller's show from Chicago, where he worked at an ABC station. His boss playfully calls him her "engineer sex toy," about whom inquiring women want to know."She did take me out dancing once," Levoie added eagerly.

Members of the group have been straining their batteries since the show debuted on 710 AM June 2. "I got here the day before the show," said Levoie, who worked in Phoenix while Miller was at KFI, which has a mega-signal. "I was learning everything at once." He added, "I've been a huge fans of hers; driving across the desert, I'd listen to her show and just laugh." Her listeners do the same.


They often mimic her trademark greeting:
"Hey, Girlfriend."
But they are not all kindred-spirited females,
by any means. Many conservative male callers
are charmed by the radio feminist.


"They don't agree with anything I say," Miller explained. "There's a sexual edge; there's always a chance. They don't get the shtick - that I'm just kidding. They think I might go meet them somewhere if they ask." She titillates the collective erogenous zone of her audience. She joked that her show is half issues and half phone sex. "I think some people think I'm truly a raging slut," she said. "But I'm really not; I'm kind of a good little Catholic girl. But that's the thing: We like to talk dirty. It's because we've been told since we're very young that we can't. This is why you become kind of a naughty girl.

But it's all just talk." Although she's a big talker, she didn't have to talk her way into television. The powers that be courted her. "It's funny: At the time, I actually thought, 'Who's going to turn down an opportunity like that?' " she reminisced. "But I really should do more in radio, like national, like Stern and Limbaugh." Leaving talk radio after a year and a half was not in her career scheme. "It happened so fast," she explained. "I got the TV deal when I'd been on KFI doing weekends for a month. By the time I had signed, almost everyone in town had called to offer me the same thing: a TV late-night talk show." Her tube gig incorporated elements of her radio show and was reminiscent of Tracey Ullman, the British comedian/actor.

"I never thought it would become a TV show," Miller said. "I thought, 'What kind of shot do I have? I'm a complete unknown. I'm kind of feeling like a dream deferred. "In TV, that [personality] can really get watered down. That's what I heard over and over: I loved your radio show. O.K., now don't do anything like that on TV." In the tube biz, she explained, new shows must become blockbusters in 13 weeks. She said her ratings had surpassed her predecesor. "But it wasn't enough because it wasn't a huge hit in 13 weeks," she lamented

However, she was a huge hit with TV Guide critic Jeff Jarvis. He wrote: " 'Saturday Night Live' would be lucky to have somebody with her octane. I'd say she has enough energy to outrun big ol' Jay and weary ol' Dave. She has a dry, honking delivery and good material. She has a touch of the Dennis Miller (no relation) don't-put-anything -over-on me-attitude." When she returned from her foray into TV Land, her listeners welcomed her back to her radio home. Before throwing in their two cents about the topic de jour, they still say, "I missed you" or "You're the goddess of radio." It's not unusual for men and women to profess their love for her. One can almost feel the healing from the death of her TV show. Now she uses her test tube experience as joke material.
"There's a million cooks in the kitchen; I had more hands up my skirt than Miss Piggy," she quipped. "That's what I love about radio: You have more control over what you're doing." She always has acted as her own career counselor: "I used to be in music radio, and I always thought, 'What's the point?' They basically told you to shut up and play the music. Morning radio was: Be funny for about 30 seconds, and then go right back to the music. Talk was so much more free.
That's why I left New York. I did morning-drive there for three years, and I ultimately felt like, 'Where I am going with this?' I felt like if you're going to be a star like Limbaugh, you have to be in talk." The path to her status as a professional entertainer began in Buffalo, N.Y., where she was born and raised and snagged her first radio job. Growing up, she never listened to the radio. She always wanted to be Carol Burnett. When she was about 27, she DJ'd on "Hot 97" in her hometown. She moved to Rochester, N.Y., then on to Chicago and New York City, and ended up in L.A. Music radio is her choice for relaxation: "I like fun, frothy music - KIIS 102.7, KBIG 104.3, Star 98.7, Arrow The single 35-year-old's self-deprecating humor includes poking fun at her single status. She likes to tell this joke to explain her situation: "I don't think women get career and marriage. It's like we're on some giant game show somewhere and lost: 'Do you want career or both? Can I have both?No, I'm sorry, you loser. You only get one, and here's some cellulite as a parting gift.' " Her recent celebrity dates include parody songwriter Weird Al Yankovich and Barry Williams of Greg Brady fame.

He escorted her to the Emmys. But her main objects of affection are her three dogs: a Great Pyrenees, a Lancier Newfoundland and a toy Pekipoo. Unlike her Pekipoo, she's purebred from successful stock. Her father, William E. Miller, was a New York congressman and Barry Goldwater's vice-presidential running mate; her two sisters are TV newscasters, and her brother is an attorney.Now their youngest sibling is going to be syndicated: ABC Radio Network is taking on the feminist comedian this fall. Her vision for radio's future? "I think whatever's successful will spawn more of the same kind of thing," she said. "People don't care that much about heavy politics. I think that it's going to move toward entertainment and toward what people are talking about." She predicts that Rush Limbaugh will fade out. "You can't take away fromsomebody's success," she said. "He's obviously speaking for a lot of people. But everything's cyclical. People don't stay on top forever."

Her vision for radio in a perfect world?
"All-Stephanie, all the time."