If you've never heard Randi Rhodes on the air, you've really missed out.
Randi, a talk show host for West Palm Beach, FL, station WJNO/WJNX AM
1230/1330, is the best thing that's happened to radio in years. Known as the
Goddess of Radio, her razor-sharp wit is without equal. Listen to here once
or twice (she's on from noon until 3 p.m. weekdays Eastern Standard Time), and
you'll agree: the world needs Randi Rhodes.
Randi Rhodes, Goddess of Gab
Wicked humor of WJNO's newest radio personality woos Treasure Coast
By Lana Sumpter,
Tribune Staff Writer
Published 2/5/95 in the Port St. Lucie (Fla.) Tribune and Fort Pierce
If you have ever driven south on Interstate 95 from West Palm Beach to
Sunrise on a weekday afternoon, you may have noticed a curly-haired
blonde driving a white Japanese car, screaming at her radio. Or, better
yet, you may have heard her on the air, discussing feminine hygiene
products or Melrose Place.
She is Randi Rhodes -- The Woman With The Gift Of Gab -- and her
harangues at sometimes lunk-headed radio hosts as she motors down I-95
cause other drivers to think she's a little cracked. Not that she really
If you don't know who Randi Rhodes is, you're missing out on a craze
that is taking the Treasure Coast by storm. "No more boys' club," read
the advertisements heralding the Radio Goddess' September 1994 arrival
and her debut as the station's first full-time female radio personality.
Monday through Friday from noon to 3 p.m. on WJNO (1230/1330 AM), she
keeps her 60,000 listeners roaring at her wickedly funny jibes.
Rhodes is popular because her audience considers her both honest and
funny, lively and unassuming. At first, listeners considered her merely
bright, as opposed to brilliant, an idea based on Rhodes' own modest
suggestions that she wasn't "that smart" but that her "instincts were
dead on." But since the beginning of the O.J. Simpson trial, her audience
has discovered Rhodes' quick legal mind. Hundreds of phone calls and
faxes have flooded WJNO, applauding the host's coverage of the trial.
The attention to her mind doesn't surprise her. "It takes a smarter
person to take reality and make it funny than it does to just contrive
A saucy rabble-rouser, she brings out the best and worst of her
audience. She often reminds her audience -- and Fairbanks Communications
-- that, like what she says or not, her contract will keep her at the
station for three years.
Nancy Sunshine, an incessant listener and performer in the Friday
Night Dinner Theater in Lake Worth, was surprised by WJNO's hiring of Rhodes.
"In a sentence, I became addicted because of her sense of humor,"
Sunshine said. "The first time I listened, I could not believe her quick
wit. My head stopped up and I said, 'What was that?' I said to myself,
'Can WJNO afford the writers for this kind of humor?' Then I thought, of
course not. They are lucky to have her."
Sunshine, a snowbird, said she was pleasantly surprised by WJNO's
replacement of the syndicated ultra-conservative G. Gordon Liddy with
Rhodes. (Rhodes alternately refers to him as "Mr. Giddy" or "The Felon.")
Liddy's show focused on politics. Rhodes floats with ease from her
thoughts on her relationship with her fiance, Jim (they're best friends),
to her thoughts on women's health-care reform (women are often
misdiagnosed because of a male health-care bias) as well her belief in
human rights for homosexuals (her lesbian sister, Ellen, is, she quips, a
"I used to listen to G. Gordon Liddy, who used to be in Randi's time
slot," Sunshine said. "Randi is just a little different from Liddy. She
is so very young to be so very hip."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and reared in Queens, the 37-year-old
describes herself as a "crazy kid who got bounced around between
parents." Her mother lived in Queens, and her father lived in California.
Growing up was rough, Rhodes said. In her early years, she recalls that
she didn't realize the worth of her intelligence and sense of humor.
"I was short and had bad skin and ugly hair. I didn't know how to
dress or wear makeup. I still don't. Being smart just made me feel more
like a geek."
As a child, she wanted to be a writer and religiously wrote entries in
her journal -- at least until her mother read it. Her journal caused so
much strife at home that she stopped writing. When her dream of writing
stalled, so did her sense of direction. The change signaled the beginning
a troubled period.
"When I stopped writing, I got lost," Rhodes said. "I ended up thrown
out of the house at age 15."
She says she is grateful that she knew enough to finish high school.
"God knows what would have happened if I hadn't stayed in school."
To pay the rent, Rhodes worked as a secretary for three years and was
miserable. In her quest to get where she is today, she also has been a
truck driver and a disc jockey. However, the most life-changing period,
she said, was the two years she spent in the Air Force. There, she
learned to love and respect herself, to value herself for her brains. She
learned that looks and the ability to apply makeup didn't really mean as
much as she had previously thought. In 1973, she was named outstanding
Air Force female.
Despite all that she learned in the Air Force, a man with whom she
shared a rocky relationship ended her Air Force career. He was, according
to Rhodes,"somewhat insane," and insisted that they leave the Air Force
without notice. He threw their belongings in the back of their truck, and
they headed for Ohio. The Air Force was so embarrassed that they let the
matter drop and did not seek to prosecute the couple for going AWOL.
Rhodes never attended college -- officially. On her own and unable to
afford tuition, she attended classes surreptitiously for several years,
though not enrolled. Some of the classes were law courses and that
background has helped her in her commentary on the Simpson proceedings.
A team player and believer in the ensemble radio format, Rhodes
solicits opinions from the three people who help her with the show. Josh
Paris, Randy Latta and Steve Becker also have microphones and join her in
on-air banter. Even after six months, their laughter is genuine.
"She's still funny," said Latta, who operates the broadcasting
equipment and is known for his giggling and football predictions.
Becker, who organizes the shows' topics, moved to Rhodes' show from FM
radio. He said the change was radical but for the best. His rapport with
Rhodes is obvious: Often he sneaks in on-air comments that have all the
bite and humor of The Goddess herself.
"It's a lot of fun," he said. "Randi and I have good chemistry. We
think alike. Isn't that scary?"
Rhodes credits her dad, a technocrat, for her brains. She is quick to
point out "he has no personality. None."
"When dad would smile, my sister Ellen and I would run through the
house laughing like it was a holiday."
Rhodes says she gets most of her personality from her mom, whose
Brooklyn accent she frequently roasts on air. ("If Loretta gets another
facelift, she'll have a beard.") Her mother was misdiagnosed when she had
ovarian cancer. It had reached a critical stage when she was finally
correctly diagnosed. By then, it was too late to operate, and the doctors
tried chemotherapy. The sheer will and stubbornness of Rhodes' mother
pulled her through, however, allowing her to live to see the birth of her
granddaughter, Jessica. Jessica is Ellen's daughter from a traditional
marriage that did not work out. Loretta is now seven years into remission.
If she didn't have to work for a living, Rhodes says she would spend
her time gardening and shopping. She and Jim recently moved into a home
in Sunrise, and she tends a small garden there in between doing laundry
and helping to care for Jessica. Her goal in life, she says, is an
extension of what she does now: to become nationally syndicated and
attract more big-name guests who aren't hawking something.
Some of her previous guests have included Larry King and, several
times, David Letterman. Arthel Neville, host of the infotainment show
"Extra," calls every Friday. Her listeners appreciate her guests,
promotions or no.
"She's the only one who gets David Letterman," Sunshine says. "No one
else can get him. You can tell he likes her, that they're friends."
I was rambling