Saturday, May 08, 2010

Mel Tovar

Mel Tovar is the co-host of the DreX morning show on Kiss-FM (103.5)

Rick: You've been with DreX now for many years. I don't know if people realize that you even worked with him in San Antonio. Talk about how you met him and became a part of the show.

Mel: Yes! We have been together close to 13 years now! There's been three male figures for a good part of my Father, my Brother and DreX...all of whom have taught me so much.

I met DreX (photo) when I worked overnights as a News Anchor for KTSA News 550AM which was an Infinity/Viacom Cluster in San Antonio, Texas. DreX was doing his show on our sister station 102.7 KTFM and asked me to fill in for his ailing news gal (who luckily just had a cold..but it was my lucky cold!). I happily hung out and when the station flipped formats, I was in. I remember the first day, he was funny to me. We just clicked. Don't get me wrong, we've had our ups and downs but that's what made it worth it to me. It's not worth putting in the leg-work if you're not totally invested in the project. I considered myself very lucky but I was also young and needed the job, ha ha. I was about to take a wild ride and the best part about it was that he was teaching me everything he knew, which was a lot.

DreX is a very methodical personality who leads one of the only listener-driven shows in this market. He is his own entity and rightfully so; he earned it. There are different co-hosts for different shows and formats, but DreX made it very clear to me that when he leads, I'm allowed to dance. Some hosts don't let their co-hosts speak. I'm allowed to do it all, my own way. I even lead with topics and just recently started hosting the show in his absence! That's a huge deal that he trusts me with his work!

After two years in San Antonio, he told me he got the offer to host in Chicago for Clear Channel. Something that no one knows is that I was *never* included in that offer he got. DreX fought for me to come along, and I said yes before I even got offered the job. It was all DreX.

Rick: I've interviewed DreX before, and he really seems like a genuine guy. I know this is going to be difficult to do because he talks about almost everything in his life, but what are some things about him that would surprise his listeners.

Mel: This is a great question, because DreX is an open book even if he thinks he's being sneaky, ha ha.

Things that would surprise listeners? He is very generous, although that's probably not very surprising. He is always bringing in things for us--just today he said he needed fire alarms in his house, so he bought three more for each person on the show. DreX got us all pepper spray, last month!

DreX loves Scientific American. We joke that he uses it as a coaster for drinks but he will read each issue from front to back. "The show is all day, people.." he says, and it's absolutely true. DreX never leaves show-mode. He is constantly working on his show. It's exhausting. DreX is the very definition of a "workaholic".

Now, fun things about DreX?? He does love Celine Dion's Concert DVD, he cooks one whole meal in one pan, he likes board games even though he cheats, he owns close to a 100 pairs of eye glasses and maybe even tennis shoes, and one of his favorite songs is "Sailing" by Christopher Cross.

DreX once told me if he could, he would marry a beef fajita taco. I believe him.

Rick: You really are a crucial part of the show, a full-fledged co-host. There's been a lot of talk in the news lately about the lack of women in Chicago radio. Do you feel any extra responsibility being one of the few to hold such a high profile position? (And why do you think women still have such a hard time breaking through that glass ceiling in our business?)

Mel: First, thank you for that. Radio has taken such a turn in the past few years that doing your best has never been more important. Doesn't matter who you know or how long you have been in it, because there's always someone who is ready and willing to slide into your spot, sometimes for more work and less pay, and some who just deserve it because they are downright better than you.

Tough lessons are learned in radio. I have learned that being multi-faceted gives you a better chance at surviving no matter your sex. My responsibility remains the do a great show.

I have opportunities that I jump on even when I am unsure of the outcome. When DreX was sick, they offered me the chance to lead the show and again, I said yes before I said yes. Will it work? Will listeners accept me as a form of DreX-light? I don't know, but that won't stop me from showing everyone that a female-led show in any market is absolutely possible.

I also wanted to show that a female co-host filling in for a male host is happening right now. That what you see is not always what you get. We have roles on the show, but each individual player has their own depth and talent. This was a chance to show that DreX is no dummy when it comes to picking his team. That Angi Taylor, Tommy Black and myself are on the DreX Morning Show for reasons that don't always come to light on a regular show. That yes, DreX is a great host but he also picks great talent to pad that show. I knew that as long as they would trust me with it, I would run until they told me to stop. They haven't told me stop.

About the lack of Women in Chicago radio, I would be lying if I said it doesn't suck that there aren't more women in radio because it does, but when it comes down to maintaining my position, I will gladly be labeled one of the few women in radio.

I have heard that there are less women in this field because of a desire to marry and have children but that's a bunch of crap. Many women maintain a solid foundation in this field alongside maintaing a family. Angi Taylor, our co-host, has a beautiful little girl and an upcoming wedding! She maintains both and still kicks ass. (Photo: Mel hugging Angi on the day of her engagement)

I do want to say that I have never come into this job feeling bullied by one sex and I think that's because of my own tolerance--the whole 'no one can make you feel something unless you let them' mentality.

I have visited schools where young girls ask me what it's like to work in a man's world..and to that I say when you're focused on doing your best, you don't have time to look around and compare, and if you do, you're not doing your best. You're not here to make friends or be well-liked and you will run into people who you have "work" relationships with and that's it, but the responsibility remains the same: to do your best. Always look out for you because no one else will. I have had the honor of meeting a handful of people that I consider my best critics as well, they know who they are.

I know that sounds like I was polishing my gun collection while I was talking but it's truly the way I feel. I am proud to be one of the few women in Chicago radio. This is an incredible market full of hardcore talent and people who know damn well what they are doing. You gotta keep up if you want to win. It's a great team to be on and if you earn a spot, bring it ladies.

Rick: I've been listening to the show a lot lately and I have to tell you, you're a good egg. It seems like there are no topics that are off-limits for you. Have you ever had a situation where you said to DreX--don't go there?

Mel: Yes. I don't discuss religion. I am a Catholic and I have my own core-values but I never want to inform someone of my beliefs if they don't want to hear it. Religion is a personal deal to me and up for discussion in an open-minded way. I love learning and I love being able to change my mind on the things I don't know much about or may have disagreed with in the past. If you want to share, and I am up for sharing, let's do it. Religion is one of those topics where no one wins, but if it's put in front of me, I proceed with caution.

I am also not of fan of most comedians. For example, I am not a fan of Carlos Mencia and once asked to be excused during an interview with him. I am not a fan of someone who can earn a paycheck off of their culture, in a negative way. That is just my opinion. Others love him which is why I go by the saying "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". I removed myself. It was my deal and my deal, alone.

I have no problem communicating what is real. That's what we are hired to do. My parents always told me to "be yourself and never change". It's my favorite piece of advice they gave me, with a close second to be "if all else fails, you can always come home". I know some people don't like their families, but I dig mine so there is comfort in that.

I am the target audience. I am a 30 year old Hispanic female who's made stupid choices, who's been cheated on by a boyfriend, who's cheated on a test, who's worried if the condom broke, who's lied when I could have told the truth, and I am also one who is excited to be married, needs a new conditioner, wonders if it ever gets better, is happy to hear tips on sex, wonders why my car won't start, and if I got ripped off.

I am both a co-host and a listener. When you are crazy, it's nice to be alongside your peers.

We are all open books on the air, but we suffer from it too. We share our lives with listeners and it's both a gift and a curse. We get loved, unconditionally. We get insulted to no end. We get accepted. We get credited for opening a door for those who can't open it themselves. We get it all. At the end of the day, we are exhausted. At the same time, for four hours out of everyday, it's a party.

DreX always told me, if it's off limits, it's the first thing you talk about.

Rick: I think the secret to the show's success (#3 morning show 18-34 in the March ratings) is the way you make the listeners the star of the show--probably more so than any other show in Chicago. In the nine o'clock hour the listeners aren't just the callers--they even suggest the topics. How did that approach evolve?

Mel: The Lotion Hour was created to make a staple segment that listeners can always rely on no matter what time they tune in. What makes it even more successful is that they can not only participate but suggest the topic and most likely get a kick out of being on the show in some form.

It's a successful way to really connect to the listeners and we are never in need of great topics. Listeners know the drill and every day, the topics get better and better. Just when you think, who the hell wrote that topic, and would anyone even call for it? Boom, there's five people on hold who had bowel accidents at the gym. It's awesome.

We got the name 'Lotion Hour' because when we were brainstorming for names, I was putting on hand lotion...and of course, was being naughty with my suggestions. Wink wink.

Rick: It's obvious that a ton of work goes into the show. Just coming up with that many topics every day is a monumental task. What is your role in show prep (and everyone else's)?

Mel: It's definitely a team effort but DreX does a 24 hour show prep. (laughs) DreX does a great job of nailing down our everyday content and he makes sure that we hit every topic we can, whether it be female or male-oriented, local, national, etc.

Both Angi and I produce individual content on our own time. We research all current events that would appeal to the average listener. We tend to cover topics that DreX can't get to so we spend a great portion of our time staying current and adding to DreX's plate. Both Angi and I cover completely different topics because we are so different but a lot alike, so it works very well when we need variety.

Tommy Black (photo) keeps it tight. He makes sure we are all happy and he juggles every element of the show including participation when needed. Tommy is reliable, very smart and always optimistic. Tommy Black is refreshing. The show is only as good as the producer and Tommy keeps it tight. That's all I'm gonna say about that guy. Tommy's tight. You know it.

Rick: I know how difficult it is to live that morning show lifestyle. It takes a toll on your personal life and your health. How has it affected you over the years?

Mel: It's no fun when that alarm goes off at 3:45 AM. Let me tell you, you can do a lot of soul-searching when more than half of the city is cuddly in their bedsheets but when that on-air light goes off and the clock hits 10 AM, you are Charlie when he realizes he won the Chocolate Factory or a bar patron during daylight saving time when you realize you have one more hour to booze.

Personal life? I am insulted on a daily basis about having to go to bed early. I am mocked and made fun of when I say no to 8 PM birthday dinners or Happy Hour with the girls. My girlfriends crash at my apartment when they drink..and they take nightly bets on which pajamas I am going to wear. I have one white one I love and they use foul names for it. They are jerks..and I love them.

Even more personal, it's sometimes hard to date. Just like with some friends, you don't know who likes you for you. So you keep a close circle of friends. The guy I am dating right now had no clue what I did for a living and to me, that was a green light. I'm a very happy gal with him. He respects my job, he's supportive, he's a fan and he's good at letting me know when I am wrong. He also agreed to go to Fantabuloso so I got that goin' for me.

Health-wise? Oh Lord. Listeners forget that every job has vacation and sick leave. Most people don't harp on an empty cubicle but when one of us takes is trouble. Listeners are relentless about us taking days off, but thank God they are, because that's how we know they are listening.

Rick: It sounds like all of you on the show really get along. After awhile it really does start to feel like a family working on a morning show, doesn't it?

Mel: It does and it is scary! We are open and honest like brothers and sisters. We agree, we disagree and we agree to disagree. We laugh a whole bunch, we team up against eachother, we get annoyed with each other and keep our headphones on, and low and behold we love each other. We all realize that without each other, we have no show. We also realize that there is safety in numbers.

We are lucky to work together and we appreciate it. Most people wanna kick their co-workers in the head. We want to also, but only cause it would be funny.

Rick: Here's a question everybody hates, but I'm going to ask it anyway because I like to hear the answers. Where do you see your career going from here?

Mel: Depending on Ke$ha, I am good for a while. I could stand to branch out more and improve myself so that DreX, Clear Channel, the show and our listeners get to know me and feel comfortable with me filling in when DreX is out. That no matter the players, the value of the show stays the same.

I also hope to lead a show too. After stealing all of DreX's style, I think I can definitely keep it going and I would like to attempt a female-ran show just to see if I can do it.

I also put in a couple semesters at Second City for Improv and would love to finish that off as well. I always hoped to do Improv as a career so that is definitely something I will try to do as well.

For now, I am just gonna roll with The DreX Morning Show. As long as I can! VIVA DREX!