“Starting a radio station is like giving birth,” says Carmela Laurignano, president of Proud FM, the world’s first queer radio station.
If so, it’s been one hell of a gestation period. Carmela and co have been hard at work for almost 10 years, building a queer broadcasting format from the heels up.
“In this particular case there is no template,” she says. “You attack it with a vision and an open mind, and with faith in the people you’re working with.”
To that end, Laurignano and the folks at Rainbow Media have surrounded themselves with some pretty impressive talent. Comic heavy-hitters Ken Kostick and Mary Jo Eustace kick off the morning drive with their affectionate brand of bitchy back-and-forth, playing fun music designed to get listeners off to a gay new day.
“This station should be a bridge between communities,” says Laurignano, “and Ken and Mary Jo reflect so many of the relationships between gay men and women.”
In many ways, Eustace is the perfect example of the gay male’s best girlfriend. Unceremoniously dumped by her jerky husband — fuck you, Tori Spelling — the plucky gal’s self-effacing humour carries a survivalist slant that so many gay men can identify with.
“Mary Jo’s as bitchy as anyone,” laughs Laurignano, “but by the same token you know her heart’s in the right place.”
Kostick’s a perfect fit as well, not only due to his and Eustace’s prior relationship cohosting their What’s Cooking TV show, but also because of his accessible warmth and humour.
“Kenny is a sweetheart,” she says. “He’s straightforward and honest… the epitome of a great guy.”
With the outspoken funniness of Deb Pearce livening up midday, lesbian livewire Maggie Casella holding court in the afternoons and frequent Xtra contributor, the fabulous Shaun Proulx turning in evening duties, Proud FM is gradually fleshing out its personality by drawing on elements that strive to be universally appealing yet uniquely Torontonian. (For more info go to Proudfm.com.)
“The key to success is to be local,” Laurignano says. “People want to see themselves reflected in their radio station, and there are others who are interested in Toronto and Canada.
“We broadcast from the street up.”