20 Questions

(PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)

Barb Richards

By Bonnie Blackburn
You may not know her face, but we bet you know her husky voice. Barb Richards has been with WAJI Majic 95.1 radio since the Reagan administration, an eternity in the radio business. What’s the secret of her longevity? Her relentless optimism, wicked sense of humor and an abiding love for her hometown. Get to know more about the woman behind the afternoon mike and why she might just slap you as we play 20 Questions with Barb Richards.

 

Who’s the coolest celebrity you’ve met and what were the circumstances?
One was Marlo Thomas. You know, I was going to grow up to be “That Girl,” that career girl in her own apartment, and to meet her was a real thrill. Another was Josh Groban. There was that voice I’d loved from the first time I heard it. We were one of the first stations to play him.


We understand that you have a “thing” for Jon Bon Jovi.
(Laughs) I have a wonderful relationship with Jon on the radio. I think he’s cute as a button.


Have you ever completely lost it on air? What happened?
I’ve lost it every year during the Riley Hospital Radiothon. I do get overwhelmed with emotion because I have three healthy kids and I can’t think of a better thing than a hospital that takes care of all those children. Then one time we were doing a “Family Feud” type game on air and we had to say the name of a water animal and Dirk had to say “Show me the beaver.” That was … well, I lost it then! We had to find our way out of that! That’s some of the best times on the radio when you get giggling. It’s a “peek behind the curtain.” But you win in this business by showing yourself and what makes you tick.


Speaking of Riley, you’re very involved with that facility. Why?
Because it’s kids. When you become a mom, when you have a baby, God makes it so you have that raw emotion. I see parents fighting for their kids’ lives. They would do anything to take away all their pain and all their hurt. They are my heroes. We’re extremely lucky to have Riley in this state. We’ve raised $1.1 million cumulatively for Riley.


Why is it important for you to give back to the community?
That’s what it’s all about. I live here, work here, I raised my kids here. I want my community to be successful. I want us all to be supportive of the community. In radio, you can either be the good guy or the bad guy. I can wear a white hat or a black hat. It’s not who I was to wear the black hat. I have the power of radio behind me — how great is that?


We hear you’re very involved in running. Tell us about that.
I really run to keep in shape. My time is limited so I want to burn the most calories in my limited amount of time. When you go on a long run, it renews you too. I use the trails all the time. We’re lucky to have them.


Talk about the challenges women face in the mainly male world of radio.
What I’m worried about now is that media is a tough world for women and families. We’re losing our voice on the radio. I’m really worried about that. You don’t see many women in general manager positions. If we lose our voice, we lose funding. We’ll be rolled over again. Once the double standards go away and salaries are equal, maybe we can rest.


What’s your appeal?
I’m who we’re targeting. I’m a mom,  a wife, a career person. I say things that are relatable. I’m involved in     the community.


How did you learn to be comfortable in front of people?
I learned it by doing it. I remember the dry mouth feeling. My mom put me in Youtheatre when I was 7 years old because I was shy. She unleashed a monster! I’d practice by standing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush.


You’ve done a lot of theater since then, haven’t you?
Oh, yes. There’s nothing better than getting up there and having people laugh at what you say. It’s all about the applause. The stage is magic. I missed my high school prom for a play. It’s how I met Jim, my husband. What a great hobby it is.


What are some of your favorite things about Fort Wayne?
The Rivergreenway. Downtown. I’m very excited to see the development in downtown. I love being able to say I’m from Fort Wayne. I like that in a time of need, we respond better than anybody else.


You grew up here. How has Fort Wayne changed since you were a kid?
In so many ways it hasn’t. You’ve still got church, coming downtown, Foster Park, Quimby Village, the zoo. We’re just bigger. We still have that same great attitude. It’s a comfortable city. We’ve had great leaders, great movers and shakers. Talented people find their way to Fort Wayne. It’s like (the song) “Hotel California,” you can check out, but you can never leave.


What music do you listen to when you’re not on the air?
I listen to what I play on the air — Bon Jovi, Kelly Clarkson, Enrique Iglesias. I’m a pop person through and though.


How has radio changed over the years?
Back when I started, I played records, now I play computer files. I can also do (my show) anywhere. I can record it on the computer and send it in.


Who are your heroes?
I love Pat Miller and Barb Baekgaard. I love that they started such a big company and that they give back so much. Lee Tobin, my boss. He’s taught me so much. My husband, Jim. He’s kind, he’s a great father. The success of my kids is due to him. All three of my kids. It’s such a treat when they get to be together.


What’s the best advice you ever got?
Lee Tobin told me (to think about) how do you want it to end? Then you can prepare the path to get there. He also said, “This too shall pass.”


What makes you angry?
That people don’t vote. Everyone should vote. Every primary, every general election. Our Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves because we don’t vote! If you don’t go vote I’ll slap you silly.


What’s your favorite smell?
The Perfection Bread smell. I love   that smell.


What’s your secret talent?
Gift-giving. I come up with kick-butt gifts.


When are you the happiest?
When I’m with my family. I’m pretty happy all the time. It’s hard to go on the air (unhappy). You have to shake it off. My glass isn’t half-full or half-empty. I’m just happy to have a glass.

Posted: Mon, 07/02/2012 - 12:37 pm
Last updated: Fri, 09/07/2012 - 2:23 pm