Dusty Street, known for her sultry vamp voice, moved here from San Francisco six years ago and quickly became one of the most popular woman disc jockeys on the Los Angeles airwaves. She has also been one of radio’s most outspoken personalities, especially about the attempts by such groups as the Parents Music Resource Center to apply a rating system to rock music lyrics, which was the subject of a recent U.S. Senate hearing. Street is heard week nights on KROQ-FM in Pasadena from 6 to 9 p.m.
Q: Dusty Street is your real name?
A: Yes. Dusty Frances Street. My father’s name was Emerson Street and we used to live on Emerson Street in Palo Alto. Drove the postman out of his mind.
Q: How long have you been in radio?
A: Well . . . like ’67. . . . That was right at the very beginning for women. I was the first female disc jockey on the West Coast. . . . I went to work for a disc jockey as an apprentice recording engineer for about a year. . . . He got really sick one day, and they didn’t have any replacement and the program director said, “OK, Street. You’ve been yelling at me about it. Go ahead and do a show.”
So I did. The general manager heard me and liked me so much he gave me a weekend shift. After six months, he fired somebody else and gave me a full-time air shift from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. That was Dec. 15, 1969.
Q: Lately, rock ‘n’ roll has been criticized for explicit sex and violence. As a veteran of controversies about everything from Presley’s pelvis to Mick Jagger’s “Sympathy for the Devil,” where would you draw the line on what you would play for your audience?
A: I’d draw the line in terms of taste. I’m not going to play a record where somebody just sits there with a guitar and screams four-letter words. But if there is a four-letter word or a sexual suggestion in a lyric--i.e., almost all the Prince stuff--I’ll play it . . . .
But the hue and cry about the Rolling Stones and “Sympathy for the Devil”?--are you kidding me? We’ve been playing it for 10 years. . . . How come it wasn’t bad 10 years ago, and how come people who have been listening to the Stones for 10 years aren’t out on a rampage killing everybody? . . . (The criticism) is just a little too silly for me to take to heart. But I’m very afraid that this is going to result in a form of censorship. . . . If you start controlling whether an album can be sold because of the lyric content, then record company executives are going to jump right down the artists’ throats.
Q: Do you have any kids?
A: No, but my friends have tons of kids. And what do you mean, do I have any kids? At KROQ, I have a million and a half at any given 15-minute period of time.
Q: Well, as a mother of millions, do you think your youngsters ought to be exposed to such explicit subject matter?
A: I don’t think that lyrics in records are taken the way that people who are not into the music think. They’re looking at lyric sheets. . . . Kids listen to the music. They don’t sit there and write down lyrics. . . . Sometimes, a quick line from a record will become an “in” thing with their crowd, but they’re not taking this as seriously as the hysterical Washington mothers are.
Q: Maybe what you’re saying is that moral values really haven’t changed all that much in 20 years.
A: A lot of kids work for me as interns. I see them at clubs. This stuff is just so far afield. It’s almost as bad as what they were saying to us about Elvis Presley’s gyrations on TV. It was going to make us all run out and have babies. That certainly didn’t happen, did it? . . . Musicians have always expressed whatever was going on in their time. . . . We live in a violent and sex-oriented culture, and music is going to reflect that. And not just to make it all grand or glamorous. Most of the lyrics are talking about: “Look at how ridiculous this stuff is.” . . . They’re putting down all the sex and violence and saying: “We need this like a cat needs a fur coat.”
Q: When you first started, women deejays were cast as sexy, late-night voices and not much more than that.
A: A lot of ladies who got into radio decided that they had to do that bedroom thing, and not many of them developed an individual personality. I have to say honestly that there are maybe four ladies in the country who are happening, who have a personality.
Q: How much progress have women made in radio since you first started?
A: Depressingly, very little. Maybe there’s more opportunity now than there used to be, but not much.
Q: Is there anything you would rather be doing than running a radio show for young listeners?
A: No. I like what I do. I could be making a whole lot more money someplace else. I’d be pulling down $80,000, $90,000 if I’d buckle down and be a Brenda Ho-Ha for somebody. But, hey, my mind’s more important than my bank account.
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