A Bay Area Legend, Read Our Interview With Radio Broadcaster, Voice Talent & Radio Consultant Lissa Kreisler
Q: I see you majored in TV and journalism at San Jose State University … did you have any idea you were going to have a long career in radio broadcasting?
LK: I had no idea I would have 40 years in radio broadcasting and not only that … but 40 years of Bay Area radio based in my hometown of San Jose. I’m not sure anyone can expect something as fabulous as that. In fact, I thought I could be in trouble my very first year when during Journalism 101 … the late great Dwight Bentel who was “the father of journalism” at SJSU asked me to leave class one day for talking too much!!! Years later I was told he was reminded of that and he had a good chuckle. Another truism about me is that I always under-rated my abilities - I think it has kept me humble, so it was a good thing. Daily I would go into the PD’s office at KLOK-1170 AM and ask the late Allan Waterous if he thought I was going to be fired. Yes, a daily visit … LOL 10 years later when I left KLOK for KBAY…. Allan, my dear friend, said “Today, I can finally say yes...you need to hand in your key” … Fun memories.
Q: Can you share with our audience your experience as an intern at KLOK?
LK: I owe my entire career to that SJSU required internship at KLOK. How many people in radio get to start their careers at their favorite station….one they’ve listened to for years? I was so in love with Radio Journalism at that time, thanks to SJSU and our station KKSJ that I was ready to make the most of it and I did. I rarely left when my day was over, often going into the recording studio to practice my on-air work. And when my internship was over, I was determined to return which I did right away, thanks to a San Jose teachers strike in the late 70s. I called into the KLOK newsroom-yes, we had a real newsroom- recorded a live report. It was too long, and I sounded young, but it got aired and I got hired to write news for the morning show and Ralph Hasty. I would work from 5am to 9am, then go to SJSU to finish my senior year. After graduation, I was hired full time….and was soon on the air, still writing news, but then doing traffic reports with Ronnie Richards, Ralph Hasty and Jim Phillips. Ronnie left a few years later and then I was an integral part of the morning show of “Ralph, Jim and Lissa”. That started my career not only as a “Newsperson” but a “Personality”. I began to air my entire life. We had such a great time - 10 years later KLOK- 1170 was being sold and I left for KBAY … so yes, this internship was everything to me!
Q: Did you have a mentor as an intern? Can you share with us how they prepped you for the next step?
LK: The late Ray Hasha was the KLOK News Director. This was when music stations had real News Departments. He spent so much time with me, watching over me, and working with me. He never said No to any help I asked for and encouraged me every step of the way. I became a story-teller because of Ray. The thought of him decades later still makes me smile.
Q: For most of us, it’s very difficult to discuss events like 9/11 or Natural Disasters … for those seeking a career in broadcast, can you offer advice on how you dealt with these events emotionally and still be a calm voice to your listeners?
LK: I was there for the most tragic of events...the Challenger explosion, the Loma Prieta earthquake, the Oklahoma City bombings, and 9-11. Actually, on the air when 3 of the 4 occurred. My on-air presence was always about “talking to a friend”. I was very conversational and that’s how I coped on the air. I never lost control, but I let my emotion show. I think listeners always knew how I felt whether I said it in words, or in expression or sometimes even with tears. I never hid my feelings. I always considered myself a friend of my listeners and thought of myself talking to them face to face. So, I covered these tragedies as I was sitting with my best friend, sharing the news in a very personal way. No one ever complained so I guess it was good.
Q: As a radio personality, you probably have attended a ton of concerts … is there one that’s most memorable?
LK: I’m not actually a concert person, believe it or not unless it involves Lionel Richie, Neil Diamond, Justin Timberlake, Michael Buble and don’t laugh … but Barry Manilow. Even got to introduce and meet Ringo Starr...who I was always my favorite Beatle. Yes, I told him that backstage at Villa Montalvo. Also got to introduce many acts at Mountain Winery. Huey Lewis one of my favorites. Loved all of those but it was the Thanksgiving weekend concert in Oakland with Michael Buble that was the most memorable as I took listeners in for a meet and greet before the show. I got to do that twice with Buble, once in San Jose when he walked in with a hockey stick and started shooting a puck at people. He is a delight. But in Oakland, we got to attend his before concert soundcheck. He’s hilarious and so darn friendly. I then had to take pictures of each listener with him. What a nightmare. I had this crummy station camera and took forever for each shot. Plus, I was nervous. His “person” was getting so annoyed with me and I said to Michael…” I’m not a photographer...just a morning show DJ….and he laughed and said take your time. When it was my time for the final picture, he gave me the tightest hug and said I was great. That made my night.
Q: You have emceed for many events, is there one that stands out?
LK: I have emceed so many events for non-profits that I wouldn’t even know where to start. In fact, now that I don’t have a morning show I am a professional emcee. Yes, I get paid to emcee gatherings and I love it. Every single one is wonderful, and I am always so thankful to help them make the money they need. But I think one I remember so well was for Unity Care’s 2nd Annual Youth Live Gala. 49er Patrick Willis was the Honorary Chair and his personal story was so fabulous. He could not have been nicer or more personable. He didn’t mind a bit when as I was introducing him, I said “his diamond earring was bigger than mine”.
Q: What are some of the questions you get asked as a radio personality?
LK: How did I get up to work at 3 in the morning for decades? How was I always so upbeat and happy? Who have I interviewed? Did you ever screw-up on the air? That was always a yes...LOL.
Q: Sometimes in our lives, we go through major changes, we all deal with them differently. Your departure from KBAY was unexpected, can share with us how you processed the separation the days and weeks after?
LK: Yes, I never expected to be let go. I was about to start my 30th year there. KBAY was my second family, my life and my identity. I had planned to retire at KBAY in 5 more years. I gave it my all every day at the station so there was no reason to think I wouldn’t last 5 more years. I was very active in the community. Thankfully I still am but up to then it was always “Lissa Kreisler from KBAY”. People got both, the station and me. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle just being “Lissa Kreisler”. And it was tough. I did a lot of crying (which I do anyway) I did a lot of “poor me”. People told me that was ok. I deserved to feel bad. Finally, one day I asked, “What would Lissa Kreisler say to do?” And that was it! I pulled up my bootstraps. I started networking with anyone who wanted to see me. Coffees, lunches, wine. I eventually gained two pounds LOL. Then one day I met with Jim Reber, a lifelong community pal and he told me I had a story to share. He even named it “Decades of Sunny Mornings.” I went on the talk circuit…. talking to any service group that was interested. It was fabulous. Did it for a year. My son in law made me a website. I got business cards. KCAT-TV in Los Gatos called me in, and I now host “Community Storytelling”. I have even returned to KBAY. Just wrapped up a commercial endorsement. Here I am today...as happy as can be!
Q: Can you share with us some of the emceeing events you’ve been doing lately?
LK: Thankfully people still remember me! My heart loves non-profits and schools. I emcee the Teal Event annually to conquer ovarian cancer. Good Samaritan Hospital has me moderating their annual Breast Seminar. I was the recent Auctioneer for St. John Vianney School. I emcee any event Presentation HS needs me for. I also am on the Board of the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo Foundation and emcee our Senior Safari.
Q: Do you have any advice you can share for those women who may want to pursue a career in broadcast journalism?
LK: That’s a toughie. Radio had changed so much over the last ten years. When I started 40 years ago at KLOK-1170 the late Bill Weaver was so into female empowerment. We had more females on staff than men. He loved women and encouraged us to succeed. But the basics are still the best tips, Believe in Yourself, Be Yourself, Challenge Yourself, Think of Opportunities- be willing to just get your foot in the door and then work your hardest and know that “anything a man can do, you can do as good or even better.”
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
LK: Don’t laugh but I will say professionally it has to be Oprah. I want to be that person, who listens, who cares, who gives, who makes a difference. And for all of those reasons, I must also say Michelle Obama.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
LK: Sadly, there is still job discrimination. Where are the Bill Weavers of this world? Pay inequality. Still not enough women in leadership roles. A double standard still exists and juggling career with family is still much more difficult for a woman than a male.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
LK: Believe in Yourself! Stand up for Yourself. Know right from wrong. Take care of yourself but create a network of strong friendships that will inspire and encourage you.
Q: What would you say has been your greatest professional accomplishment thus far?
LK: To steal a line…” Decades of Sunny Mornings”. I truly hope I made mornings delightful for listeners for 40 years. I like to think we became friends. They counted on me and I counted on them. I believe I gave them a reason to turn on the radio and start their day.
Q: What are some of your favorite interests and hobbies that you enjoy?
LK: Shopping and TV…. I love them both but my favorite “special interests” are my grandchildren.
Five Things About Lissa Kreisler
1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
While I don’t know where I would begin or what I would say, it would have to be Oprah. She has guided me through the years!
2. Who is your favorite musical artist? Favorite song?
Favorite song right now is Shallow. Isn’t it everyone’s? LOL Favorite artist? Have to go with Barry Manilow. I even got him to say “I Love You Lissa” on KBAY!l
3. What’s your favorite Food to cook?
You obviously don’t know me. I don’t cook! But I’m great at warming up pizza!
4. What’s your most embarrassing moment as an adult?
My best friend Janice Wright and I always joke we are Lucy and Ethel. I embarrass myself daily. But I will never forget when Julio Iglesias asked my live on the radio if “I was on the pill”. I know what was he thinking? After a moment of dead air...Instead of asking why he wanted to know, I just giggled. I’m not sure if I answered or not.
5. If you were a superhero, what would your special powers be?
I would stop the hate and make people kind again!