Concord Music Hall
Jeremy Wagner
Lovers Lane

Media: July 2018

| July 1, 2018 | 0 Comments

WBMX midday host Diana Steele may be a new voice on the Chicago radio dial, but she isn’t new to radio, and she isn’t new to Chicago. It’s just that her two worlds had never collided like this before, and she’s really enjoying the ride.

“It is the coolest thing on the planet for a couple of reasons,” she says. “I grew up in Elk Grove, but my family has never really had the opportunity to hear me doing what I do live on the air before. My parents are still here. They may not love the music (laughs), they are almost 80. But they get to hear what I’m doing. My sister is a school nurse, and she gets to listen. People who only do this work in their hometown take for granted how great this is. I’ve had the blessing of doing this in LA and San Francisco, but this has special meaning to me.”

Not that this is her first go-round on Chicago radio. It’s just that the previous time was many years ago when her career was just beginning. “When I was 17, I wandered into the Hancock building. I saw the Channel 5 traffic logo on the window of an office there and walked in and said: ‘Do you do internships? I want to be a news anchor.’ A guy was typing (remember typing?), and looked up and said, ‘Well, we do traffic, not news. We used to be owned by Channel 5, but now it’s our own company. His name was Gary Lee. He hired me to be an intern, and before I knew it, I was doing traffic reports on Steve & Garry’s (WLS) show as a fill-in. I would sit on hold and listen to these guys, talking and having fun and BSing, and I thought, these guys get paid for this? I met Larry Lujack at Chicagofest, and he told me how much he made and that he had all day to play golf. I thought this is what I want to do. They need more females doing this.”

Steele attended the University of Illinois, and that’s where her radio journey continued.  “I got a job at a radio station called K-104 in Champaign when I was in college and then got married. My then-husband said do you want to go to Texas, California, or Des Plaines? I said ‘California here we come!’ I was out there about a month and got a job at K101 San Francisco. It was the thrill of my life at age 21. I was there a few years before the local hip-hop station called, and that’s where I became Diana Steele and started my hip-hop career. I was hired by Jimmy de Castro to come to LA to start the hip-hop station there, called The Beat.”

Some may think that hiring a white girl from Elk Grove Village was an odd choice for a hip-hop station in LA, but the music is something that Diana has loved from a very early age. “I got in trouble when I was five years old,” she recalls with a laugh. “I was living on Peach Tree Lane in Elk Grove Village, and I was wearing my hot pants, flipped my t-shirt up inappropriately for that age, and was doing the moves on the coffee table while I was watching Soul Train. My mom walked into the room, and screamed ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?’”

“I got infected by soul first. From there, my taste moved to 80s hip-hop, and I loved it when we started mixing in rap and R&B, guys like Usher and Luda, these people really helped it evolve. I was there from the very beginning and saw so much. I will never forget the day Rick James walked into my studio the day he got out of prison. It was a really cool life to experience. I worked with Eazy-E, Tupac, all these people who are so foreign to white hip-hop fans, but I was able to live that life and understand that energy.”

She may have seen it all in LA, but Steele is also a homebody in some ways. She’s a mother of two boys. “My big one is a college football player at Washington State. When I say big, I mean big! He’s 6’4, 300 pounds. His father played in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers. I told my son that he was put on this earth to save the Chicago Bears–no pressure! He’s a defensive lineman. I have another son who is 12. I adopted him from foster care when he was 1 1/2, and I am so happy that I was able to do that. That has just been a wonderful thing–he is my heart.”

Working out of her home studio has also allowed Steele to branch out into voice-over work. That led to an incredible opportunity.

“Arsenio (Hall) and I were friends, and he said he was going to do the show again, and asked if I would be his announcer. That was a blast. It was my first venture into TV hosting/announcing. Really enjoyed it. Got to meet tons of people.”

That opportunity eventually led to this one. Back home again in Chicagoland. Diana Steele can be heard middays 10 AM – 2 PM on WBMX, 104.3 FM.

-Rick Kaempfer

 

 

 

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Category: Columns, Media

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