WPKN Playlist 1/4/11: The 20th anniversary/coming-out fill-in Franorama

For those of you who wanted to know what I looked like as a boy: On the air at WPKN, 8-19-2008. Photo by Elaine Osowski.

The Jan. 4 fill-in episode of Franorama, 6-9 a.m. EST on WPKN (89.5 FM, http://www.wpkn.org), was huge for me for two reasons.

Rod Richardson, my friend and program director, didn’t know this when he emailed me Sunday night, but Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of my first show at the station. It was Jan. 4, 1991, a fill-in for Tom Frouge’s “Strangeland” show, from 2-6 a.m. EST. Armed with three crates of records (and a handful of CDs) that I hauled in the back of my 4X4, I trudged up the 2 1/2 flights of stairs of the University of Bridgeport Student Center and prepared to stammer and blunder my way through my first show.

Having gone to the show right after seeing NRBQ play that evening at Toad’s Place in New Haven, and possessed with a touch of the smartass, I decided to open the show, and my PKN life, with something irreverent and unexpected for the PKN crowd, a slice of paradise by the hottest pop group of the time: “Step by Step” by New Kids on the Block. (I eventually would settle on The Fleshtones’ “American Beat ’84,” the end credits theme to Tom Hanks’ first starring film, “Bachelor Party,” with Tawny Kitaen and Adrian Zmed, as my national anthem and show-opener.) And it’s been downhill from there.

Tom flat-out gave me the show a couple months later, which I rechristened “The Sleep Deprivation Experiment.” In my younger, more reckless days — long before I discovered firsthand that prolonged sleep deprivation could kill you, or come damn close — I thought it was fun to be able to do an overnight show after a 55-to-60-hour work week, flying by the seat of my pants and physically hanging on by my fingernails. After 11 1/2 years of it, I was ready for prime time — Rod offered me a Friday morning drive show, 6-10 a.m., which I called “Franorama.” Which I hosted for a year and a half until moving to California in March 2004. And which I reprise a few times each time I come back to Connecticut to visit.

So, as fate and serendipity would have it, Tuesday I wound up celebrating 20 years, hundreds of shows, hundreds of cups of coffee, hundreds of bagels and (in my more compulsive-eater days) Pop-Tarts, thousands of songs and even more thousands of miles logged. No Pop-Tarts this time — just an extra-large Dunky D’s coffee and one of their crappy bagels.

But the show was huge for another reason: I came out on the air.

*****

My family and friends well know about the gender transition at this point, but I wasn’t planning to talk to radio listeners about it until I could come home for good at some point and resume my radio life on a more regular basis. But I’ve had to work on my voice (still a work in progress) as part of the transition, and, well, I do sound a little different on the air than I did last time I was home. And I began to realize that it did raise some questions among PKN staffers I hadn’t told about the transition and among some listeners who remembered me.

Case in point: I stopped by the station Friday afternoon — ostensibly to rip some CDs into my laptop, but also to drop in on Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, since I hadn’t seen them in a long time. (Yes, as in the rhythm section of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club — Chris now does a noon-to-3 show on PKN the last Friday of the month, and their first appearance on the station was on my show, a morning drive fill-in on Black Friday 2000.) Steve DiCostanzo, the host of one of PKN’s coolest shows, “Radio Base Camp,” was also there, and when he saw the new, improved Frannie, he smiled and said, “Now this makes sense! I was listening to you the other day, and I thought, ‘What’s going on with Fran’s voice?’ I asked Peter (Bochan, the station manager, who was kind enough to not out me), ‘What’s up with Fran?’ and he just shrugged his shoulders. So now this makes sense.”

Also, on my Blizzard Sunday fill-in, I made a Freudian slip. A caller asked to speak to Fran, and I said, “You’re talking to her.” And he replied, “I always thought Fran was a guy.” Oops …

So I figured it was time. I had chickened out once already about having the talk, the previous Tuesday afternoon drive, but after talking to Steve on New Year’s Eve, it became clear that I would have to address it if I had another fill-in show on this visit.

So just before 7:30, I went to a break, telling the listeners, “When I come back, you and I will have to talk.” And when I returned, I told the listeners that there was another anniversary I was marking — three years since the start of the wildest trip of my life. And I spent the next half-hour relating the story of going through two humongous life changes at once — jobs and gender —  either one of which would be enough to stop a horse on its own.

And thus I unveiled Franorama 2.0. And then, after I finished sucking all the oxygen out of the studio, I went back to music. You can see from the playlist where I went after that. (And Steve D brought up something else last week when he saw me — he remembered hearing me playing “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl” by The Barbarians and “Georgy Girl” by The Seekers when I was home a year ago and started to wonder …)

And I got a smattering of calls in the last hour and after I got off the air. And one of the listeners, named Joe, told me he was relieved to hear my explanation because he had heard my voice and thought I had been undergoing radiation treatment, which he said changes people’s voices. No, I don’t have any cancer I know of, and yes, my voice still needs work.

So that’s it. Done. Out of my life. When I come home for good (hopefully sooner than later), I can just jump straight into Franorama 2.0. Anyway, if you dare, you can listen to the entire show right here. (The coming-out talk begins somewhere between an hour-25 and an hour-30 into the show.) If not, well, here’s the playlist:

  • American Beat ’84 — The Fleshtones
  • Chicks Dig It — The Big Fat Combo
  • The Spell That You Cast — Elvis Costello
  • Simon Says — The 1910 Fruitgum Company
  • Respect (alternate version) — Otis Redding
  • Daytripper — Otis Redding
  • (All I Get Is) Letters — Fran Fried & the American People

*****

  • Monk Chant — The Monks
  • Valleri — The Monkees
  • Little Pink Medicine — The Swingin’ Neckbreakers
  • The Girl Can’t Dance — Bunker Hill
  • Let’s Face It (I’m Wrong Again) — Rockpile
  • The Day We Met — Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles
  • Shake Some Action — Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents

*****

  • Step by Step — New Kids on the Block
  • Ridin’ in My Car — NRBQ
  • Tell Me — Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
  • Yawn — APB
  • Right Where I Wanna Be — The Double Naught Spys
  • B-I-Bickey-Bi Bo-Go-Go — Gene Vincent
  • Out of Step — The Reducers

*****

  • The coming-out talk

*****

  • Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl — The Barbarians
  • Out of the Wardrobe — The Kinks
  • Androgynous — The Replacements
  • It’s My Life — The Animals
  • I Am What I Am — The Fleshtones
  • Gemini — Del Shannon
  • Good Girl — The Go-Go’s
  • Treat Her Like a Lady — Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
  • Georgy Girl — The Seekers
  • Dance Franny Dance — The Floyd Dakil Combo

*****

  • Long Hot Summer Coming On — Black 47
  • Go Gorilla — The Shandells
  • If I Needed Someone — The Beatles
  • Up in the Dark — The New Pornographers

*****

  • I’ll Never Say Goodbye — The Vontastics

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4 Responses to “WPKN Playlist 1/4/11: The 20th anniversary/coming-out fill-in Franorama”

  1. jmucci Says:

    Hey Fran… how’s it going? Good I hope. I think you meant to title this post “WPKN Playlist 1/4/11″… not “1/14/11”, considering that it was written before that date.

  2. A journalistic dilemma: To self-out or not to self-out? « Franorama World Says:

    […] friends all know; I rented a car over the holidays as my female self; and I came out on the air on my last fill-in radio show at WPKN in January. So I’m not hiding […]

  3. The Summer of ’71, or how I became a music fiend « Franorama World Says:

    […] also have done radio on and off for 20 years at a station (WPKN in Bridgeport, Ct.) that lets me play whatever the hell I […]

  4. The blinding glare of the spotlight: Welcome to storytelling | Franorama World Says:

    […] I’d never talked about it on stage. Sure, I’ve talked about it on the radio — I came out to my WPKN audience on my 20th-anniversary show in January 2011 — and last fall, I talked about trans healthcare […]

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