I was minding my own business walking through the Georgetown Carnival last year, when a sassy 1970s jumpsuit gave me the old "Come hither." It was flammable, it was extremely orange, and it would be mine. Alas, there was no makeshift dressing room, so I did what any self-respecting second-hand-clothes lover would do: I changed in the street. I yanked off my boots, pulled the pants up over my leggings, looked to my left, looked to my right, and then (ehhh, fuck it) snapped off my shirt. I was struggling to slip my arm through the hole when I heard "Rachel Belle! Hey! Rachel Belle!" Two excited listeners waved and squawked my name as I stood topless, a half-zipped, extremely orange jumpsuit hanging listlessly around my waist. Sigh.
Anonymity: Isn't that why we got into radio? So we can strip down to our bras in parking lots without the risk of anyone recognizing us? So we can get drunk and make out in a booth at the Tin Hat? So we can shamelessly stand on a karaoke stage and play air saxophone to Wham!'s "Careless Whisper"? As a radio broadcaster, I've enjoyed all these activities, risk-free, for nearly a decade. But between my KIRO-FM Facebook page and my face being prominently displayed on the station's website, my days of anonymity are over. Unfortunately, I haven't adjusted my lifestyle accordingly.
I started working in news and music radio in 2001, and was surprised to find that the old "You have a face for radio" line was still in vogue, usually followed by a hearty chuckle and a slap on the back. Just as popular was the ever-so-suave and clever pick-up line "But you're too pretty for radio. You have a face for TV!" (If you're wondering whether this line worked, note the aforementioned experience at the Tin Hat.) My first job was in a teeny-tiny market in northern California, where I spent three-quarters of my time as a reporter and news anchor and the rest as an " '80s, '90s, and Today" DJ on the adult-contemporary station. I'd spend some Saturdays in a furniture-store parking lot doing live remotes, begging listeners to "Come on down and check out these deals! There's even popcorn for the kids!" between Bryan Adams and Celine Dion ballads. I also spent several months as a "wacky" morning-show sidekick named B Love. My job duties included handing out cold Pop-Tarts at mostly deserted gas stations to suspicious drivers on National Pop-Tart Day, and then calling in to banter about it on a Zack Morris–sized cell phone. No one ever recognized B Love. They barely even wanted one of her Pop-Tarts.
Admittedly, there is something a bit thrilling about getting recognized. A born show pony, I can't help but feel a little zing of "They like me! They really like me!" when a middle-aged woman asks for my autograph or a construction worker yells "Rachel Belle! I love you, baby!" when I'm sitting in the news truck, window down, waiting for my light to change. It's certainly more fulfilling than fielding the top three questions I'm asked when I tell people I work in radio:
1. Radio?! People still listen to the radio?
2. Oh! Are you a weather girl?
3. Were you that topless girl at the Georgetown Carnival?