Thirty years after leaving KSTP-AM, talk show host Turi Ryder’s words still might be too spicy for Twin Cities ears.
She has not mellowed, I was delighted to discover when we caught up over a two-hour-plus phone chat that eventually got around to her book, “She Said What? (A Life on the Air),” which is being released in June.
“This book is not a memoir,” she insisted. “My memory would have to be a whole lot better. Nor is it entirely a work of fiction, since it’s based on my all-too-real-life. However, if you think you have identified a real person, it’s a coincidence. [Everything has been] significantly altered or entirely fabricated in order for me to tell either more of the truth or bigger, better lies.”
Ryder has nothing but good memories about the Twin Cities, in which she found a husband.
After three years at KSTP, she left for Chicago in what “I describe as my long history of short stints at failing formats. Went to another talk format for women that didn’t do so well, programmed entirely by white guys. That usually has something to do with it. I was stupid enough to do it again in L.A., after the Chicago station lasted like maybe six months. O.J. Simpson paid for my wedding; I got stuck doing O.J. coverage. I did it because I was getting married.”
She and her husband settled in Chicago, which has been a great place to raise their sons, keep an eye on aging parents and be home base for other career opportunities, including creative productions for Bloomberg Radio. But Chicago doesn’t have a Grand Ole Creamery or a Ginny Hubbard Morris, CEO of Hubbard Radio.
“One of the first copies of the book went to Ginny, of course. I had to make sure she had it,” said Ryder, who is eternally grateful for the support of Morris, the executive who brought Ryder here, perhaps ahead of her polarizing time.
“She really stuck to her guns and really, really, really had a spine. Can you imagine what it was like, everywhere she went people hated my guts and wanted to tell her about it, and she liked me,” said Ryder. “It was explained to her that if they hate your guts every day and fill out a ratings diary, that’s fine. That’s just as good as if they love you every day. It may even be better.”
At 555 pages, the book is long but, considering that it’s from one of the most interesting broadcasters to pass through here, it’s also intriguing. It can be preordered at Tortoisebooks.com.
This is Part 1 of our conversation. There will be other parts closer to when Ryder comes to town to promote the tome.
Q: You met someone in Minnesota to whom you have been married how many years?
A: I can’t count exactly, I think it will be 24 years this summer. I can look it up for you. I cannot remember birthdays or my Social Security number. [My husband] was the last eligible bachelor in Minnesota. So if you were looking [then], too bad for you — I took him! He was Paul Wellstone’s political director. I call him “Save the Planet” in the book.
Q: You’ve changed almost all the names in this book. I thought you dealt with public figures?
A: Well, it depends on how public and what I say and whether I’d like to be sued or not. [Laughter] I’d really prefer to just get some things wrong or put my own spin on it and not worry they are going to come after me. The most egregious one would be the [radio] guy I worked for who was a raging coke addict. He’s not technically a public figure. Frankly, I like to take poetic license when I can.
Q: I found you brave and priceless for the same reason a lot of Minnesotans hated you. It was that running “Nature weeding out the stupid” bit. Why do you think that set off Minnesotans?
A: [Raucous laughter] Yes. Why, thank you. I hear there’s guy in San Francisco, a comic, who also uses that line. I don’t know where he came up with it. To be fair to Minnesotans, I wasn’t very kindhearted. And sometimes I made mistakes, which I mention in the book. I don’t know honestly why people are so offended when you point out that somebody has died directly as a result of their own stupidity. Maybe they’re worried they are just as stupid. [She burst into laughter and lapsed into a goofy voice]: That could have been me standing in the back of that pickup truck waving as we went under the low overpass.
I think today, three decades later, I might be more selective [of things to poke fun at]. I would have to be careful how to parse the measles epidemic. Right? The little kids didn’t do anything. But the grown-ups who don’t vaccinate their kids? They can’t get measles a minute too soon, as far as I’m concerned. Take your kids to a nice safe place for three months and get yourself a good case of measles. Serves you right.
Q: Have you become more kindhearted?
A: [Strident laughter] Well, OK. [Long pause] I have become more ... [she did not finish the thought] Well, I don’t know about that. I would like to say yes, but I’m not sure.
Q: In the book you give us the additional pearl of wisdom about alcohol frequently being nature’s errand boy.
A: Why, yes, it is.
Q: Among the acknowledgments in the book is one to Virginia Morris [aka Ginny Hubbard Morris] that thanked her “for being almost inhumanly patient and kind.” Wasn’t there another supportive superior you liked on the West Coast?
A: My favorite boss in L.A. when people used to call and threaten to boycott the station and picket, he’d say, “Great. Come down. I’ll cater lunch.” And he did.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.