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Radio show Host Sheila Gale Talks her way to the Top
by Susan Cantrell

“You absolutely have to ask. All they can say is no or yes.” – Sheila Gale

I spiral down a labyrinth of roads in Skyline Forest, Monterey, and finally park at Sheila Gale’s gently aging white home, the home she grew up in and reclaimed six years ago.

I am jazzed about meeting this radio celebrity who has hosted shows and announced on KWAV, KOCN, and KTOM, to name a few local stations. I’m interested in knowing about her new weekly program, “The Sheila Gale Reality Show,” on KRXA, AM 540.

It’s been a couple months since my “Quotable Notables” column ended at The Herald, and I am itching to dive the depths of an interviewee’s mind, to reconnect with my innate curiosity, to be humbled by some new lesson learned from their story.

Gale leads me into her jewelry designing room, bathed in buttery sunshine. A couple of cats swish by as I examine her table that is laden with polished semi-precious stones, wires and clippers.

She is modeling an enticing jade bracelet, rings and necklace that complement her mustard silk shirt and upswept reddish hair. But what really grab my attention are the walls lined with black and white photos of homeless people, in various poses that illustrate the grittiness of their lives.

“I’ve had five exhibits in the last two years,” she says, unabashedly.

Radio personality, actress, jewelry maker and photographer - clearly, she is one of those people who grabs life by the horns and wrestles out all of her talents and dreams.

But it wasn’t always so. Middle age has changed her. Time’s a wasting. She is seizing the day.

We settle at the dining room table that reminds her of all the joys and pains that she and her physician father, mother and siblings shared.

“I was born at the old Carmel Hospital,” she says. “I used to go on house calls with my father. I couldn’t wait to get out at 18, and after 30 years, I couldn’t wait to move back.”

Q: Why will we want to listen to “The Sheila Gale Reality Show”?
A: You will never hear anything like this show. Our first show (in April ‘06) was “Dating after Divorce.” We talked to an internet dater and a speed dater. One woman was like a stalker and we discussed that. We talk about things most people don’t want to talk about. Our second show was with a homosexual man, and my first question was, “Why do gay people talk like that?” The station owner, Hal Ginsberg, likes controversy. Another show was with a former gang member. I played three of the top rap songs, and I got the words to them and broke down what they said, and it was horrible. I let the parents know what their children are really listening to. Then I played, “I Wanna Hold your Hand,” and that was about the butterflies and holding hands. MTV shows humping and bumping. Another show, with author Joe Klaas (Polly Klaas’s grandfather), was on sex offenders and the difference between child molesters and pedophiles. Shelley Jones is my manager and she believes in me so much.

Q: Reality shows:

a) are ingenious
b) cater to idiots
c) just a passing fad
d) reflect our societal values
e) other

A: Everything is a reality show now, but in this show, it’s just a really real show.

I don’t want to be a polished speaker. I forget what I’m going to say. I’m not going to talk about politics much. We’re gonna do some crazy stuff. A lot of people want their 15 minutes of fame and we’re going to give them 5 minutes. I may cut them off if they’re too boring. I’m at a point in life where I’m OK with the way I am, and it’s fine if people don’t like me or what I do. That never used to be OK. I used to hide in a corner and pull the covers over me if people didn’t like me . . .

Q: You have a font of creative ideas for the show.
A: What I’m very passionate about is empathic parenting - putting yourself in your child’s shoes, especially the first three years. Hopefully, we’ll have people calling and “asking Sheila.” I want people to think outside the box.

Q: Sounds like you’re using up every inch of your life.
A: I am, now.

Q: Tell me of your life crises.
A: My father died when I was 18. I was devastated. I felt like I was on a sail boat with no compass. I quit college. I always had a dream to become an actress. I saw Haley Mills in “Pollyanna” 38 times. So I moved to LA, where I did everything from waitress to bartender to a magician’s assistant. I did shows at the Roxy. I was the first female bartender at any Playboy Club in Century City . . . I was a radio announcer on major market radio stations in LA.

Q: With no formal training, how did you bust in?
A: I just asked. You absolutely have to ask. All they can say is no or yes. In most cases it’s yes. I babysat the producer’s kids and then asked to be in the movies.

Q: In what notable movies did you appear?
A: “Death Wish Four” - mostly small parts in Charles Bronson films. I used to play poker with him at all breaks.

Q: What kind of guy was he?
A: Just a simple coal miner who never once saw his movies. He didn’t know what all the hoo-ha was about . . . I was being groomed to be a talk show host when there were only Phil Donahue and Oprah. Agents were very interested in me. Then I met my husband on a blind date. I was almost 40, and I had to choose a road, and I chose family (she gave birth to two children, now ages nine and 12). That’s where my career ended in entertainment.

Q: Have you seen the bumper sticker, “A woman’s place is in the house, the senate and the oval office”? Where is YOUR place?
A: I have such strong feeling about parenting that I don’t understand women who think they can do it all. I was very fortunate to be a stay at home mom . . . I started becoming very unhappy and I was meditating and teaching Sunday school. My marriage was falling apart and I became very depressed. I never thought I’d have a second chance in anything creative in life. I’d done that in my 30’s and 40’s. I finally separated four years ago. It was the most difficult period in my life. Not having had children half of my life, I’d made them my life. Recently, something happened. It was a God thing. As I was wandering my house, pining for my children (who live part time with their father), alone, I just started to pray and said, “What do you want me to do? Show me what to do, God. I’m getting in my car now. I’m either going to go buy silver and make a bracelet or try to find that radio station in Sand City that my friend told me about.” It was brand new; it had been a Spanish station. So, I stumbled into the station with ink on my face, in a T-shirt, with spots on my leggings. The owner came out and asked, “How may I help you?” I walked in and something happened, and I started getting really excited about something for the first time in seven years. I told him “I want a radio show.” He said, “Who are you? What can you do?” Then he Googled me and saw all this information and the movies I’d been in. I was impressed, as he was. “I want a day to day reality radio show with Sheila Gale, and there’s nothing we won’t talk about.”

Q: And he went for it.
A: Yes.

Q: Speaking of your bio, with no formal education in radio, how did you teach at Columbia School of Broadcasting?

A: I had enough experience that it was a piece of cake.

Q: I was told to ask you about Kim Novak.
A: It was at the Special Olympics games. I introduced myself to her, and she stuck out her hand, and said, “Sheila Gale, I’ve been wanting to meet you for the longest time. I’m one of your biggest fans.” I was with K-TOM then.

Q: What is the magic of radio, versus other mediums?
A: I never knew I had a good speaking voice until I started in radio. Something happens when I turn that microphone on. I can’t explain it, but it’s a passion so strong I really feel it’s my calling. In 10 years of radio, I’ve introduced songs, announced the weather, etc. There’s not a lot of creativity with cue cards. So, to have this new radio show, to talk the whole hour, is the most exciting adventure. I really didn’t think I’d have a second chance. I feel I’m reinventing myself. Shelley and I are. There’s no doubt in my mind, it’s gonna be a hit show. I feel like a lotus flower budding out of the mud.



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