Press

November 2004 14#7

Queen of Observation: Q&A With Sheena Metal
Written by: Colleen Lee



Los Angeles radio talk-show host Sheena Metal is one of those women who could give J.Lo a run for her money. The founder of the all-female music and art event Festival of the Egg, Metal is also a comedian, writer, producer and actor. Phew. For almost 10 years, she's been entertaining audiences in Los Angeles, where fans have dubbed her the "Queen of Observation" (though she prefers "publicity whore"). After years of prostituting herself for media attention, what does she have to say for herself?

What's it like being a female (and lesbian) talk-show host in LA?

Believe it or not, it's harder to be female. I've never found that my bisexuality hindered my radio career at all. It's always sort of been more of a curiosity to my listeners … like an ability to juggle or burp for long periods of time (neither of which I can do, unfortunately). I've always been very open about it without being preachy about it and people have treated it as it should be treated … as an important part of who I am but not the sum of who I am. Being female, on the other hand, is a tough row to hoe in radio. Radio hasn't quite figured out what to do with women past their roles as the blonde, bimbo Barbie Doll sidekick, with a very few exceptions. I hope that improves with time and L.A. FM radio moves into more of a gender nonspecific, intellectual edginess that really seems to be lacking here. All of the intellectuals are doing AM political radio or National Public Radio. They're certainly heady enough but lacking the excitement that the average L.A. listener is looking for.

Why do you have your hands in so many pots? DJ, comedienne, film star, writer, producer. Trying to be the next J.Lo or just interested in everything?

Well, I certainly am interested in everything. But more than that, it's a matter of survival. Working in entertainment is often like being thrown like you're on a ship in a storm. The more ropes you have to tie you to the deck, the less chance you're going to get hurled into the water. I love to work as much as I can. So, I make sure that as one job ends, I still have many others to concentrate on.

I heard recently that you lost weight. Tina Fey during an interview mentioned that her career improved when she lost weight. Has your weight loss furthered your career? Are you treated differently?

I certainly noticed the change in my everyday life right away. People really do look at you differently, which is strange, because inside, you're the same person with your eyes looking out at the world the same as before the weight loss. That's certainly been a trip. Professionally, I don't know that my career's changed a whole lot. It's not like I went from Shrek to Pamela Lee. Thinner or fatter, I'm still the geeky studious girl.

Who is your audience?

Wow. You wouldn't believe the variance of fans I've collected, starting with my public access show years ago. I have fans in junior high and fans in retirement homes. I think that the collective thread that runs through most of my fans is dark, bizarre sense of humor, a skewed take on the wacky world we live in, and the ability to laugh at society and ourselves.

What is your reaction to this FCC and censorship business? And, do you think gay programming is next?

I could be wrong, but I think the FCC is on its way out. Newer mediums like cable and satellite TV and the Internet have made FCC regulation nearly impossible. Terrestrial radio can be censored but not satellite or Internet radio. I think the FCC is cracking down hard in an attempt to be taken seriously, but I think it's just a matter of time before censorship is no more. As for gay programming, there's already a lot of it out there. It's just a bit more underground than it should be … college, satellite, Internet, etc. I think that, in time, gay programming will grow to be more mainstream, but I hope that it still stays offbeat and irreverent.

What is the craziest stunt you've ever pulled off on the air?

You'll never print this, but here goes. Years ago, I co-hosted a show on KLSX called the Nastyman Show … late night, metal music, lots of strippers, fetishists, porn stars, bikers, hemp activists … it was a real circus. I loved it! One night we had some sex toy people in and they were promo-ing a new vibrator that you sat on like a mechanical bull (with a few attachments) and rode while someone controlled the speed and movements with a very complex remote. They brought a porn star in to ride the toy, and I was elected to work the controls from across the room. The next day, we did a follow-up show on whether or not that constituted a lesbian experience for me. Most people thought it did.

Can you tell me about Chicks Rock? And, why do chicks rock?

Chicks do rock … every bit as much as guys, even though we're sort of a music minority. I love doing theme music shows, because it really makes the night an event. All of my shows have a certain feel so that you have an idea of what kind of show you're going to experience, even before you get to the club. Chicks Rock has always been the name of my female-centric shows. You may not know if you're going to hear folk, acoustic rock, punk, metal, country, alternative, or pop, but you know it's going to be all girl energy.

So why did you start Festival of the Egg?

It was really a double challenge for me. First of all, I couldn't believe that there wasn't a weekly/monthly all-female art, music, comedy, poetry festival for women anywhere in the L.A. area. Secondly, I couldn't believe that there wasn't more of an original music scene happening in the gay clubs around town. It started it as more of a curiosity, really. I wanted to see if an all-female art night like this would work since no one seemed to be doing it and I wanted to see if I could make local artists fly at a lesbian bar. After the first show was such a success, I realized what a really cool experience it is for all involved … male and female. It's such a concentration of female energy all in one place and at one time that the Egg has sort of taken on a life of its own and word of it has spread farther, wider and faster than any music show I've ever done. The ladies who own MoonShadow have been terrific about allowing there to be no cover charge, doing amazing drink specials and decorating their club in Egg lights. Their club is gay but very straight friendly and so the Festival of the Egg has become a place where women and men, gay, straight and bisexual gather with good energy to celebrate female creativity. It truly is a beautiful thing to be a part of.

Since you are the Queen of Observation, what did you observe about this interview?

I had a great time. I laughed. I cried. I told an embarrassing story from my seedy radio past. It was truly delightful. But … was it good for you?

For more information about Sheena, visit http://www.sheena-metal.com