01 Sep 2010
Leslie Gold Topics:
Leslie Goldbloom (MBA ’85), aka Leslie Gold, the RadioChick, first established herself in the male-dominated world of talk radio as cohost of Two Chicks Dishing on Boston’s WRKO in the mid-1990s. She later moved to New York’s WNEW, bringing the station a huge ratings boost and launching a career that has seen a variety of radio gigs, including on Sirius, and many appearances on national television (such as Larry King Live and Nightline) and in print media (including Playboy, Glamour, and the New York Times). Her bawdy, irreverent online show can be seen weeknights on www.shovio.com, with podcasts at www.radiochick.com.
Tell us about life before RadioChick.
I grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where my dad ran a construction-related business, which is probably how I got business in my blood. I went to Syracuse University and then to P&G in brand management for a couple of years. I loved P&G, but I don’t have a lot of respect for authority, and I don’t like answering to people. So I applied to HBS.
I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I wanted to learn about business at the best place possible and acquire the skills I’d need to be a boss. My HBS experience was fantastic: not just having a point of view but being forced to defend it instantly has certainly helped me in live entertaining.
Was the RadioChick already inside you at HBS?
I guess so. I was so scared people would think I was an admissions mistake that I tried to dazzle them with humor. The RadioChick is a magnification of part of my personality, but it does come from a real place. Something inside me always wants to be provocative. I like to disturb things.
Before you were the RadioChick, for years you were the CEO of a window manufacturing company.
That’s right. After HBS and a year at Burlington Industries, I bought Bishop Manufacturing Company, a medium-sized, high-volume, custom-window manufacturer. I was 20-something and had no money, but armed with my HBS pedigree, a presentation, and a good line of BS, I walked into my hometown bank and walked out with a $5 million loan.
The plant was located in a run-down area of Bridgeport, the state’s murder capital. We’d often find bullets, needles, and used condoms in the parking lot. But my workforce was steady and very loyal because there were no other jobs in that neighborhood. My criterion was, if they didn’t do drugs, they were foreman material.
Some nights I’d have to drag myself down to the plant because the burglar or fire alarm had gone off. The cops would be there, waiting. Fine. Except they’d tell me, “You go in first.”
My father swears Bridgeport will come back one day. I say no way.
How did you get into radio?
After about ten years of building the window business, I sold it to a Fortune 100 company. I no longer had to worry too much about money, but what next? Over the years, while driving to work, I’d become a fan of Howard Stern. What grabbed me about Howard was that he was unedited, unpredictable, and spontaneous. I thought: “People say I’m entertaining. I have big opinions. I’m too ugly for television, but how about radio?”
I persuaded the owner of a tiny 1,000-watt station in Westport to let me work for free. At night, the station powered down to 2 watts; the signal reached only the twelve trailers in an adjacent trailer park, but I didn’t know that. I was in radio!
Who is the RadioChick?
I used to say the RadioChick is a guy’s best friend that you also wouldn’t mind — how shall I say it for a family audience — “being intimate with.” Now that I’m older, I’m not sure that last part is still true. I give opinions about money, politics, and things in the news but a staple of the program is about how men can achieve their sexual, emotional, or practical goals with women: how to handle the wife, girlfriend, or female boss, or how to cheat on somebody without getting caught. I help guys advance, even if it’s dishonorable.
Do you get hate mail from women?
I do receive nasty letters when I’m helping a man achieve a reprehensible goal. But I didn’t create that goal. Like any good capitalist, I recognized a need and am answering it. In this one area, I don’t make judgments. In this case, I do plead guilty to betraying my sex.
Who is your audience, and has it changed over the years?
It’s 70 percent male, in their 20s to 50s. They’ve been hammered by job loss and underemployment. The core audience has gotten more conservative and political — you don’t pay attention until things fall apart. And they’ve gotten older: They don’t worry so much about their own sex lives, they worry about their daughters’.
You’ve developed a new communications technology. What’s it all about?
It’s talk-back TV. Called Shovio, it’s the first live, two-way broadcasting network, based on a breakthrough proprietary technology that we developed. It makes possible the show I do now. With a mouse click, anyone with a webcam can beam into the show, go through a screener like calling in to a radio talk show, appear on split screen with me, and have an exchange that is seen live by everyone watching.
Scalability is what also makes Shovio different. In effect, thousands of different individual broadcasts can go on, supporting tens of millions of viewers, all simultaneously. It’s truly a broadcasting network, not a limited Web conferencing system.
What else is special about it?
Once someone beamed in who, it became evident, was a hoarder — I and everyone else could see that. For twenty minutes, he resisted my plea that he throw away a take-out container with weeks-old leftovers. It was gripping — we were all seeing a person’s compulsion in real time and interacting with him. No other medium could do that.
What revenue streams derive from Shovio?
Using this platform, a company CEO can talk via a secure broadcast to employees, distributors, or salespeople around the globe. Even the mailroom guy can beam in and ask a question. It can also be used for an online-shopping type of operation, using broadcast to pitch the product, with people beaming in orders and making purchases without ever leaving the broadcast, something neither radio nor TV can do.
As it is for my show, Shovio can be a vehicle for professional multimedia entertainment that’s supported by pinpoint advertising. There is also potential for online education, town hall meetings, and so forth. The beaming-in, two-way aspect is what makes it different.
And you’re reviving The Gong Show, as a stage show in small venues.
The Gong Show marked a key moment in TV history. It’s the godfather of all reality TV, the first show to put real people on air and allow them to humiliate themselves. Rather than have it be mean-spirited, however, my intent is to make it celebratory of its crazy, deranged sensibility. Last month we debuted it here in New York; we may eventually take it to Las Vegas.
Have we become a coarser society, or are we just more open and honest?
All of the above. It wouldn’t hurt to bring back something of those bygone days when people refrained from behavior that might bring shame on their family. For the record, my dad has been on my show, but he mostly disapproves of it. My mom turns off the parts she doesn’t like.
These days, it doesn’t matter if you’re famous for a good or bad reason. Even Paris Hilton can one day become an ambassador. Thanks to reality TV, everybody is encouraged to puke up the their most unattractive features and let the world look at it.
Do you contribute to that?
I’m riding the wave. I can’t stop the next Jersey Shore from being on TV, but I can open up a discussion about it. I’ll admit to a certain hypocrisy there, and maybe I’m smiling as I ride the wave while bringing back The Gong Show. But I can still talk about where I think society has steered off course.
What do men and women not get about each other?
Women just don’t get that men are remarkably simple. A sandwich, some sports on TV, and sex — you’ve got a happy man. Women are unnecessarily complicated, and men can’t understand that. We overanalyze, and we’re not satisfied with simple explanations. And women project onto men their own game-playing motives. “Oh, he didn’t call me within 24 hours. It was 28 hours before he called. What does that mean?” It doesn’t mean anything! It means that he remembered you in 28 hours instead of 24.
You seem to move effortlessly in this male universe that other women find so baffling.
I’ve spent a lot of time around men, in the window business and coming up in radio. That all contributes to the persona of the RadioChick: “Looks like a woman, thinks like a man.” To this day, I’m much more comfortable in the company of men. It’s easier.
Will you attend your 25th Reunion this fall?
Absolutely. But I’m very disappointed that my significant other, Carmine Appice, can’t come. He’s a musician — starting as the drummer for Vanilla Fudge in the 1960s — and I like the idea of walking in with this shaggy, purple-haired rock star with earrings and a Fu Manchu moustache. That’s how I want to go back to Harvard Business School, with that guy.
Class of MBA 1985, Section A