By Cathy Lee Taylor, Special to the Independent
It’s a typical Saturday morning in Laguna Beach, where both mansions and cottages line the bluffs above the sandy coves. Driving through the main street of this resort destination, one passes hotels on cliffs, distinctive shops, indulgent restaurants and numerous art galleries.
Amid the quaintness stands a flagship radio station KX 93.5 FM, a beacon of connection in this tight-knit community.
Inside assistants are busily setting up sound and camera equipment as guests are navigated to their chairs and properly mic’ed. In the last-minute hustle to meet the airtime deadline, co-host Scott Hays introduces himself in an effort to make his guests feel comfortable.
Hays is an accomplished freelance writer, journalist, songwriter, editor, college English professor and a radio host whose protégés call him “the real thing.” A gifted interviewer, Hays hails from the Mike Wallace school of interrogation – adding a dash of heart and soul to everything he does.
Today’s interview requires adept skills as he questions the parents of a teen who committed suicide as a result of relentless bullying. This interview “was tough to navigate,” Hays said. He handles it with grace, aplomb, empathy and a honed ability to avoid judging situations or people.
Talking to Hays, one gets the sense that writers have an inner knowledge about the world unlike others. It’s all about connection. The great thing about radio is, “I love that I am in the moment. I can’t be anywhere else,” Hays said. His authentic empathy for people makes it easier for folks to share their stories; even the tales they didn’t intend to tell.
Hays’ genuine interest in people is obvious: “I’m looking for that nugget,” Hays said. He is referring to what he calls “gems” – that passion someone is really “excited about so we can engage on that level.”
A Community Connection
Residents of Laguna Beach tend to gravitate toward one another as a result of their passions. So when Hays met Robert Palmer at a local charity event, the idea for a new radio show they’ve since named “Radio Caravan,” was quickly conceived.
Robert Palmer is an enigma himself: he is a rock musician, photographer, songwriter, singer, writer, culture editor for Bask magazine, and a corporate litigator. Palmer is also board chair of the United Way of Orange County and a board member of South Coast Repertory theatre.
So it’s easy to see the corporate litigator part in his suit and tie when we meet at the Lumberyard for an after-work martini. He is clearly familiar to the wait staff and it’s easy to tell that he relishes the support of being in a community. The rocker part of his personality is a little more difficult to sense until he starts talking.
After graduating law school, Palmer spent three years on the road as a professional musician playing gigs 50 weeks a year with a band that produced one album. “I lived in a tent in a KAO campground in the winter. We had $65 a week to live on,” said Palmer. “It was really a blast, it was spectacular.”
His band met Prince, fronted for Alice Cooper as well as toured with other bands.
But Palmer can’t help longing for rock music from his past, Zeppelin, James Brown, Grand Funk Railroad, Chicago. He longs for the high level of skill and dedication to the art; now it’s all production, he says.
“Music is like lifeblood to me,” said Palmer. “Out of nowhere comes a kid named Bruno Mars. He’s James Brown’s ghost! He’s talented, one of the best concerts you’ll ever see.”
The Radio Caravan Journey Begins
Hays believes “there is a certain rhythm in life and people come together for a reason.” Hays and Palmer feel that they have a winning combination for their Radio Caravan audience.
Hays is an innate educator and communicator; while Palmer sees life on the funny side most of the time. They are equally contagious. Both men are originals: Hays embraces challenge; Palmer is working on that. Both are corporate and creative, like many people who live in and frequent the town. “He’s the Mark to my Brian,” Palmer said. Could they bump heads sometimes? “I sure hope so,” Hays responds.
Both hosts want to share their mutual love of rock music with flashes from the past with listeners. Palmer sees this radio journey as a caravan because “it’s an amalgamation of a bunch of things hooked together driving along.”
Radio Caravan will do weekly interviews from an eclectic mix of musicians, athletes, politicians and the business community. Upcoming programming includes a living art forger, Shawn Jones, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, and local restaurateur David Wilhelm.
Palmer looks forward to having Wilhelm in the studio on April 5. “I’m a bon vivant restaurant guy. I love food and my next goal is to be a sommelier.” Expect tips on the good things in life.
Expect to be educated and entertained in a unique way.
Radio Caravan airs every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. on KX 93.5 FM and at 8 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday on Cox 3-TV.
Cathy Lee Taylor is a freelance writer in Orange County and she can be reached at [email protected]