"Little orange can, girl?" he called out to greet me.
This is how gay Energy 92.7 is: when I sat in on the morning show with hosts Fernando Ventura and Greg Sherrell, they agonized during songs over the fact that something called the "smart-fat diet" forbade them to eat nuts for a week. "You can write anything you want," Sherrell, a high-voiced, blond spitfire who frequently informs listeners that he's wearing his most expensive jeans, told me. "But if you don't say I'm thin, I finna kill you."
Fernando and Greg in the Morning, on air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., is one of the most popular shows on Energy, which has a potential reach of 3.2 million listeners. The show could be accused of a lot of things gay minstrelsy, pandering to stereotypes, making me get up at 4 a.m. to sit in but it could never be accused of being unexciting. It's the only openly gay morning show on commercial radio, and some of the live quips traded by DJ Fernando, Greg "the Gay Sportscaster," and their "straight man" producer Jason are dizzy scandal. Vaginal pubic hair "creeps up like bougainvillea," poppers are bad on first dates "because they'll make your throat sore," and Kylie Minogue gets the verbal knockdown but "Oh, we love her: she had breast cancer!" Interspersed with segments like "Homo vs. Hetero," during which one caller of each orientation is quizzed about the other's lifestyle, are Kelly Clarkson and the Killers remixes, "Vintage Beats" by Blondie and Michael Jackson, and current dance-chart toppers by Bananarama, David Guetta, and the Sunlovers.
It's a thing of wonder in a society still riddled with homophobia I dare you to find a YouTube video with more than 5,000 views that doesn't have the word fag in the comments to have such an unequivocally queeny experience, with a strong straight following, sail through the airwaves each morning. The tunes take a backseat to the dish. "At 9:30 in the morning you can only get so adventurous with your music selections," Ventura, an easygoing, bearish guy, told me. "I mostly stick with the hits."
The station, located in a murky green downtown office building, is a buzzing hive of fluid sexuality and good-natured candidness. The hyperdrive strains of DJ Tiesto and Deepface fill the air. As the only independently owned and operated commercial radio station in San Francisco, Energy's done well. As a suitor of the gay audience, it's done spectacularly. Even though its press materials emphasize its appeal to a broad variety of dance music fans, Energy's known as "the gay dance station" to most San Franciscans. (That's not so much the case across the bay, where Energy has gained a lot of traction in the Latino and Asian communities.)
Balancing a constant need for revenue with gay political intricacies can get tricky. A chill shot through me when I saw "Energy 92.7 owns the gay community" printed in bold and underlined in the station's media kit apparently we're all slaves to remixed Cher. And even though the station is a major sponsor of most large gay charity events, there have been a few controversies. The gay media has fussed that Energy is co-owned and run by a straight man, Joe Bayliss, and the station has been blamed for dumbing down gay culture to grasp the pink dollar (although that's like saying Britney Spears's performance sucked because her heel broke). And last year Energy released a branded compilation mix CD with an Army recruitment ad slipped into the packaging.
"We made a mistake. It was just stupid and insensitive on our part," Bayliss, a frank, handsome man with a ready smile, said when I asked him about the Army debacle. "This institution offered us a lot of money, and hey, we're a struggling, independent business.