Yesterday, radio personality Jenny Schlax did her last morning show with 92.9 KJEE, Santa Barbara’s modern rock station. She’s leaving after two-and-a-half years with locally famous cohosts Spencer and Adam to return to her original passion of teaching.
I got a chance to chat with Schlax about her career and was surprised to learn that she dove headfirst into radio despite having no previous experience with it or any other aspect of the entertainment industry.
Before the morning show, Schlax had been teaching full-time at Ventura High. It seems the stars were aligning, because just as the school began handing out a slew of pink slips to teachers, she heard about a contest KJEE was holding to fill previous cohost Matt Armor’s spot. Schlax, with an undergrad biology degree from Sacramento State and a master’s in education from UCSB, decided to go for it.
She battled 30 other people for the spot on the popular morning show. Each would-be cohost was given five minutes of airtime the first round, eliminations were made, and those still remaining were given a bigger slot. At the end of the grueling month-long competition, Schlax was the last woman standing and debuted as part of the trio in February 2005. Schlax partially attributes her “girlness” to her success, “I think they were looking for some femininity to balance out the guys’ personalities.”
Whatever the deciding factor was, Schlax’s effervescent personality made her a quick fixture on the morning-show shenanigans. Her uncanny ability to handle “the boys,” as she affectionately refers to Spencer and Adam, when they got too rambunctious hit the right chord with fans.
There have been highs and lows during her run on the show, but mostly she says she’s enjoyed it. “It’s been really fun. You get to talk about whatever you want for four hours, and you have the opportunity to meet and talk to a lot of new people you wouldn’t normally get to.”
Schlax reminisced about some of her favorite times on air being when Mr. Moviefone, the comical cinema critic, would call in. “He would get on the boys. He had my back,” she said laughing. Having Airborne Toxic Event, her favorite new band, and Vince Vaughn on the show were also highlights for her.
While talking about the stardom aspect of the job, she admitted that being recognized can be fun but also awkward. She remembers, “In the beginning, it was weird to have people come up to me. I would wonder: Do I look like they picture in their heads?” She related one funny story of a fan who said upon meeting her, “I always wondered what you looked like - I thought you’d be burlier, cause you’re always so tough with the guys.”
When asked why she was retiring her disc jockey jersey, she recalled the moment she first heard about KJEE’s contest to find a replacement for Armor and wondered why anyone would ever want to leave such a great job. Then once she was hired, one of her first days on the job, Spencer was having a rough morning and told her, “This job’s going to ruin your life.” And she thought, “Oh crap.”
While this ended up being far from the case, and she’s enjoyed her time with KJEE immensely, she admits it can be grueling. To pay the bills she had to get a second job, so in addition to radio she taught part time at a local elementary school. Add to that late nights out covering events, and the early mornings were often hard on the system. That’s why she has decided to get back to her roots and teach full-time again.
When asked if it will be weird to listen to the show without being on it, Schlax joked, “I’m hoping to be sleeping actually, but it will be nice to tune in every now and then and see how the boys are doing. I wish them the best.”