Local 19-year-old radio jock Chase Brooks is making his play to become the gay Howard Stern
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
Never underestimate the power of youth — especially when backed by a microphone.
Chase Brooks proves that in spades. At 19, the Weatherford native is already a published author … and that’s not even his primary interest. Brooks isn’t going to wait for his moment to come, he’s creating it with his second (yes, second) radio talk show, Reckless After Dark.
“I’m the type of personality that likes controversy. I’ll play with the line but, you know, I may not cross it,” he says.
Brooks mixes the charm of youth with eagerness and expectation in his voice, but he also has an unexpected savvy. He knows the right answers to give without sounding fake, but his wide-eyed outlook quickly reminds listeners that he’s no veteran with pre-packaged ideas and sound bites. Radio has become Brooks’ passion, born out of a sort of happy accident.
“This just kinda fell into my lap,” he says. “After my last book came out, I was interviewed on the radio and I fell in love with the surroundings. That was on QNation, this all-gay online radio network and then I heard they were looking for new shows.”
Let’s back up a second.
Brooks self-published his first novel, Hello, My Love, while still a senior at Weatherford High School. Soon after his final semester, he published the sequel, Hello, My Love 2: First Love Deserves a Second Chance — that hit the streets the day of his graduation ceremony. He calls the two books “young adult romantic comedies geared toward straight readers,” but his third book, the nonfiction compendium Reckless, takes on a darker tone dealing with gay issues.
“The book is compilation of essays,” he says. “I came through a lot of drama with relationships and family and what I learned from each one. I think the book really says ‘It does get better.’”
He debuted Reckless After Dark on QNation, but last January, he jumped his show over to the Fish Bowl Network, started by local radio veteran Sammi G. There, Brooks could take advantage of the learning process because the network operated more as a radio station. Before long, he was doing it all out of his laptop and prerecording shows.
The diversity of the lineup is also intriguing. According to its web site, the network airs 67 shows; of those, Reckless is its only LGBT program.
“We say the show is straight-friendly but gay-friendlier,” Brooks laughs. “We are the wackiest show out there on the network and we’ll talk about anything from sex to stuff going on in community and we get a lot of great guests. A lot of people seem to enjoy listening to us.”
For radio shows, you almost expect to hear the term “wacky” bandied about endlessly, and Reckless After Dark is no exception. Brooks proudly recounts tales of radio bits involving monster dildos, phone sex and guys calling in only to get punk’d on the air — college humor-type stuff. But where Brooks shines the most is his ability to snag high-profile guests. For an online gay radio show hosted by a teenager, Brooks’ guests have included the likes of A List-er Reichen Lehmkuhl, Tupperware drag queen Dixie Longate, activist icon Judy Shepard and queermedian fave Margaret Cho — not too shabby for a team of youngsters who include publicist Malcolm Lewis and co-hosts Auntie J and Cat Michaels.
Brooks attributes the appeal of his show to such guests to his basic professionalism and transparency — guests know full on what they are getting into.
“I think a lot of them say yes because I give them rundown of what the show is and they love that,” he says. “They seem to like the ‘out there’ shows because in online radio you can do a lot more than on regular AM-FM stations. That’s liberating for them and me. Plus, I think it benefits their careers.”
Where Reckless is inherently silly with fun, gay banter frequent with the guests, Brooks is serious about what he’s created and has the wherewithal to envision a bigger picture — hence his move to Fish Bowl.
“Moving there was going to be a greater opportunity for the show because the network isn’t all gay,” he says. “In that environment, you don’t stand out. Fish Bowl has all types of shows but we’re the only gay one. I think that’s an honor and challenge to draw people in. They may not all agree with the lifestyle, but maybe I can educate or warm them up to the idea of being an ally.”
For Sammi G., Brooks brought the perfect opportunity to expand Fish Bowl’s already diverse roster. “He brings gay issues to the forefront here,” she says, “and he’s got all the characteristics to be great. Age wasn’t an issue, because I was 17 when I started in radio 30 years ago.”
Brooks’ dream is to rise to the Kidd Kraddick/Howard Stern level of influence, but specifically for the gay community. There isn’t that one predominantly gay radio variety show with that gay host with that major presence, especially in FM or AM (although, gays may not really listen to AM for anything). Whether that eventually happens, he’s intent on making his impression — whether to his usual local 20something gay audience or to fans across the sea.
“The listeners definitely motivate me and knowing that I made a difference or even laugh is a good feeling,” he says. “If opportunities came up in regular radio, I’d consider it, but I love how anyone from anywhere can listen to me now. I’ve heard from fans in Canada and Greece. This isn’t my job, this is my lifestyle, my passion. I would do this for free if I had to.”
Reckless After Dark streams Thursdays, 5–7 p.m. on FishBowlRadioNetwork.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011