“Rosie’s got it goin’ on,” at least according to a listener who crafted a song about Good Morning Monterey Bay—an entertaining, informative morning radio show hosted by Rosemary Chalmers for the past 15 years.
Every Monday through Friday, Chalmers rises at 3:30 a.m. and prepares to deliver the local news, traffic, weather, sports, cooking, gardening, gossip, book reviews and B-list celebrity interviews—all off the cuff.
Spin your radio dial, and you will notice something odd. There are few women on the air during the most important and most lucrative "drive time," when Chalmers holds court. Go into the executive offices, and you will find even fewer women in management. Chalmers is a rarity in the industry, doing both for so long and so well.
Chalmers' job is to start people’s day off on the right foot, with a dose of laughter. When Chalmers first moved to Santa Cruz more than 20 years ago, she took a boring, administrative job.
“I was so bored that I read all of the junk mail that came through," she says. "I kept seeing these full-page letters that said, ‘Local guy just bought local station, listen.’ I had done a radio commercial when I lived in Santa Barbara, and I thought, maybe I can make my living doing that, so I called, and I called, and I called, and I called.
"I’m very tenacious. Finally, I got Michael Zwerling on the phone, and I said, ‘You know Mr. Zwerling, I could have had $50,000 to spend in advertising on your station, and you didn’t call me back.’ He said, ‘Do you?’ And, I said ‘No, but I’m just illustrating the point that you need someone who gives good phone, and I do.’
"I said, ‘I’ll come on Monday at six for an interview.’”
While Chalmers was interviewing, the radio station’s phone rang. When nobody bothered to answer it, she grabbed it, took a message and has been with the station ever since.
Now she wears many hats at KSCO—program director, intern manager, ad sales, morning show host. And, occasionally, she still answers the phone.
“It’s going to be fun, because she’s so fun,” said intern, Anne Whitney, about the celebration of Chalmer’s anniversary. “I just love her; she’s fantastic. She really has a big heart. She cares about people.”
Chalmers talked kindly and with humor about KSCO staff, listeners, the public and just about every magnate and peon in between.
Rachael Shelton said that Chalmers’ celebration of 20 years with KSCO “shows how good she is at what she does, naturally. She’s so good at talking to people, a great interviewer. She makes you feel really comfortable immediately. And, she’s a go-getter. She’s not afraid to make a phone call. Any time she’s wanted to get a guest who’s kind of a big deal, she always says, let’s try. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Chalmers' easiness with people may result from her philosophy that “We’re really all the same. We just happen to have different cultural leanings. And, maybe we have slightly different skin colors, and maybe we dress differently, but at the end of the day, we’re all the same as human beings.”
She's been voted the best radio host in Santa Cruz by both of the city's weekly newspapers, and when she hasn't won, she's been in the top three contenders. One of her great strengths has been in bringing local talent to the microphones and helping them get the word out about their art. She also has a way of making callers into local celebrities.
Chalmers read a joke about an airhead on a treadmill to her listeners, from a San Francisco Chronicle column: “Smile, it makes you happy. I read that when you smile it releases dolphins."
Though there’s often an “embarrassing amount” of dolphins being released weekdays from 6-9 a.m. at KSCO, it’s not all about humor. Chalmers feels a great responsibility to provide listeners with information during emergencies, including coverage of the recent floods and tsunami.
During the May fires three years ago, the station was an important source of local news. Again, during the tsunami, dozens of drivers lined up along the cliffs in Aptos had the station turned up loud, savoring each bit of information released by Rosie and her co-hosts.
“We have a mandate to serve our community as broadcasters. This station does it every single time,” Chalmers said in her distinctive British accent. “If we sense that it is an emergency, we’re on it.”
In 20 years, much has happened in radio, including computers, making the job of broadcasters a ton easier. There’s been a lot of laughter, and a few tears.
Chalmers once made Richard Simmons cry. While interviewing the celebrity, she mentioned Simmons' dog, which had recently died. "I felt terrible. Richard Simmons cried on my radio program!”
Her anniversary plans include wearing a pretty dress, and keeping an eye out for anyone carrying a pie.
“I can’t believe it’s been 20 years,” said Chalmers. “I never even dreamed of a career in broadcasting, but I’m delighted that it’s come that way. And I’m here for another 20 years, if they’ll have me.”