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"Ann is genuinely interested in hearing other people's stories," Teresa says. "She just sucks it out of people. It's amazing to see it in action. She can get anyone to say anything."
"I do love to hear people's stories," Ann says. "During interviews I'm just unaware of anything else. It's just by the grace of God that I haven't dropped the F bomb (on-air) [more on this later]. And I believe every word that drips out of their mouths. Then later I look at Teresa and she says, 'That's the biggest bunch of bullshit I ever heard in my life. Did you see that look on his face?'"
The daughter of a Marine, Ann grew up in Lynnwood, Wash., the oldest of nine kids. Her sights were set on a microphone early on. "I love radio and I love music," she says. "I used to listen to the radio when it was 10 or 11, after everyone else was asleep, and think about what I would say or sing if I ever had the chance to be the one on the air."
After going to Seattle University on a volleyball scholarship, she came to Missoula in 1988 to earn her degree in psychology. She met her husband, Allen, her first day in Montana.
"He was an older, handsome, mysterious graduate student in experimental psychology," she says. "He had waist-length hair and a Junior Mint stuck to his jeans. For a month. There was something about him." They now have two sons—one who just graduated high school—and an eighth-grade daughter. "As our kids will attest, there is nothing quite like two psychologists raising children," she says.
Ann juggles a busy schedule, and she likes it that way. In addition to her therapy practice, she co-produces a weekly show called "Health and Spirit Radio," and took over the production reins for "In Other Words," the Montana Public Radio show that had been run by Beth Judy, among others, for 22 years.
"I think being born in 1965 affected me in a lot of ways: the war, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the unrest all around," she says. "I always wonder if all of that permeated me in utero. I rarely feel content."
As a therapist, she works primarily with severely emotionally disturbed children and their families as the clinical director at Partnership for Children. "It's rewarding work, but one needs good friends, a loving spouse, great kids, a good church, a comedy radio show, a band, a spiritual radio show, and a feminist radio show to get through it," she says. "I have all of those."
"The Ann and Teresa and Ann Show" provides an invaluable creative outlet. "As a therapist, you get eaten up by being so open," says Ann. "You have to do these things like music, or other ways to express yourself, to be known for who you are instead of always trying to know everybody else."
Ann is the technophile of the pair, a self-described "gear head" who loves gadgets and technology. She's the one who posts each week's show to their website (theannandteresaandannshow.com) after it airs on KBGA. She also records video and audio of herself and her duo Blue Dream at open mics and other live performances. "I am obsessive about recording because I like working with it," she says. "I just like having sound in my hand. I don't think of it as an historical document so much, like for posterity. I just like fucking with it."
She also recently started a page on tumblr (aszalda.tumblr.com) where she posts photos, songs, videos, audio snippets and other bits from a life she finds endlessly interesting.
"I have a tumbler too," says Teresa. "It's a tumbler of gin and tonic. With extra lime."
Teresa has little patience for technology, and doesn't listen to recordings of their shows. She doesn't check how many views their website has or how many likes they're getting on Facebook. "Given the option to sit at a computer, sit and read, or pick dandelions, I would pick dandelions," Teresa says. "I'm good at that."
"The Ann and Teresa and Ann Show" usually runs pretty smoothly, but with an anything-can-happen, improvised feel. It's a tricky balance to maintain their brand of planned spontaneity, and they weren't always this good at it.
Clark Grant worked as the program director at KBGA in 2009 when Ann called in to ask about having a radio show. She and Teresa had written and performed Parents Night Out: Sensory Overload, an eclectic, bizarre comedy show that featured such segments as "What's That In Your Mouth" and a "Visually Impaired Auction." The show was a fundraiser for Families First, done on the condition that then-Director Barb Cowan was not allowed to preview the material. The show was a hit, and other shows soon followed. At a friend's New Year's Eve party, Ann and Teresa proclaimed their mutual desire to do a radio show, and set out to conquer the airwaves.
Under the moniker Purple Bedroom Productions, they recorded a Father's Day special and shopped the tape around. Although the demo was roundly rejected by several commercial stations in Missoula, they kept their heads up. "Some people think we're funny," says Ann. (That credo became the show's tagline.) Then Ann called KBGA, Grant answered the phone and the fuse was lit.
"Right on," he said. "Yeah, you guys can have a show. Come on over. Tell me about it."
Ben Weiss served as KBGA's general manager at the time. "They were pitching their show as 'Car Talk,'" he recalls, "only with women, and not about cars." Weiss wanted to help them get on the air, but bristled at their brazen attitude. They insisted on doing a one-hour show in a station schedule built on two-hour programs. They demanded the 8:00 a.m. time slot. When asked to fill out a 20-song sample playlist, they entered "Journey" 19 times and then one song by Head East.
After reading the boundary-pushing titles of some of their planned segments ("Who's In My Mouth"), Weiss says he was "a little skeptical of their desire to ... treat the laws that govern the station's compliance with the feds in such a cavalier manner."
Once they took to the airwaves, though, he quickly became one of their biggest supporters. They stumble over the line from time to time, but thus far Ann and Teresa have avoided ruffling any FCC feathers. Of the two, Weiss says that Ann has always seemed more concerned with the regulations, chiding Teresa for swearing on-air or breaking the rules concerning event promotion and other public radio no-nos.
During a week last year when Grant was on a rare break, Weiss filled in on the board as the show's engineer/producer. Ann accidentally let an F-word slip, he says. It is a claim she flatly denies. Weiss failed to record the show (it's the only one not available in their website's archive), so we may never know the truth. But he stands by his story.
"To be there when Ann did it, I laughed with the full force of cosmic justice in my lungs," he says.
Weiss has seen enough on-air personalities come and go over the years to know that these two have a natural gift, an innate charisma that can't be learned or faked. He agrees with Grant that the contrast between their personalities is the key to their show's success.