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News - All - 23 Aug 2019

News Item 65 of 4672 

Miscellaneous: 23 Aug 2019
‘Don’t get above your raisin’!’ Radio queen Angie Hill keeps it real after a quarter of a century

I live with this constant fear that one day someone will pull back the curtain and realize I’m a fraud! I can’t explain it,’ says local radio queen Angie Hill about impostor Syndrome. - Mathew McCarthy , Waterloo Region Record

She's been a local radio presence for almost a quarter century, a brassy bastion of quips and comebacks, one woman holding fast against changing trends, fashions and economics, with more on-air configurations than the alien shape-shifters on "Star Trek": Neil; Angie & Brian; Angie; Mark & Brian; Angie; Brian & Sarge; Angie & Brian; Angie; Jeff & Brian; and Angie & Sarge.

She's Angie Hill, and as former host of the morning show on KOOL FM and, since 2016, KFUN's "The Angie Hill Show," she's a community tent-pole no different than the Victoria Park clock tower or a Drayton production of "Beauty and the Beast."

If she were a car, she would be a Ford Mustang GT: tough, steady, dependable but boisterous, upbeat and fun to drive.

Born in Chesley, Ont., a small farming community north of Walkerton dubbed "the nicest town around," Hill is nothing if not down to earth, a cackling, delightfully unpolished presence who connects with listeners and cuts through corporate doublespeak, regardless of radio format.

My first reaction when I encountered your humorous, no-B.S. attitude was, "What is Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick doing at a Kitchener radio station?" As one of the rare media people who likes the song "We Built This City," this is a compliment.

I love this. Even though I come across this way, people still don't take me seriously! They say I look like a cartoon — the look of me just makes people laugh.

How so?

Because I'm so frenetic and always seem to be moving — and my facial expressions. On the air you can't see them, but when I speak, I'm very animated, especially telling a story. I like to act it out.

You've been on local radio almost 25 years. Holy cow — 25 years?

Holy f---, 25 years! Omigawd! Well, this makes me the longest running morning show host in K-W now. I honestly didn't know I was that old!

What's changed since 1995, when Alanis Morissette ruled the airwaves, a "Die Hard" sequel was the year's biggest flick and everyone was watching "Seinfeld"?

The shift from personality-driven radio, where you had to lay your guts out and tell the truth about things.

Then it went to "Don't say too much — you're the voice of the station! It's all about the music! Nobody wants to hear about your stupid life! Don't use 'I'!"

(Laughs) Then it was back to personality-driven radio.

What was the lesson?

You need to have strong opinions. You can't be wishy washy or people won't connect with you.

When people tell you their grandparents used to listen to you while driving them to hockey practice, how does it make you feel?

I go "What, your grandma? Omigawd!" Well, I'm glad that in some cases people liked me enough to keep me in their lives for generations! It makes me feel I've done something right.

You've been working a 5:30-9 a.m. shift every day for 24 years, which has meant waking up at 3:15 a.m. every day for 24 years. 3:15? Please paint a vivid picture for readers.

I sleep with my little dog, Lulu. The alarm goes off. We both kind of lay there for a second.

Nine times outta 10, I get up and think, "I get to do this today!" Like (local radio guru) Larry Silver always says, "We get to be on the radio today!" And he's so right. It really is an honour and a joy to do this.

So I get up. Willie (her husband) gets up too, puts the coffee on.

I go to the door ... open it ... breathe out like the boys from "Dumb and Dumber" to see how hot or cold it is. I probably have some choice words about the cold in the winter. If it's winter, Willie has warmed the car up for me. I may or may not be a princess.

In 2016, your former workplace underwent a corporate restructuring that saw major layoffs and bumped you from adult contemporary KOOL to nostalgic oldies KFUN. Not all your colleagues survived that shift.

I was called to a meeting at the CTV News building and told KOOL-FM would be no more and I would be moving to 99.5 KFUN to work on the morning show.

That was most likely the biggest change for me — 105.3 had been like my first child. I lived it, breathed it and loved it, likely more than a person should. I was very hurt when that station died but thankful for the opportunity to move forward.

When you made the jump, the only classic rock tune you were familiar with was April Wine's "Sign of the Gypsy Queen." How did that implant itself in your brain over, say, "Hotel California" or "More Than A Feeling"?

Because they played it at roller skating in Chelsey — that and Trooper. And Sweeney Todd.

Every time we talk about music, you make it clear your first love is country, not KFUN's blend of '70s/'80s/'90s pop rock. Merle over Gowan? I know you got your start on country radio in London, Ont., but there must be more to it.

I love the stories a Merle Haggard or a George Jones has. It's real sh--. Not sugar coated with big words and so on. It's easy to understand — straight to the heart, gutty stuff. I do like Gowan's hair. I always loved Larry!

Is it true the Rolling Stones song "Angie" was written about you? "Angie, Angie ... When will those dark clouds all disappear." If true, they sure misjudged your personality.

I hate that song.

What about Helen Reddy's "Angie Baby"? "Angie baby, you're a special lady/ Living in a world of make-believe." Again, they seem to have missed the mark on temperament.

Again, I hate that song.

You emceed concerts at Lulu's Roadhouse for six years in the '90s. What was your most memorable celebrity encounter?

We were sitting on a freezer at 3 a.m. smoking cigars and James Brown came out of his dressing room with a giant fur coat on. That was bizarre.

Then what happened?

He said, in his James Brown voice, "Hey cats, what's shakin'?" My bestie Steven Haskell looked at me with the biggest eyes I've ever seen and said "Holy crap — that's James Brown!" He asked, "Ya'll wanna picture or what?" We did, so we scrambled for the Kodak insta-print kept on a shelf backstage — one pic left. And it was of me, James and Steven. Steven and I both, til this day, will call each other and say "That was James friggin Brown!"

You said that if a "normal" person were to run into you in the KFUN hallway, they would be mortified? Surely this is an exaggeration.

(Laughs) Maybe if they heard my foul mouth.

How would you describe yourself as a kid?

Friggin' bigger than life, ready to take on the world. My whole thing was I have to be the best at everything I do.

Were you funny?

I just learned how to break up a stressful or heavy situation with laughter.

Because I've always had a weight problem, I found when I was younger I would take the pressure out the room by making a funny comment. Breaking the tension was always the motivation.

Were you angry as a teenager?

Naw, just impatient. I always wanted things now and had a tough time waiting for things to happen. I always thought I had to make it happen.

You told me you have too much self-doubt and insecurity to ever get a swelled head. Who would think Angie Hill suffers from Impostor Syndrome?

I live with this constant fear that one day someone will pull back the curtain and realize I'm a fraud! I can't explain it. My mom always says, "Don't get above your raisin'! You're no better than anyone else!"

Don't get above your raisin'? A Sun-Maid raisin?

Don't get above where you came from — your "raising" or "raisin'." We may or may not have a bit of hillbilly in us.

Your mom sounds pretty tough.

She was a single mom. I was born when she was 16. My grandparents worked in factories. When I grew up, everybody was a super hard worker and you didn't take days off if you were sick.

I'm not sure I would survive in Chesley.

I think coming from a small town where everyone knows your business, you kind of learn how to toe the line and respect everyone. And really, who wants to deal with the karma of being a jerk to people?

Where I come from, they call me on my sh--.

You have two dogs, a Shih Tzu and bulldog, but their predecessor was a Rottweiler. Were you feeling threatened?

Chuck was a Cane Corso/rotti mix. A beautiful dog. I got her back in '04. I had been having the odd person dropping by the house — mostly people I didn't know — just to say "Hi!" Sometimes it would be a little freaky — everybody thinks you're their friend.

I didn't feel 100 per cent safe, so I decided I wanted a big dog. One that looked scary but wasn't. And she was the best. She wouldn't hurt anyone, but I'm positive if the rubber hit the road, she would have been a force.

In 2003, you wrote a powerful piece for the Record about your experiences with postpartum depression after the birth of your son, Jesse. A bold move, no?

I needed to share this experience. If I could help one young mom or young dad understand what the hell was going on, then I did my job. It also made me human in the eyes of my listeners who maybe, in the past, had thought different of me. It was a game changer.

A lot of people said I was taking a real chance coming forward, but I didn't care. It needed to be done.

What was the reaction?

I had so many people want to talk and tell their story for the first time. Some were older woman in the 60s who were always told to keep their problems to themselves.

I'm pretty sure that was one of the first times someone had come forward to admit they were having a rough time. Not all this, "My life is so awesome and beautiful!" stuff.

It was, don't get me wrong, but I was struggling, and there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that and letting people know they are not alone. It's not a bad thing to admit when you need help.

This was a turning point?

It was the beginning of me letting down my walls and allowing people into my world and not being embarrassed by things in my life — letting people know I'm no different than they are and I care about each and every one of them.

I always have an ear for anyone who needs to talk.

You're known for your charity work. What's your biggest fundraising success?

It has to be the (Grand River Regional) Cancer Centre (which opened in 2003). From the Poster Boy Campaigns with Brian Bourke raising money before it was even built to the Grand Ride — a 120k bicycle ride for cancer. The satisfaction of knowing I had a hand in bringing that centre here makes me happy and proud.

I've also done a lot with the Humane Society and Toy Mountain, an initiative that brings Christmas to the kids that otherwise wouldn't have one. Lending my voice to the project is one thing, but it's the people that make it successful. That's one thing about this region: you put out the call and they answer in spades.

Tell me about, in your words, "the trials and tribulations of dealing with life's messes when you need to be happy and entertain everyone when you feel like dying yourself!"

Life isn't easy. I have had marital issues. I have had kid problems. I have worked with difficult people. I have had people pass away. Even though all of this is going on in your life you still have to do a show.

No matter what's going on, it has to be set aside for four hours a day so you can entertain people, sometimes in between the tears. That's something people don't know. They think we're happy all the time. I will say "most times," but we're people too, with real life dramas and situations.

Also, people can be mean. When they criticize or are just plain and outright mean people, it hurts. Something people may not know that my heart is very, very big and very, very soft. I get hurt easy. I'm sensitive, but I am trying to get over that.

You seem in no particular hurry to end this interview.

(Laughs) If I go home, all I'm gonna do is drink and smoke.

Are you joking?


Not that you're going anywhere, but if your time were to come, what would be your epitaph?

"Angie loved everyone, except you ... (laughs) ... and you know who you are!"

Catch "The Angie Hill Show" with Angie and Sarge weekday mornings 5:30-9 a.m. on KFUN 99.5. Hill also appears weekly on CTV Kitchener's 5 p.m. broadcast with Music Mondays.

Twitter: @JoelRubinoff

Twitter: @JoelRubinoff

Joel Rubinoff Waterloo Region Record/Twitter/AA

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