This month marks your 30th year in radio.What have been some of the high points for you?
When I actually took over the [KEZ morning] show and was paired with Bill [Austin]. It was Beth & Bill for 20 years. We had some really fun guests along the way. I think really, just achieving success – what we felt was success, with people enjoying the show and having that show in the ratings. For me, that was the best – doing something I love and having it work, and people were obviously very supportive. And women are supportive of the show, and I appreciate that.
You’re an inspiration to a lot of women, and you honor other women every year with the Beth McDonald Woman of the Year Award. Who are some of the women that have been most inspiring to you?
My mother. And my mother is alive. She had a great influence on all of us growing up – I have two younger sisters. And she was very, very funny, and she always loved to listen to the radio in the morning, so that probably had some kind of influence on me, although I know when I was really little – 4 or 5 years old – and my grandparents would come over, my mother and dad told me I would interview them with a pencil as a microphone as they came through the front door. So my mother’s been very, very important to me. Probably she is the most influential woman in my life, I would say. I see very strong women now – Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Janet Napolitano – I’ve loved seeing her success and what she’s accomplished in her life. There are a lot of strong role models out there for young women. My grandmother, Anisa... she was a big influence, too.”
You’ve balanced career and family for decades. What is your advice to people who may be struggling to do the same?
It’s hard. There are probably going to be some areas of your life that are not going to get your full attention at certain points. Can we have it all? I think it’s really hard to have it all. There were times when I was very, very tired, and I’d get home when my kids were little and be trying to take care of them, and get dinner on the table, and be ready in the morning for the next show. So at some points in my life, I’m sure I was pretty frazzled. And then I went through a divorce, and that was very difficult, but I found out through that how strong I was, also. Sometimes the things you don’t expect to show you your strength – and you think it’s going to be the worst thing – actually do show you that you’re strong and you can get through it. I think women in particular are very strong, because we’re expected to do a lot of different things. And we do it. I got dinner on the table, I took care of the kids and made sure they were OK, put them through college, and it all worked. And I’m very, very fortunate in my life. I’ve had a very good career and I’m very lucky. I know a lot of women are struggling. They worry paycheck to paycheck, and I actually think about that a lot. It’s tough for a lot of women. When I start to complain about something, I think, “Beth, you don’t need to complain. There are plenty of people who really are trying to do everything, and it’s hard.”
You’ve been outspoken on issues such as preventing teen bullying and gay rights. Why do you feel it’s important to take a stand on these issues?
Probably because I have a microphone, and I can do it for the people who can’t be heard. Because we have a lot of people who listen in the morning, and they sometimes actually respect what I say [laughs]. Not always – not everybody agrees with me – that’s, as Bill used to say, “That’s why Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors.” Because I can, because I feel it’s important to stand up when you feel there’s been a wrong, and say, “You know, this isn’t right.” Especially on this issue of gays. I went up against the dicocese. And I’m Catholic. I thought, “You know, it’s time.” So I did... I was supposed to emcee the diocese dinner, the big closure dinner of the year, and I’d been asked to do that, and I’d also been asked to be the grand marshal of the pride parade here. Actually, I wasn’t going to be in town the weekend of the pride parade, so I told them “I can’t do it, I’m sorry,” but somehow the wires got crossed and some posters went up with my picture on them, and somebody from the diocese called and said, “We need to meet with you.” I knew what it was. So I said, “OK, come down to the radio station. We’ll meet.” They said, “Word’s gotten back that you’re going to be the grand marshal of the gay pride parade.” I said, “Well, actually, no I wasn’t going to be, but if I could be here, I would be. Is there a problem with that?” [laughs] They said, “Well, it kind of goes against the Catholic church” – and I frankly don’t think it goes against the Catholic church. The Catholic church says “Don’t practice,” it doesn’t say, “Don’t be gay.” You’re born that way. Who cares? Who do you think made you? If you believe in God and Jesus, who do you think made gay people? So here I go...
You sound like the pope, though.
[laughs] I love the pope, or as I call him, My Man Pope Francis... so they said, “Well, we’ll go back and talk about it and think about it.” So I left, and I went right over to my computer, and I said, “I’m going to make this easy for you. I’m not going to emcee your dinner.” And then I called the pride people and said, “I’m going to make it work,” and I called my husband and said, “I’ve gotta be in the parade, so we’ve got to make things work.” [laughs] So I did. And I was really happy that I was able to do that, and my daughter Shannon was there to watch me. She rode in the car with me in the parade, and it was very cool.
I think it’s important to note you have a lot of listeners in both camps – you have a big Catholic audience, and you have a big gay and lesbian audience.
I heard from so many straight, Catholic people who supported me. And I heard from so many mothers and fathers of gay children who said “Thank you, it’s been very tough.” And then I heard from a lot of [people in] the gay community, which I felt just so happy about and very humbled, that I was able to stand up and be kind of – for lack of a better word – a spokesperson. Here’s the way it is, and can’t we all just love each other? That’s what it’s all about... I told my son, “I think it’s gonna be your generation that changes things.” I hope it is... and I hope that some people see, “Hey, Beth’s all right and thinks everything is fine, then why shouldn’t we?”