Picture it: Greensburg, Louisiana, 1995. A young gay boy tunes into an FM station, and hears a man with a golden voice broadcasting his own radio show about modern gay life in New Orleans. Within two years, the gay boy would find his way across Lake Pontchartrain to that land of milk and honey. That gay boy was me, and that man with the golden voice was Michael-Chase Creasy.
Just over 25 years ago, on June 17, 1995, OUT! with Michael-Chase was broadcast on B97 FM for the first time. The show, which aired Monday through Friday, midnight to 2:00 AM, was one of the first (if not the first) gay-specific entertainment talk shows on a mainstream commercial FM radio station in the United States. While most episodes were broadcast from the radio station itself, the show also broadcast live once a week from the balcony of The Bourbon Pub and Parade. Toward the end of the show’s run, episodes were also sometimes broadcast live from Rubyfruit Jungle (the last lesbian bar in New Orleans, which closed in 2012).
The first time I tuned in to the show, my heart all but stopped when I heard the word “gay” spoken over the airwaves. Remember, this was 1995. Ellen had yet to come out publicly. There was no Will & Grace. Most people didn’t even have any kind of computer in their homes, much less access to the internet, which was still basically in its infancy anyway. It was fairly rare to see gay people portrayed in the media at all, and even rarer still to see them portrayed in a positive light. The only times I ever even heard the word “gay” thrown around in those days, it was in an incredibly derogatory way. When I tell you that hearing Out! with Michael-Chase changed the entire course of my life, it is no exaggeration. After first hearing it, I listened every chance I got, usually on the radio in my father’s truck. (I was way too afraid of getting caught tuning in to a gay radio show to listen from inside my family’s house.)
Was it a high-brow show? Not exactly. Many of the episodes would begin with a “shocker” type of topic (e.g., “Three-ways: Do They Work for You?,” “One Night with One Star: Who Would It Be?”). But as the evening progressed, and various listeners called in, the show often got more serious. People who had never before acknowledged that they were gay called in (mostly anonymously) to talk about that aspect of their identities for the first time. Parents who had kicked their gay children out of the house called in to say that listening to the show had given them a different perspective, and made them realize what a terrible mistake they’d made.
On one episode that I’ll never forget, Michael-Chase talked about getting together with his circle of gay friends for Thanksgiving Dinner. I can’t remember if he used the term “chosen family,” but it was my first exposure to that particular concept. I was astounded and incredibly excited by this completely new idea: that I might one day find my own circle of friends who were different in the way that I was. For the first time, I felt a real sense of hope that an authentic life might be possible for me. I know that countless other listeners across Louisiana felt the same way.
Years later, I was on the balcony of Oz, and I heard that golden voice in person. I knew who he was immediately, and finally had the chance to tell him what a difference he’d made in my life. To this day, it still blows my mind that I get to call Michael-Chase a personal friend.
Misti Gaither and Jeffrey Palmquist recently started broadcasting New Orleans’ newest live LGBT-related talk show, Lez Talk About It, on Facebook Live. I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest on that show with Michael-Chase last month, and I got to listen to him tell the story of how the show came to be, and to explain again just how meaningful it had been for me. Misti said to him, “You made it easier for people to call and interact with you, and feel like somebody understood and was there for them…It’s amazing what you did for the community, the doors that you opened. The hearts that you opened.” Jeffrey added, “You never know when you’re touching somebody’s life, or you’re making an impression, so you better treat it like you are all the time.”
I couldn’t agree more, and let me also point out that Misti and Jeffrey are practicing what they preach. Their work is carrying on Michael-Chase’s legacy. Lez Talk About It is an absolute treasure, and those two co-hosts have done more for our community than almost anyone else I can think of. If you haven’t seen the show yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
OUT! with Michael-Chase ended within a year of its launch after B97 was bought by a new owner who changed the station’s format. Sadly, Michael-Chase’s collection of archival recordings of the show were lost in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But I just know that someone somewhere recorded some of those episodes onto cassette, and some of those cassettes may be deteriorating in forgotten boxes. If that person is you, please reach out to the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana at email@example.com so they can preserve part of this incredibly important chapter in gay Louisiana history. Even if all you have are a few snippets, they are invaluable.
I’ll be talking about this show for the rest of my life. And while Michael-Chase has heard me say it many times before, let me say it once again: Thank you.