N ight after night on radio stations all over California, an easygoing, seductive voice introduces the classic sounds of smooth soul music. Flowing across the airwaves into the bedrooms of spouses, lovers and hopeful hookups, this voice guides the sexual fulfillment of hundreds of listeners across the state. And the woman behind the voice couldn't be happier about helping out.
Meet Lisa St. Regis, whose 10-years-and-counting radio show "Between the Sheets," broadcast locally on KISS 98.1-FM, is by far the best-loved source for the sultry, slow jams called "baby-makin' music." The playlist, featuring the likes of the Isley Brothers, Teddy Pendergrass and Earth Wind & Fire, drips with deep-soul romance, but the real highlight of the show is St. Regis herself—and the obvious satisfaction she gets from assisting in the satisfaction of others. "I want everybody," she said last weekend while working in the station's San Francisco studio, "to have a romantic evening."
In many ways, St. Regis was bred for the task. At the age of five, she drew sketches of wedding dresses and dreamed of true love; at 10, she demonstrated professional vocal ability answering phones at her mother's office. Come junior high, between making mix tapes for friends and poring over love-song lyrics, she realized that people seemed to come to her for advice—and in high school, she entered into show biz by starring as Rizzo in the musical Grease . At 18, she took a radio job in San Jose, and she's been behind a microphone, doling out love songs, offering advice and helping people hit the sack with each other ever since.
St. Regis, an Oakland resident born and raised in the Bay Area, brings two unique elements to the art of the boom-chicka-wow-wow: the first is her voice, a masterpiece in itself, containing just enough velvet tone to put both men and women in the mood; number two is her down-to-earth interaction with listeners who call in nightly with song dedications, dying to tell the world how much they love that special someone.
"It's always been amazing to me how somebody can call up on the phone and trust me enough to tell me the deepest things," St. Regis says. "One man—this was years ago—he was about ready to have an organ transplant, and before he went in to be operated on, he called in and wanted to make a dedication to his fiancée. Just in case he didn't make it."
Indeed, there's a sea of listeners who feel as if they know St. Regis like a best friend. Parents of children conceived while listening to "Between the Sheets" have called in when the baby is born. Wives have called to let their soldier husbands serving abroad know that they're pregnant. Boyfriends have called to propose on the air to their girlfriends. "I mean," St. Regis gushes, "how much more joyful can you get?"
It helps that St. Regis broadcasts an intoxicating dose of classic love songs every night: Heatwave's "Always and Forever," Luther Vandross' "Here and Now," GQ's "I Do Love You." Though she stays up on newer artists like John Legend and Alicia Keys, it's the older songs, she says, that get her listener's juices flowing—and not just due to familiarity. "The kinds of songs that are being released now have so much formula ," she sighs, "so they don't have the same depth or lyrical content, I believe, as some of the traditional, classic old-school love songs.
"I don't want to sound old," she continues, "but if the first thing that you're telling your girlfriend is 'Do this, do this, do this, and this'll happen tonight'—there's no romance there, there's no thought there. It just doesn't have the same emotion for me."
What about the bedroom classics played to death, like Barry White? Has she ever considered a moratorium on possible clichés, a "Sexual Healing"&–type of embargo? "No, not at all!" she laughs. "Those are some of our most requested songs! If you become a musical snob, you'll find you get 10 requests for that song. The music is popular for a reason; it speaks to a lot of people."
Though she's constantly interacting with the love lives of others and has even served as bridesmaid for five of her listeners, St. Regis keeps her own personal life private from her on-air persona. She's never been married ("Isn't it the craziest thing?" she laughs), though she's currently in a happy, long-term relationship with someone who, when they met, had never heard of "Between the Sheets." After a few breakups with men who had harbored preconceived notions about "Lisa St. Regis, radio host extraordinaire," it was a blessing to find him.
"People would hold me out to their friends to say, 'Look! Look who I'm dating!'" the popular radio host says. "And so it got to the point where that was almost the number one criteria—to not care about what I do for a living. It's difficult, when you're on the air, to find somebody who doesn't think that they know you already."
Her listeners, as usual, provide the vast pool of experience to draw on in her personal life. "There'll be people that have been married for 27 years, and my biggest question is how do you do it?" she says. "And I've learned that one of the biggest factors in people staying together is respect. For each other. And then comes love. If you treat other people with respect, you allow them to grow, you allow them to change, you allow them to make mistakes."
Among the many benefits to being in radio for so long—along with meeting James Brown, Smokey Robinson and Tina Turner ("She was regal," St. Regis remembers, "like a queen")—is a first-hand opportunity to witness music actually changing people's lives for the better. "Something like 96 percent of people in the United States still tune in to their radio on a weekly basis," she says, "and it's the only place where you can get a community feel, where you can hear your neighbors and have a central meeting place."
"Everybody who falls in love feels like they're falling in love for the first time, and each generation thinks that they invented love," she points out. "But I think that every time we hear somebody else with a situation that's similar to ours, then we stop having all these great dividing lines. It stops being 'us' and 'them,' and we start hearing a common thread."
"Love, relationships, family, and romance," she smiles, "that's universal."
'Between the Sheets' airs in the Bay Area on 98.1 FM Sunday&–Friday from 10pm to midnight.