By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
After a year or so, KMPX's owners tried to impose some structure on the anarchic operation. In response, the entire staff went on strike, demanding, among other things, summer solstice as a paid holiday. Later, after an astrologer cursed the parking lot (thereby dooming KMPX for all eternity, in Donahue's opinion), the dispossessed workers moved en masse to another station, KSAN. The radio revolution continued at the new address, attracting the loyalty of many a rebel along the way. When the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, it used KSAN to communicate with the rest of society. Once during these months, federal agents asked to meet Tom at the home he shared with Raechel (they married in 1969). It's a shame this get-together never actually took place, given how it forced Raechel into domesticity mode. "There were pot seeds all over," she says, "so I had to vacuum for the FBI."
When Tom died in 1975, Raechel headed down the coast to Los Angeles's KMET, another of his stations and a landmark in its own right, to try to clear her head. "It was just too painful to be around all those old memories," she says. "San Francisco is a very small town, and it was just inescapable." Two radio stations later, she received a terrific opportunity to explore a new medium when she was hired as an entertainment reporter by CNN during the Ted Turner-owned television network's nascent days. She was soon assembling segments for People Tonight, an Entertainment Tonight-like video-magazine that also co-starred luxury-lover Robin Leach. "I learned all my video skills from Ted Turner," she says, "because you had to do everything fast and cheap."
Other TV experiences followed, including work as a writer and producer for On the Flipside, a music-oriented program aired on a local L.A station. Additionally, she established herself as a sought-after voice talent, providing background chatter, fill-in overdubs and lots more for a startlingly wide range of television and film projects -- from The Bob Newhart Show and Battlestar Galactica to all of the Rocky movies. This specialty is dying out, since the Screen Actors Guild has changed rules that once forbade extras from speaking. ("That's so wrong," Donahue jokes.) Nonetheless, she's stacked up such an impressive, not to mention bizarre, list of credits that she draws thousands of dollars per annum in residuals.
Examples? Donahue boasts that she's "died during sex" in many pictures, with the 1981 Burt Reynolds flick Sharky's Machine standing out because she made noises for both the doomed woman and "the old lady across the street who saw what happened." An even prouder achievement was "talking jive" for sitcom veteran Barbara Billingsley in the 1980 laugh riot Airplane!, and she put some needed authenticity into The Wedding Singer, a 1998 Adam Sandler vehicle set during the '80s. "We were all pretending to be kids listening to music, and I shouted out in my highest-pitched voice, 'Let's all go down to the mosh pit!'" Donahue remembers. "The director stopped everything and said, 'Hey, lady. This film is about the '80s, and "mosh pit" is such a '90s term.' And I said, 'Oh, honey, we already did this. I'll bet you think you invented green hair and nose rings, too.'"
Of course, Donahue knows more than most about these phenomena, having worked at Los Angeles's KROQ, the country's most influential modern-rock station, during the early and mid-'80s, when it was turning the Cure, Depeche Mode and the like into American hit-makers. Subsequent stops included the original KIIS-FM, where she co-hosted L.A.'s highest-rated morning show with DJ Rick Dees; a SoCal challenger dubbed the Edge; Radio Riviera, headquartered in fabulous Monte Carlo; and, at the dawn of the '90s, an L.A. techno station that called itself Mars FM. She loved Mars FM, but after a year, the mission failed. "It was kind of like The Producers," she says. "We had great ratings, but the owners didn't want it to succeed because they'd have to pay back the investors -- so they decided to change the format to smooth jazz. I was so disappointed that I decided I no longer wanted to be a member of a club I kept being beaten over the head with."
With that, she backed away from radio for the better part of a decade, although she didn't entirely abandon the dial. With her son, Jesse Donahue, she co-hosted Tres Generations, a weekly journey "from bebop to hip-hop," for a public-radio station in Northridge, California. But in general, she focused on documentary films, which allowed her to talk about music in a different context.
Take Rock and Roll Genius: Phil Spector, a piece she constructed three years ago for the Discovery Channel. Phil Spector has been in the news because he was charged in the February 2003 gunshot death of aging starlet Lana Clarkson in his Alhambra, California, mansion; he's currently free on $1 million bail. However, he made his reputation as an eccentric producer whose vaunted Wall of Sound formula enhanced '60s pop orgasms such as the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin.'"