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KOSI's Denise Plante Gets Real About Radio, TV, Anxiety and Her Darkest Time

A portrait of Denise Plante.
A portrait of Denise Plante. Tommy Collier
Denise Plante has slowly but steadily won the media game in Denver.

Plante is among the small handful of local personalities to have regular gigs on both Denver radio and TV thanks to her long-running gig at KOSI 101 and her hosting duties on Colorado and Company, a lifestyle-and-advertising hybrid that airs weekdays on 9News. She's also a master of social media who's learned how to spread her brand far and wide and a regular presence at high-profile charity events.

One of Plante's undeniable skills is to make the listener or viewer feel as if they know her. But in the following in-depth Q&A, she goes into details about her life and career that may come as a surprise to even some of her biggest fans.

In addition to recapping her unlikely rise from small-town Arizona radio enthusiast to decades of success on the Mile High City airwaves, Plante offers anecdotes about her family: Mike Plante, her husband of 27 years, and sons Austin and Wyatt, who are both in their teens. She also discusses what she calls "the hardest time in my life," when she learned circa 2011 that twenty-plus small magnets ingested by Wyatt were tearing his intestines apart from the inside. To make matters worse, her decision to post about what was happening in order to warn other parents about the dangers of the items prompted a series of online troll attacks that compounded her trauma.

Not that this experience has made Plante shy about sharing her experiences if she thinks they'll help others. She talks frankly about taking medication for anxiety in the context of touting a new campaign that attempts to destigmatize matters of mental health.

Continue to get to know Denise Plante a whole lot better.

click to enlarge Denise Plante at one of her early radio gigs. - COURTESY OF DENISE PLANTE
Denise Plante at one of her early radio gigs.
Courtesy of Denise Plante
Westword: Where are you from originally?

Denise Plante: I'm originally from California, but my dad retired at a young age — he retired when he was 42 — and we moved from California to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, when I was twelve years old. That's where I got my first radio job, at Hot 101 in Lake Havasu.

How did you first get interested in radio? Was there a class in radio at one of your schools, or were you just a radio fan?

I'm going to date myself, but do you remember the days when you would wait by your radio for your request and then you'd record it on a cassette and you'd have the sound? I used to do that. I've always been a fan of music, and I always thought it would be a fun job. But my main goal in the beginning was TV, because at my high school, Lake Havasu High School, we were the Fighting Knights, so we had a show called Knight Life News. I got into journalism, and I would do the announcements — and once a week, we would have high school news that we would stream on local TV.

So my goal was to get into broadcasting, but Lake Havasu, which is between Las Vegas and Phoenix, didn't have a TV station. That's when my parents said, "You should get into radio." Now, you're going to laugh at this, because it's so embarrassing, but I thought the more talent I could show the owner of the radio station, the more he would want to hire me. I thought I could show him different subjects I could talk about. So I brought in a VCR tape, and it had me singing in the talent show — so I could talk about singing! It showed me running hurdles — I could talk about sports! I thought, he's going to think I'm so relevant and will be able to talk about all sorts of things on his radio station!

What was the expression on his face as he sat there watching this with you?

He had a really good laugh! The station was so small; he was the owner, the program director and the morning-show host. And he liked my enthusiasm. He said, "Listen, I don't have anything right now, but if I do, I will contact you." I just didn't understand why he didn't hire me right then. To me, that all made sense, because I was eighteen years old.

After that, I went to UNLV for a semester, and I came back during the summer, and the town was so small that people came into the grocery store where I was working and said, "Denise, the radio station is asking if anybody has your number and to contact them." The owner didn't know how to get in touch with me, so he was broadcasting it over the radio station.

I reached out to him, and he had a job pushing buttons. I was pushing buttons for Rick Dees's Top 40 countdown. And when an opportunity opened at night, I marched into the owner's office — I'd turned nineteen by then — and said, "Give me a shot. I can do this. Let me get on the air." And he gave me a shot. Then, when afternoons opened, I went back and said, "I can do this, too. Give me a shot." And I got an afternoon show. This was 1992, and it was a Top 40 station — KBBC.

click to enlarge Denise and Michael Plante in 1993, at ages nineteen and twenty, respectively. - FACEBOOK
Denise and Michael Plante in 1993, at ages nineteen and twenty, respectively.
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What kind of music do you remember playing on the station?

Did you see Salt-N-Pepa on the Billboard Music Awards? Well, that was the stuff I was playing. "Push it real good!" [Laughs.] I played En Vogue, Vanilla Ice, C+C Music Factory. The music director mixed a lot of stuff in. There wasn't a lot of grunge, but we played MC Hammer and a lot of Alanis Morissette.

One of the fun things about working there is that Lake Havasu City is a resort town, and during spring break, MTV came out, and one of my jobs was to drive a boat or a Sea-Doo out to Copper Canyon and interview the stars through a telephone; they could put the telephone live on the air. So that's how I got my foot in the door doing a little work with MTV. It was just a fun opportunity. This was probably ’93, ’94. I did a couple of shows for them then, and after I came to Denver, I had the chance to work with them again, voicing a program where you would hear a jock on the air and I would do voiceover. I think it was called FM Nation.

After that, I did mornings at a country station in Bullhead City, Arizona — that's another small town. And by then, I'd already met my husband, Mike, who's from Greeley. I met him when I was nineteen, in Lake Havasu. He's done this whole crazy ride with me. Then we moved to Phoenix, and I worked a little out there.

We didn't have any kids at that point, so we thought, "Let's move to Colorado." I had family in Colorado, too, so one day, we packed up the car and drove there. No jobs, no nothing. But we got jobs and started going at it here.

We drove to Greeley and surprised Mike's mom. She didn't even know we were coming. I'd never had the opportunity to drive in snow, and I was scared: This was a girl who lived in a place where it got to be 120 degrees. Then, once we were in Greeley, I looked up the nearest radio station, and it was TRI 102.5 in Windsor. I worked there for a couple of months, and I was starting to put a package together for Denver when Ron Harrell from KIMN called me on the request line and asked if we could meet, because he was interested in hiring me. He drove to Greeley and we met, and after that, I took a job working evenings at KIMN.

He must have been impressed to drive all the way to Greeley for an interview. What was it about your style on the radio that appealed to him so much?

I remember him saying he liked me being upbeat — my personality — and I worked a lot of entertainment into the show.

It was such a blessing — almost like God working in a mysterious way. I'm very spiritual; I have strong faith. I was just getting my package together to send to stations in Denver, because my husband was already working there, and here's a job coming to me on the request line.

click to enlarge Denise Plante with Tom "Dr. Colorado" Noel on the set of Colorado and Company. - FACEBOOK
Denise Plante with Tom "Dr. Colorado" Noel on the set of Colorado and Company.
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How would you describe your job at KIMN?

It was wonderful. It was great. I really enjoyed it. It was KIMN when I first started there, and then it moved over to Mix 100.3. I worked evenings, and then I worked mid-days for a while. Then, in ’99, I got pregnant with my oldest, Austin, and my plan was to come back to work. But this baby changed my whole life. I thought, I just want to stay home and be with my son. So I quit work, and my husband took a job in Missouri — my brother lived out there — and we thought, okay, we'll move to a small town. That lasted four months.

Why such a short a period of time?

I was so bored! I went to Walmart one day and bought every candle they had, I was so bored. [Laughs.] I had no friends, but I was in the best shape of my life, because I'd go jogging every day with my son in the stroller.

Small-town life wasn't something you wanted to return to?

Not at that point in my life, and not now in my life. Eventually, maybe, down the road. But I realized one thing: I wanted to continue working. I wanted to be a mom and be there with my kids, but I also wanted to have enough time to accomplish what I wanted to do in life. So we moved back to the Denver area — we live in Castle Rock — and I started working at Alice. I did afternoons there for a long time.

Did you have that job lined up before you headed back to Denver?

No, we just moved. My husband took his old job back — he operated heavy equipment, he worked for the union — and I didn't have to worry about anything; everything was set. But I realized I wanted to work at least part-time. So I started working part-time there, and it's funny how things come full circle in life: My current program director, Jim Lawson, was the person who hired me at Alice. That was...seventeen years ago?

They allowed me to bring Austin into the studio. I put up a baby gate, and in between songs, I would color with Austin. It was fun, and then it got to the point where my husband would get home from work and I would give him Austin and I'd be able to head into work.

About what age was Austin when he was no longer able to color quietly while the microphones were on?

That's about any age [laughs]. But the wonderful thing about it was how supportive they were. Jim knew we were targeting women, and women thought it was cool that I was able to bring my son in, and every once in a while, they could hear Austin in the background. But I was more concerned about Austin being at the radio station, thinking he should be at home and comfortable with his dad. And we were able to work that out with our schedules with both our kids, so we were always able to do the hand-off. One parent was always there. That was a big blessing, I think.

So it wasn't that there were some people at Alice who were bad influences?

No! [Laughs.] I actually had a sign that said "Baby in Studio" before they opened the door. But everybody who worked there was always really kind and respectful. I don't have one negative thing to say about it.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts