Queen of talk
Hesperia casino issue provides newsy fodder for radio host Barbara Stanton
(Originally published February 17, 2004.)
"Hi, it's me," says a caller later identified as a pro-casino Hesperia resident named Glenn.
"Hello, Barbie Doll," a Baldy Mesa caller also interested in addressing the casino issue says before sharing his theory on the topic.
Despite the fiery contention over Hesperia's tribal gaming proposal, callers on both sides of the issue have developed a best-buddy rapport with 960-AM talk show host Barbara Stanton, a news media veteran whose move to the mic has made her the talk of the valley.
"I love it," Stanton, 54, says about the gushingly warm response from listeners. "I take it as a compliment."
Stanton is able to find the merits of multifaceted issues. One moment she's agreeing enthusiastically with a caller. The next she affirms the views of another who professes a completely different position.
As a result, however, some say Stanton's style is too agreeable.
"I had some callers say I'm too nice. But I am what I am. It's just my nature."
Although Stanton prefers pleasant interaction, she is not afraid of angry callers, even those in high places. According to Stanton, two Hesperia council members with differing views have been critical of Stanton's treatment of the issue, one saying she allowed unnecessarily derogatory attacks, the other contending too many callers were making uneducated comments.
"I've tried to listen to every side," Stanton says, "and every side has some validity to it."
The bottom line, she contends: "I'm not a news reporter. I'm Barbara Stanton talking on local issues."
Over the past few months she has invited numerous key people to talk about the casino. Guests have included pro-casino Hesperia council members Dennis Nowicki, Ed Pack and Mayor Pro tem Jim Lindley; and anti-casino council members Rita Vogler and Mayor Tad Honeycutt. Concerned Citizens Against the Casino members Pastor David Penn, Bill Muller and Vivian Houser have spoken.
Attorney Kevin Gover, the former assistant secretary to the Department of the Interior, has gone on the air, as have project spokesman Rod Foster and local Native American expert Larry Sunderland. Connecticut author Brett Fromson shared insight into tribal gaming before speaking at a CCAC-sponsored book signing event, and Stand Up For America founder Cheryl Schmidt has been featured on Stanton's show.
"I think I've promoted more sides of this story than anyone else," Stanton says. "It's a huge issue."
Born in Glendale in 1949 of Armenian heritage, Stanton grew up in Monrovia, about 10 miles from Pasadena. Stanton's son, whose 37th birthday recently was commemorated on the air, was born in 1967 when Stanton graduated from high school.
Stanton's first calling was that of a singer. Following in the footsteps of one of her favorites, Cher, who shares Armenian parentage, Stanton soon carved a career as a professional musician. And she wasn't a wannabe. She lived the life of a professional, eventually being recognized as one of top up-and-coming country singers.
"I've worked with Bob Hope, Roy Clark and Mel Tillis," she says. "I was a mini-star."
Nowadays Stanton showcases her prodigious singing talent by crooning at various local karaoke bars. Last week, she ignited the audience at Woody's Cocky Bull at Palmdale Road and U.S. Highway 395. Soon she'll sing at a Monster Truck event at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in Victorville.
After the conclusion of her professional singing career, Stanton started a second career in the media. During that stage, she was the news director at a small radio station, served as editor of a weekly, and later was Bullhead City's first public relations officer.
Around 1990, however, the harmony in her life turned to discord. A doctor performing a medical procedure on her back accidentally punctured her spine. It left her partially paralyzed, and Stanton, who eventually gained more than 100 pounds during her depression debilitation, needed a cane to walk.
"It took me 12 years to recover."
The turning point was the death of her mother.
"That's when I decided I want to live. To be quite frank I prayed to God."
Without formal exercise, Stanton has lost 117 pounds by reducing the amount of food she eats for dinner.
"I feel vibrant," she says. "I spent all those years ill. Now I'm ready to roll."
Last spring she decided it was time to get back into radio. But the door didn't open without a little nudge, a lot of hard work and an unexpected news event that propelled her to the fore.
She started by filing folders at Clear Channel's Victorville offices, which runs several local AM and FM radio stations.
But after the first two weeks she was frustrated.
"I almost quit."
Stanton credits radio personalities Colleen Quinn and Preston Stone for provided the encouragement needed to sustain her through her doubts.
"They brought me in."
Her big break came after mountains were hit by one of the biggest natural disasters ever, the devastating Grand Prix and Old fires. Stanton says former general manager Paul Mitchell asked her, "What do you think about talking midnight to 6 a.m.?" She jumped at the chance.
Although she had worked in the radio industry, she had never been on-air "talent." Immediately, she -- and listeners -- realized Stanton had a special ability to connect with people's hearts and minds. During one particular call she helped a woman who was especially upset about the fire.
"We had so many letters in response to that incident."
After the fire the station made a special time slot for her, 1 to 4 p.m.
"I replaced Dr. Laura."
Although she spends numerous hours researching the issues, she believes callers should have a voice.
"Putting a three-hour show together every day is not easy," she says. "I never did talk in my life. This is new. I'm loving this opportunity."
With a new career, healed body and revived life, Stanton is grateful for what she has.
"It's a do-over," Stanton says. "I'm very blessed."