Charese Fruge’ Talks To Uzette Salazar
This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on September 29, 2020
Uzette Salazar is a third generation DJ. Both her grandfather and father had radio shows in Los Angeles when she was little, and her father also had a Public Affairs television show. He often brough her to the studio with him and she just always knew she wanted to be in broadcasting. “Grandpa did a radio gardening show-weird right? Dad did a radio show at KPFK in Los Angeles,” she says. “We soon moved to San Francisco to get away from the growing violence in East L.A. Antonio “Tony” Salazar (Dad) then started at KOFY radio as a jock in San Francisco. As time progressed, he went into Sales and was responsible for bringing the San Francisco Giants to Spanish broadcast.”
Uzette started college at City College of San Francisco, majoring in journalism and broadcast where she hauled newspapers in a shopping cart to fill the racks so people would hopefully read her entertainment page. She later transferred to San Francisco State. “Funny story about that,” says Salazar, “I started a diversity class, and on the first day, I looked up and recognized the teacher right away. She was a woman that had just been in my dad’s bed a few nights before! True Story. Pop was a lady’s man to say the least. He taught me how to have three dates in one day!”
An important life lesson to learn from Dad in this business, Uzette is the queen of networking! She served five internships at the same time while in college and mastered the art of making new connections, a solid skill for a successful Producer. Some of the impressive places she’s worked at in her 30 years in the business in the Bay Area include KCBS, KLLC (for two tours), KIOI, and Westwood One.
She’s worked with some big names as a producer, including Sarah and Vinnie at KLLC (Alice @ 97.3) in San Francisco, and according to her, there is only one way to make it work as a team. “Always say yes, then figure it out later!” She says. “It takes a lot of massaging, be it talent, the program director, sales…everyone needs to feel that they are getting something out of the deal. It is a 24-hour job but such a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. Team wise, after 20 plus years I can say they are still my family and I know if I was ever in trouble, I can call on them. I always told the team ‘If you land in jail, I will bail you out.’ A great producer has your back no matter what. No questions asked and more importantly, how can we make this a bit?”
Since March 2020 she’s been a Jock/Host for Hall of Fame Music Radio (HOFMRadio). “I love the variety of tunes we play: 60s, 70s, 80s and a whole lot more!” says Salazar. “Also, since March 2020, I have been a Segment Host for KOFY-TV 20 in San Francisco. Doing segments is fun because I get to talk to people of all walks of life–non-profits, celebrities, musicians and I review cool new products!”
Like most of the A Players in the business, Uzette is an adrenaline junkie and LIVE shows are what excite her the most about it. “As most people would probably say, it can be exciting to meet celebrities and music stars, but to be honest, only the really great ones are the ones I remember,” she says. “I always felt some of my greatest accomplishments were doing LIVE shows. Whether it’s a small intimate venue of people or a grand huge audience – the excitement I get from a LIVE audience is electric and so satisfying. Connecting with listeners is what I love!”
Over the course of her career, Uzette has held many roles rising through the ranks. But according to her, the transition over the years has been pretty smooth. “Producing, then Co-Hosting, then News/Traffic Anchor back to Producing and back to Hosting again is interesting, but so much fun,” she says. “Currently, I enjoy my radio air shift and hosting my tv segments. I have the freedom to enjoy my daily efforts and it gives me a chance to really help and connect with a lot of local non-profits that really need our help right now. It has made me realize that I wish Public Affairs would be a bigger priority in broadcasting in general.”
Uzette’s 30 years of experience did not come without its challenges. “It’s been tough being a woman boss because people think you’re being mean or aggressive when you are just trying to be direct and get the job done efficiently and effectively,” she says. “I have tried to handle it with grace and dignity. I think just dealing with folks especially in entertainment can be off-putting, but I just put on a smile and treat people with kindness,” says Salazar. “I also channel my Dad. I have to ask myself–what would Tony do? Don’t let them see you sweat, but at the same time sometimes you have to show your feelings. It’s ok to be human. I literally wake up every day and ask myself-what can I do for someone today? I listen to people, make no judgement and put myself in their place. Times are so strange right now and people are different. Appreciation is hard to come by.”
COVID-19 has also presented a few challenges for Uzette, but she’s turned it into a major positive. “I can’t lie and say, like many, I haven’t experienced a mild form of depression, because I have. It’s a daily conversation I have with myself and my husband to keep my spirits up and keep it moving,” she says. “Professionally, I know how to use ZOOM!!! COVID-19 has afforded me the opportunity to talk with isolated kids and disabled seniors. I started a senior letter writing campaign in my community – neighbors write notes and kids draw pictures for the isolated seniors. I have helped to raise money for organizations that aid in food and housing insecurities. I have hosted and produced videos for folks with small businesses to get their word out. A local horse rescue organization asked for my help and you bet I was there to help!”
Uzette hasn’t gotten through so many years of accomplishments in the broadcast business without help from mentors. That’s why she is committed to paying it forward. “I hope in my decades long career that I have helped guide a few people along the way. I had a few mentors in my career: Norma Burgos, Juanita Montgomery, Tommy Del Rio and Michael Martin. I hope to mentor many more in the future!”
While wondering if she made the right decisions throughout the day keeps Uzette up at night, serving her community and spending quality time with her husband John and dog Ella gives her the balance she needs to stay focused during the day. Her goals moving forward are to continue to get involved in the needs of her local community and to get back into local radio. “I still have a lot of broadcast years left in me!” she says. “So, I’ll keep on keeping on!”
Follow Uzette Salazar on IG@uzette/ FB@uzettesalazar/ Twitter@uzettesalazar/ Pinterest@uzettesalazar? Linkedin@uzettesalazar / The Uzette Channel on YouTube.