Talk it out
Dave Smith, radio talk-show host
If there's one motto that Dave Smith lives by, it's “Do what you love.” Bitten by the broadcasting bug at a young age, Smith has showcased his easy-going conversational style as a radio talk-show host for more than 35 years. Along the way, he's interviewed celebrities, covered sporting events and struck up a friendship with another up-and-coming broadcasting personality—Rush Limbaugh. When he's not on the air for his show On Tour With Dave Smith, Smith keeps busy selling retro video games, DVD movies and fake poop at the Folsom Boulevard Flea Market. Yes, fake poop. SN&R put Smith in the hot seat to ask him about his radio career, his business hobby, and what it was like getting to know one of the most rabble-rousing figures in media.
What made you interested in becoming a talk-show host?
About 38 years ago, I got my first break with Channel 40 KTXL. They were doing a story about rafting down the Sacramento River from Sunrise [Boulevard], and I happened to be out that day. They interviewed me about rafting. I think I was about 16 or 17 at the time. Not long after that, I walked into the general manager's office at Channel 40 and told him I wanted to work in broadcasting. He told me to stay in school.
What was your first break?
A couple years after [I went to KTXL], I got the opportunity to do a couple of spots at a small AM radio station, KJAY, and that turned into a weekly three-minute spot where I would go out and do interviews. Two years after that, it got expanded to an hour. Then it became two hours of weekend entertainment, and 35 years later, I'm still doing it. It's been an incredible ride—especially when you consider some of the things I've gotten to experience that people don't normally get to experience.
Highlights from your career so far?
I got to fly in a Goodyear Blimp. I've gone to cover the Sacramento Kings, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, and I've gone to the Super Bowl. I even got to hold the trophy after the game. I've also gotten to interview a lot of celebrities. It's just been a lot of fun.
You came up at the same time as Rush Limbaugh and knew him personally. What was he like back then?
Rush was a kick. I was on the radio three years prior to him arriving in Sacramento, and the first day he was on KFBK, he [said he] wanted to ban ugly people from the streets during daylight hours. It was his first day. I thought the bit was hilarious. He wasn't that political back then. He was just trying to be funny.
How did you get to know him?
Me and some of the other guys I worked with at the time started picking on Rush. We'd pull elaborate pranks and create things to drop off at KFBK under the cover of darkness. One thing was a vacuum cleaner painted completely gold that said, “Clean up your act.” We also made comedy songs about Rush. One of them he ran as his theme song for about six months.
Through all that I got to know his producer, and she introduced us. His show started to get a little more political after a while, but only with local stuff like the “late rail” instead of the “light rail.” Then one day, he told me he was going to New York. I wished him luck, and he went on to become huge.
Has your radio show changed through the years?
Not really. Back when I started the show, I don't think the Sacramento News & Review was around, but I would find out what entertainment was coming to town, get their phone numbers and contact them. Sometimes, I'd get them to call in and do an interview so they could promote the event. But a lot of times, they would come out to the KJAY studio in West Sacramento. It's still pretty much the same today as it was back then, although I tape a lot of it now at my home or out on the road talking to people at events.
What sets you apart from other hosts?
I don't get political, and I'm always looking for the best in people. If I do a bad interview, I won't air it. If I don't like a movie or band, I won't talk about it. But if it's something I like, you're gonna hear about it.
I understand you also have a couple of side hobbies and businesses.
Yes, I do. I sell crap. Many years ago, I was playing around with some cement, and I made a couple of [pieces of] fake dog poops for fun. I recently revived that idea and started sculpting them again, but I put a key holder underneath. You can put it in your yard and hide your spare key, and I guarantee no one is going to pick it up. I recently sold out of them at Evangeline's in Old Sacramento.