Riding the wave

Disc jockey finds her niche at 'The Bone' in San Francisco

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

SAN FRANCISCO - Nikki Blakk is known for spending weekday afternoons with myriad drivers.

They could be men, women or teenagers reflecting all walks of life from nine different counties in the Bay Area. It doesn't matter; she's not picky. She just wants to be with them for the ride.

Blakk, with a face as creamy as white chocolate, is sitting behind a large microphone, situated inside a studio on the 11th floor at one of San Francisco's many vibrant skyscrapers.

For the past month, the Fairfield native has been talking to approximately 185,000 people between the hours of 3 to 7 p.m. on San Francisco's rock radio station 107.7 "The Bone."

But she prefers not to think about the amount of folks listening to her every word. Instead, she just pictures a small group of listeners in her mind.

The 33-year-old woman laced with a deep and sultry voice is the only female disc jockey in this all-male harem that exists on the six-year-old radio station, including Lamont and Tonelli, Steven Seaweed, Billy Steel and Paulie Mack.

It was only four weeks ago, Feb. 14, that she garnered one of the highest profile positions at the station, which has 375,000 listeners across a week and ranks sixth in the San Francisco metro market between the ages of 25 to 54. And she's riding the wave.
"107.7 The Bone, Alice in Chains, nature is more perfect than 'No excuses,' " she says into the mic, her eyes seductively closed as she continues to talk. "Aerosmith ahead of that. Mr. Steven Seaweed has officially left the building and you know what that means, right? That means that your rock 'n' roll ride home has officially begun."

She clicks off the air and answers a call as overcast clouds loom outside and Matchbox-sized cars fill the streets.

"There's traffic that is so horrible out here. Can you play some Rush please?" a woman asks.

"You know, I just walked in the door. Let me see if I can put some in," Blakk replies.

Finding the bone

The console seems to engulf the disc jockey as music blares from the hanging speakers.

Blakk sits in the midst of various screens, large consoles and numerous buttons, ready to pull information from her incredible mental filing cabinet at a moment's notice. A set of headphones are at hands' reach.

Rock music - at the moment it's Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant singing about "Kings and Queens in California" - mingles with the otherwise silence inside this insulated room.

Blakk knows she's fortunate to have landed this job; she was one of five finalists competing for the prime slot.

"Through the whole process, I really thought that I'd like to give her a shot," says Larry Sharp, program director for 107.7 "The Bone." "She's young, energetic, hungry and has a desire to perform. She's really impressive."

For Blakk, this was a goal she held in the back of her head. It's like going to Milan to buy leather, she compares, or getting married one day and having kids.

"Now that I have this, I'm confused," she says with a chuckle. "Can you believe it?"

Some folks in Fairfield who know Blakk could imagine she would one day reach a pinnacle; others might have had their doubts.

"Nikki Blakk" is the name she uses for the station; she prefers her real name not be used for security reasons.

Thinking back to her childhood garners a hearty laugh from the dark-haired woman. Maybe it was Blakk's time at Fairfield's Skateland, the only form of entertainment during her upbringing, or perhaps it was the $1 allowance she received every two weeks to buy a Charleston Chew and a Sunkist. No, it was probably the day Fairfield got MTV.

"I was at a Iron Maiden concert and dude, we got MTV! That was a big day in Fairfield - May 1, 1986. But it wasn't like a beginning for anyone else in the country, only for us," she recalls, finding the humor.

Blakk also remembers her first day at Fairfield High School fondly, the day she was suspended for sassing at the teacher, and somewhat recalls Janie Callahan-Chin, her preschool teacher at the Fairfield Parent Preschool.

"Every time there is anything from my preschool in the local paper, my mom sends it to me," Blakk says of her mother, Marilyn Sexton. "C'mon, what do you remember when you were 3?"

Granted, Blakk gets a kick when thinking of her teenage years in Fairfield, the days she held The Ramones shrine in her bedroom. But for Sexton, who still lives in Fairfield, her first-born was quite the handful.

"She was precocious and I had no idea what to expect," she says after several pauses. "She spoke very early, she was articulate but I didn't think I would survive her adolescence. What was not so hair-raising during that time?

"But she deserves where she's at," Sexton continues. "Nobody has worked harder than she has."

After graduating from Fairfield High School, where she was congratulated by then-principal Reed McLaughlin for finishing her classes, Blakk headed to Solano Community College and finally, San Francisco State University, where she majored in radio electronic communication arts.

BASS Tickets, Bill Graham Presents, an internship at "The Bone" and other on-air personality gigs filled her schedule - including working three jobs for more than a year, she says - until she finally landed herself a spot on "The Bone" five years after graduating college.

"I lived research for the past three years, voice-tracked and worked concerts all the time, literally spending 12 to 20 hours a day working in the concerts," she says quickly in one breath. "I was working so many venues that it's not even worth writing down. But now, this is my one and only job. Yeah!"

A career in radio

A career in radio is comparable to that of a race horse.

"It's hard to find someone doing this job for a long time," Blakk comments as she sits inside "The Bone" office, outside the studio.

Blakk wants to keep this job for as long as she can, she admits, but it all depends on ratings and bringing in the listeners.

"You never know what can happen, but I'm doing this for as long as I can," she says seriously.

While checking her e-mails from listeners, including one from a man who's looking for the names of rock's newest bands, veteran disc jockey Steven Seaweed walks in and hands out his baseball cards.

"You never know when you can sell it and get a down payment on your house," he says then laughs. "By the way, she's the prettiest DJ at 'The Bone.' "

Seaweed has been on radio for at least three decades. "He was on the air when I was a kid!" Blakk says.

"When I was an intern at 'The Bone,' he was amazing. He remembers people from years before," she says. "People would say to him, 'Hey, remember when I met you?' And he was like, 'Yeah, we met out at that promotion and you brought your Dalmatian.' He's the most amazing man on radio," she says.

At least for now, Blakk is one of the most amazing women on radio, having worked in some trenches, as Sharp puts it, and having paid her dues to radio. Well, somewhat, at least.

"I've done a lot of work but there are a lot of people who have been in radio for a long time that don't have this job," she says. "So, I'm actually green in the position, but there aren't a lot of women in drive-time radio. It's a difficult feat."