IT WAS VALENTINE'S DAY, AND SARAH FLEISCHER WAS LISTENING to the morning show. The subject was listeners' favorite people, and this guy called up and said Sarah Fleischer had always been his favorite 98 Rock DJ, but she was getting older so he was shifting his allegiance to someone else.
Well! WIYY-FM's midday disc jockey, one of the pioneers of rock radio in this area, wasn't going to take that kind of insult lying down, especially since she is the most-listened-to DJ in her time slot among area young people. (Especially among young men: A whopping 33.2 percent of all area males between 18 and 24 who are listening to the radio on any given weekday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. are tuned in to Sarah Fleischer.)
So Ms. Fleischer decked herself out in her tightest, sexiest mini and got herself down to the station, where she shared the mike with the morning DJ and made jokes about how hard it had been to get ready for work that day, what with having to struggle with the support hose and the walker and all that other geriatric stuff. (This, of course, all in Ms. Fleischer's sultry, low-pitched, smooth-as-the-best-bourbon voice, which is about as geriatric as raging hormones.)
Listeners called all day to say they didn't think she was so old, and that she was lookin' good, hon, and, as she tells you this, Sarah Fleischer's luscious voice rises and falls with the humor of it. But still, when you ask just how old is she, she hesitates. Then she tells you how old she is, because despite the naughty-girl voice, she is the quintessential good girl, conscientious to the nth degree. But right after the fatal syllables escape her she says, wistful as a kid, "You don't really have to print that, do you?"
YOU MEET SARAH FLEISCHER FOR THE FIRST TIME ON TELEVISION Hill, the home of WIYY-FM, in the small, gadget-intensive room from which her 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. show is being broadcast. And she does not look her age. Or, for that matter, any age.
Her face has no bags, no sags, no lines, no hard evidence of the fact that she's been an announcer for WIYY-FM for 14 long years -- several lifetimes in the vagabond world of rock radio, and certainly longer than any other woman rock DJ in the area.
The figure, too, is lookin' good, hon: Sarah Fleischer is slim, slim, slim. (Jane Fonda three times a week, no matter what.) She has large hazel eyes, bright pink lipstick, lots of tawny foundation. She is wearing chartreuse walking shorts and matching top with a wide black belt. She is well-groomed and rock-and-roll at the same time, which is not so easy to pull off.
In brief, she looks great.
And she sounds great. She is a small woman -- under 5 foot 4 inches, you'd guess -- but she has a big voice. In person, the voice is the same warm, low-pitched one 98 Rock fans know, but without the sultriness and without the exaggerated inflections that give her on-air voice its rock-DJ character.
She is very efficient. She shifts without apparent effort between answering your questions and managing the mechanics of her show: keeping track of the CD players, putting on the taped ads, doing introductions and station identifications. You get an impression of Sarah Fleischer as very competent, very practiced, very professional.
You also get a subimpression of Sarah Fleischer. If an impression is picked up by your mind, a subimpression is picked up by some other, subterranean means. Your subimpression suggests that Sarah Fleischer is not only competent and all that, but also a little nervous, a little worried that she might not please, a little like a girl who's been taught that her worth is in what others think of her.
A little like most women, in other words? At least like all those American women who, even if their minds believe in equality for women, haven't yet managed to make it part of their bones and their flesh? And who work harder and smile more than other people because of it?
Sarah Fleischer excuses herself for a moment to sit down, put on the headphones, turn on the mike, and here comes the sultry on-air voice: "Couldn't you just melt when you hear that song?"
Whoa! Talk about melting! If you're not melted after hearing Sarah Fleischer ask you that, you must be made out of granite.
EITHER THAT OR YOU'RE A WOMAN.
Sounding, perhaps, a bit hurt, she says that until about five years ago, women listeners "didn't like me; they were not comfortable with me." She doesn't say so, but maybe they felt the rock-and-roll-siren voice was not really speaking to them; it was speaking to men. Quite possibly to their men.