HAWAII AT WORK
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
"Sistah Sherry" Clifton is a radio announcer with Chris Reiser on KRTR-FM weekday mornings from 5 to 10. Employed by the Cox Radio Hawaii station since 2000, Clifton says she enjoys everything about her job, except maybe the part about getting up at 3 a.m. each day.
For the love of entertaining
DJ "Sistah Sherry" of KRTR says she always wanted to be performing for the public
"Sistah Sherry" Clifton
Title: Radio announcer
Job: Co-hosts a morning radio program on Cox Radio Hawaii's KRTR-FM
SHERRY Clifton earned her nickname when she was host of a late-night "love songs" radio show, during which listeners would send requested dedications to "Sistah Sherry." The name stuck, and now serves her well as she co-hosts a highly rated morning radio show on KRTR-FM, where she has been working since 2000. Together with announcer Chris Reiser, the Waipahu High School graduate regales listeners from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. with news, traffic reports, music and upbeat commentary. It's the kind of job she always wanted, in keeping with an extroverted nature that also saw her being selected May Day queen in the eighth grade, and again at Leeward Community College, where she studied theater. As an actress, one of her most prominent roles was the lead character in local playwright Lee Cataluna's play "Da Mayah." "It was a great play," Clifton said. "It was all in pidgin." Clifton, 47, said she also likes to sing karaoke, when not enjoying family life at home in Ewa with Cris Caughill -- chief engineer for Cox Radio Hawaii -- and her 16-year-old son, Bronson Henriques.
Question: How long have you been in the radio business?
Answer: This is going on 14 years.
Q: What were you doing before that?
A: Before that I worked for Marriott (food services) and at Qantas Airways, at the airport. I was working at the two for the last three years, then I had my son, and I stayed home with him for awhile, for about two years, and then I got into radio after that. It seems like so long ago. He (my son) is almost 16 now.
Q: What was your first job in radio?
A: I worked in the traffic department for a few months, then I was the receptionist -- of course at different stations -- and while I was receptionist, I was doing weekends on air. And then eventually it became a full-time on-air (job).
Q: What was the first station?
A: I had interned at KSSK, and worked in their traffic department for a short while. Then I went to KQMQ, where I worked as a receptionist, and that's actually where I got my first on-air experience, at KQMQ.
Q: What gave them the confidence to put you on the air?
A: It was funny. My general manager at the Q was Bernie Armstrong, and I had let him know that I started out as a receptionist, but it was a job that was open, which I took to get my foot in the door. But I let my desire be known that I would love to do on-air, and, fortunately, I had people who believed I could do it. Jamie Hyatt was the program director for KQMQ at that time, and he actually gave me my first shot on the air. He had me go and work with this other jock on this night-time show. And the first night I was on, he called back and said I sounded great. So he actually gave me my first try, and from that point, it was just learning, trying to get better. I knew I could do the job; it was just having the opportunity and the break to do it.
Q: When you say were in traffic, what does that mean?
A: The traffic department is really the hub of the radio station. They put out the commercials that we hear on the radio. So while I was an intern there at KSSK, I was asked to join the traffic for a little while, and I'm glad I went through that because when I became a jock, I understood why certain things needed to be done.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
From the seventh floor of the Pioneer Plaza building in downtown Honolulu, "Sistah Sherry" Clifton, left, spoke on Wednesday to the audience of her radio show that she co-hosts weekday mornings with Chris Reiser, right, on KRTR-FM.
What is the KRTR format, and what kind of people listen to it mostly?
A: The format is adult contemporary, and basically our demographic is 25-to-54 women, which is our target. So, you know, we play music from the '80s, from the '90s and some of the today stuff. Some island music. Basically, it's a station the whole family can listen to. When you're driving your kids to school in the morning, at least, its safe to be listening to Chris and Sherry.
Q: So who is Chris?
A: Chris Reiser.
Q: And what does he do?
A: He's one half of our morning show.
Q: Why are you paired up with another announcer?
A: I asked my boss that. When they hired me to the job, I said, 'Why did you pick me?' Wayne Maria, my program director, said, 'I think you and Chris would work well together.' Chris and I hadn't crossed paths, because he did the morning show and I did the night show, but the powers that be felt that the two of us could work well together, and they were right. We have a lot of fun. I learn from him, and he learns from me, 'cause I'm a local girl. We've grown. We can even finish each others' sentences.
Q: Where's Chris from?
A: He's from Canada -- Newfoundland, but he's been in Hawaii for about 12 years.
Q: So what's a typical day like for you at the station?
A: Typical day is waking up at 3 a.m., get to the station by 5, and we're there until 10 a.m.
Q: You only have a five-hour workday?
A: Yes, on the air, but we stay afterward for some production, some interviews. I don't claim to have an eight-hour workday, but I'm there, and when I'm done, I go.
Q: And what goes on while you're there?
A: Chris and I doing the morning show. We have Jane Pascual* doing the news, and we have Danielle Tucker doing our traffic reports.
Q: How much of it is talk?
A: We try to do more music. We don't do a whole lot of talk. Some morning shows do a lot of talking. But we're more music intense. You won't hear Chris and Sherry going on for four or five minutes, because we have to get our news on. Our traffic is on every 10 minutes, so timing is important.
Q: What would be a typical piece of music you would play?
A: It would probably be "Heaven" from Los Lonely Boys, or something by Celine Dion, or Mariah Carey.
Q: Barry Manilow?
A: No Barry. (Laughter) Maybe he wrote some of the songs that we're playing, but no Barry. Maybe Luther Vandross, Atlantic Starr ...
Q: What attracted you to the radio business?
A: Well, I knew I would always be in some form of entertainment. I love music, I love acting. I love sharing aloha. So I thought, I could do that. I could be somewhere on the radio.
Q: Did you ever take any classes in radio?
Q: What about voice lessons?
A: I took nothing. I started out as an intern, under Michael Shishido, at KSSK.
Q: Do you ever provide the voice for radio or TV commercials?
A: Lots, for both.
Q: Is that extra income?
A: Some of it is in-house, but sometimes people call me, so I do some stuff for K5 (the TV station). I've done some work for tour companies. So now people will call me because I've been recommended. Sometimes I'll go to auditions.
And it's like acting. I like to do all these characters. There's something that was really awesome that I did a few years ago called "Tour Talk." I was the female narrator, along with Joe Recca, the male narrator, and actually, it's on a Web site, www.tourtalkhawaii.com. It's a self-guided tour for people who are in their cars. It's wonderful to have gotten that.
Q: Has the technology of radio gotten more complicated since you started in the business?
A: No. Actually, a little more easy, if you will. When I got in the business, it was almost the tail end of reel-to-reel, and announcements on tape carts, and music on carts, but now everything is automation.
Q: What's your favorite part of the job?
A: Gosh, I have so many favorite parts. I do have to get up at 3 in the morning, but I love what I'm doing. And it gives me opportunity, too, to do a lot for other people. We do our traffic and we do our news, and our current events; we do contests, where people can win prizes -- I always like to give away prizes. It's hard to pinpoint one thing, but one thing I like is that I can do a lot of good.
Q: What's your least favorite part of the job?
A: Probably getting up at 3 o'clock in the morning. But I really don't have anything I don't like. I get off at 10 o'clock, and if I'm tired, I can go home and sleep.
Q: What about having to play songs that you don't really like?
A: It's not that I don't like them, but because we're there every morning, we might hear the songs more often than our listeners. But I can handle, because I love music.
Q: What's your own favorite kind of music?
A: I love all kinds. I love island music. I love jazz, I love the '70s the '80s, I love the old Hawaiian music. I love R&B. I like Spanish music. I don't understand a thing, but I want to learn to sing "Sabora Mi" so I can go and sing it at karaoke.