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Spotlight on Ellen Bell
host of KUCI's Vintage Orange
by: Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

How did your show, Vintage Orange, come about?
EB: I've had a lot of great conversations during the course of my local history research and I always thought it was a shame that there weren't more people in the room with me listening to these great stories from the past. I want to bring these historians and OC Pioneers to the airwaves so that everyone can learn more about the place where they live. I also like the idea of preserving these conversations in podcast form for future research.

You're going into your second quarter here at KUCI. During your debut quarter doing your show, you focused only on Irvine. Why did you expand the focus to include all of Orange County?
EB: I just think it’s a natural progression. Orange County shares so much of its history. The show will continue to focus on Irvine, but we will move a little further out into stories that all of Orange County can appreciate.

What are some of the show themes you hope to explore during the spring quarter?
EB: I love to surprise people with topics and stories that they don't expect. My favorite response is, "I had no idea that happened here!" I'd love to dig deeper into the Wild West, cowboy heritage because it's so different from today's controlled environment. I'd also like to share stories of places that are no longer here, like The Newport Buffalo Ranch and Lion Country Safari.

Any guests you especially hope to schedule?
EB: I have so many friends in the OC history community that are willing to come on and share. I'd also like to bring on pioneer residents from Irvine when it first became a city.

You've written a book on Irvine's history. In researching Irvine, were you surprised by anything you learned?
EB: I have to admit, when I wrote the book, I had lived here for 25 years and barely knew Irvine history. I don't think that's unusual. So many people asked me, "Why are you writing an Irvine history book? There is no history in Irvine." The whole process of researching and writing that book was like going on a treasure hunt in my hometown and seeing it with new eyes for the first time. All of a sudden I understood why the streets were laid out the way they were, who they were named for, why the buildings were designed…it gave me a whole new appreciation.

Listeners might be surprised to learn you also wrote an Angels Baseball blog for the longest time. You sang at an Angels game. Would you say you're obsessed with baseball?
EB: Guilty as charged. I grew up in Chicago and began a life long love affair with the Cubs. When I moved here, my husband and I wanted to take our kids to games, so we became Angels fans about 1995. I sang the National Anthem there over 30 times and started a new love relationship. I've always maintained that I could be faithful to both because they're in different leagues. I can't wait for my annual pilgrimage to Spring Training in a few weeks!

What was your favorite show of the winter quarter?
EB: I confess that I'm new to the KUCI music scene. Before the training class I had never heard of Dream Pop or Death Metal, but I am really enjoying the scope of music offered here from people who are passionate about sharing it. Mystic Parfait mellows me out before I go on the air and I've become a devoted fan of Galactic Soup. That show always makes me smile.

Let's talk about KUCI. Talk about how you came to host a Public Affairs show here.
EB: It's all your fault, Barbara. I was a guest on Writer's on Writing a few years ago and was introduced to KUCI then. When I had my epiphany about preserving historical conversations, I knew just the place to do it!

What excites you about being on the public affairs roster?
EB: KUCI is an incredible collection of some really fascinating people. I am always learning and getting the benefit from new perspectives and ideas.
I'm very excited to add to that mix.

Are there radio shows, either on KUCI or elsewhere, that you hope to emulate?
EB: Besides Writers on Writing??? I'm learning from everyone I hear. I suppose I like shows where people share their passions in a thoughtful way..
The guys on Friday mornings, Nathan and Mike, always make me think, and usually smile. :)

You took to going on-air easier than most. Because you have an acting background, do you think?
EB: You're very sweet to say that because that it has been a huge challenge, but I think its important to push yourself outside the safe boundaries of your comfort zone. That's where life really gets fun. I have to say that EVERYONE I’ve met at KUCI has been nothing but extremely generous with me in my radio engineering struggles. I have encountered some amazing kindness.

Okay, fess up. Talk about being Peter Pan…
EB: Wow, OK so now that's out there.Yes! I have been known to put on green tights and fly about..sometimes into scenery. Theater is another passion of mine and Peter Pan is my favorite role, probably the "not growing up" part, and I really love to fly.

What else would listeners be surprised to find out about you?
EB: Hmmmm. Well, when I was in college, I was lead singer in an ‘80s pop band and did my best Pat Benatar imitation in biker bars all over central Illinois. I love to pull out the rocker chick promo picture and embarrass my kids.

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is host of Writers on Writing, Wednesdays at 9 a.m., and a contributor to USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series (Akashic, 2013). Watch the book trailer at penonfire.com.


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