Naked DJ by Jo Maeder, Vivant Press, 2016
The effervescence of radio as a medium lends to its magnetism and its mystery. Who are the faces behind the obnoxious morning show’s energetic patter and late-night’s smooth seduction? Who would take such a demanding job in such a transient industry?
And what are they wearing?
Greensboro author Jo Maeder’s latest gift to the world, a novel that’s probably more of a memoir than she’d like to admit, exposes dirty secrets that take place behind studio doors, from skeezy execs and the entangled mafia-like network of the music industry to the old-school sexism that can run rampant in intra-station melodramas.
Naked DJ tracks protagonist Patty “Jazmyn” Brown (though she’s gone by more on-air pseudonyms than she can keep track of) as she moves to New York to take on a rock daytime show with a catty co-host trying to sabotage her every move — all while trying to shake off lingering co-dependencies from a former love affair with a rapper and deciding whether or not posing for Penthouse is over her fluid moral boundary line.
The deliciously scandalous story rips along at speed worthy of an AM shock jock, complete with irreverent, tight turns of phrase and to-the-point descriptive language that hustles the reader’s imagination such as, “The skyline was dotted with new super-tall buildings… It reminded me of a mythological hydra that if you cut off its head, grew back five.”
Told in first person, the tone is equal parts gal-pal, shock-value and barely embarrassed confessional. Maeder certainly earned the right to narrate with that authority, having deejayed for Miami’s Y-100 and becoming one of the country’s first female Top 40 DJs as the “Rock and Roll Madame,” along with swapping chairs on the daily with Howard Stern on K-ROCK.
Though besides all of that, just her shock of lavender hair alone could serve as evidence of her well-lived life, mirroring her character’s wild tear through ch-ch-ch-changes in her name, relationship status, job and concept of decency.
Jazmyn forms a much-needed alliance with Ariella, a DJ with whom she shares the passion for on-air highs and the same career pitfalls of betrayal, heartbreak and see-through blouses.
One of Ariella’s sage insights encapsulates one of the main themes of the story and the industry itself.
“The human voice is incredibly powerful,” she says. “It soothes. Destroys. Manipulates. If the eyes are the windows to your soul, the voice is what’s beyond the window, what’s really there.”
In Naked DJ, Jazmyn spends much of the story listening to other voices. By the end, she has begun to listen to her own.