On the evening of April 11, 2006, the very first Windy City Queercast was appropriately heralded with Pearl Jam's 1991 debut single, "Alive." Radio celebrity and Queercast host Amy Matheny and Peter Mavrik ( a DJ and co-host at the time ) began by remarking on the beautiful early spring weather. "What a gorgeous day in the city," Mavrik exclaimed. "It's coming. You can feel it in the air. It's ready to burst forth!"
And burst forth Queercast did, with biweekly and then weekly podcasts that grew out of the Windy City Radio LGBT FM and AM shows, hosted by Matheny and an array of co-hosts including now-Lambda Legal Midwest Regional Director Jim Bennett as well as activist and Morten Group President Mary Morten.
Windy City Radio had launched following the 2001 Windy City Times purchase of LesBiGay Radio from its founder, Alan Amberg, in 2001. Matheny was a host on LesBiGay Radio which earned a place in the National Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame as the nation's first daily, drive time show for an LGBT audience.
However, even a one-hour Sunday-night show on Windy City Radio's FM station was a costly undertaking. By 2004, podcasting was beginning to take off as a worldwide Internet phenomenon. One year later, Matheny and her colleagues had an idea. "We wondered 'what if we went to online radio because the real estate's free and you can talk all the time'?" Matheny told Windy City Times as she looked back upon over eight years of Queercast. "Things were shifting in 2005 and you just realized that the Internet age was really taking over."
With the support of Windy City Times, Matheny teamed with Mavrik, who took care of the technological end of the podcast while Matheny rigorously tended to the rest of the details of each show. "This never would have happened without Peter," she said.
On Nov. 17, 2014, Mathenyalongside performance artist, actor and longtime Queercast co-host Mitchell Faincelebrated Queercast's 600th show. "If you'd told me in 2006 that, every week, I would be talking about LGBT issues on a show that anyone can listen to for free unedited, uncensored... I mean pretty much anything and everything has happened; laughing fits, tears, compelling new things, breaking news and, of course, catching up with friends," Matheny said at the open of the broadcast. "I have talked to a lot of interesting people."
Some of those interesting people have included a then-unknown Lady Gaga, Cyndi Lauper, Jennifer Hudson, RuPaul, Helen Mirren, Levi Kreis, kd lang, Margaret Cho, Cheyenne Jackson, Del Shores, Sandra Bernhard, Jennifer Beals, Lucy Lawless, Lynda Carter, Carson Kressley, Betty Buckley, Candis Cayne, Sarah Waters, Clay Aiken, Sharon Gless, Judy Shepard, Leslie Jordan, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls, Lily Tomlin, Colton Ford, Andy Cohen, Joan Rivers and Idina Menzel.
While some celebrities made Matheny nervous and conversations varied from icy and blunt to the kind of openness shared by a pair of old friends over a glass of wine, she recalled each one as a distinctly memorable moment in Queercast's historyin one case, tragically so. She had interviewed Hudson Oct. 23, 2008, to talk about the Oscar-winning actress and singer's new album release. Fewer than 24 hours later, Hudson's mother and brother were found slain on the South Side. Within days, the body of her young nephew was discovered. "When I talked to her, she was on such a high," Matheny remembered. "And then the next thing you know…."
Throughout its history, Queercast was there while the pendulum swung not only for individuals, but the entire LGBTQ community.
"I've been on the radio almost every week since 1997," Matheny said. "It surprises me just how much has changed and how far we have come as a community. To watch history unfold over a decade and a half is pretty extraordinary. There are just so many people, like all the different guest co-hosts and the hundreds people we've interviewed who have impacted and put their mark on Queercast."
Matheny's slate of rotating co-hosts each brought their own unique brand of acumen born from every facet of the LGBT community. Talents such as Mavrik, Fain, Deb Pearce, Colman Domingo, Alexandra Billings, Kelli Simpkins, Stephen Rader, Ms. Cleo, Scott Duff, news editor Andrew Davis and news anchor Kirk Williamson have brought perspectives on topics ranging from lighthearted reviews of the Oscars or Tonys to impactful discussions about gender identit and sexuality. There have also been national and international news affecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and gender nonconforming people in entertainment and the political arena as well as stories making headlines or those that were intensely personalshared by foster and PFLAG parents as well as ministers, among others.
Unrestricted by time, the Federal Communications Commission ( FCC ) or the needs of advertisers, Matheny and her team made certain that conversations either between the co-hosts or with their interview subjects were raw and unedited. No matter what they had to say or how they said it, everybody had a voice on Queercast.
Queercasts were helped along by invaluable contributors such as podcast editor Di Bauden, Cynthia Holmes, Windy City Times entertainment writer/Jerry Nunn and film critic Richard J. Knight Jr., as well as individuals nationwide and from countries around the world.
Matheny says she has never missed a show, no matter what her state of mind or physical condition. The result from a once-innovative idea that has formed into a community resource has endowed her with the accomplished pride native to any milestone.
"We're there, every week," Matheny said. "That's what I am proudest of. Being present in the here and now of what is going on in the LGBT community with a forum for people to talk and hear real people's stories. That's basically what we're doing; we're storytelling every week."