Laurie West, an on-air radio personality remembered as an icon and trailblazer from 20-plus years in Fresno, has died.
Ms. West, 52, died in her sleep this week. The cause of Ms. West’s death has not been determined. She had been living on the Central Coast, where she moved after leaving the Fresno radio market.
Linell Eastton, who had been friends with Ms. West for 31 years, first worked with her at Fresno’s KCLQ (FM 107.5) in 1988. West was part of the station’s morning show while Eastton handled the midday shift.
“Women in radio were few and far between at that time. That’s why we said two loud-mouthed blondes were naturally going to bond,” Eastton said. “She became a pioneer in this market. Woman had always been the sidekick but when she went to Alice (KALZ 96.7), someone took notice and made her the main host.
“It was a great day for all of us.”
Eastton said she talked to Ms. West the night before she died. They shared a few laughs and made plans to get together at the end of the week.
Ms. West’s final Facebook post was to thank everyone who had prayed for her and offered well wishes after she had been ill.
“The wild, wild West changed local radio,” Eastton said. “She was a strong woman, smart and funny. She well represented us, spoke for us. She was great at doing that.”
Ms. West worked with KSKS country morning show host Gnarley Charley and they hosted “Laurie and Charley in the Morning” on Alice. In 2009, Ms. West and six other employees at the local Clear Channel Communications Inc. radio stations were laid off to cut costs. She moved to the Central Coast where she worked in radio sales and then moved to the morning slot for Cambria’s KTEA (FM 103.5).
“She was a great talent and will be deeply missed. She was a pillar in the community and it is a tragic loss,” said Colleen Wardlaw, vice president of Adelman Broadcasting, Inc., owners of KTEA.
Ryan Westenberg, who was Ms. West’s producer while she was at Alice, said that she had always wanted to host a radio show on the coast. He called Ms. West “a phenomenal woman.”
The wild, wild West changed local radio.
Linell Eastton, friend and former colleague of Laurie West
Greg Lane, a longtime Fresno on-air personality who is now with 102.7 The Wolf, never worked with Ms. West but knew her work. “She was such a sweet person. You could not ask for more of a class act. When I got here, she already was a trailblazer. She was good at what she did which is better than being a trailblazer.”
Former on-air personality Mike Brady met Ms. West when he worked in Bakersfield. A 14-year-old West showed Brady a book of poetry she had written. He said that he knew then she was “an old soul” and that one day she would share herself with the rest of the world.
Years later, they ended up working together for Fresno’s Clear Channel radio stations. She was at Alice and he was on the group’s soft rock station.
“Whenever she would introduce me she would always tell them I was the person she showed her poetry to when she was 14,” Brady said.
No public services are planned. As a tribute to Ms. West, local on-air personalities – past and present – are planning to get together to play some of West’s on-air work. No time has been set, though.
Ms. West is survived by her husband Giancarlo Cucumo and four children: Dustin Miller, Darian Flowers, Jessica Flowers and Dakota Flowers.