When Lisa Kennedy Montgomery was 18 years old, her parents gave her an ultimatum: She could either stay home and pay rent, or they would pay her to move out. So Montgomery did the respectable thing and left her home in Oregon, moved to Los Angeles, interned at KROQ (L.A.’s famed alt-rock radio station), became known strictly as Kennedy, and, a year later, landed a spot as a VJ on MTV. For five rambunctious years in the ’90s, Kennedy was a Gen-X darling, hosting Alternative Nation and providing the network with countless ballsy and salacious on-air moments (like when she gave the mic a blow job while standing next to then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani). However, most of the wildest antics occurred off the air, and they’re very humorously detailed in her memoir, The Kennedy Chronicles. Wednesday night she will be at the Bryant Park Reading Room, dishing it out with Rob Tannenbaum (I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution). We had the pleasure of sitting down with the now-Fox Business correspondent and morning radio host to talk about her new book. And we didn’t even go into the whole Michael Jordan/dice incident, but rather more pressing topics such as, among other things, her opinion on alternative music today, her semi-affair with Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik (which inspired one of the band’s hits), and what it was like having the coolest job on television.
What made you decide to leave Oregon and move to Los Angeles?
It happened because my parents told me that if I moved out of their house they would give me money and if I stayed in their house I would have to pay them money. It was a pretty easy choice. They didn’t want me languishing in obscurity in Lake Oswego, Oregon, working part-time. They were much more enthusiastic about me going to California, going to community college, getting into school, and figuring it out than just being one of those people who lives in their parents’ house forever and languishes in dead-end jobs. That was their biggest fear.
How progressive of them.
It was really cool. My parents left Indiana when I was young to move as far west as they could, and they always had that kind of pioneering spirit.
Did you move to L.A. specifically to start your radio career?
No. I really wanted to get into politics. I thought I would be a political consultant; I assumed that I would. I was super into politics and music both in high school. I still am. It’s really funny because for Fox Business I cover the political stuff and on my radio show it is all about music. It is really fun that this far down the road those are still the two worlds that I straddle.
Yeah, I took a communications class and they said that we would get extra credit if we interned for a TV or radio station, so I went through the phone book and called, and they were like, “We are interviewing interns next week.”
The book discloses very intimate moments and relationships that you had with artists including Trent Reznor, Dave Navarro, Dweezil Zappa, and Johnny Rzeznik. Were any of them apprehensive about the exposure of these stories?
People were pretty cool. I was surprised about how open they actually were because I was expecting some pushback. I found that Dave Navarro and Johnny Rzeznik, in particular, were both very sweet and eager to talk about the past, and I was very happy they were kind. I kind of wanted to keep the modern-day interviews to a minimum. I really tried hard to get to Reznor through mutual friends. We have the same chiropractor.
But it didn’t pan out?
He wouldn’t do it. He ignored everybody who tried. I know he is a private person when it comes to the press and he probably didn’t want to put something on the record. He is a controlling person and he is very particular about what goes out there in the media, which is one of the things I respect about him, and I learned a lot about that. I am much more of a gum-flapper, so I think I am much more comfortable putting out details about my life, even if people look at them unfavorably, because I am trying to give them an honest, vivid description of what happened and what really affected me.
In your book you write about being labeled “The Virgin Kennedy” on KROQ. And somehow that V-tag stuck throughout your MTV stint. Why was your virginity so public?
I was one of the last couple virgins in high school and I just kind of assumed that when I left high school I would get laid, but it didn’t happen. The older you get, the harder it is to get rid of it. ‘Cause guys–and there were a bunch of guys in the book that said this–they didn’t want to be my first. It was a big topic on the radio at KROQ with Kevin and Bean because they were obsessed with it. They were always trying to give it away.
How did they find out you were a virgin in the first place?
[Laughs] Because I’m a gum-flapper. I would always dream about my future husband whenever a rockstar would come into the studio for a Kevin and Bean interview. Eventually–they’re filthy people–it would always gravitate toward my special flower.
At MTV I never discussed it in the press or on-air. It was just one of those things that, for whatever reason, was known.The only time I talked about it was on Howard Stern. He got it out of me. I did not go on there looking for it.
How old were you the first time went on the Howard Stern show?
I think the first time I was 20. And I was a huge fan. He was one of the reasons that I not only wanted to get into radio but on the air. He was so much larger than life. I wrote the Michael Jordan chapter because the time that I saw Michael Jordan I had never been so starstruck in my life. But with Howard it was beyond stardom. He was so vitally important to me professionally and for entertainment. And I felt that way about David Letterman growing up. I would stay up late to watch Letterman in junior high and high school, which was a bad idea, it really compromised my grades. I really blame David Letterman for not graduating high school.
You mentioned in your book how Andy Schuon is responsible for your career, since he is the one who hired you at both KROQ and MTV, but who would say was your mentor at MTV?
Kurt Loder truly acted like a mentor. He was someone that I totally looked up to. He was very dignified, a total professional. And I thought that those were all great characteristics. He was very patient when I would ask him advice. He also mentioned that I was a libertarian. He was the first person to mention that I might, in fact, be a libertarian.
Do you share the same political views as your parents?
No, my parents are total Democrats, my mom especially. My mom works on every Democratic presidential campaign. My grandmother loves Bill Clinton so much. She used to call Monica Lewinski “that slut” in her thick Romanian accident. But she really thought Bill Clinton was the second coming of JFK. And my dad is more of a pragmatist, so he is way more of an issue by issue person. He is very fiscally conservative but just despises the hypocrisy in the Republican party.
You’re pretty conservative on paper, but are quite wild on the air. How did you balance both extremes?
I know, and I was the impulsive one. I was the one they would dare to do things. I was the one who caused fights. The guys in Anthrax would dare me to do things. Once I saw this couple making out at the bar at the Paramount hotel, so I went up to the guy and I started putting my fingers in his hair, my fingers in his ears, and he thought it was girl he was making out with, which was just awesome. It was one of the best things ever. I was the person you could dare to do stuff, and thank god I was sober. I don’t know what would have happened if I drank back then.
You write about how you’ve always been pretty straight-edge. How did you not fall into that substance trap?
I know, but I didn’t. They were kind of separate issues. With my virginity, I just wanted to get rid of it, I wanted to be done–I just couldn’t find anybody that I could be in love with. I wanted a boyfriend, I wanted to be in love. I didn’t want a one-night stand. I didn’t want to worry about would someone call me back. As time went on it just built and built, and that was just the frustrating part. You meet all these rockstars and they just sort of want to be with you, but you’re like, “Oh, I thought you wanted to be my boyfriend.”
Did you realize at the time that you had the best job ever?
I knew it was a cool job that was far above my pay grade and I was really lucky. It was just a matter of always trying to keep the job and not get fired. But I was always aware of being awake in my dream come true, and I loved that, but it was also nerve-wracking. I wanted to get as much as I could out of every experience, every interview, every concert, and every free gift, and at the same time push the boundaries without totally pissing people off. I think that, when you’re young, you should live a really loud, interesting life. You should kind of piss people off, make people roll their eyes. You have your whole life to sleep.
Was it something you were conscious of, or was it more of an innate desire to push people’s buttons?
I don’t know why people got so mad at me. I was just having fun. Some people took the things I was saying so much more seriously than I had intended. It would really piss certain people off, which I just didn’t get. I still don’t. There are certain people who get so mad at things I say and do that I just have to let go of it, because that is really not the way I intended it.
You don’t see too many on-air personalities doing that these days.
Still, even to this day. I see girls that want to be baby Kardashians and it makes me so sad. Women are willing to completely sacrifice their integrity for dudes that aren’t really worth it. There are guys out there who like smart women. Young women always gravitate toward these douchebag insecure assholes and it has created a nation of zombie sluts, and it’s really sad. Not all women are like that, but there are just as many who want to be the star of a reality TV show as there are those who want to go to medical school. I blame that on ObamaCare.
You were pretty assertive and ballsy back then. Do you feel like you still are that person when you’re on the radio or on TV?
I still feel that way, but I know from watching interviews and broadcasts that I do now that I am not that aggressive. I feel that way. I feel the same way I did when I was five, but I know when I watch now–I really try to learn as much about broadcasting and interviewing as I possibly can– I know that I am a way better listener. I watch some of those old interviews, and I wasn’t listening at all. I broke so many cardinal rules of interviewing, and I thought that I was a great listener but I talk about myself so much. I really try to not do that now.
Do you feel you have that drive to still push the envelope or break down barriers in your field?
This is sad but it is also true: Women have kind of taken a couple of steps back from when I started. I have never gotten hung up on gender roles. I have never felt like I was the victim of discrimination, because I wouldn’t put up with it and I wouldn’t want to work somewhere where women are treated like sluts or something lesser. I have always had great female bosses, but I do see attitudes shifting a little bit, and I see women compromising themselves, and it bums me out. I don’t like to see people reach for less than what they are capable of and I don’t like seeing women tear each other down. It drives me crazy.
Do you have examples of this?
It is so subtle, and that is why gossip is so destructive, because it is so subtle. I always call people on it and I always say the same thing to my daughters: “Would you want someone saying this about you?” It makes people really uncomfortable, and they don’t share gossip with me anymore, which I don’t give a shit about. I really do feel that you get back what you put out, no matter what it is. If you work super super hard, if people don’t recognize it right now, they will, because you will blow them away with your hard work. It is the same thing with basic human kindness. If you treat people with kindness, people will treat you in kind.
You’re referring to women in the media?
People just make bitchy comments. Women are also judged way more hard on their appearance. Yeah, it is great to have an aesthetic, but you don’t want to have an eating disorder. I think that’s why I love Kate Upton so much. She is so fucking beautiful and anyone who says she is fat needs to eat a bag of dicks.
What do you make of alternative music today?
There is so much that I like, and I love being a witness to the scene firsthand. I love interviewing young bands. They all move to Brooklyn, which is hysterical to me. I interview bands from San Diego, from Denver–they all go to Brooklyn. It is like it’s the only place that exists for music. It is fantastic. But it is great, because it is a lot easier to record music, it is a lot easier to put music out there. It is a lot harder to get people to listen to their music and, really, the only way you can do that is by touring. And I think that that makes bands better. When bands have to be on the road constantly, playing shows and connecting with their fans, it is a good thing for them.
It’s hard to categorize modern alternative music.
It is either like Mumford and Sons, which really just makes me want to take a hammer to my temple–I cannot hear another goddamn banjo. And I like Arcade Fire, I like the New Pornographers, I like those ensemble bands where there are like 700 people and they all do weird shit and probably live on a commune and raise bees and I totally get it, but the ironic banjo, the old-timey hats: They have to go.
Are there any MTV experiences that you would want to relive?
That is a good question. Part of me would relive the Giuliani moment. I wouldn’t have blown the microphone next to him, but that was also something that kind of raised my visibility, which was really helpful, because the more press you got at MTV the more job security you had. The wardrobe person, Jimmy, taught me that really early on. He told me, “Get as much press as you can.” When you’re getting press for the network you’re not as expendable, and maybe that’s one of the reasons they kept me.
Would you go back to that East Village apartment when you and Johnny Rzeznik kissed?
No, no. I definitely would not have made out with him because I would have gone through years of guilt. I would have felt horrible if anything went past what it did, and I think he would have, too. It was the sweetness in the mutual attraction that made that moment what it was. And, hey, he wrote a No. 1 song about it.
[Yup, that’s the song below!]
Kennedy will be at the Bryan Park Reading Room, at 12:30 p.m., Wednesday, August 14.