Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kim Chesher, GNO Radio Show

My mother’s family is from Nassau and my father is from New York State, White Plains area. They met at the University of Miami. Dad finished up his doctorates there, and mom got her masters in English Lit. But her forte is art. She always loved art. Now she owns “Islamorada Art On A Whim” at the Rain Barrel. My mom started one of the first spay and neuter clinics for the cats in Key West (she’s still rescuing and fixing) and My dad is in the Pacific… saving all the sea life….I visited him in Fiji and toured some islands a while back and that was amazing. It’s so beautiful.
I was raised in Key West, on a boat originally. My dad did a lot of work for Westinghouse (I think.) They were in Key West doing all the research, so we lived on a big research vessel. He worked with the Key West Aquarium. I loved living on the boat for the first 3 years of my life, loved the marina. I didn’t know anything different. When I was still really young, I remember we had wild dolphin that came into the harbor all the time. I was afraid to get in the water with them, because they were enormous and I was just so little! But people would get in and swim with them right there in the harbor. When I reflect on it, I know I had such a rich childhood. I remember my parents catching dinner right off the pier. It was really special to grow up there, I feel so lucky to have had that experience.
Funny Key West childhood story – when Fantasy Fest first started, they made a big deal out of it being a family affair. They wanted all the families to come out. So my mom took me (I was probably 4 or 5) and I remember seeing all the bright colors and crazy people. People had spray painted their bodies gold and silver…there was much nakedness! I remember holding my mom’s hand and she was very stiff. She didn’t make a big deal out of it or anything, which I think was smart because I didn’t really understand what was going on; I just remember I couldn’t understand why she was so stiff. I was a LOT older before I was able to go back to Fantasy Fest!
I would bike all over town and to school every day. I went to elementary school in Keys West but moved up to Coral Shores for my last 3 years of high school. There wasn’t much for us kids to do at that time, and I needed more stimulation. When I told my mom that I wanted to leave Key West in search of stimulation, we made it as far as Islamorada! I was thinking more like Manhattan…exciting, night life, woo hoo! But I love this area. I’ve made a lot of good friends here.
I’ve seen a lot of environmental changes. When I was in high school, everybody hung out playing volleyball on the beach at Holiday Isle. There was a barge out in the water that we would swim out to and jump off. When you jumped into the water, you would literally be encompassed in a wall of fish. Like something you see on National Geographic, you know where they hit each other there are so many of them swimming together. Just right there with all the people, it was incredible.
When I was in my early twenties, I was in a movie that was being filmed down here. They offered to pay for my scuba certification because I needed to scuba dive for a scene. We went on the boat out to one of the reefs to dive one day. When we got back in, the captain said to me, “I don’t understand why you are being so quiet. Most people are so vocal, going on about everything they saw on their first dive.” I told him it was because I was raised here, and I remembered swimming in the water when there was so much more life. But, when we dove the reef, I was shocked and saddened by how sparse the wildlife was. It is starting to come back. A lot of effort has been made recently to restore the reefs. Everyone has pitched in to try and bring it back and it’s getting so much better. But there was a time there when it got bad. It was heartbreaking to me see it that void of fish when I remembered it so full of life.
I worked for a jewelry store just out of high school. I always wanted to work. I was begging my mom to let me go to work as soon as I was legally old enough. I bused tables at one place, my first job. I was the happiest bus boy you ever saw in your life. I did some hostessing, some waitressing. But I have always loved jewelry. Ever since I was little I’ve been obsessed with shiny things because my grandmother was always covered in jewels. So, I met a person at an art show with a jewelry store and they offered me a job, and I loved it. Now I live and breathe jewelry.
So, I had also done a lot of acting and drama when I was young. I did some things with the Keys Players, some movies and TV, just low level stuff. One day soon after going to work at the jewelry store, the radio station was going to do a remote at our store and my boss said that because I had done some acting I had to go out and talk to them. I said, “Ok, but give me a script” He said no script, just go do it! So I went up there, and I was like “Oooo I don’t know what to say…..” But K. C. Stewart was there and he interviewed me. And afterwards, he asked me if I wanted a job. I said sure, and he said to come down to the station the next day. I went to the studio and I made sure he knew that I had no experience in radio. He said that’s good because that means I can train you and you don’t come pre-programed. To begin with, he gave me a five minute news spot to record, which I think took me 30 minutes or longer! I was terrified of the microphone, my heart was pounding like Roger Rabbit right out of my chest; I was sweating. But I did it!
I was so proud of myself with my first spot; I thought I was doing so well. I had my little time line of what happened when, little scripts of what to say at what time, and I was so proud. I really thought I had everything down pat. One day K.C. came in to the studio. I was so happy because I was doing such a great job. You know he’s a man of few words, and he said “Are those your sheets you’re reading from?” I said, “Oh yes, it’s so easy, I’m really getting the hang of it!” He walked over and he ripped up my notes right there and threw them away. I freaked and said “Oh no! What am I going to do now? I don’t know what to say.” He said, “Just talk.” It was terrifying! It took me a few weekends to not feel like I was tripping on my tongue. But, I’m really grateful now that he did that. He was a great teacher.
Funny moments in radio (that are safe to share…believe me, there were a lot WKRP moments back in the day!) – Normally I would stand up to do radio because I’m always moving around, moving my hands. But on this one day, I decided to kick back. I had the microphone and I was talking, sitting in my chair, leaning back, with 2 of the chair legs up in the air, just “la da da la da da” when all of a sudden WHAP! My chair falls and I hit the floor! I just kept holding the mic and got back up, still talking, never missed a beat! One time I got locked out of the station while on the air. I ended up shimmying up a pipe to the second floor balcony and going in the emergency exit door!
I love radio. I especially love doing radio down here in the Keys. Because I know I’m talking to my friends when I’m on the radio. And that’s just amazing. I feel so connected to the listeners, my community. I’ve been doing the GNO (Girl’s Night Out) Radio Show for at least 15 years. I started doing the show with Jamie Hyman at Holiday Isle Rum Runners. Then I did it with Pam Godfrey at Pierre’s, and now with Terry Albury at the Green Turtle and it’s great. I love it.
In my personal life, I’m proud of my kids and how good they’ve done and where they’ve gotten to. I have a son, 22, and a daughter, 21. I had them when I was really young! I’m also very proud personally of the fact that I went back to school and just graduated with my BAS in criminal justice and a certification in Homeland Security. Going back to school older is a different experience. My kids are both in college and we’ve recently been at the same school. I think it’s really cool, but I’m not sure they think it’s all that great! I’ve been in school forever. I have a degree in communications; a degree in gemology…I just can’t stop learning. I want to say I’m graduated and I’m done, but we’ll see… I have a lot of options open to me at this point. I might continue on with a law degree. We have a lot of brilliant artists here in the Keys, but we also have a lot of people who want to fight and protect the people and the environment of the Florida Keys through legislature…by working on and changing legislation. I think I might like doing that. But no matter what else I do, I will always keep jewelry and radio in my life.
I want to be able to help. I want to find some way where I can help everyone. That’s one of the reasons I love radio is because I can put people together. It’s so magical to me that I can bring people together and then they start working together and good things are accomplished.
--GNO Radio Show is recorded live at Green Turtle Inn on Tuesday nights 6:00-7:00 p.m. and airs on SUN 103 FM--

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