“I love how passionate and engaged people are in Greenwich,” Lisa Wexler said. Having arrived at WGCH 1490 last July, Wexler is a bright spot on the airwaves, embracing the coveted weekday drive time 4:00-6:00pm slot.
“I love it when the phones light up,” she said, describing fans who listen in the car on the way home from work and then run into the house to turn on the radio in the kitchen. Even better, she said, “I love it when they call into the show.”
A longtime theater fan, Wexler enjoys giving away tickets to Broadway shows on the air. She also books celebrities one day a week. Recent guests of the program have included Donny Osmond, Joel Grey and Kelly O’Hara.
But what makes Wexler’s show the sweet spot on the radio dial is the variety of hats wears wears. The theater buff and radio host is also a wife, parent, attorney and probate court judge.
Wexler, who lives with her husband Bill in Westport, recalled shuttling her son and daughter to and from activities, listening to the radio in the car.
“I’d be yelling back at the talking heads, thinking, ‘I could do a better job than that.’ Radio was always my dream,” she said, adding that as an undergrad at Johns Hopkins, in the days of vinyl, her campus radio program, “Show Stoppers,” featured a sampling of obscure show tunes.
Second Thoughts, Second Chances
“I was frustrated and unhappy as a lawyer,” she recalled. “I read the book by Po Bronson, ‘What Should I Do with My Life?” and finally made up my mind.”
She enrolled at Connecticut School of Broadcasting in Stratford, and subsequently took some private voice lessons.
“I decided I needed to improve my accent,” she said.
Wexler grew up in Woodmere on Long Island, part of The Five Towns, with one sibling, Jill Zarin, 3-1/2 years her junior. Asked about her relationship with Jill, who delved into disputes and shouting matches in episodes of the Real Housewives of New York City, Wexler replied simply, “We don’t argue.”
“I think they contrive situations devised to produce conflict because the producers think that’s what sells – It’s aspirational,” Wexler said. “People want to be rich and pretty and have that freedom.”
These days Wexler’s weekdays are split between her mornings serving as Probate Court judge, which she’s done since 2013, and The Lisa Wexler Show.
“I love the contrast,” she said. “They call it The People’s Court,” she said of her morning gig. “You get to plea your case in front of a judge without a lawyer. Like Judge Judy,” she said, adding how much she’d love to have Judge Judy Sheindlin as a guest on her radio show
“In Westport we have St. Vincent’s Behavioral Health Hospital, formerly Hall-Brooke,” she said. “For legal proceedings for people with who are mentally ill, I go to where the people are,” she said.
“It can be sad, but sometimes it is hopeful,” she said. “The nature of many people with mental illnesses is that they don’t believe they’re sick, so they resist taking medications that would transform their lives. That is the heartbreak.”
Secrets of a Jewish Mother
Along with her mother Gloria Kamen and sister Jill, Lisa co-authored Secrets of a Jewish Mother, published in 2010. The award-winning book was also translated into Japanese, Russian and Chinese.
“I came up with the idea for the title and structure of the book. Each chapter has a narrative, anecdotes and an advice section,” she said. “There is a Yiddish glossary in the back too.”
As she approached her chapters, including one on quitting a job, she said she consulted her sister and mother. “You hear all three voices,” she said, pulling out her iPhone to share photos of Jill and her parents. “Everything I am in the world is because of my parents,” she said. “I’m very sentimental about my family because I love and adore them.”
Wexler, whose first-ever radio show guest was then Governor Jodi Rell, admits she’s a political junkie.
“Because I am a judge, I am very cognizant of ethical restraints,” she said. “In the broader political landscape it’s my job to expose what people stand for and let the audience make up their own opinions.”
Lisa met John Kasich at Nashua Community College this past February when she traveled to New Hampshire for the first-in-the-nation primary.
Describing him as friendly and approachable in a dispatch she published on Greenwich Free Press, Wexler stayed in touch with the candidate, snagging a radio interview with him this month.
On her April 7 live show, Wexler asked Kasich about super PACs and Citizens United – The idea that a handful of billionaires can control the nominating process is not healthy. Campaign finance can be a big issue but there would be other things to tackle first. – She prodded him about fracking in his state. – I support it…Fracking should occur wherever we can pull up our natural resources in an environmentally safe way.”
She also pressed Kasich on his thoughts on abortion, and disdain for Planned Parenthood, noting that he’s on record as wanting to overturn Roe v Wade – I am pro-life except in the instance of rape, incest or the life of the mother… Planned Parenthood has lost credibility with people who are both pro-life and pro-choice. (Women) can go to hospitals. They can go to federal health clinics. There’s lots of places they can go to get the services they need.
Wexler asked Kasich whether he would make an exception for abortion if a pregnant woman contracted the Zika virus.“I gave you the exceptions I would provide and that’s the end of it.”
To hear the interview, go to WGCH and click on “Shows and Hosts,” Lisa Wexler Show, and click on the podcast “Interview with John Kasich.”
And although Wexler wound down her own legal practice, she said her sense of justice is threaded through her programs.
Among her awards are a Gracie Award for an interview with Gloria Steinham, a Best of Gold Coast from Moffly Media and a CT Press Association award for Best Radio Show.
“I got a lady out of jail,” she said of the Press Association award, recalling how an investigative journalist Chandra Niles Folsom approached her to say a woman named Kathryn Sorrentino had been jailed for non-payment of her mortgage. Wexler said that her response at first was utter disbelief.
I said that can’t be possible, but then learned the woman’s ex had gone to court in Bridgeport to say she was in contempt of the divorce agreement. “The judge had agreed,” Wexler recalled, adding that the woman’s children were minors at the time. “She was placed in solitary confinement for her own safety and was there for five days,” Wexler said.
“I talked about it on my show every single day,” Wexler said. “Then I got a call from the daughter saying, ‘She’s out and it’s because of you.’ I’m not sure that it was entirely because of me, but it was unjust, and that is what drives me,” she said. “That was a great day for me.”
Tune in to the Lisa Wexler Show Monday-Friday, from 4:00pm to 6:00pm on WGCH 1490.