Elvis Duran's first radio station was in his home, and it was heard around the block. For much of the past two decades, however, Z100 has been his home, and his New York show is now heard around the country. NY1's Budd Mishkin filed the following 'One On 1' profile.
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In New York and across the country, millions are listening. And Elvis Duran, the host of "Elvis Duran And The Morning Show," feels right at home.
"I'm not nervous about the radio. I feel, I feel most at home between 6 and 10 a.m. It's at 10:01 am then that's when I get nervous," says Duran. "You know what? We're more than just a little rinky dink radio show now."
"Elvis Duran And The Morning Show" is a consistent ratings winner in New York and in markets where the show is simulcast.
"We're doing well in Florida, West Virginia. I feel like I'm doing the weather," jokes Duran.
His website, ElvisDuran.com, features podcasts, celebrity interviews and more features with his fellow cast members.
Duran is the ringleader, surrounded by friends and colleagues.
"I'm Dorothy, skipping down the 'yellow brick road,' collecting all these people to skip along with me," says Duran. "I didn't have any best friends growing up. I was a loner. Which is interesting, because today I'm so gregarious. I need to have people around me."
His show hosts international stars, including Lady Gaga, who grew up in New York, hoping to have her music played by Duran.
"When she walked in the first time, she said, 'You are the man.' And I'm like, 'What? Lady Gaga said that to me,'" says Duran. "Your ego doesn't explode, it does humble you. It once again reminds you how important radio truly is."
He arrived at the contemporary hit radio station Z100 in 1989. Through the years, his connection to New York has extended far beyond the studio.
Duran has adopted P.S. 18 in Upper Manhattan as part of Rosie O'Donnell's Theater Kids program.
His work and social life take place primarily in Manhattan, but one of Duran's greatest passions is the Staten Island Zoo. Duran has been honored for his vocal and financial support.
"Staten Island is such a short trip from Downtown Manhattan but it's a world away. And even though it's a borough of New York City, it's a small town," says Duran. "I love my association with Staten Island, because it is grounding."
The topics on his show occasionally, or more than occasionally, are not for everyone.
"I'll go out and meet a parent. 'Oh my kids love your show and we listen to you every morning on the way to school.' First thing I always ask is, 'How old are your kids?' 'Eight and 10,'" says Duran. "Really? You let them listen to the garbage that we put out on the radio every day? My parents would never let me listen to that."
But with a significant female following, there is one topic Duran will not allow on the show — weight. Perhaps, in part, because Duran can relate.
"If someone tells a fat joke, I shoot them a look. Even if you talk about a guy being overweight, women hear it and they compare themselves to that person and it's just we are very careful about that," says Duran. "I want this show, even though it's raunchy, I want this show to be a safe place for women to go, when it comes to topics like things that make them feel bad about themselves."
"Elvis Duran And The Morning Show" is heard in more than 40 markets, but not in his native Texas.
"Mom and dad are in the Dallas area, which we are not transmitting in, which is good because they know how to use radios," says Duran. "I hear that from my mom every time she hears something that we talked about. Hopefully they'll never figure out the Internet, or 'the internets,' as they call it."
His parents worked, so as a kid, Duran was often home alone. He discovered radio and he loved it so much that he bought a transmitter kit and created his own neighborhood radio station with its own mic flags.
"It said 'on the air,' when I went to my neighbors' house to interview them," says Duran. "They hated me. They used to kick me out of her front yard."
Duran quit college when he got a job at a small station in Dallas, then San Antonio, Houston, Atlanta and Philadelphia. He thoroughly enjoyed the lifestyle.
"When you're a guy who doesn't like to be responsible, it's easy. The jobs kept coming, the money got a little better here and there," Duran says. "I was out partying with my friends and having fun. It's really a dream job."
He initially worked afternoons at Z100 before switching to the morning show in 1996. But Duran says by September 10, 2001, he was done.
"I was ready to totally quit my job the day before that because I thought what we did in radio was stupid. It had no meaning, it had no purpose," he says.
The morning after 9/11, with Z100 taking the audio from CNN, Duran came into the studio to see all 20 phone lines lit up.
"Without thinking, I turned down the CNN audio, turned up the audio, plugged in my headphones and started taking phone calls. That's when I realized there are some people who need us," Duran says.
In 30 years in radio, Duran has received a lot of advice.
"They bring in consultants to tell you what to say. They do research saying you need to talk more about cats. After a while, you begin to believe that their research is more important than your gut," he says. "No, my gut is the most important thing."
Eventually, Duran began to talk more on the air about his personal life.
"I never really opened up about my life on the show that much. I thought it was more interesting for me to be more of a mystery. Then one day, I realized I have things to say about my life too, especially being a gay man in mass media," says Duran. "I never was closeted on the air. I never, ever said I wasn't gay. I never brought it to the forefront. Thing is, I was always afraid it would turn into the 'Elvis Duran Is Gay' show."
Duran has occasionally had to deal with fans who, in his words, "want to get closer than they should."
He says as complicated as life may get off the air — breakups, infidelities, tragedies — the studio is like a vacation spot.
"There have been times in my life where I, I'm going through hell and I think about during the show, 'Oh my God, we're having one of the best shows ever today,'" he says. "And I think there's an energy there where you, you know, you thank God you have the radio show to go to."
"Elvis Duran And The Morning Show" is heard Monday through Friday, from 6 to 10 a.m. on Z100.