Living for the '80s
JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Ann Marie Calabrese does some recording work in her home studio. Calabrese, The 80's Guru, is celebrating her 20th anniversary as a radio and mobile disc jockey.
Ann Marie Calabrese grew up watching American Bandstand.
While others would tune in for the musical acts or to watch the dancers, Calabrese was more focused on the show's host, Dick Clark.
"I'd watch Bandstand, listen to Dick Clark, and with his material, I'd go back and practice," recalled Calabrese. "I thought it was cool that he was a household name and involved in the music industry."
From those days as a novice announcer, the Tamaqua native has created a 20-year career as a radio and mobile disc jockey.
The effervescent Ann Marie is well known for her radio persona as The 80's Guru, specializing in the music and artists of the 1980s on shows such as Magic's '80s Classics, which ran on WMGH Magic 105.5 FM in Tamaqua, and currently on Stuck in the '80s, which airs on Penn's Peak Radio Thursdays from 7-10 p.m. with a rebroadcast time of Saturdays from 12-3 p.m.
Ann Marie's love of popular music came naturally and runs in her family. Her father Frank played guitar, as did her brother Frank, and her mother Mary and sister Mary Ann were always singing.
While attending Tamaqua Area High School, Ann Marie had a meeting with guidance counselor Nick Young, who is also a longtime sports announcer for WMGH. Young took note of her interest in becoming a DJ and set up an interview for her at Magic 105.5 with then-station manager Mick Haggerty.
"I have to thank Nick Young for giving me my start in radio," she noted.
Calabrese got her start as a high school senior in 1990 as an automation operator, which led to her doing advertising sales and eventually to her own show as the station's '80's Guru.
As she learned her craft, she practiced her skills, such as talking over the introduction or end of a song. "I learned things I didn't realize I'd learn, such as how to pronounce names properly."
She has also developed her own radio personality.
"Anybody can push a button. When the microphone is on, I wanted it to still be me, but I want people to recognize it as me. It's what makes you unique," she said.
Ann Marie made a connection with her audience. "Good bartenders know favorite drinks, and I know my friends' favorite songs," she remarked.
In addition to radio announcing, Ann Marie became a professional DJ for parties and other occasions. Her first public DJ job was at the Sports Zoo in Lansford.
"Jesse Hiles (the Sports Zoo's owner) hired me and would call me DJ Cool Breeze, because people were always messing up my name," she related.
The name stuck, so Ann Marie used it when she formed Coolbreeze Productions, her mobile DJ business, in 1999 with her partner Bob Goetz.
Ann Marie has worked as a DJ at weddings, graduations, reunions and corporate events, including for Macy's and ARC of Northeast Pa., an organization for developmentally challenged adults. "I have learned how to read a crowd and what songs they like and don't like," she said. "You learn how to keep the majority happy, but I never do the same show twice."
Ann Marie not only just plays music and announces, she can help in other ways, such as by choreographing entrances for weddings. "I can handle just about any DJ job because I've learned to think fast on my feet," she stated.
She has also been involved with the Carbon-Tamaqua Unit of the American Cancer Society since 1998 as a volunteer and chairman/chairwoman for many of its events.
Musically, her favorite 80s artists are Madonna, INXS, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince and Rick Springfield. She called meeting Springfield the highlight of her career.
Ann Marie dissolved her partnership with Goetz, although she said he still helps her on occasion, and in 2006 she formed Coolbreeze Imaging, which handles her DJ and radio shows as well as doing audio production, including phone on hold messages and voice over work. A year later, she built a studio in her home for her audio work.
She has been with Penn's Peak Radio since 2005 as an independent contractor, doing weekly production and ad sales for her Stuck in the '80s show, which can be heard on pennspeakradio.com and on Blue Ridge Communications channel 80.
"I love what I'm doing," she commented. "It's not just a job. I've always felt it's the perfect fit for me."
Ann Marie can be contacted through Coolbreeze Imaging at (570) 668-6450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.