It’s 8:59 am on a dank, drizzly Sunday morning. The spritely painted KBOO building in southeast Portland brightens up the gray day.
Inside, the cramped studio is abuzz with activity: microphones are checked; earphones are clamped upon unsuspecting heads; CDs are loaded; buttons are punched; sliders are slid. And fingers are crossed.
9:00 am – the red lamp lights and the Italian Hour is on the air!
Just as it has been for fifty-some-odd years. The show has moved from station to station over the decades, but it’s found a home on 90.7 FM – Portland’s community radio station. The show airs every other week at 9:00 am, during KBOO’s block of Sunday ethnic programming. The Italian Hour serves as an entertainment buffer zone, so to speak, sandwiched between the programs The Islamic Point of View and the Portland Jewish Hour.
The show’s impresario is Lucia Galizia … and has been for more than a quarter of a century. “The show keeps me busy – it’s a labor of love. I love to be with people and to talk to people,” says the native of Naples, who moved to Portland in 1963. “Even if my English is still not so good, when I make a mistake it’s OK because then the audience knows I really am originally Italiana!”
Galizia shares the hosting duties these days. “I used to do it all by myself. But, eventually, I got smart and I asked two wonderful guys, Bob [Iannacone] and Andrea [Scasso], to help me.”
The trio brings different styles and different listeners to the show. Galizia admits she plays the more old-fashioned music, from her days growing up on both sides of the Atlantic. Scasso, the youngest of the three, presents a more contemporary blend of Italian music, while Iannacone looks for programmatic themes when he’s on the air. Sometimes they’re in the studio together; at other times they solo.
“The last time I was on without Lucia I featured Italian songs from movies – even some of the Disney films that were done in Italian,” says Iannacone. “I have a pretty good collection of Italian music, as we all do, and so I try to pick out songs according to themes.”
When he and Galizia team up for a show, “It works out well and we have a good time. She handles the Italian and I do the English announcements. Sometimes she runs the radio board; at other times I do. We’re good friends. It can get a little hectic, but it’s a lot of fun”
It’s also hectic on this particular Sunday morning. There are two studio guests, plus a pledge drive to work in between the songs. Scasso is soloing as the studio host, so the show will have a current sound this day.
Scasso uses an app to listen to Italian radio stations so he can keep up with music trends there – something that isn’t always easy since he says “a lot of Italian radio stations play American music 80 percent of the time.” Scasso notes that the American songs played on Italian airwaves are often racier than the versions heard in the U.S. In spite of the Americanization of Italian radio, he still hits paydirt when researching music for his stints on The Italian Hour. “I try to dig a little deeper to find less famous Italian performers who are contemporary.” His goal is to introduce Portland’s Italians to some new recording artists from the old country.
The three-headed disc jockey approach seems to work. “We’re trying to bring both young people and senior people to The Italian Hour,” says Galizia.
“In addition to the music, we broadcast announcements of interest to the Italian community of Portland,” says Iannacone, “so we’re providing a service to our listeners.”
It’s been a fast hour at KBOO. Pledge breaks and studio interviews tend to make the time fly. A quick “Arrivederci” to his listeners and Scasso turns over the studio to the Jewish DJ.
All three volunteer broadcasters are prominent in the Portland Italian community. Iannacone is the longtime secretary of the Italian Businessmen’s Club. Scasso is a member of the board of Scuola Italiana di Portland. Galizia has been an important part of the annual Festa Italiana for more than 23 years.
In fact, Galizia is involved in many Italian happenings, including her own New Years’ Eve party. Always comfortable behind the mic, she’ll emcee a night of eating, prizes, merry-making and dancing at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in northeast Portland on Dec. 31. For information and tickets, call 503-284-6989. A
bout the only thing she won’t do that night is spin the platters, a task she’ll leave to another disc jockey. After all, this year New Year’s Eve falls on a Wednesday night … not every other Sunday morning.