By Judith Salkin
There is something to be said for the anonymity of sitting behind a microphone in radio: making faces and gestures that no one sees and not being recognized when you’re out shopping. And getting guests to open up in ways they might not if there were TV cameras.
“The Download” host Elli Tourjé loves to find that “one question that you ask a guest and suddenly they just open up,” she says about her guests on the weekly show that airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m. on 91.7 FM KHCS.
On the half-hour show Tourjé coaxes inspiring stories out of Coachella Valley residents “who have amazing stories to tell,” she says.
Talking to the “end of the baby boomer” generation host about her broadcast calling is like listening to her talk about the show.
Tourjé likes to find the back stories of her guests and what makes them tick. “This valley is filled with so many interesting people,” she says. “We have a lot of CEOs of major companies who come here to retire and then they get involved in local charities and organizations because they feel that they have to contribute in some way. And you never know where you’ll run into them.”
On “The Download,” Tourjé’s co-host Chris May brings in guests such as members of the Wrecking Crew, studio musicians from the ‘60s and ‘70s who played on many of the best rock’n’roll and jazz discs of the era, who live here in the Coachella Valley, and performers who come to the valley for concerts, to round out her pieces on events and organizations that need a helping hand.
Over the course of her long career, Tourjé has accomplished quite a bit. Hosted & produced daily talk show-The Desert Today and Real Life. On air talent, writer, emcee, engineer, producer, voice over talent. Weekend DJ MIX 100.5 FM
As a kid, Tourjé’s goal was to be a DJ. Living in the San Fernando Valley, she studied broadcasting at Los Angeles Valley College. “But that was taking too long,” she says.
She found a broadcasting trade school where she studied for her FCC license. She chose a trade school over a traditional four-year school, “because I didn’t want to wait to start my career.”
“I wanted to be on the air,” she says. “At the time, radio was really popular. And being a woman, I had a lot of opportunities.”
She chose a station in Boise, Idaho, for her first job and stayed a couple of years. “But it was so far away from home,” she says. “I wanted to come back to California.”
By that time, Tourjé was married “and we wanted to start our family,” she says. Her move back was to a small station Mammoth Lakes, where she was able to work and still have the time to spend with her kids, Jenna, Seth and Alexandra.
“The beauty was that I could go into the studio and in one day record all the voice tracks for the week,” she says. “Then I’d have the rest of the week to be with my kids.”
She spent more than 14 years at KMMT in various positions including DJ, announcer, producer, engineer, voice over talent, account executive, traffic manager, PSA director and station manager. She also fit in nearly two years the local TV station as the gathering, writing, producing and anchoring the nightly primetime TV newscasts for Channel 5.
She did spend about a year and a half in Vegas, but “we went back to Mammoth,” she says and the radio station.
Twelve years ago, Tourjé, her husband Jim and kids made the move to the Coachella Valley.
“My husband’s in construction and you go where the jobs are,” she says. “At the time, construction was booming here.”
It took a while for Tourjé to find an on-air spot in the desert, but she landed at KPSI and picked up her talk show career, which suited her curiosity of the people and newsmakers here in the valley.
Tourjé spent about six years working with RR Broadcasting, working for four of the group’s radio stations anchoring newscasts across four radio stations in the group.
She hosted and produced daily talk shows, “The Desert Today” and “Real Life,” along with working as a writer, emcee, engineer, producer, voice over talent and weekend DJ the MIX 100.5 FM.
Over the years here, Tourjé has moved in and out of radio, worked in public relations and community relations for Time Warner Cable, including the company’s local Connect A Million Minds campaign, and even helping her husband’s construction company, Vintage Electric.
While television was nice, “I think viewers are probably more critical,” she says, Tourjé keeps coming back to radio.
“I always wanted to be the person asking the questions,” she says. “I love that radio gives me the freedom to find people and tell their stories.”
While the she could probably get away with more on-air working in a smaller market like Mammoth Lakes, being on-air here in the valley offers Tourjé new challenges.
“The people who live here expect a higher level sophistication,” she says.
Now along with “The Download,” Tourjé is getting ready to start a second radio show with Geoff Allan on Money Radio, 1510 AM and 99.3 Saturdays from noon to 1 p.m. that will be called “Out and About” and will feature news on local restaurants and places of interest. Although she doesn’t have a set date, Tourje is looking for the January debut of the show.
“It’s exciting,” Tourjé says as she awaits the debut of the new show. “There’s so much to talk about!”