By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Aug 13, 2001 at 5:15 AM

Lazer 103's news director Carrie Wendt has seen it all during her career in Milwaukee radio. She's moved up and down the FM dial -- and even moved to Puerto Rico to get away from it all. But a few years ago she gave it one more shot and landed on the Bob and Brian Show, Milwaukee's highest rated morning program.

Known for her wit, sass and self-described "blue" sense of humor, this Tosa native earned her right to play with the big boys of Milwaukee radio. But it wasn't easy. Before Lazer, Carrie crammed herself into a Cessna six hours each day to do traffic, once got paid in oranges and was quite well known on the Milwaukee bar scene. Those were the old days, however, and now Carrie is getting married, living downtown and holding a steady job that she loves.

Her most recent accolade is to be named one of the new Milwaukee legends by columnist and peer down the hall at WKLH, Kevin Brandt. We took a moment to discuss this honor, as well as to figure out what makes this unique Milwaukee chick click.

OMC: What's it like to be compared to Pepperoni Cannoli Guy and Freeway?

CW: They're icons, really. They're Milwaukee fixtures. And now I'm a Milwaukee fixture, can you believe that?

OMC: Kevin Brandt thinks so.

CW: He does, just because he's seen my butt a lot. He's easy to persuade.

OMC: You're pretty high-profile for a radio personality. People must know you when they see you.

CW: You know what? They don't, and that's the good part. I was never anybody until I got to Lazer 103. I only had a little bit of fame at WKTI doing airborne traffic reporting.

OMC: How did you get into Milwaukee radio?

CW: I started at WQFM years ago, before it became smooth jazz. I started as a producer for their last of, like, 22 morning shows. While our news director was on maternity leave, they gave me a shot at doing news. I was brutal, terrible, horrible, but I loved the business. It's like a disease. You just want to stay in it. It's just way too much fun. It's summer camp for drug addicts. And you don't have to grow up. You can just have fun.

OMC: Then what?

CW: I got fired from there in 1994, then I went to WAUK sports radio. They resuscitated me and said, "Come on out here and do news." It was a little tiny place out in a field. There were crickets in our drawer. Metro Traffic then stole me and said they were looking for somebody for WKTI. I thought I'd be into that until I realized what flying in a Cessna for six hours a day was really like.

OMC: How long did you do traffic?

CW: A year. Reitman and Mueller and Lips Labell, those guys are great.

OMC: Were you a little too sassy for that station?

CW: A little bit. I didn't quite speak to their demo, maybe. I had a great time, but I asked to stay on the ground when my contract was up, and they said no. Then I went to the Mix for a while.

OMC: You've been everywhere, haven't you?

CW: Do you remember Magic 103.7? I was on that show for a while. I actually had a morning show, but I wasn't named. The show lasted two weeks, our boss got fired, and they stuck me doing news. It was just crazy. And then I moved to Puerto Rico.

OMC: What did you do in Puerto Rico?

CW: I did dentistry. I was a dental assistant in a tiny mountain town.

OMC: You're making this up.

CW: I am not making this up. People paid us in oranges.

OMC: Did you have some sort of identity crisis that caused you to flee the country?

CW: I decided no more radio. No more crap. And every radio person says that the last time they get fired. I gotta get a real job. I gotta grow up. And then you get sucked back in.

OMC: So how long were you in Puerto Rico?

CW: Just about a year. When I came back here, I got a job as an assistant to an oral surgeon. I didn't know what I was doing. Plus you can't really joke around with people who have cotton in their mouth. Then I went to Chicago for a year and tried to be a traffic reporter down there. Windy 100 FM. I was a little too blue for them as well. Didn't work out. My mother got very sick with cancer, and I decided that 90 miles was too far, so I came back here to hang out with her. She passed away this past Thanksgiving. It was the best decision I ever made in my whole life to be close to her.

OMC: We gotta get to your Lazer job at some point ...

CW: Metro Traffic still wanted me to stay with them and do traffic through them for Lazer. I said I wanted to cut out the middle man and work directly for Lazer and they said, "Excellent, you're on." So I did that for six months, and then for my 30th birthday, I got my own morning show on The Point. I did that for eight months until that disintegrated. It was great musically, but they told me on Opening Day that we were done. There was an emergency meeting when they told us the format changed.

I thought I was a free agent after they cut us loose, and I'd known (program director) Brian Kelley for a while. I thought that working for Bob and Brian could be a possibility, and I didn't think I was too old for that format. That's when they switched (former Lazer 103 newswoman) Liz Borden and me, which was unfortunate for her. You're either on the receiving end of something good in radio or really bad. But it turned out great for Liz, who now works at a station in Portland, Maine.

OMC: So you joined Bob and Brian three years ago. Did they throw you right into the mix right away?

CW: No, not at all. They basically protect their own, and now I'm in the fold so I get their protection. It was tough early on. I said that if you want to argue every day, that's fine, because I'm not going to take your crap treatment. They were jerks, but that's what they do. They test your mettle.

OMC: How long did that last?

CW: I don't think I started feeling comfortable there until five or six months into it. And one day, it just changed. I popped in after a weekend, and they said, "So what did you do this weekend?" This was off the air, and I thought, why are you asking me?

OMC: Did they really care?

CW: They did! And all of a sudden we were pals. It was like a truce had been called, except that I wasn't in on the truce. I'll take it, though. And now it's awesome.

OMC: Do you like your job?

CW: I love my job! But the real show is off the air. I enjoy that four hours of my day because I can say whatever I want. It feels like nobody else is listening. When you get in there with those three guys, you can just sound off and have fun. Then off the air, it's just a double blast. I'm the luckiest girl in the world!

OMC: Is this best radio gig you've had?

CW: Ever.

OMC: Not to mention it's the number one morning show in Milwaukee?

CW: It's icing on the cake.

OMC: People I talk to tell me they listen to Bob and Brian every day from beginning to end.

CW: Do you remember the Howard Stern movie when the ratings first came in? The average listener listened for four and a half hours to hear what he would say next. Even people who hated him listened for three hours. Everything that every radio boss has told me about how to do morning radio — when to talk, when to stop, Bob and Brian have erased. They have features called "no variety." We're gonna play the Santana song that came out last summer every day at 9 a.m. It works, but it only works for them. They write their own rules and cannot be corralled or roped in. They're a hard team to manage because they're doing it right. People like to poke at them and pick on them, but they're doing it right. They're number one.

OMC: Do you think that people who don't even like Lazer's format listen to you in the mornings?

CW: Yeah, because there's no rock. They might play more country on a given morning than WMIL does.

OMC: What time do you have to get to the station in the morning?

CW: I don't like to talk about this, because I have the easiest job I've every had in my life. I get in there at 5 a.m. I used to have to get to The Point at 3 a.m., because there was so much stuff to compile. But that's the beauty of Bob and Brian's show. I just come in, compile some news, hang out ...

OMC: We try to help you with the "Weekend Preview."

CW: Please! On Friday, I don't do anything! I always know what's going on, and people think I know everything because I'm in radio. No, I go to or I just get it handed to me.

OMC: Not to dwell on your nakedness, but that's what prompted us to do our first ads on Lazer. We saw your pictures on and thought this might be an interesting station to run our ads.

CW: I guess my bare belly helped you guys out. Sometimes I'll get a random e-mail, but that's okay, because we weren't really naked. My dad and my fiancé signed off on the photos. The one-handed typists have way more porn to look at.

OMC: Are you from Milwaukee?

CW: I'm from Wauwatosa, born and raised. I live downtown. I have a little bit of a commute in the morning, but I don't ever have to drive in traffic. But there's traffic at noon now in Milwaukee.

OMC: I think Milwaukee is undergoing a renaissance.

CW: We are, and I'm so happy to be here. This is the best time. We used to cry for things to do when we kids. There were six bars and one dance club. Now, the Calatrava museum rocks, Miller Park is just a gem on our skyline. This is such an exciting time to live here. I wouldn't live anywhere else. I used to bitch about Milwaukee and call it "cow town." But I'm like the biggest fan. I would like to be one of those Milwaukee ambassadors and just talk to people.

OMC: We could help arrange that, Carrie.

CW: I would do that for free! There are so many tourists downtown.

OMC: What are your favorite restaurants in Milwaukee?

CW: Lake Park Bistro, Mimma's. And there are so many great places to slum it: Bella's Fat Cat on Brady, Kopp's. I like Butch's. When they were down here on Water, they were just awesome. Pandl's, Hi-Hat, Conjito's.

OMC: What are your favorite bars?

CW: We like to go off the beaten path a little bit. We're not club kids anymore. I like a jukebox that I can manhandle. The Shamrock Inn in the Third Ward is a great little dive. We like to go to My Office. I'll start off at the Metro, have a nice glass of $12 wine. Then we'll go to My Office and do shots!

OMC: Those are some high profile, fun places for Milwaukee's number one news radio woman.

CW: I cannot believe that when I go on vacation, for a girl that never wanted to grow up and have a serious job, that Ted Perry or Duane Gay fills in for me. People that I unbelievably respect and I think are great. Real news people. Then I think, "When are they going to realize that and fire me? When are they going to get it that I don't belong here?"

OMC: What did you want to be when you grew up?

CW: For someone who always wanted to be an actress, radio is like a dream come true. I was always good in English and art.

OMC: You kind of have that news voice, don't you?

CW: Yeah, I kind of fake it. I just tried imitating, and away I went. I'm telling you, I wanted to be an actress!

OMC: Is this the dream job in radio in Milwaukee?

CW: For me, definitely. It's the top of the game, the top of the food chain in this market. I'm happy to be here, and I'm having the time of my life. And it definitely made me. My name is on the map now. And now I'm considered a legend!

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.