After more than 50 years on the radio, the disc jockey is still going strong, playing sentimental songs and making dedications. His deep, soothing voice is cherished by his Latino listeners. The disc jockey smiles when he hears Juanita Santos’ raspy voice.
“Art,” she says from her small town near Fresno, “I want you to tell my husband, Juanito, ‘You’re my Chicano king. I’m your booty- licious. I can’t live without you. I’ll never let you go.’ And I want you to blow him a big kiss for me and play ‘You’re My Shining Star.’ ”
“OK, Juanita. Here goes that kiss. . . . Muaah!”
Phone lines flash six nights a week inside a dimly lit Hollywood studio where Art Laboe sits before his microphone, faithful to his old-fashioned format: playing sentimental oldies and taking dedications. For more than 50 years, his deep, soothing voice has been as cherished among Latinos in the Southwest as Chick Hearn’s rapid-fire staccato once was among Lakers fans.
Listeners with nicknames such as Mr. Porky, Lil’ Crazy, Big Papi, Bullet, Bugsy and Payasa call in from Oxnard, Riverside and Boyle Heights; from Phoenix, Albuquerque and Nevada. They are lonely women, rueful men, rapt lovers, entire families with squeaky-voiced children who ask Laboe to wish their grandmothers good night.