Business Briefing: Oakland DJ, radio host James helps show off city's Pride

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday August 16, 2022
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Bay Area DJ and radio host Christie James, photographed in downtown Oakland, is one of the board members of Pridefest Oakland, which is scheduled for September 11. Photo: KSJ Photography
Bay Area DJ and radio host Christie James, photographed in downtown Oakland, is one of the board members of Pridefest Oakland, which is scheduled for September 11. Photo: KSJ Photography

East Bay native Christie James is helping to showcase the local LGBTQ community next month as one of the organizers of the Pridefest Oakland 2022 celebration. It is one of the many responsibilities the well-known DJ and radio personality is juggling these days as in-person events make a comeback amid the ongoing COVID pandemic.

"Fun and music are kind of my jam; that's me. It is fun and music and positive vibes," said James, who identifies as pansexual and bisexual and owns a home in the city's Fruitvale neighborhood.

James grew up in Fremont and has called Oakland home, for the most part, since she turned 18. But the Navy veteran did spend three years living in Italy, where she was stationed on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia between 2000 and 2003 and served as a petty officer 2nd class as a journalist. It instilled in her a love for media in its various formats, from radio broadcasts to printed newspapers.

"I know; it was horrible!" James joked in a recent phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "I worked for American Forces Network, so thank you for keeping journalism alive in any form."

She likened it to the military's version of CNN, for which she filed reports about entertainment news. A chance assignment saw her take over the morning radio show when the usual host went on vacation.

"Nobody wanted to get up early to do the morning show, so they said they thought I would be great. I am the least morning person of anyone," said James, who declined to reveal her current age. "I did it begrudgingly but did it well. When the girl came back, she was sent to another department, so I was able to do the radio morning show and news."

She ended up moving back to the Bay Area with her Italian then-girlfriend and landed a local radio internship that led to a gig with Renel Brooks-Moon, who later became the public address announcer for the San Francisco Giants. Their show "Renel & Christie in the Morning" aired on 98.1 KISS-FM.

"You just never know where life and a dream can take you! It is true, I am living proof," said James, as she had dreamed of learning and working with Brooks-Moon while in Italy.

Her radio career took her to various local stations, from KYLD and KISQ, to most recently iHeart 80s @103.7. For the past five years James has produced former MTV VJ Martha Quinn's radio show on the station.

She also had been helming her own weekday midday show on 103.7 F.M. but at the start of the year was promoted to having her own morning show when Quinn's program moved to that time slot. James can now be heard weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. hosting the "Morning Drive with Christie Live."

Meanwhile, James also has her own nighttime weekday show on Pride Radio from 7 p.m. to midnight that is heard on the iHeart radio app and stations across the country. She does it at her in-home studio.

"I can record at home and have a lot more flexibility," explained James as for how she is able to work on three radio shows per day in addition to her non-radio career and community volunteer work.

She is also "happily dating" again, though she wouldn't divulge the name of the woman she is seeing. Asked when she sleeps, James retorted, "Honey, I will do that later!"

She is also part of an all-woman DJ crew in the Bay Area known as Heart of Gold DJs. She discovered the collective about four years ago and has worked with them ever since, going by the moniker DJ Christie, as a DJ for hire to play at various events and celebrations.

The bookings dried up at the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, but eventually corporate gigs turned up where she DJed business events via Zoom.

"I had to change it up, so I set up a space in my room," said James, who also DJed at virtual Pride celebrations.

Last year, James was hired to DJ at 47 weddings. Her schedule has been just as busy this year, and James already has booked six marriage ceremonies next year.

"I love the love! Where else, number one, can you see a grown man do the worm, like literally? People cut loose at weddings like they don't do anywhere else," said James. "At weddings everyone is happy. Families come together for good reasons. Everyone is drinking; it's a real party."

There is another perk of such gigs she also enjoys, James acknowledged.

"I love the free food! To know me is to know I love a deal and some free food," said James amid a burst of laughter.

As if her schedule couldn't be any busier, James this year has been DJing for the Oakland A's at their home games in Oakland. And she told the B.A.R. she would love to also work with the Golden State Warriors.

"I am the Treehouse DJ and warm up DJ for their home games. It's been real cool," said James of the A's, adding of the championship basketball team that now plays in San Francisco, "I really, really want to try to work with the Warriors. I wish the Warriors will let me come do something with them! I will keep my schedule open so I have space for them! Let's put out there our good vibes!"

A DJ for the lesbian cruise company Olivia since 2016, James averaged three bookings a year until COVID hit. She returned to the seas last year for the first time during the pandemic with the company and will be DJing on one of its 50th anniversary cruises in early 2023.

"I went to Italy last year with them. I wasn't nervous, I was ready to go," said James when asked about the risk of catching COVID while onboard the ship. "It is something you have to live with eventually."

Ever since she was a child James has wanted to be a public personality, having idolized the TV journalist Barbara Walters and game show host Pat Sajak, whom she still does to this day. It is the one job left on her bucket list, in fact.

"Ultimately, my dream is to host a game show. I would love to do that! The energy and being able to hook people up with free stuff," said James. "I wanted to be on TV as a kid. I wanted to be around people and I like asking questions. I am curious, naturally. Some call it nosy, but I like asking questions."

Pridefest Oakland

Her enjoyment in throwing and DJing a party led her to help organize Pridefest Oakland. As the B.A.R. has previously reported, a group of LGBTQ Oakland leaders came together after the implosion of Oakland's Pride parade and festival last fall to organize their own daylong celebration. In February, they announced they were bringing it back this year on Sunday, September 11, with a more formal board of volunteers.

It has attracted major sponsors such as Gilead Sciences, PG&E, Amazon, Google, and the Port Bar. The gay-owned downtown Oakland venue's co-owners and life partners Sean Sullivan and Richard Fuentes serve on the Pridefest's board along with James.

Since then a separate effort has been launched to hold an Oakland Pride parade and festival September 4 over the Labor Day weekend holiday. According to its website, the parade is set to kick off at 10:30 a.m. that Sunday with the festival going until 7 p.m. Entry is $10 ($5 for children 12 and under), with the main gate located at Broadway & 20th Street.

James, who oversaw the Oakland Pride main stage for five years and, for seven years, helped produce the Women's Stage at San Francisco Pride, told the B.A.R. she didn't know anything about the competing Pride event and was solely focused on Pridefest this year. Among its headliners are performers Madame Gandhi and Crystal Waters.

"I now have an opportunity to help create the festival. Not just the stage but the whole energy of the festival and vibe while still serving the community," she said, explaining why she wanted to take on the added responsibility in addition to her paid work commitments. "I wanted to help bring a good, positive vibe to what can be kind of crazy sometimes."

She hopes the community embraces the new event, which James sees as being a platform to put Oakland back on the map as a destination worthy of LGBTQ tourists visiting like any other major city in California.

"I just think I want to make sure that Oakland has a great community space to highlight the entire LGBTQ community in Oakland. I think Oakland is developing on such a rapid level," said James. "I love this city. It is just as much a destination as San Francisco or Los Angeles. We definitely have a unique vibe. I feel like being able to highlight that and our LGBTQ community would be fabulous."

To learn more about James and to book her for events, visit her website.

For more information about Pridefest Oakland, visit its website. Its launch party is Wednesday, August 17; to register, click here.

Got a tip on LGBTQ business news? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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