By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
A gaggle of women comes spilling out of the entrance to the dance floor. "Shake that ass!" a middle-aged lady in a neon halter shouts as she shimmies to the music. Her friends grip her cautiously as she sidles her way down the stairs, sipping from a pink plastic bottle shaped like a penis.
Inside, women dance distractedly while a tattooed, thong-clad male stripper gyrates on a tiny stage, the KDWB logo behind him. In the dark corners beyond the dance floor, male strippers administer lap dances to shrieking, flush-faced women while friends cackle and snap photos.
This is clearly the level of the ship that gives the event its name: the Booty Cruise.
The women-only booze cruise along the St. Croix River is one of the many outlandish ways Dave Ryan, rakish host of 101.3 KDWB's Dave Ryan in the Morning, has been connecting with his rabid listenership in the Twin Cities.
Weekday mornings from 6 to 10 a.m., he confronts wayward boyfriends after tricking them into revealing their indiscretions during "War of the Roses." He entertains with parodies about overpriced mall chains and pens lyrics about obnoxious drunk friends to the tune of Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend." He has prank-called local car dealerships, organized contests around nudity, and encouraged his producer to run around town in a pig suit.
But you wouldn't know it just by looking at him. Amid the muscle-bound men in butt floss and the women in T-shirts emblazoned with "Bring on the Shlong," Dave Ryan seems downright subdued. Looking much younger than his 49 years, Ryan is boyishly smooth-skinned with mischievous hazel eyes. His shirt is crisp, his jeans pressed, and his light-brown hair closely cropped.
Tonight, Ryan is on. He talks fast and is constantly mingling and moving through the floral-carpeted riverboat. Everyone seems to want to chat with him, get a picture, possibly even flirt.
On this boat, he has a camera-ready smile and a friendly arm around the shoulder for each and every woman who approaches. But a week earlier, during an interview in his office, he admitted that he's really quite introverted.
"Never in a million years would I have thought I'd be around all these women," says Ryan. "I love talking to our listeners because they and I share so many of the same interests, but I'm also actually really shy."
Women did not always clamor to meet him.
"Ever watch that show Freaks and Geeks?" asks Mike Favatella, Ryan's best friend since the seventh grade. "We were the geeks. We were very awkward."
Throughout their adolescence in mid-'70s Colorado Springs, Ryan and Favatella built model airplanes, obsessively watched All in the Family, and talked about girls they liked who didn't like them back. Sometimes, they'd sneak a peek at Ryan's older brother's extensive porn collection.
Then in high school, due to a clerical error, Ryan, Favatella, and another guy were assigned to an all-girls gym class. The mistake was never corrected, and the boys remained in the class the entire semester.
Favatella and the other guy were excited. Ryan wasn't nearly as thrilled.
"Dave wasn't very athletic and all the girls showed him up," Favatella says. "I seem to recall no one wanting Dave for their team and him getting picked last. The girls weren't mean, but they weren't overly affectionate either. They tolerated him."
Though Ryan wasn't much good at scoring points, he discovered a hidden talent when he began studying radio at the local community college. He eventually worked up the courage to drop by an AM Top 40 radio station in town to ask for a job.
"Dave was kind of a gangly, awkward kid," says Dan "Captain Dan" Jackson, Ryan's first boss at KYSN in Colorado Springs. "But he was just so excited and enamored by radio. He was a guy who ate, drank, and slept radio. He showed so much talent even at that young age — he was full of ideas."
Today, his show Dave Ryan in the Morning is almost always near the top of radio-show rankings in the Twin Cities. The two decades he's spent at KDWB is nearly unheard of in a profession where morning shows are increasingly syndicated and jocks typically switch stations every couple of years.
On top of all that, Ryan won the prestigious Marconi Award, the Oscar of the radio industry, last year.
"He's a legend in radio," says Bill Michaels, co-host of the morning show Dwyer and Michaels on WXLP in the Quad Cities. "We borrow from him all the time."
According to Rich Davis, KDWB's program director, Ryan's show is number one in multiple demographics, though Ryan absolutely dominates in a very important one.
"He downright owns the female demographic," Davis says.
When Ryan first started out in radio, and even after he began his tenure in the Twin Cities, his humor was that of the geeky seventh-grade boy. There was a lot less conversation and a lot more prank phone calls and wacky gags.
Back then, Ryan made liberal use of a character he called Hiram, a guy with a high-pitched, nasally voice who loved to make prank calls.