Radio DJ Valerie Smaldone of Hartsdale
TALK RADIO: THE DJ SPEAKS
Hartsdale resident and top daytime radio personality Valerie Smaldone talks about her life here, on the air, and as an ovarian cancer survivor.
By Laurie Yarnell
If you are one of the two-and-a-half million listeners per week who tune into New York’s 106.7 FM from noon to four o’clock weekdays, you know well Valerie Smaldone’s smooth, low-pitched voice. After all, she has been the No. 1 midday radio host in the New York and national radio markets since 1989. What you might not know about her (but she’d like you to): she is an ovarian cancer survivor-turned-activist.
“When I found out I had ovarian cancer, I wanted to tell other women that, if this could happen to me, it could happen to anyone,” says Smaldone, a Hartsdale resident who has recorded public service announcements on radio about the importance of early ovarian cancer detection. “I was tired of whispering the word cancer like it’s a death sentence. I wanted to be a maverick and help the disease come out of the closet and say, ‘It’s nothing to be ashamed about so why are we whispering?’”
Smaldone, 49, (“the same age as Michelle Pfeiffer,” she notes) was diagnosed with the disease in April 2001. “I hadn’t been feeling well for about a year,” she says, “and I was very tired.” A series of ultrasounds and a CT scan revealed a cyst on her right ovary. During a laproscopic procedure to remove that cyst, her doctor discovered a malignant tumor adjacent to that ovary. After surgery to remove her ovary and the nearby tumor, Smaldone underwent three months of chemotherapy.
Ovarian cancer is the deadliest of all gynecologic cancers. About 20,000 American women are diagnosed with it annually and about 15,000 of its victims will die from it this year. Smaldone’s cancer was diagnosed at an early stage (1C), which she credits with her survival. With more common advanced-stage diagnoses, only 30 percent of patients survive five years.
Today cancer-free, Smaldone is understandably passionate about the importance of early ovarian cancer detection. Her advice? “Be tuned into your body. If you’re tired, have back pain, or your stomach is distended, you have to go down the path of discovering. It’s not okay if you don’t feel well.”
Smaldone, a five-time winner of both Billboard Magazine’s and Radio & Records’ “Adult Contemporary Personality of the Year” awards, didn’t grow up with DJ-wannabe daydreams. “I’m not one of the normal people on the radio.”
After enrolling in Fordham University, the then 17-year-old Smaldone wandered into campus radio station WFUV to audition for its announcers workshop. By her junior year, she was teaching it—and had her first paying gig hosting a Sunday-morning show on Westchester radio station WFAS. She landed at 106.7 in 1984.
Along the way, she’s pursued radio, TV, and stage gigs. She produced and hosted the nationally syndicated Spotlight On... radio program, for which she interviewed top recording artists such as Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Celine Dion, and she has recorded more than 1,000 voiceovers. For the past three seasons, she has been the announcer on The Boomer Esiason Show, a TV sports program on MSG and Fox Sports Net. She has appeared on PBS, in commercials, movies, and soap operas, and has also done guest-star stints on- and off-Broadway. And her producing credits include a short film (La Piccola Stanza) and a play (Spit It Out!), in which she also wrote and starred in.
Smaldone divides her time between the ’60s-era triplex condo in Hartsdale she bought in 1986 and a pied à terre in Manhattan, both of which she shares with her boyfriend, Rick Steinhaus, a former radio personality-turned social worker. In what
little free time she has, she enjoys gourmet cooking. “Because I go out to dinner practically every night, my biggest pleasure is to cook