Every generation has its moment. And for the post-baby boomers known simply as Generation X (aka “the MTV generation”), the early to late 1990s were that moment.
It was the days of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Tupac, Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine. It was the days when MTV ruled the world as the distribution point for everything music, fashion and politics related. And at the center of it all was Lisa Kennedy Montgomery, known simply as Kennedy.
Kennedy, the Oregon native who had made a name for herself as a deejay on the alternative radio airwaves of KROQ, was one of the most iconic VJs in the history of Music Television (MTV). Sure, we remember Tabitha Soren and Daisy Fuentes (Mrs. Richard Marx) and we will never forget Martha Quinn and Adam Curry.
But no one resonated with the fans of MTV like Kennedy.
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In the male-dominated world that was 90s rock and roll, she was a bespectacled wise-cracking pioneer who was as important to the musical movement as any of its players. She documented her first-person account of being on the ground floor during the shift from hair metal to a more serious style of rock and roll in her book “The Kennedy Chronicles: The Golden Age of MTV through Rose-Colored Glasses.”
Today, the mother of two brings the same razor-sharp wit and her ability to think quickly on her feet to the political arena as the host of “Kennedy,” which airs Monday through Friday on Fox Business Network.
On Sunday, Kennedy will join Jesse Waters live from Times Square for Fox News’ “All-American New Year.” The show airs from 7 p.m. until midnight. Also participating in the coverage will be Fox News contributors Kat Timpf and Richard Fowler live from the crowd in Times Square and correspondent Bryan Llenas reporting on security, as well as correspondents from around the country including Nashville and Miami.
Although you’ve hosted New Year’s Eve shows before both at Fox and MTV, do you still find it difficult to be “on it” for five hours on live TV?
It’s great. The new year brings so much, and there’s so much to reflect on in the news cycle — it’s endless conversation plus you get to look forward to the new year, and it’s always interesting seeing the traditions people have to gently ease themselves and increase their fortunes when the calendar changes. I love it. There’s no place like Times Square, which is going to be incredibly frigid this year. But I think that will make it fun.
When we were kids, Dick Clark pretty much had the market on New Year’s Eve. Now, there’s a lot of competition. In 1991, MTV hosted a New Year’s Eve show hosted by Hammer and featuring Bell Biv Devoe, Red Hot Chili Peppers and a live via satellite performance by Guns N Roses with Axl wearing some very form-fitting red short-shorts. Are you glad you don’t have to compete with that this year?
Yes. Absolutely. I think it would be very tough to compete with a red-shorted 1991 Axl, a 1991 Anthony Keidis and a 1991 Hammer because he probably would hurt ‘em. He would hurt all of us.
I was in Times Square for New Year’s Eve for MTV for several years — Andrew Shue and I co-hosted one year, the superstar from “Melrose Place,” and it’s funny because that year it was unseasonably warm, but MTV was on the world clock and Dick Clark was on his own clock. I think he did that to mess with people because they were in charge of the ball drop.
So, we still had two minutes left in the year and out of nowhere, the ball started dropping and we just started counting down and we had no formal countdown clock on screen because we were still minutes off. You obviously can’t tell people, “We’re not on Dick Clark time,” so we missed the ball drop and we just kind of had to go for it.
And the next year, there was a technical issue and the director was unable to talk to any of the camera operators and the only working audio apparatus was my IFB, so I had to tell the camera people whose shots to take.
Thanks, Dick Clark.
On your show, “Kennedy,” which airs at 7 p.m., you do a monologue at the beginning of each episode, which is as good if not better than anything that’s being done on late night TV. On Wednesday, you did a bit about Obama trying to stay relevant and you used the phrase, “ yes, leadership should make sure we’re all lapping up the same subjectivist drivel from the government-approved troft.” You also called Harvey Weinstein a “big game booty hunter.” Do you have a writing team that helps you prepare or is it all you?
No, I write my monologues myself. It’s a matter of challenging myself to come up with stuff that’s concise and encapsulates whatever story we are talking about at the top of the show and also having a strong point of view and keeping it moving and not having any dead space so we can get right into the show. It’s my favorite time of day and it’s also my most challenging because there are always time constraints, but I love doing it and I love writing.
As a journalist, what do you consider the biggest story of 2017?
Oh man, I’m so bad at that. I think watching the series of reactions to the president is a fascinating sociological experience because it’s combination of Kool-Aid drinkers who believe and defend everything he says and fatalists who are convinced every Tweet and misstep is the end of his administration. And the truth lies at neither end of the spectrum.
The 1990s were a very interesting time in music and you were on the ground floor with that shift in popular culture. Did you realize you were a part of the revolution at the time or was it something that happened in retrospect or at all?
No, I don’t think you can possibly know the impact of a time in music until you have context and perspective and that takes time.
We definitely knew it was a big shift. I was working in alternative radio when Nirvana and Pearl Jam broke, and for us it was huge and exciting shift and explosion because the music was different than a lot of the British that we had been obsessing about for the few years before that. British bands could do no wrong and they were shaping alternative music.
Then these American rock bands came along that weren’t metal and glam was slowly dying. But having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I was really familiar with that scene. I was really surprised that it hadn’t broken sooner because it was so formative and enjoyable and it was really the perfect soundtrack for the rainy Pacific Northwest. But the to see it takeover music and make rock stars out of these reluctant hermits was really fascinating. It’s so the opposite of our celebrity culture now.
I know you’re a fan of Rocket From The Crypt, but what were some other bands you really liked? For me, it was and still is Oasis.
I loved Oasis. The thing that I loved about Oasis was the thing I loved about Nirvana in particular, which was they came on the scene and forged a shift. We were in the middle of this big “grunge flush” and I remember Liam (Gallagher) getting into the face of one of the music programmers at MTV and telling them how sh----- Nirvana was and this was to a guy that loved grunge. Here was skinny Liam Gallagher high as a kite and in this guy’s face telling him they were bigger than The Beatles and how much grunge sucked. The music executive was so mad, but he came in the next day and said, “As much as I would love to punch him in the face, they’re really good and they are going to get air time.”
I got into a physical fight with both Gallagher brothers at a party we had in Snowmass, Colorado, for the MTV Winter House. They crashed our employee holiday party and kept putting The Beatles on — we were playing the Beastie Boys. One of the camera operators pulled out The Beatles CD and put the Beastie Boys back in and then Liam went and got the Beastie Boys CD and threw it across the room, and they started pushing each other and then I got in the middle of it and Liam pushed me and I got him in a headlock and Noel jumped on my back. I actually collapsed from laughing so hard because it was like having two pet chimps run wild with limited strength and a lot of coke-fueled enthusiasm.
Was it hard for you to see the self-destructiveness of the era with the deaths of Kurt Cobain, Shannon Hoon and later Layne Staley and Scott Weiland?
It was really sad, but with some of them, you could see them coming, like Kurt Cobain had tried to take his own life in Rome and he was very depressed. You wanted him to pull through, but it wasn’t every surprising when he didn’t.
But the one that really got me was Shannon Hoon. It still makes my heart so sad. Here was this fresh-faced sweet kid with all of the talent in the world and so much enthusiasm. I saw him change over time. And when he died on his tour bus, it was just completely tragic. I knew how close he was with his mom — he talked about his mom all of the time —and how devastating that must have been for her. The short ride to fame that he had ultimately wasn’t worth it. The cocaine made him a completely different person and it transformed his personality. You could see the effect the drug use was taking on this kid’s body and mental state. Man, it was so so sad and I was always bummed out about it.