Before landing in radio, Heidi Harris worked as a lounge singer, TV host and in customer service for a casino. All her life, friends and family urged her to give radio a shot because, well, she likes to talk. That advice ultimately led to the Heidi Harris Show on KDWN (720 AM, 5-9 a.m. weekdays), which draws more than 20,000 listeners between 5-9 a.m. weekdays, and put her on Talker Magazine’s list of “most influential radio hosts” five times.
Although Harris, a native Las Vegan, rarely misses a chance to pillory U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., she’s no doctrinaire conservative. Call her up and bore her with the same old right-wing rhetoric and you’re likely to get the radio equivalent of the hook. And you may be surprised to learn that Harris, an avid reader, would rather spend time with a book on history than the latest tome from Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter.
How do you prepare for a day that starts at 5 a.m.?
I get up at 1 a.m., so I’m up for hours before I get here because I’ve got to get on the Web and everything and prepare for the show. I want to do today’s topics. I don’t want to do them tomorrow. It’s interesting every day. … Sometimes I’ll do more of a monologue; other times I’ll do more of the subjects. It depends. I like what I do and I’m energized, and if you like what you do and you get to talk about what you want to talk about and you feel like you’re going to learn something, then it makes it a lot more fun to get out of bed and do it.
Where do your political views come from?
A lot of life experience, a lot of reading and things I’ve been exposed to in my life. When I started out, I proudly voted in my very first election for John Anderson, not Ronald Reagan, because I was kind of independent at that age. My parents were Democrats, and as I got older and started paying more attention to things politically, I just realized that I kind of felt on the right about things. I care about taxes not being too high, and I care about government not influencing too much of what I do. … There are people who think government can make things better, and that government can make this great society and solve all of our problems, and I don’t believe that.
What is the political climate in Nevada now?
People are watching their wallets more closely. Gov. Gibbons was really railed on in the beginning of his administration about trying to keep the budget tight, but now that there’s no money, everyone is going, “Yeah, that’s right, we don’t have any money,” and one of the biggest issues that’s come out in the past couple of weeks is this whole issue of how much government workers make—firefighters, cops, teachers. What I find funny is the same politicians who couldn’t wait to sign those contracts now act horrified, shocked, that they’re so sweet. Well, where were you?
What don’t you like about the right?
I don’t understand why anyone on the right or the left—but I think the right may be worse about this—would want to listen to someone tell them what they already know every single day on the radio or on television. You turn it on, and you know within 30 seconds what you’re going to hear. … I’m kind of embarrassed that people will still flock to that. I get mailed books all the time, political books that say what’s right about the right and what’s wrong about the left, America’s going to hell. All of these right-wing books I get sent and I don’t read them.
What do you and liberals agree on?
I don’t want to see anyone tapped on the shoulder anywhere in this country and asked to provide their papers because of the way they look. That’s outrageous. In the past I have told listeners, “Who do you think was living here in the Southwest before the treaty was signed between us and Mexico? They didn’t look like you. They didn’t look like Tiger Woods’ wife. They looked like Guadalupe.” … If you’re anti-Semitic or racist, I hang up on you instantly because we don’t have anywhere to go because your brain isn’t big enough.
Has Arizona’s immigration law changed Nevada’s election?
I think one of our candidates, [Republican U.S. Senate candidate] Chad Christensen, is going to try to get something like that passed. I don’t know whether he will or not—he’s trying to get signatures. If he gets it on the ballot, he probably will.
Sum up the political climate
People are more awake now. [People are] paying attention and going, “Hey, I don’t have a job; my house is worth half of what it was. Whose fault is it?” So they’re now more aware than maybe they were a couple of years ago. I’m not saying those people who voted for Obama are idiots. I guess they wanted to make a change from Bush, but now they’re going, “Wait a minute, this isn’t what I thought it would be, and maybe change isn’t the way to do it.”