Longtime Los Angeles radio personality Tracey Miller, who won numerous awards for her work in news and as a talkshow host, died Friday at Glendale Adventist Medical Center after a brief hospitalization following a three-year battle with cancer. She was 51.
Known for her rich contralto voice and quick wit, Miller, a four-time Los Angeles Press Club Golden Mike Award winner, was among the first female talkshow hosts in Los Angeles, helping KFI establish itself as a drivetime leader with the popular “TNT in the Morning.” This year, the American Women in Radio and Television established a Genii merit award in her honor.
Born in Santa Maria, Miller grew up in Granada Hills. After graduating from broadcasting school in 1976, she became a news reporter at KOB-Albuquerque. From there, she moved to KOMO in Seattle, and helped cover the Mount St. Helens eruption. Even then, she spoke of the double standard for women covering news. “I wasn’t allowed to hop in the helicopter like my male counterpart,” she noted. “I had to broadcast my information from a local university in front of a Richter scale.”
Miller returned to Southern California in 1982, beginning an 11-year run at KFI that saw the station go from Arbitron also-ran to juggernaut. She was the consumer reporter for “The Gary Owens Show,” earning the first of her Golden Mikes there. She also was the station’s film reviewer.
In 1990, Miller was paired with Terri Rae Elmer, as host of “TNT in the Morning.” Among the highlights of the show’s three-year run was a program aired aboard a pair of sailing yachts in which Miller’s boat, with a running motor clearly audible to listeners, outran the ship on which a flustered Elmer kept demanding to know how she was being beaten so handily.
In 1994, Miller moved to KABC, where she was paired with Peter Tilden. Two years later, with Disney trying to establish a niche women’s network on sister station KTZN, she hosted “Two Chicks on the Radio” with Los Angeles Times columnist Robin Abcarian.
When Disney reformatted KTZN as Kids Radio, Miller went to KLSX, working on the “Jonathan Brandmeier Show.”
Miller may have been the only female talkshow host to have a radio engineer’s license, and could run the studio board herself in a pinch.
Miller also worked on cable television as a hands-on consumer reporter for the Lifetime show “Essentials,” with Andi Metheny and Forbes Riley, in which she underwent acupuncture, for instance, reporting on the harrowing experience with Lucille Ball-like comic timing.
She was a contributor to the Los Angeles Times’ Laugh Lines column, commenting on domestic issues as a “soccer mom with an attitude.” She became increasingly interested in politics later in her career, and remained active as an editorial writer after she left radio, contributing opinion pieces to the Times, among others. The Genii Awards handed out the first Tracey Miller Merit Award in July.
“She taught me everything I knew about radio,” Abcarian said. “She was a natural. She had that fabulous smoky voice that was so pretty and unique. And she was so funny. I’ve never laughed so hard as when I worked with her.”
In 2002, Miller became editor of the La Crescenta Valley Sun. In 2005, her weekly column Miller Time appeared in the Glendale News-Press.
She leaves two children, Taylor Brittenham and Kelsey Showalter; her mother, Rose; and a sister, Pam Miller Wood.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute c/o Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 8631 W. Third St., Los Angeles, CA 90048.
Memorial arrangements are pending.