A veteran of radio, TV and live streaming, Ellen K rates as this year’s only Hollywood Walk of Fame honoree for radio, a recognition of her peerless co-hosting with Ryan Seacrest of L.A.’s top-rated KIIS-FM morning show.
She is quick to laugh as she explains her cryptic moniker.
“My maiden name is Norwegian and very hard to pronounce. When I first got into radio my boss in San Diego said, ‘We can’t use your last name. We want something easy.’ Thomas was similar to my Norwegian maiden name, so I was Ellen Thomas.
“When I came to L.A. to be with Rick Dees, Jay Thomas was on the air competing with Rick. So I couldn’t be Ellen Thomas. My middle initial is J for Jean and Ellen J. Thomas wasn’t going to work. We were going to lose the last name altogether and Rick said, ‘Let’s just go to K, the next letter in the alphabet.’ So we did.”
When she left her native Indiana, her first stop was San Diego. From there, her ebullient personality soon took her to San Francisco and then to L.A. as Dees’ co-host on KIIS-FM’s morning talkshow.
“I learned so much from Rick,” says Ellen. “He and his family were family, it was the most home I ever felt.”
Her successful teaming with Seacrest began in 2004.
“Ryan was working at STAR doing an afternoon show and he’d filled in for Rick (Dees) a couple of times. I had known him a long time. We were both doing syndicated radio shows and worked out at the same gym. When Rick’s contract was up, Ryan was an option if Rick didn’t want to stay and as events happened, Ryan became the morning show at KIIS and the station decided to keep me there with continuity.
“We instantly clicked.”
How did she instantly know?
“Before we started together we met for coffee and both of us put our sunglasses down on the table — and they were the same. I’m not sure what that meant. But as for the future I want to keep doing with Ryan as long as I can.”
She is now doing narration for “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” and “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding,” British hits that are being Americanized on TLC.
“That’s a blast,” she says. “I signed with William Morris and I’ll be expanding my voice career a little more.”
Ellen K fled from pregnant cow to microphone
A broadcasting career wasn’t even on Ellen K’s radar when she matriculated at Purdue. The Indiana native was on her way to being a veterinarian. Then came a fateful encounter with a very pregnant cow.
“It was a cold Indiana day. I had to put on a plastic glove all the way to my shoulder and feel what it’s like in there, which is gross, so that when I had to deliver calves, I knew how.
“I got my glove off and all the way on the bus back to campus I could feel my arm was still warm in the cold, the steam was coming off it. It was a moment I’ll never forget — and that’s the reason I got out.
“I called my dad, who was a professor, and he said, ‘Whatever your heart wants you to do, you do it.’ I changed majors, got a radio internship and that was it. I was hooked.”
While Ellen knew where she wanted to go, leaving home to work in San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles wasn’t easy.
“Being the youngest of six, I’m a momma’s and daddy’s little girl. When I drove off to go cross country in my little car I looked back in the rearview mirror and saw tears in my dad’s eyes. I’d never seen him cry. It was really hard to leave home and even harder to make my way. At times it was scary and lonely and horrible. Nights I would cry and want to just stop and go back to Indiana.”
She coped by letting “the job become my family — and I’m lucky I didn’t have to move around too much. I stayed in one state.”