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Ed Steinfeld, the original voice of Laguna, launches “Voice of Laguna” in its new location

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Ed Steinfeld calls the “Voice of Laguna” – which launched in its new location two weeks ago – the most unique radio station in the world, and he knows whereof he speaks. Steinfeld spent more than 30 years in radio, including major market, national network radio and for five years, he served as the moderator of the “Mornings with Ed” radio show on Laguna’s local radio station KX FM. Although Voice of Laguna debuted in June, it just moved into its current location.

An all-consuming endeavor, Steinfeld admitted, “‘Voice of Laguna’ is seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I’m here 14-15 hours a day.”

ed steinfeld at mic

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The “Voice of Laguna” reaches listeners all over the world

Although physically located in the old newsstand on Ocean Avenue near PCH, the “Voice of Laguna,” via streaming, can be heard all over the world.

“On any given morning, I could be talking to 140,000 to 160,000 people and they’re just listening on their phones – they don’t have to have that FM signal in order to listen.” (Steinfeld is in line for the auction for an FCC FM license.)

After a few months of renovating, the one-of-a-kind space now housing “Voice of Laguna” opens out onto the sidewalk and beckons passersby to stop and look.

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“Voice of Laguna” is located at PCH and Ocean Avenue

What makes “Voice of Laguna” singular is its programming and unusual format which is a mixture of great music (of all genres) and important subject matter. Steinfeld explained, “We literally play every song ever recorded. I’ll go right from Miles Davis to Jimi Hendrix, from Count Basie to The Rolling Stones and the beautiful Billie Holiday to Adele – one following the other. There are no specialty shows or anything like that. It’s in the same form that I digest my music at home. I like to listen to a little of this and a little of that, and the audience seems to have caught on too.”

Hence, Steinfeld spends a lot of time putting together the playlists. “There are so many ways to listen to music. This is a real radio station. Even though we don’t have an FM signal, we have 10 times the number of listeners online streaming.” Reception distances for FM stations are typically limited to a 30-40-mile range. “My competition is Spotify and Pandora.”

ed steinfeld the voice sweatshirt

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Grab your own “Voice of Laguna” sweatshirt

The flip side of the music is also one that Steinfeld takes very seriously.

“The morning show hours from 7-10 a.m. are spent on important subject matter,” he said. “I interview Mayor Bob Whalen every Thursday at 8 a.m. I had Mike Peters on, the LBPD officer in charge of the recent murder case. I’ve had Adam Schiff on the show. During the next city election, a lot of the candidates who are running for office will come in and sit down. I’m very proud of the interviews. The hardest work I’ve put in is studying for interviews.” To add to the list, he has Liz Cheney coming on in January.

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In the heart of Downtown Laguna

Steinfeld described himself as a serious fact checker with an entrepreneurial spirit. “I was the kid who always did my homework,” he said. “My parents taught me the value of hard work.” As a result, Steinfeld is a deep and meticulous researcher when it comes to interviewing. “I grew up admiring broadcasters such as Tim Russert, and I try to channel him. He didn’t let interviewees sidestep a question. I’m laser-focused on who I’m talking to and never contemplate the next question [I’ll be asking] while the interviewee is responding to the previous one. I also admired Tom Brokaw, Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings.”

All interviews are on podcast and can be found on the website, by clicking here.

However, broadcaster isn’t the only role Steinfeld – who moved to Laguna in 1986 – plays in Laguna. He also serves as announcer for many of our nonprofit events, as moderator for the City Council debates, and what might be a surprise to many, he performs as a stand-up comedian at Mozambique in the Durban room on the last Wednesday of every month. “I’ve been doing it in town for about 20 years; Chip and Chuck gave me my first break at the Sandpiper,” he said.

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Portrait of Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters by Artist Tatyana Zen hangs in the “Voice of Laguna” studio

From the age of 10, when his family moved to Las Vegas, Steinfeld was raised on music – all kinds.

“I grew up with the Rat Pack, Louie Prima and Elvis and every performer in Vegas,” he said. “I had a chance to see and fall in love with their music and I was a rocker. I was always a fan of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and so I just combined my love for all music. I think it works as a radio format. Nowhere else on the planet is radio being delivered this way. I’ve had this dream for a long time.”

Anytime his parents had visitors, they would take Steinfeld along. “I saw Elvis probably 30 times, from his early days on,” he said.

In Vegas, Steinfeld did a little bit of a lot of things – he was a DJ, performed as a stand-up comedian and worked in the hospitality industry, to name a few.

“In Las Vegas, I was a disco record spinning guy in nightclubs. One of our customers in the nightclub was a program director for a radio station called Disco 123 and asked me to come on board and, at that point, I fell in love with radio.”

ed steinfeld billie holiday

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Singing legend Billie Holiday

Even though he spent a good portion of his early years in Las Vegas, Steinfeld was born in the Bronx and raised in the projects.

“My father was a journalist in Argentina (my parents were both Argentine, they’re gone now), but in the late ‘50s the Argentinian government was overthrown, and the military took over. Suddenly journalists and their families started disappearing, so my dad made the brilliant decision to move to the Bronx. There was a period where teenage men, my brother was of that age, were getting killed. They would go missing and then they find them dead. So, my parents and brother and sisters moved to the Bronx in 1959, and I was born in 1963 a few years later. My dad didn’t speak the language when he first moved here, so he had to work as a busboy, a dishwasher and a waiter; my mom was a maid. He taught himself English and then started a business in New York teaching other non-English speaking people English. The union he worked for in New York moved him out to Las Vegas to teach English for the culinary union, and my parents spent the rest of their lives there.”

Steinfeld came to California in 1986 and lived in Upland for a couple of weeks. “I got a radio job in downtown San Bernardino at an oldies station and then I came out here to Laguna to play basketball and fell in love with it and never left. I asked for a transfer, but the only station available was the downtown San Bernardino station, so after I came out here, I lived out of my car for the first couple of months and would make the drive back and forth to San Bernardino until I found a little garage unit here.”

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The radio station is across the street from the iconic Lifeguard Tower

Thinking he was done with network radio, Steinfeld went into boxing promotions – he was a ring announcer as one of his side jobs. “I started working for Oscar de la Hoya as a ring announcer and then Oscar gave me a chance to be his matchmaker and we started Golden Boy promotions,” he said. “I booked the undercards for the individual fights and eventually started my own promotion company after working for Oscar for three years. It takes a toll on your soul because you must take advantage of those who are the most vulnerable.”

Full of surprises

In addition to all the other parts Steinfeld plays, for 19 years he has been the partner of Ann Marie McKay, Laguna Beach City Clerk and former Air Force Captain. “She transformed my life and makes it better in every possible way. I can’t imagine my life without her,” he said. One of their shared passions is dogs. Over the years, they have adopted many senior and disabled dogs.

“I am a huge movie buff of classic black and white movies,” Steinfeld said.

To add to its description as “real radio, like the heyday of radio,” Steinfeld said, “I plan to put on station radio plays and live radio performances every few months.”

If listeners are lucky, for the Christmas season, we just might hear a rendition of It’s a Wonderful Life, with all the parts played by Steinfeld. “I do a great Jimmy Stewart imitation,” he said. “I also do a spot-on Mick Jagger strut… almost as good as Mick and pretty decent impersonations of Bruce Springsteen and Neil Diamond!”

Taking into consideration the many roles Steinfeld has played over the years, nothing should come as a surprise.

To download the “Voice of Laguna” for ways to listen and for more information, go to www.voiceoflaguna.com.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com

Lana Johnson, Editor - Lana@StuNewsLaguna.com

Tom Johnson, Publisher - Tom@StuNewsLaguna.com

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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