WORDS BY PATRICK STRAIT
For the past 45 years, Fresh Fruit on KFAI radio has played host to many important conversations and interviews, including queer artists, LGBTQIA+ activists, and even visiting celebrities. And since 1998, Dixie Treichel has been on the other side of the microphone for many of these conversations.
“I had just moved to Minnesota and I got a job at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater,” she explains of her first interaction with Fresh Fruit. “And one night I was talking with Leigh Combs, who was one of the hosts of Fresh Fruit. We were talking about music and said, ‘Do you want to come on and play some music on the show?’ And after that, I just got hooked. I wanted to learn everything about it.”
Twenty-five years later Treichel is longest-tenured host of Fresh Air Radio’s weekly “Fresh Fruit” program, which she hosts every third Thursday from 7-8 PM—the show runs weekly, featuring a regular rotation of hosts.
With a background in music and theater, Treichel has been a perfect fit for the progressive and ever-evolving nature of Fresh Fruit from the start.
“My focus has always been on arts and culture,” says Treichel. “But Fresh Fruit has always tried to represent the widest variety of the queer community as possible.”
From celebrities like RuPaul and Lily Tomlin to local artists like Kim Hines, an African American queer theater artist and author, and John Killacky, former curator at the Walker Art Center, Treichel has spent her career not only providing a platform for queer artists, but also a historical framing to share their stories.
“The thing about having celebrities or artists agree to do an interview on a show like Fresh Fruit is that they have fun being queer and talking about things you’re not going to hear them discuss on other stations,” she says. “With those interviews, they’re trying to reach a different audience. But with Fresh Fruit, you have queer people telling queer stories from a queer perspective. You get to say what you’re thinking and express yourself for who you really are.”
Over the years, Treichel has had the opportunity to see firsthand how the queer community has evolved as it pertains to the arts and watched how the approach has shifted over time.
“When I first started in the late ’90s, I think there was a more sociopolitical emphasis on the arts,” she recalls of her early days on Fresh Fruit. “There was a certain amount of time where people were trying to assimilate a little bit. We went through that period for a while, and now it’s going the opposite way. A lot of people I’ve been interviewing and having on my show want to push the boundaries and get back out there and experiment. They’re trying new things and giving a wider voice to the queer community in the arts.”
Aside from her weekly slot as an on-air host, Treichel has also settled into the role of Fresh Fruit’s resident historian. In 2013, she set out to create an audio documentary about the history of Fresh Fruit, and this month her show will focus on Jean Tretter, who founded one of the largest collections of LGBTQIA+ archives in the country. The aptly named Tretter Collection is currently located in the University of Minnesota library, and features thousands of books, magazines, and historical materials, and Treichel did a radio documentary on both the collection and Tretter himself, who died this past December.
“There’s a lot of LGBT history out there that people don’t know about that I like to bring to the front,” she says.
Despite being a self-proclaimed history buff, Treichel says she believes that Fresh Fruit is much more than a snapshot of queer media from a previous generation. In fact, she believes the show to be just as relevant and powerful today as it was when she started on-air back in the ’90s.
“We’re always keeping up with the times and giving a voice to people who you otherwise wouldn’t ever hear from,” she says. “Some people listening to Fresh Fruit live in areas where they don’t feel safe being queer. And they can turn on our show and feel a sense of community, or people to connect with. That’s an important aspect that Fresh Fruit has provided from the beginning, and it’s still very relevant today.”
As she readies herself to be a part of KFAI’s 24 hours of LGBTQIA+ programming on June 22, Treichel is equally focused on helping ensure Fresh Fruit will carry on into the future as she is in helping to tell stories.
“I love mentoring and training new people who want to be a part of the program,” she explains. “I plan to do more of that. I’m always interested in bringing new perspectives to the show.”
As for her own place in Fresh Fruit history, much like her hosting style, Treichel is humble and aims to focus on connecting the audience with the person sitting across from her in the studio.
“Some people want to be the personality type. Like a TV host. And I think it’s good that there are people like that. But I just like hearing people’s stories,” she says. “I consider myself a public servant. I provide a public and community service by being involved with a program that invites guests to share unique perspectives creatively, as well as politically and spiritually. It’s been a lot of fun for me to do for all these years, but it’s always been educational too.”
You can listen to Fresh Fruit every Thursday night from 7-8 PM on KFAI radio (90.3 FM on your dial and at kfai.org)—Treichel hosts the third Thursday of each month.