NEAL RUBIN

Laid off from radio, but a voice for pride in her work

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

The name tag uses only her first name and an initial: Dana M. But that and her voice were enough for a guest to fill in the blank.

“You used to be on the radio,” the woman said, and Dana Lundon Masucci — formerly behind a microphone, and currently behind the front desk at a Farmington Hills hotel — acknowledged that indeed she was.

“I wondered where you went,” the woman said.

Sometimes Masucci wonders the same thing. But mostly, she knows exactly where she is:

The same place countless others have already been.

As recently as March, Masucci was part of the morning team at WDVD-FM (96.3). A few months later, her fans were lining up to see her ... in the checkout lane at a Target where she was ringing up their purchases.

Now she’s working weekends and late shifts at the hotel, hired away by a customer at Target who liked her smile and her spirit.

“What I’m going through,” she says, “is nothing new to people who aren’t in radio.”

What’s different is the comedown. Or would be the comedown, if she saw it that way — which she refuses to do.

At 17, working at McDonald’s, Masucci won a national award for lobby-cleaning. At WDVD, under the name Dana Lundon, she was the traffic and weather reporter and third voice on the highly rated Blaine and Allyson in the Morning.

Life can change quickly. Effort and self-satisfaction shouldn’t.

Whether with a mop or a mic, she says, “You have to take pride in what you do.” And doing nothing is not an option.

A childhood fascination

Masucci traces her roots in broadcasting to a radio her grandparents gave her when she was all of 6 years old.

She would listen to the local stations in Connecticut and the faraway ones that came in late at night — but not just to the music. She took note of the disc jockey’s voices, the cadence, even the jingles.

By 18, she was on the air, beginning a typical multi-state radio trek that brought her to Michigan in 1998 as the evening host at WKQI-FM (95.5).

In a sometimes comically treacherous business, she has occasionally competed against herself: while one station airs a voice-tracked show starring Dana Lundon, a sister station features Dana Masucci.

Once, she replaced a midday host who was fired the morning of the station’s Christmas celebration. She cried at the party; he didn’t.

There’s a newspaper story online from 1991 where she says, “I’m sure I’ll get fired someday. Everybody seems to.”

Stations change formats or program directors. Losses in one region lead to layoffs in another. Belts can tighten into nooses, and even popular programs like Blaine and Allyson aren’t immune.

So a pink slip from the station was followed by a red shirt at Target, and then a name tag at the hotel.

‘Good things are coming’

However steady Masucci’s approach has been, the pay cut has been substantial.

Her husband, Dan, is the production director for one of the radio chains in Detroit, but his was supposed to be the second income.

Though they live modestly, she says, in a small house in Farmington Hills, she has sold her collection of Barbies and she’s looking for a buyer for the gold and platinum records she was given at other stops where she was the program director.

The listeners who connected with her on Facebook during better days send her encouraging messages. Many of them are struggling more than she is, she says, so why should she complain, and who would she complain to?

The other day, she emptied an overflowing trash can at the breakfast buffet and a guest tipped her $3. That afternoon, she received a thank-you note and a Starbucks gift card from a mother and daughter she had helped the week before.

“I’m going to take that as a sign from God that good things are coming,” she says.

Meantime, she’ll just keep hustling and smiling as though they already had.

nrubin@detroitnews.com

@nealrubin_dn