DJ Dante knows how to pleasure the ladies. With a molasses-dipped, smooth as satin growl, his voice rumbles over the airwaves Wednesday nights to caress the ears of his loyal New Haven fan base.
“You’re listening to the sweet and mellow sounds of the Love Zone on 94.3 WYBC,” he says, a slight decrescendo at the tail of his words. “I’m promising you one sweet and melodious hour.”
Part Barry White, part Babyface, Dante fires the inferno of desire, and his smoky voice has been rewarded with rising ratings from his heavily black and female, 30-something fan-base.
All of which amuses the friends of Matthew Louchheim ’04, a skinny, white prepster and self-described “neo-conservative,” also known as the daylight personality of the moonlight Dante.
“Hysterical, hysterical contrast between Dante and the everyday Matt Louchheim,” said Dustin West ’04, Louchheim’s co-host on a daytime AM WYBC talk show. “He’s crazy. As far away from being a smooth, southern mix of Barry White and Marvin Gaye as he could be.”
The California native — yes, he voted for Schwarzenegger — and outspoken former president of Yale College Students for Democracy, Louchheim has led a double life for the past two years. During the day, he’s a right-of-center Ivy Leaguer. But on Wednesday nights from 9 p.m. to midnight, he’s an urban DJ spinning Motown and R&B and plugging black love seminars on New Haven’s second highest-rated FM radio station.
“Dante is my alter-ego,” Louchheim said, no trace of Dante in his voice. “He is the urban man from within.”
Perhaps the oddest couple of personalities since Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Louchheim and Dante together DJ one of the most popular time slots on WYBC’s commercial FM station. And more amazing yet, Dante draws listeners for an average of 1.5 hours at a time, a very long listening block, Juan Castillo, the station’s FM programming director, said.
“He has developed this New Orlean-ish, southern style of delivery that is very pleasing to the females,” Castillo said. “The ratings have gone up since he has taken over.”
Louchheim, who began his work with WYBC freshman year as a completely inexperienced training director, said he never planned to become a music DJ. In his spare time, he favors 1980s rock bands such as The Cars over R&B.
At first, Louchheim said he hoped to bring his then-Libertarian viewpoint to the Yale community through talk radio. Eventually he began hosting his own AM talk show, “Dissenting Infotainment,” which still offers conservative perspectives with an entertainment spin.
One opportunity led to another, and when a slot opened up on the commercial station his junior year, Louchheim jumped for it. Dante arose from the odd combination of 16th century Italian poetry and the need for a smoother radio personality.
“Quite frankly, ‘Matt’ does not sound sexy enough,” he said.
Dante, however, added the necessary sinful love ingredient that allowed Louchheim to have fun embellishing the dedications and requests he takes during the “Love Zone.” Occasionally, he even reads bits of his literary namesake’s poetry on air.
“I had this one woman call back and say, ‘Dante, that was dirrrty,'” Louchheim said with a smirk on his face. “And I say, ‘Yeah, but did you like it?’ And she paused and said, ‘Yeah.'”
Few of his listeners probably realize that Dante is actually Louchheim, a Yale senior readying his cap and gown. But Louchheim said he does not feel he is deceiving the listeners — far from it, he said he is providing entertainment.
“People are surprised when they see me,” he said. “All radio personalities deceive their listeners. It’s entertainment, just as people act.”
A handful of his loyal listeners — all of whom are Berkeley dining hall workers — do know the man behind Dante, but still refer to him by his radio moniker.
Shaina Baugh, a New Haven resident who works in Berkeley dining hall, has called in to Dante’s show several times to request songs and is an avowed fan of his.
“That’s my boy!” Baugh said, her whole face lighting up. “He’s a very, very good DJ. He was playing all the right music.”
And for Louchheim, the experience has been much more than immersion into the world of music radio. Louchheim said he has interacted with and come to relate to a segment of the New Haven community he would have been fairly isolated from without Dante and WYBC. In addition to talking with the people who call for requests, he trains community members to become volunteer DJs.
“WYBC is one of the few Yale organizations where students and community members interact in a completely organic way,” Louchheim said.
Bough said she was so impressed with Dante that she called the station and hopes to become a volunteer DJ there.
But sadly, Dante’s days are numbered — Louchheim will soon be off to become a manager at an industrial supplies distribution company based in Los Angeles, leaving his inner urban man behind him in New Haven. Or simply tucked away somewhere inside his brain, waiting to emerge should the situation call for him.
“Dante’s got a few more shows left,” Louchheim said. “Something will be in the works.”