If there’s a lofty proverb about the prophecy of names, don’t expect Mike Street to expound on it. Like his last name, Street is straightforward and unsentimental. You might run into him at the gym or Shockoe Bottom and not even realize that he’s one of Richmond’s biggest radio personalities with his own show on the Beat, FM 106.5.
Maybe that’s because he’s so completely Richmond. “I’ve lived in every part of Richmond at one time or another,” Mike says. “But the majority of my childhood was in Highland Park.” Mike’s father, the late Clarence Entzminger, was a plumber, and his mother, Catharine Street, was a bank professional. Mike attended local schools including Mary Mumford Elementary and Albert Hill Middle, graduating from John F. Kennedy High School. From a young age, he listened to a variety of music. “I grew up in the MTV era,” he says. “BET wasn’t out in the 80s. Good music is good music, it doesn’t matter the style.”
He also tuned into local broadcasting legends Kirby Carmichael, Ken Crandall and Chocolate Chip. “Then it was the Z Rock crew,” he remembers. “El Bravadore and the DJ MC Fresh.” Although he spent hours listening to the radio, he had no dreams of moving behind the microphone.
Instead, he went to University of Richmond and majored in Economics. “They had a radio station, WDCE,” Mike recalls, and during Black History Month, it hosted an open house. “I went in and it was cool,” Mike says. He had his first show. After graduation, he continued the weekend radio gig and worked in his field, including at the Department of Social Services and Signet Bank.
Then in 1994, he heard that the station then called Power 93 was looking for talent. Program Director Aaron Maxwell gave Mike the weekday 5 o’clock mix. He quickly moved to better times, advancement he shrugs off today. “It was easy then,” he claims. He credits his partner and suggests that the freshness of the format led to his rise.
Nevertheless, the station soon hired Mike full time. A few months later, “That’s when they started the Beat,” he says.
Today, The Mike Street Show airs 2 to 6 pm weekdays. His attitude and humor as well as his own mix of R&B and hip hop draw enough listeners to consistently rank him among the top in the region. In June, he’ll celebrate his eighth year there.
“My show is however I feel that day,” Mike says. “I don’t put on airs. If I’m in a bad mood, I say, hey, I’m in a bad mood. It’s not too often that happens. I try to make the show interesting. I guess if it was food, a lot of entertainment is ‘empty calorie.’ It doesn’t hurt you, but it doesn’t help. I’m trying to come up with stuff that helps a little bit.”
In person, Mike is friendly without a note of pretense. “Whenever you tell a lie, you have to put a lot of work into it, because you have to tell another lie to cover that lie,” he says. “Whenever you just tell people the truth from the beginning, then the onus and the pressure is off of you. The more you have to make up who you are or falsify your lifestyle or any of that, you’ve created another job. It means every time somebody sees you, you’re working.”
Although he’s met most of the biggest names in entertainment, he may be the least likely to get star-struck. “I understand who the people are and the context of their celebrity,” he says. “But at the same time, I understand it’s a symbiotic relationship. I need to have them on the show just as much as they need to be on the show. I guess you could say it’s a mutual respect thing. I do whatever it takes to get the interview. If they don’t give me the energy, then I don’t give them the time. It’s nothing personal.”
He shows clear excitement about one request that came last year: “They said, ‘Would you like to interview Senator Barack Obama?’ I got to talk to Michelle and pretty much everybody he’s hired so far. It was interesting to say the least.”
A bachelor, Mike lives in Varina, the proud father of daughter Sydney, who’s just over two years old. An admitted news junkie, he works out and refrains from cigarettes and alcohol. “I have a healthy fear of bad health,” he jokes. He enjoys cooking and loves Thai and Jamaican food. He often works ten hours a day.
But the unassuming economist makes time for a surprising priority: “I like going to read to kids at school,” he says. “For the time that you’re in that room, it takes your mind off all of the stressful issues you might have going on. It’s like going to see a good comedian. Kids are honest.”
Some might say they get that kind of candor from his show. On May 1, Mike – and his six year-old Rottweiler Raza – will celebrate birthdays. “I’m going to have a major party,” he says.
A little madness from the master of matter-of-fact?
Mike answers, “Well, it’s on a Friday this year.”