Broadcasting Alumna Finds Global Audience for 'Lost Radio'

Published 01.13.2006

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Nikki Grove is joined by the show's co-creator Damon Lindelof, left, and assistant writer Matt Ragghianti, at a 'Destination L.A.' charity auction thrown by fans of 'Lost.'By day, she is a near-anonymous secretary for a kitchen-and-bath supplier. But for two hours a week, Nikki Grove becomes "DJ Kaidy," the internationally known host of a campus-radio program that has become nearly as phenomenal as the television series it celebrates.

Between 7 and 9 p.m. most Thursdays from the studios of WPTC-FM 88.1 at Pennsylvania College of Technology, the alumna serves up music inspired by characters on ABC's drama "Lost" and talks live with fellow fans and the show's creative talent.

For the uninitiated, television's runaway (and castaway) hit recounts the disparate lives and diverse backgrounds of plane-crash survivors on a Pacific island, and Grove's regular radio contest allows listeners to select songs that remind them of that week's chosen character.

Fugitive Kate inspired the Beatles' "Everybody's Got Something to Hide," for instance, and Boone's on-screen demise (winkingly telegraphed to viewers who know that a red shirt generally spells doom in TV land) prompted a request for Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door."

"We have a good time with it, letting people have a say," says the May 2000 broadcast communications graduate, who lets her audience choose each week's topic through message-board postings at the official Web site of the creative team behind the series.

"Lost Radio" has grown from a loyal, but limited, number of devotees "probably three or four people locally at this time last year, just a couple of college friends in town," Grove laughs to an online oasis of fervent and faithful fans from across the globe.

WPTC's programming is streamed via a link on the station's Web page and the shows are archived on a separate "Lost Radio" site , making the Linden resident a worldwide media celebrity of sorts and meriting mention in a recent Baltimore Sun feature article.

"I'm fortunate that I get to do this on a weekly basis, and I've met some really great people: people from Australia, a gentleman in Wales, a group in Germany," she says. "I did an on-air interview with the first Israeli 'Lost' fan!"

Grove meets Greg Grunberg (also of 'Alias' and 'Felicity'), who played the plane's pilot on 'Lost.'The series could be misconstrued as a mere flavor of the month among cultish fanatics, and Grove concedes despite describing herself as a "big geek" that she never went in much for the obsession that greeted such shows as "Star Trek" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

But there's something serious going on when Grove takes to the microphone, something indescribable beyond the sly rock-'n'-roll soundtrack to her weekly on-air shift.

"Nikki's success with the program is first a tribute to her initiative and hard work, but it also shows that college radio can have an impact beyond the campus," notes Bradley L. Nason, assistant professor of mass communications and the faculty adviser to WPTC.

"Something like this would never air on commercial radio without surveys and focus groups determining it could pull in a certain audience share. When Nikki told me what she wanted to do with 'Lost Radio,' I had no idea it would become what it has," he says. "But it sounded interesting and creative, and that was good enough for me."

And, evidently, "good enough" for listeners.

So popular is her show and so extensive are her Internet following and professional credibility that the broadcast has caught on with some of the show's talent, including co-creator/executive producer J.J. Abrams, whom Grove met at a "Destination L.A." fan gathering.

"He said, 'You're DJ Kaidy? I'm a huge fan,'" she recalls. "It was flabbergasting; I was going there to see him!"

William Mapother, who plays Ethan, has become a true friend to 'Lost Radio.'In fact, a number of writers and others involved on both sides of the camera had heard the show and have since phoned in or recorded promos. David Fury, former writer/co-executive producer of "Lost," is among those lending vocal clout to plug the radio program, and Grove has conducted interviews with cast members such as William Mapother (Ethan) and Andrea Gabriel (Nadia).

The host has become good acquaintances with several of the series' crew, including supervising producer/writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Matt "Raggs" Ragghianti, assistant writer, which has added a special dimension to her affiliation with the television program. Actor Mapother also is a friend of the show.

"They are so passionate about making their fans happy," she said of the team behind the hit. "You're a real person to them. They're really decent people and they're making a decent product."

When "Lost" won this year's Emmy Award as best dramatic series, it was all the more personal.

"People watch the Emmys and say, 'I hope my favorite show wins,' but this was different," she said. "Here, I was watching my friends people that I've actually met walk up on stage; I was seeing my friends win."

Does her access to the big time give her an edge in deciphering the show's labyrinthine plot? Or a heads-up on upcoming bombshells?

"No, they're very tight-lipped. 'Raggs' e-mailed me before the season started and said, 'I just saw the pilot. Wow!'" she recounts. "That's the extent of any leaks. They're that secretive!"

International fame and celebrity name-dropping aside, Grove is anything but star-struck.

The 1995 Williamsport Area High School graduate, who transferred here after enrolling at Millersville University because "this is home," is not jaded by suddenly having Hollywood in her life. She holds a 9-to-5 job, dates a dairy farmer and appreciates her two hours a week with new friends.

"I have no idea where this is headed or how long it might last, but this has been something that I needed," she says. "Penn College does a lot for this town, and I'm grateful for what this opportunity has done for me."