If you’ve lived in the Portland area for some time now, it’s likely you’ve heard the voice of Francine Raften booming through your radio speakers at some point. A local radio personality for nearly three decades, Raften found great success on the airwaves interviewing celebs, politicians and everything in between including then future President Bill Clinton.
“I knew I wanted to be on the radio from the time I was a kid,” says the Oregon native. In fact, her first “big” gig was at the age of 12 interviewing her 4-H leaders for a show aptly named “What’s Happening in 4-H,” which aired on a small station in Gresham. During her high school and college years, Raften interned at KEX in Portland filling in for DJs when needed and eventually landed her own evening show on KGW.
“In those days I was a disc jockey in the true sense of the word playing great records, but there was a lot more freedom. They called it personality radio and you could really embellish that personality. These days radio is very homogenized and it’s hard for air people to break through.”
Raften did just that and she quickly had one of the most recognizable voices in the Portland metro area with her popular morning and afternoon drive-time shows. But as the radio industry evolved over the years, so did Raften’s on-air interests and she soon found herself in front of the cameras and no longer just behind the microphone. She hosted the public affairs show Crosstalk on WB32, produced Fox News Extra and co-hosted Portland’s first locally produced comedy show Snax: Comedy Tidbits. The success of this comedy show, Raften’s outspoken and humorous personality and the encouragement of friends led her to take a stab at stand-up comedy. Raften’s comedy took off and she toured up and down the West Coast for many years making people laugh along the way. Her biggest comedic success came four years ago in a two-woman show with Wendy Westerwelle called “The Jewish American Princesses of Comedy.”
“The JAP show, as we fondly called it, was a huge hit in the Portland area and we got extended three or four times. It was so amazing working with Wendy [Westerwelle] who is just a legend in this city,” says Raften. “I loved everything about doing that show.”
Though she hasn’t done stand-up in a few years, this May Raften will get to show off her comedic chops once again at a reunion show for the 30-year anniversary of the Leaky Roof, a venue on SW 16th and Jefferson, where some of the first open mic nights were held back in the day. Many of the biggest names in comedy from this neck of the woods, Raften included, got their start at the Leaky Roof.
These days Raften still finds herself in front of the cameras doing a weekly video podcast for the Internet TV network Earth2World. The show, entitled “Tell Me About It,” brings together different female guests each week for an uninhibited conversation about current world and local events.
“I bring fun, accomplished, smart women together and we talk about bizarre topics – the sublime to the ridiculous and back again,” says Raften. One recent outrageous topic was about a woman who spent $50,000 to clone her dog. “But,” Raften continues, “that morphed into a conversation about death, immortality and the ethics that surround it.”
Giving a voice to local women is important to Raften, as are many of the topics that come up on her show, including women’s issues, family issues and civil rights. But she also realizes the importance of the male perspective on some such subjects and plans to incorporate a “man in the hot-seat segment” to her show soon.
Though it’s clear the spotlight loves Raften, she also enjoys putting others in the spotlight. She ran her own PR and marketing firm for many years and worked as a political campaign consultant for congressional, gubernatorial, city council and mayoral candidates. “I had 22 wins out of the 23 campaigns I managed,” Raften, rightfully boasts. She’s also worked for Clackamas County as a citizen involvement liaison and is currently the director of public relations and media at Emerge Medical Spa in Bridgeport.
With the success of her podcast growing every day, it’s likely you’ll be hearing much more from Raften and most likely laughing at the same time. Living in Beaverton with her husband and two kids, Raften humorously likes to quip, “I’m a nice Jewish girl, but I’m only in it for the food.”
A recent Portland transplant, Lauren Murphy is a lifestyle writer and editor whose articles have been published in Los Angeles Confidential, Aspen Peak, Hamptons Magazine and The New Jersey Star Ledger. A native of the East Coast, she is enjoying getting to know her new city and writing all about it. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.