When I heard news reports that the ReMax Realty Group hired ex-radio-personality Kimberly Ray as a sales agent, I thought someone in the press room was probably laughing. The story only seemed to point out how the mighty had fallen.
And it got worse for Kimberly Ray. There were almost immediate updates that ReMax rescinded the offer of employment.
ReMax Realty explained they'd been unaware of Ray's past when they'd made their offer. Ray's tainted past would include being fired over racially insensitive comments she'd made on-air.
The final chapter of the Kimberly Ray story—specifically the past two years since she's become a realtor—almost begs to be judged on its merits and split apart from her radio days. It's more than the career change. It's that the tone of the story has so drastically shifted. I think you'll see in a moment that her life had overnight become more sitcom than high-wire docudrama.
I interviewed the vice president of Revere Realty, Tom Morgan, about Ray's entry into real estate. Revere Realty would be the brokerage to step in and save the day after the ReMax exit. ReMax came up in our conversation, and Morgan said about them:
"The guy that hired her originally to be a real estate agent, she was very clear with him as to who she was. Even though she doesn't have the same name."
Ray had begun using her married name for real estate work, "Goodman."
"She was very clear who she was and what happened, and then once the media found out (about ReMax hiring her), and then the s-h-i-t hit the fan, they pulled out on her.
That's why she thought that was a bunch of crap that they didn't back her up. Because they knew who she was when they hired her."
I'm sure Ray wouldn't have seen at the time that there was anything providential about ReMax backing out of their agreement, but without that, Revere wouldn't have stepped in. And that would mean there would be no new chapter for Kimberly Ray—unless you'd consider showing prospective buyers around empty houses for some cookie-cutter brokerage a notable second act.
Assuming we're still talking sitcom, here's what could pass for the first scene in the pilot episode of Ray's new life:
One of the owners of a small real estate agency is decked out in a flashy golf outfit. He stands on a golf course about to tee off. Just as he is about to swing—and other golfers stand behind him waiting for him to do so—he's interrupted by three phone calls that come in quick succession. The phone calls visibly perturb the men waiting for the golfer to take the swing. All three phone callers suggest the same thing to the golfer: That he hire a controversial former talk-radio star as a sales agent.
Speaking with the first caller, the golfer is vehemently opposed to the idea. He doesn't think the publicity gained from the hire can possibly make up for the controversy. Speaking to the second caller, the golfer is a little more open to the idea. By the time the third caller repeats the suggestion, the golfer has done a complete about-face. The golfer tells the caller, "I've been thinking about hiring her for DAYS now. I was just about to call and let YOU know!"
The way the scene played out in real life was pretty close to how I've just described it. When I sat down for an interview with Morgan, I asked how Revere Realty came to hire Ray. He started his anecdote this way, talking about his wife who called while he was on links:
"And she says, 'You should hire her.' And I'm like, 'Kimberly? You mean, the one from the radio?' She goes, 'Yeah, I'm a big fan. I listened to the show every day, and she would be good for your company, for the exposure,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, I don't know. That seems like a major step.'"
No sale yet. Next came a voicemail from Chad Hummel, Morgan's co-manager at Revere. Morgan said:
"And then after my wife called me, I have a voicemail from Chad, and Chad's like, 'We should hire Kimberly,' and I'm like, 'Really?'"
Still skeptical but getting there, Morgan received the third call, this time from one of the agency's salespersons. Morgan continued the story:
"And because our other agent—Patricia Bardeen, who's been working for us since 2015—knew Kimberly through all the events and things and became friends with her through all these special events and they both lived in the Hilton area at the time, and they were friends with each other—so she had the connection with Kimberly. She goes, 'I reached out to Kimberly'—without me knowing it, or Chad knowing it—she goes, 'I reached out to Kimberly, and she wants to come with us.'
And I'm like, 'Oh, okay.'"
Before explaining how real estate work would lead directly to Ray's entrance into podcasting, there is some serious business to address. To dampen any good feeling over Ray having been endorsed by three people simultaneously, Revere Realty began receiving hate-filled calls once she'd been hired. The calls came from people who objected to the city's most infamous alleged racist being thrown a lifeline.
Morgan showed another side of himself in his response to the callers. In addition to being a bit of a goof, he has moments where he is the most grounded person in the room. He said about the callers:
"My answer to everybody—nobody could answer it—but my answer to everyone was, 'Well, how long should she not have a job?' and their answer was, 'Forever.'
And it just tells you the mindset there of, you know, of every—the whole thing of 'everybody deserves a second chance.' That's only if you agree with what their thought process is."
BROADCASTING ON THE CHEAP
I could compare Ray's podcasting adventure to a once-famous band releasing a late-period album, a solid one. The kind of album the critics appreciate, but few of the band's old fans are aware of. The press in Rochester actively avoided any mention of the Kimberly's Revolution podcast unless there was something negative to say about it. So a Rochestarian would need to look into finding the podcast, like coming upon a loose dollar in a parking lot.
As odd as it may seem, Ray's podcast is essentially an advertisement for the real estate brokerage. The agency's two co-managers act as her co-hosts, and the podcast is recorded at the agency offices. Those pieces only fit together in the wacky logic of sitcoms, a convenient but improbable origin story.
On paper, the thought of the woman who had arguably been Rochester's top radio talent podcasting for a small real estate agency could seem tacky. It brings to mind those infomercials set up to look like television talk shows—except that the Revere podcast had the same bad attitude as Ray's radio work. The podcast wasn't Ray's idea, though. It came from her future co-hosts. Morgan said:
"Kimberly had no intention whatsoever. When we approached her with it originally, her answer was, 'No, I'm done with the media. I don't really want to get involved with anything. I just want to sell houses.' So, it was actually Chad and I that talked her into it.
And then, it was probably a couple of weeks later, we had a meeting on a Saturday morning, and she said, 'Well, why don't we just do it? What the hell? Because it'll be good marketing.'"
Considering that only after years of trial and error had Ray found her ideal radio co-host Barry Beck, you would think she would need more time to find compatible co-hosts. How well the thrown-together cast at Revere would mesh may be the story's most preposterous angle.
Morgan and Hummel, vice-president and president at Revere, respectively, and friends since high school, are very different characters from each other. In sitcom vocabulary, Morgan is a large-ish version of a Fred MacMurray or Hugh Beaumont, a stereotypical 1950s dad. Very level-headed. He's the product of a heavily religious background, with a mother who taught Sunday school for sixty years. Hummel, by contrast, is a wily lawyer. He's of a type with John Larroquette of Night Court.
Ray quickly developed an excellent on-air rapport with Hummel. Later with the laid-back Morgan. Both men grew capable enough to co-host even in the other man's absence. But it was when the three hosts recorded together, and Hummel and Morgan kidded each other like teenagers and had to be kept on point by Ray, that the two men could make you forget Barry Beck.
I'll recommend an episode of the podcast as a good introduction. The three podcasters hit an early high in episode four—which is subtly titled "Peaceful My Ass … Crack!" Conversation circled the running joke of Hummel impersonating a strung-out Hunter Biden.
Ray discussed with me that there were some adjustments to be made for the radio novices, but only a few. She said:
"You have to give enough lead to other people to kind of let them branch out a little bit. And Chad and Tom ... Chad is a natural talker/He's a lawyer/It's easy for him.
And Tom, if you just kind of get out of his way a little bit—and he can get out of his way—that personality comes out.
Tom isn't one of these people ... he doesn't like conflict. He wants everyone to get along, and as long as Chad and I know that we can work around that."
It's a tough break for Ray the way her radio career ended. People will say she brought her problems on herself, but some have done worse and weren't kicked out of show business. If it's noticeable that she sometimes has a lackadaisical approach to podcasting, you can hardly blame her, considering.
But the fans from the radio days aren't left empty-handed. There is currently a cult-interest podcast by one of the Western New York greats—recorded in a house under renovation and newly including Ray's observations about the surreal American South.
On a recent podcast—one of Ray's first with her part recorded in South Carolina—Ray mentioned that she now lives next door to churchgoing neighbors. She was a little ticked that her neighbors ran their lawn mower while she was recording. Not a person who'll ever attempt to win friends by name-dropping Jesus, Ray concluded, saying about her new neighborhood:
"There are more Baptist churches on every corner. And you see the trinity in people's yards and (it's) all lit up, and I'm, 'Holy shit, where did I land?'"