by Len Lear
I first met Lois Burak in the mid-1970s, when she was about 10 years old and living with her family near ‘D’ Street and Roosevelt Boulevard in the Lower Northeast. She and her older brother, Jeff, seemed quite shy, which was not a surprise, given the fact that their bombastic parents, Marvin and Cyndia, sucked all of the air out of any room.
In the 1970s I wrote more than one article for the Philadelphia Journal about Marvin, who was one of the most controversial radio hosts in Philadelphia radio history. He met his wife-to-be when she was a burlesque dancer and stripper in her native New Orleans. Marvin, whom we visited several times in his home, was a curmudgeon, but he was funny, compelling, highly unconventional and extremely opinionated, becoming animated to the point of being theatrical when espousing his socialist views.
Marvin’s career in mainstream radio ended in 1969 after he was convicted on obscenity charges for running a Philadelphia studio where customers took photos of nude women. In today’s pornography-addled climate, those charges would seem rather quaint, and Marvin always insisted angrily that the prosecution was purely political, a thinly disguised plan by some of his many political enemies to get him off the radio. Early in his career, Marvin did more traditional work for WPEN-AM, but his last show was on WXUR-AM&FM, stations owned by the late, controversial evangelical preacher Carl McIntire.
Tragically, Cyndia shot Marvin to death when Lois was 16 in January of 1982. Lois was caught in the crossfire and was hit with a bullet in the leg. Cyndia later told police that Marvin had gone into an uncontrollable rage when he suspected that she was having a relationship with another man and that she killed her husband in self-defense.
At the time I found that very hard to believe because Marvin made no secret of the fact that he and his wife were “swingers” who swapped sexual partners in their own home. Nevertheless, Cyndia’s self-defense story was obviously persuasive in court because she was acquitted of third-degree murder in 1984 by Common Pleas Judge Charles L. Durham. Cyndia moved back to New Orleans, but since receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2009, which is now in remission, she has been back in the Philadelphia area and living with Lois.
“I could tell you a lot of crazy stories about my dad and what went on in that house,” said Lois, “but one of the reasons I think I’m so grounded, even morally grounded, is that even though there was all this nudity and sexual talk, it was not a big deal in my house. Some people may look at that as child abuse or deviant behavior or whatever, but my parents did instill values … For years now I have been looking for a way to get closure, some redemption and be in an environment where I didn’t feel out of place.”
Lois is now 46 but looks 10 years younger. She has an exotic look with dark curly hair, a dark complexion, sexy voice and Marilyn Monroe curves. With her striking appearance, which she is not shy about promoting on her website, one can’t help thinking that she’d be a bigger hit on television than on the radio, but radio is where she can be found these days. She has lots of comedians as guests, with whom she exchanges lots of funny double entendres. The decision to pursue a career in communications was like walking out on a high wire without a net since Lois had spent 25 years as the owner of a beauty salon and day spa in Mayfair.
“Redemption for my dad as well as my respect and admiration for Howard Stern is why I changed my career in the direction of a professional, provocative & honest broadcaster,” explained Lois, host and creator of The LoLo Show. “No one ever asked if I was going to be a broadcaster like my dad. I did constantly get asked if I was going to be an exotic dancer like my mother.”
Burak gave up her successful beauty salon early last year, went to broadcasting school and started her radio show last September. In today’s digital revolution, just as almost anyone who is computer- and internet-savvy can self-publish a book or self-produce a musical CD, it is also possible to produce one’s own radio show, as Lois has done.
“It is the revolutionary radio stylings that Howard Stern has brought to Sirius/XM that kept my dream alive and contributed to the completion of my goal,” she explained. “Pursuing a broadcasting career is an endeavor I have taken on late in life and during a challenging time for the sole purpose of fulfilling a lifelong dream. I am the daughter of a one-time radio pioneer whose career was unfortunately silenced due to censorship. During my father’s career he fought for truly uncensored and outspoken radio programming. As a result, I encompass a mixture of chutzpah and knowledge of the business that I inherited from my father.”
At the age of three Lois once signed off her father’s show by declaring, “Bye-bye, daddy’s radio people”! Today, no topic is off-limits or beyond the scope of Burak, who can now be heard on The LoLo Show saying, “Hello, LoLo’s radio people!”
The LoLo Show (the name comes from a childhood nickname), which airs every Wednesday, 9 to 11 p.m. on www.loisburak.com, has quickly become a very popular Internet show with the grassroots support of fans on Facebook to provide momentum.
Because of the uninhibited, consistently funny and outspoken nature of the remarks by Burak and her guests, she has often been referred to by her fans as “the female Howard Stern.” And she definitely has adoring fans who leave laudatory comments on the Internet, thanks to her remarks like “a woman will put up with anything to get the trash taken out.” The buzz on the program has stung listeners not just in the Philadelphia area. Favorable articles about the show have appeared in papers as far away as Sacramento, Washington State, Indiana and Canada.
Lois’ show starts out with an old-time hawker blasting: “Ladies and gents, next up is a hot little southern Jew. She’s sexy! She’s funny! She’s naked — HEH! She’s ‘meshuga.’ She’s Lois Burak, and this is her story!” The demographic for The LoLo Show broadly spans the ages of 25 through 54 and apparently includes significant numbers of both men and women and both gays and straights.
According to Jeremy Gelb, son of Cyndia Burak’s late attorney, Marilyn Gelb, “Lois is smart, passionate and direct. She says it like it is — and doesn’t worry too much about what other people will think about her.”
Joe DeLong, co-host, collaborator and booker for The LoLo Show, first came on her show as a guest comedian after she had seen one of his performances. “There’s no doubt Lois is onto something,” he said. “The question is how to move beyond the ‘this is the female Howard Stern’ to ‘this is an articulate, funny, business-minded broadcaster who can speak her mind and happens to be a woman.’ Once we nail that, there’s no stopping The LoLo Show.”
Lois’ goal is to be on satellite radio, like Howard Stern, her idol, or even to be connected with Stern’s show in some way. She is well aware that because her favorite on-air topic is sex (“mostly tongue-in-cheek”), she has as much chance of having a mainstream radio talk show as she does of playing quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. In fact, she has been selected to do a pilot on Sirius XM/(Stern’s network), Playboy spice amateur podcast series.
“My dad’s legacy is what I am trying to continue,” said Lois, “not just to pay homage to a man who was my father but because it is real and entertaining at the same time. When you’re that open and honest, there’s no hiding; whatever you’re talking about, it’s out in the open, and then you can have a real conversation. There has to be a response, positive or negative, and that’s when it’s most true and enjoyable.”
“The LoLo Show” airs thru Burak’s website, www.loisburak.com, every Wednesday, 9 to 11 p.m. For more information, visit www.loisburak.com, or find her at www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1208524869.