Photo by Stacy DaviesJulie Espy is the general manager of KUCI-FM 88.9 in Irvine and DJ Wanda, host of the psycho-/rocka-/bluegrass-billy show Howdylicious! airing Sundays at 8 p.m. I sat down with her at the station recently and got really nauseated.
OC Weekly: You play a lot of Minnie Pearl on your show and open with Minnie Pearl comedy bits— Wanda: Yes—I love Minnie. I have Minnie on vinyl—from the '60s on the Grand Ole Opry—which I bought at a record swap in Austin, Texas. Is she dead?
Yes, she's dead.
What's this story about her owning a fried-chicken restaurant?
Well, the reason that I call my show Howdylicious! is because supposedly—and I've never been able to corroborate this—Minnie Pearl had a chain of fried-chicken restaurants, much like Kenny Rogers' Roasters but earlier, and they were actually restaurants, and her slogan was "Howdylicious!"
Kenny Rogers has a chain of chicken restaurants?
Oh, yeah. There's one in the Valley, I think.
I don't believe you. I've never seen one. Have you eaten at one?
No, I'm a vegetarian.
You're a vegetarian?! You can't be a rockabilly and a vegetarian!
I know. Being a vegetarian and a rockabilly is one of those things where you want to hide. Not that I'm ashamed of it—I just don't want to be one of those people whose whole identity is about what they eat. Some people are all about what they eat, so they get to pick where you go, and it becomes this huge thing, like, "We can't go there; she's a vegetarian."
So why did you become a vegetarian—moral or health reasons?
I became a vegetarian for the worst reason possible: out of response to another person. I broke up with my boyfriend, and he ate a lot of meat, so I decided I hated him and hated meat. It was a total rejection of him and everything he stood for.
Wow. Where do you eat?
We go to Johnny Rebs' on Chapman all the time. I just order salad. And beer.
Of course. Salad and beer—mmm, mmm. Most veg-heads I know don't eat veggies hardly at all, but a lot of bread things.
I don't really eat bread. I was vegan for a while.
I bet you almost died.
Yes, I became very ill. I didn't understand that I was supposed to take a lot of supplements. And it's a lifestyle that didn't jibe with my rock & roll side. Like taking your own salad dressing everywhere and having to quiz waitresses if something was made with dairy or butter. . . .
Yes, as a former waitress, I hate people like you.
Yeah, I started becoming the kind of person that I didn't want to be.
High maintenance, totally irritating.
Oh, I'm still that way—I'm just not a vegan.
So where else can you eat? OC is probably not very conducive to vegetarians.
Actually, it is. Unlike San Luis Obispo, where if they find out you're a vegetarian, they'll cover your car in blood and animal parts because it's an aggie town. There are two places I love to go around here—one is India Sweets and Spices in Tustin, which is like an Indian store.
India, as in the country currently trying to blow up Pakistan?
Right. They have a counter, and they make food. And whatever they have, that's what you get. You can't really order. The other place I like to go is El Camino Real in Fullerton. It's a little hole in the wall, kind of a taqueria, and they make really good potato tacos. But if you needed a goat taco, you could get one. Or a tongue taco.
Gross. Do you have any favorite country songs about food?
There are so many that are about drinking. I'm not really into food. I do like appetizers, though. Bar appetizers like pretzels, nuts, tiny pickles—any miniature pickled things are great. Or Caprese—I love that.
Where do you get it?
I used to get a pretty good one at Maggiano's, and a big martini—as big as your head—and not just a little cheese glob, but a big cheese glob.
You're making me sick again.
If I were going to have a vodka gimlet, though, I'd go to the Fling.
Is that a restaurant?
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No, it's a drinking bar.
Do they have appetizers?
Oh, no, that would interfere with the drinking.
Johnny Rebs' Southern Roadhouse, 2940 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 633-3369; India Sweets and Spices, 14441 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 731-2910; El Camino Real Mexican Food, 303 N. Euclid St., Fullerton, (714) 447-3962; Maggiano's Little Italy, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 546-9550; The Fling Cocktail Lounge, 2370 N. Tustin Ave., Ste. D, Santa Ana, (714) 547-8972.