One of Us: Marty Moss-Coane of WHYY’s Radio Times

Radio Times host Marty Moss-Coane — a WHYY 90.9 FM favorite for 27 years and counting — admits her love of gypsy punk, the source of her daily rage, and why you shouldn’t necessarily believe what she tells you.
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Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Marty Moss-Coane, with a hyphen. I was a Marjorie, named for my grandmother. And I was a Marge or Margie until I was 10, when I said I was not going to be called that for the rest of my life. People went along with Marty. I was a bit of a tomboy, so that helped.

I grew up … in rural Massachusetts and rural Delaware in the ’50s and ’60s. I’m that old. And I grew up on boarding-school campuses, because my father was a teacher and then headmaster of a boarding school. You’ve seen Dead Poets Society, right? That was the campus I grew up on.

I came to Philadelphia … in 1969, when I dropped out of George Washington University. I had some friends in West Philadelphia who had an extra room.

If I weren’t doing this … I would be an elementary-school teacher in a Philadelphia public school with a good principal.

I live … in Bucks County, in a little Victorian with a wraparound porch.

One song I always turn up as loud as I can … is Gogol Bordello’s “Start Wearing Purple.” I love the gypsy punk sound. There’s just something about it. I saw them live, and I now have tinnitus. I blame it on them.

The thing most people don’t understand about my job … is how much homework is involved. Two hours live every day, five days a week — 10 hours a week. There’s a lot of preparation for what happens on the air. Since I never did my homework in high school, it’s my lot in life to do it now, as an adult.

My parents taught me … different things. My mom was an incredible listener. She had what we called “excessive attention disorder.” She paid hyper-attention to everything. And my dad had a great love for life.

If you come to my house for dinner … we will probably start the meal with soup. I’m a really good soup maker.

My first concert ever … was in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1970. It was Carole King and James Taylor. I was in Atlanta because as part of my dropping-out-of-college years, some friends and I had started a cooperatively run macrobiotic vegetarian restaurant. These days, I’m mostly vegetarian, although I sneak a piece of steak a few times a year. And fish. And hot dogs, because it’s not really meat. God knows what a hot dog really is.

One habit I cannot break is … biting my fingernails. It’s embarrassing. But I think I secretly enjoy it.

I think that Facebook … is losing its luster. Seemed like it was going to be more fun than it is.

When I arrived in Philadelphia, the city was … so drab. It is so much more colorful, younger, hipper and more fun now. I don’t even know what we did on the weekends back then.

If you really want to piss me off … run a red light when I’m trying to cross the street. It happens every day.

My favorite interviews on Radio Times have been … Christopher Hitchens, Salman Rushdie, James McBride, Maurice Sendak, and an Indian writer named Sherman Alexie. Interesting that they’re all men.

This summer, I hope to … play more tennis. My game is pretty good. I play a few times a week. But not nearly enough for my taste.

My secret talent … is that I’m a really good liar. I don’t do it every day, but I can use it very strategically.

I will do this until … I can’t remember important, everyday things.

Originally published as “One of Us: Marty Moss-Coane” in the June 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.