Richard Bluestein is the voice behind Yeast Radio, one of the most popular podcasts on the web. But for the crowd of thirty-something geeks gathered here last week for a pre-convention bash, the voice was a vision. A 6-foot-tall vision, to be exact, dressed to thrill in makeup, a blond beehive wig and ill-fitting flower-printed muumuu.
Bluestein, who is openly gay, says he despises appearing in drag. It’s a price he pays for his act. Online and on stage, he’s Madge Weinstein, a lesbian who dispenses strident left-wing views in vulgarity-laced tirades. The program is so peculiar and yet so popular that podcast evangelist Adam Curry’s company hired Bluestein full-time to do nothing but perform the show five days a week.
“I’ve always been really good at spotting trends,” Bluestein, 38, said in an interview. “I could tell this would be really, really huge. I wanted to be a part of it. I started podcasting and I said, ‘This is the thing for me.’ I’m good at it and people really like it.”
If Bluestein knows how to talk the talk, his appearance here at the Portable Media Expo and Podcasting Conference proved he also knows how to walk the walk.
A performance artist and one-time aspiring filmmaker who lives in Chicago, Bluestein appears to have successfully traded his former job in tech support at a local hospital for a life of spouting off on air.
He sees himself as one of those people for whom the new medium of podcasting has created opportunities where none existed. He had sporadically posted video blogs online and had performed as Madge around Chicago since 2000. Then, last November, stuck in a funk over President Bush’s 2004 re-election, Bluestein stumbled over Curry’s show and became obsessed with podcasting. Soon thereafter, Yeast Radio was born as an outlet for performing as Madge and for obscenity-laden political venting.
By Steve Friess