Hurricane Gloria Video Surfaces

If you’re a longtime Connecticut resident you’ll remember Al Terzi anchoring with Janet Peckinpaugh, Diane Smith’s voice is there along with a waterlogged David Henry and some folks I just don’t recognize anymore.

My friend Ryan Hanrahan posted this video to his blog earlier tonight. I didn’t even know it was around. It’s from a special we did on WTNH after Hurricane Gloria.

If you’re a longtime Connecticut resident you’ll remember Al Terzi anchoring with Janet Peckinpaugh. Diane Smith’s voice is also there with a waterlogged David Henry and some folks I just don’t recognize anymore. And, of course, the Action News music!

It was 25 years ago. I look so young!

Ask Me Anything–26 Years Ago Today!

Please get rid of Geoff Fox. In my opinion, he is boring, loud, too loquacious and gives us information, ad nauseum, that we don’t need. Let him watch Channels 3 and 30 to get an idea of good weather presentation.

I’m currently answering all your questions. Read more about it here.

I’ve got a comment from Tony. “It seems like I have been watching you on the weather and listening to your corny jokes forever. How long have you been at Channel 8, sorry, News 8, and how old where you when you started?”

Amazingly Tony it was 26 years ago today! I began at WTNH on May 21, 1984. I replaced (the spectacularly beautiful and wonderfully warm) Beverly Johnson who went to San Francisco and later died tragically.

I was 33 then. That means I am now… old. Luckily I’m immature for my age.

In 1984 I worked in weather with Linda Church and Bruce McFarland. Linda’s at Channel 11 in New York where they should kiss the ground she walks on. She is great on-the-air. I have no idea where Bruce went. He vanished. Nice guy.

I have been on-air at News 8 longer than anyone else there. I think I’m the all time record holder.

Tony, as nice as your email is, I also get stuff like this from time-to-time.

Please get rid of Geoff Fox. In my opinion, he is boring, loud, too loquacious and gives us information, ad nauseum, that we don’t need. Let him watch Channels 3 and 30 to get an idea of good weather presentation.

The guy sent the email directly to me! What a jerk. OK–idiot, not jerk. Whatever.

The truth is not everyone is going to like you. And if like me you’re “high concept talent” people will form an opinion.

This one’s from a longtime blog reader David. “Who among the personalities we might remember (on air) at Channel 8 did you consider to be close mentors when you first arrived?”

I’m not sure I had mentors as in someone to take me under their wing. I was already 33 and had been on-air in radio and TV for 15 years. My ‘act’ was pretty well formed.

I can tell you our short lived anchor John Lindsay was responsible for me stopping smoking!

Helaine had been bugging me to quit my pack and a half a day habit. Finally I said, “OK, I’ll try and cut back.”

Back then you could smoke in the station and many people did. We used old film cans as ashtrays!

John, Bob Picozzi and I sat on the set for a wide shot when the news began. As we waited I chatted with John and told him what I was doing about my smoking.

“That won’t work,” he said. I was puzzled. He proceeded to tell me how I’d be back to my normal consumption in a week or two.

“You’ve got to say I’ve already smoked my last cigarette.”

That made a lot of sense. When I walked into the condo that night I slammed my pack of Lucky Strike filters on the counter, turned to Helaine and said, “I quit.” She thought I was bailing from the marriage!

I have never smoked another cigarette. Helaine was incredibly supportive through the first few months. She even returned an unused carton to Stop and Shop!

They weren’t mentors, but Al Terzi and Diane Smith were probably the most career helpful to me. They understood my on-air style needed support from my co-anchors. Both of them, more than anyone else back then, listened to my every word and laughed whenever they thought I was telling a joke.

Seriously, Al and Diane’s laughter often sold a line I’d delivered. They made me funny. I never asked either to do that, but they understood viscerally.

I miss having both of them in my life on a daily basis.

I will tell you two people who tried to help my career during the 80s. One was Al Roker, then working at Channel 4. The other was Spencer Christian, then at Good Morning America. Both were gracious and selfless–truly class acts. I would crawl over broken glass for either.

Spam Is Down? No Way!

I was just over at where they’re running an AP wire story about spam:

Those annoying “spam” e-mails for Viagra or low-rate mortgages that clog computer users’ mailboxes appear to be on the decline, federal regulators said Tuesday.

Say what?

In the six hours I’ve been at work today, I’ve gotten 16 spams on my account and more on my work and accounts.

Most of my spams are never seen by me. The filtering on Thunderbird, the email program I use, is good – not great. What does get through is often obvious enough that I can dispatch it before opening it.

There has been a veritable flood of spam for ‘hot stocks’ in the past few weeks. Though they look like text, they are really images. Thunderbird gives up and ships them to me.

On the other hand, there are also some false positives. Helaine ran into my friend Diane Smith today. Diane said she had mailed me… though the mail was marked as spam and filed away where I would have never looked!

I am surprised by the huge number of spam emails I get in Russian and Chinese! I don’t speak either language so I can’t tell you much about the content. From what I can tell, the Russian spams are often mass mailings for legitimate products, like real estate. That differentiates them from the spams I get for V1@gr@ or hot girls who want to meet me.

I’m sure there are guys who hot girls really want to meet. None of those guys have to shave their ears.

Even sending mail has become increasingly difficult because of spam. Messages I sent to my counterpart at our sister station in Springfield, MA bounced because the mail server I use was flagged as a spam site.

I can’t send messages to the NH Register either. No one has told me, but since I can get through via, I assume it’s another site blacklisting my mail server.

I am neither smart enough nor well versed enough to come up with a spam solution, but I know it’s out there. The vast majority of spam is a chase for money. Money on the Internet means credit cards. Can’t we find where that money is going?

Electronic mail is so smart, so simple, so efficient, it must be saved. We can’t afford to go back. It’s got to be policed… soon, please.

Oh, and to the FTC; the people quoted at the beginning of this entry. What exactly are you smoking?

Hurricane Gloria – 20 Years Ago Today

I came to Connecticut in May 1984. I thought I did a good job on the air, but being a little over-the-top was the only way I stood out from my competitors.

All that changed September 27, 1985 when Hurricane Gloria made landfall in Connecticut.

For me, it was a career changing event. It was a chance to let people know, though I might screw around when the weather was nice, I was trustworthy when weather was critical. At least that’s how I saw it.

1984 doesn’t seem so long ago, but it was eons ago in technology and forecasting technique. The possibility of this hurricane came up in a conversation five days before landfall. A friend noted an interesting system and some rudimentary computer guidance brought it vaguely up the coast.

As I remember it today, each successive day continued with the storm on a fairly consistent track.

Looking back, I realize I was a sucker. These forecasts were well beyond the capability of the available models. That they were right was dumb luck!

A few days before Gloria struck, I started sharing my concerns with my boss and he put together a plan. Again, in hindsight we were so innocent. Today, wall-to-wall coverage would begin days before the storm struck. In 1985, with the storm due midday, we planned on running Good Morning America in its entirety!

I stayed after the late news, doing cut-ins through the night. No one was watching, but I was there.

We had little morning news presence back then. I don’t even remember who it was, but a single person produced and reported in the morning.

At 7:00 AM we switched to GMA. Every half hour their meteorologist reported the national weather, including the upcoming hurricane. The graphics on GMA were wrong&#185. Every half hour I’d follow Dave Murray, asking the viewers to believe me and not him.

Before long, we were on-the-air non-stop. The station really did an amazing job. I still remember some live shots, especially David Henry’s from Bridgeport, as if they happened yesterday.

Gloria had been a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds, but was a shadow of her former self when she hit Long Island and then Connecticut. Officially, Gloria hit Connecticut with 90 mph sustained winds. Today, I doubt even that number. Whatever it was, it was frightening. Half the state lost power.

My friend Diane Smith lost a beautiful sailboat. Other friends and co-workers would lose trees and power – in some cases for a week or more.

I watched the storm on the Weather Service’s ancient radar. As it approached Connecticut, the eye opened up. We had one eyewall pass overhead and that was it. The southern half of this north moving storm no longer existed.

By nightfall Gloria was gone and Connecticut was picking up the pieces.

A day or two later in the New Haven Register, Carolyn Wyman didn’t talk about my coverage, she wrote about my disheveled hair, wondering if it was an affectation. I was crushed. I wonder if Carolyn (who seems like a nice person) knows I still remember? I wonder if she still feels that way?

On second thought, maybe I don’t want to know.

Hurricane Gloria was where I first realized, no matter how important it made my job, I didn’t want really bad weather to come here. Some forecasters do. Some meteorologists salivate over tornadoes and hurricanes. I, on the other hand, had my fill on that one day.

Years later, Governor (now prisoner) John Rowland told me he was waiting for houses to start blowing through the streets of Waterbury. To some, the storm was a disappointment. To others, especially along the Connecticut shoreline, it was a few hours of terror.

I am looking forward to seeing some of the old video and trying to remember what it was like watching it the first time. I am petrified that among the old clips will be a little cut of me, 20 years younger, looking like I was 15.

&#185 – As far as I could tell, a graphic artist preparing the maps traced the correct forecast track. Unfortunately, the line she/he drew wasn’t centered on the pen, but was actually to the right of it. That was common back then.

On The Radio – WTIC With Diane Smith

I get to go on the radio often enough so it’s a treat – seldom enough that it’s not a pain in the ass. This was my morning to sit in with Diane Smith on WTIC.

I’ve known Diane since I came to Connecticut. She used to report and anchor at our TV station. That she’s not still there is a major shame – but I think she’s happy in radio, where she’s half the morning team on WTIC.

WTIC is one of the last of the blowtorch 50,000 watt AM stations. It is an AM station that still has an audience. That’s a rarity all by itself.

There was a time, not too long ago, when WTIC had the highest rated morning show in the country with Bob Steele. The show itself was an anachronism – something that could never be restarted today. But, Bob had the most important ingredient for a successful morning show – longevity!

My alarm was set for 4:15, but as I wrote in an earlier post, I couldn’t sleep. By 4:45 I was out of the house and on my way to Farmington.

Any time I’ve gone online for directions to WTIC I’m give a route through the next town to my north. It’s a trip full of stop lights and traffic. But at this time of day… well, I just headed north.

The first Dunkin’ Donuts was closed, but as I approached a second I could see lights on and cars in the lot. I parked, got out, and found the door locked. The folks sitting there in their cars knew what I’d find, but kept their silence. I don’t quite get that.

I didn’t think I had time to wait, so I headed north again.

A few minutes later I drove by a health club – also not open and with cars in the lot. This time there were people standing in front of the entrance. Just standing there, aimlessly, at 4:55 AM.

I guess it’s wonderful when people want to exercise and be healthy and fit. Waking up before 5:00 to do that seems troublesome… and then to be kept waiting. Isn’t that just a little cruel?

WTIC is in a low rise brick building in an office park in Farmington, not far from Robertson Airport. The building itself is the poster child for nondescript. There’s nothing that sets this building apart. It’s not pretty. It’s not ugly. It’s just sort of there.

WTIC is part of Infinity’s group of stations in Hartford. They’re all clustered together on the ground floor.

The WTIC studio is quite functional and very nice. Diane sat behind the console, where her partner normally sits and I sat facing her. Along the edge of the studio were microphones and room for more guests to sit in.

Off to the side, and behind, are other control rooms used for production and news. The place was pretty busy Monday morning.

Being an old line AM radio station there’s plenty of service in the morning. The station features a full newsroom – a real newsroom staffed by actual adults! Wow! There just aren’t too many of those left (Newsrooms that is – there are plenty of adults). Our show also had a sports reporter and meteorologist.

I knew most of the people there, though not that well. Everyone was friendly. Everyone was nice. Everyone on our show was a pro who could easily move to a larger market, if they could find a station that still had news and service features.

If there’s one problem with the morning show, it’s that there’s too much service!

Between news, sports, traffic, weather and commercials, Diane and I were hardly on for the first few hours. Even when we did appear, it was a disjointed few minutes of banter before… more news, weather, sports and commercials.

There were a few interviews planned. The one I was looking forward to the most was with Senator Joe Lieberman. The New London Sub Base has been slated for closing and there was lots to talk about.

Interviewing newsmakers on real subjects is something I seldom get to do at the TV station. It was a welcome change and I wonder how Senator Lieberman felt, since he mostly knows me as the somewhat hyper, off center, weatherman?

It was really a lot of fun. Television is a much more powerful medium than radio, but on the radio you have the freedom to speak your mind. I tried to be careful and not to be a partisan, but there’s a lot more I can say – and I did.

10:00 AM came much too soon.

I went around and said goodbye and tried to plant the seed that next time, maybe I could fill in on WTIC FM. I was looking for that one more chance to be a ‘jock’ like I was 25 years ago.

Going On The Radio

Every once in a while I appear on a radio show. That’s always enjoyable. My roots, rotted as they are, are in radio.

Monday morning, however, will be different. Monday I’ll be on the radio as a sub as opposed to a guest. I’ll be attempting to do what Ray Dunaway does on WTIC.

Among the guests booked for the show are Senator Joe Lieberman, Attorney Gerry Spence (he’s the homespun guy from Wyoming who wear a suede leather vest all the time) and Barbara Walters (not yet confirmed).

I know I’m a weatherman, but I don’t want to be a pushover to those who are used to answering tough questions and have perfect the dart and weave.

I won’t be alone. I’ll be co-hosting with Ray’s regular co-host, Diane Smith.

I’ve known Diane since I came to Connecticut. Before radio, she was an anchor with us on the TV station. I have referred to her, with reverence, as the Ambassador from Gracious Living and our Ambassador to Fairfield County. Take your pick.

Diane is classy everywhere I’m crude – which is nearly everywhere.

Doing this early morning show; being at the radio station before 6:00 AM is actually better and easier than going somewhere for the midday shift. I know I can be home by 11:00 and catch a nap before my real work begins.

Radio’s in my blood.

Pat Child’s Memorial

I wrote about Pat Child after he passed away late last month. Yesterday was the memorial service.

It was a dreadful day – cold with icy rain. The church was packed.

Pat got what few of us ever will get, notice from God. So, he was able to decide what he wanted ever he died. He asked for “smells and bells” at St. Thomas Episcopal, the church he was baptized and married in. He got both, with more incense than I’d sniffed since Moby Grape and The Grateful Dead played the Fillmore East in 1967.

Among the tributes, Diane Smith’s eulogy stands out. Diane is an elegant writer with a masterful delivery. I am attaching her words below this entry. I think you’ll understand the flavor of Pat if you read what she wrote.

There are two reasons we’re all sad Pat is gone. First, he was an American original. Second, he represents an era that is gone. He was our bridge back to the ‘golden age’ of television news. It wasn’t necessarily a better era as much as it was gentler, more human time.

Continue reading “Pat Child’s Memorial”

The Mind as a Relational Database

One of the most powerful functions a computer can perform is to manipulate a relational database. How are two or more seemingly non-connected things related?

Our brains work very much this way. You think of one thing, which reminds you of another thing, which… well, you get the idea.

I was on the phone today with my friend Paul. I’ve known him for 35 years and we’ve been friends all that time. Paul has been referred to as “Raider of the Lost Archives,” because he has found obscure and often unseen television programs and found a way to get them on the air and make money with them. Good skill to have.

Over the past few years Paul has produced DVD compilations of old TV series. His joy, and what makes these DVDs stand out, are his special features where the original stars come back to comment today on what went on decades ago. It’s Paul’s work on the Dick Van Dyke Show DVD series and many others that make them so special and worth collecting.

He’s working on The Twilight Zone now. It’s amazing how many big stars appeared on the original Twilight Zone before they were big stars.

We were talking today and the conversation got around to a Twilight Zone episode that no one who ever saw it will ever forget, It’s a Good Life. In this episode, a pre-teen Billy Mumy&#185 is able to ‘punish’ people for their bad thoughts by ‘wishing them into the cornfield. I always felt it was incredibly creepy and judging by what I’ve read as I did a little research tonight, I am not alone.

Here’s where relational databases or at least their human equivalent come in.

As I was thinking of this episode, I thought of one of the actors, Max Showalter. Max played one of the neighbors,.. the man who played the piano. He’s in the credits as Casey Adams. I don’t know why.

Max was in a zillion movies and TV shows, He might be best known as the piano playing reverend who presides over Bo Derek’s wedding in “10.” He was also in Niagara, with Marilyn Monroe.

Max, who died a few years ago, was a Connecticut resident who came to the television station many times in the 80s and 90s. Other than being charming, Max was fun to be with because he had lived the ‘real’ Hollywood life when Hollywood was in its heyday and had stories about everyone.

Believe me, I’m not doing this on purpose, but this is how my pea brain is working today; finding relationships between unconnected names and events.

Anyway, Max came to the television station to promote an event. He was doing some sort of theater tribute in Chester, where he lived. He had convinced his long time friend, Debbie Reynolds to appear – and I believe there was even a retrospective of her films shown.

So, Debbie Reynolds, big time Hollywood star, is in our little TV station and she’s going to be interviewed on the news at 5:30. Diane Smith, who was anchoring that newscast at the time, wandered into the makeup room only to find Debbie there with a make-up kit the size of a large tool chest.

“Where’s the make-up man honey?” Debbie said to Diane.

I can tell you, though at the time Diane didn’t think she could tell Debbie, we don’t have a make-up man. Not knowing what to do, Diane said she’d get the news director. In this business everyone in the newsroom reports to the news director. He’s the chief. But Debbie was Hollywood.

“Forget the director,” she said, “bring me the producer.”

As it turned out, Diane ended up doing Debbie’s makeup – something she’ll never forget!

Anyway, this story came to me because of that Twilight Zone DVD talk. It’s funny how the mind associates.

One more Debbie Reynolds story before I go. It was 6-7 years ago at Paul’s son’s Bar Mitzvah. We were in Los Angeles for the reception at the Sofitel across from the Beverly Center.

Helaine and I were seated with… you guessed it – Debbie Reynolds. She’s a friend of Paul’s.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the affair we ran into people we hadn’t seen in years. So, I picked up the camera and motioned to Debbie. I’m sure she was ready to get into the picture, something I know she’s done graciously a zillion times. Except, now I have a picture taken by Debbie Reynolds!

&#185 – Billy Mumy later became Bill Mumy. At separate times, he and I both hosted Inside Space on the SciFi Channel.

Seven Thousand Three Hundred Five Days

Seven thousand three hundred five days ago, Connecticut still had toll booths on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway. There was no state income tax. Our governor, William O’Neill, was a tavern owner.

Back then, WTNH was a middle aged television station, owned by Capitol Cities Communications – before it bought ABC. It was second place in what was, for all intents and purposes, a 2 station market. A station with an identity crisis, not knowing whether to be Connecticut’s station or just concentrate on New Haven. It was making money hand-over-fist, which tended to minimize their concern.

On May 21, 1984, One thousand forty three weeks and four days ago, I walked into Channel 8 as an employee. If you would have told me twenty years ago that I’d still be there today, I’d have called you a fool. In my 11 years in radio, I had worked all over the country. No job had ever run more than 3 or 4 years – and most were much shorter.

Al Terzi (WFSB), Gerri Harris (who knows) and Diane Smith (WTIC radio, CPTV), were our main anchors. Bob Picozzi (ESPN radio, UConn Women’s basketball play-byplay) was our sports director. Our news director, the guy who hired me, was Mike Sechrist (General Manager WKRN – Nashville). His assistant, Wendie Feinberg (Executive Producer Nightly Business Report – PBS). In the control room, Tom O’Brien (General Manager KXAS – Dallas) and Jeff Winn (Fox Sports “Best Damned Sports…”).

Of all the on-air and management personnel at the station that day, only I am left. I have survived 4 different owners, 4 general managers, 10 news directors and countless dozens of assistants, producers, reporters and anchors.

Still, I often ask myself, where have I gone wrong?

That’s not to say my professional life hasn’t been good. In fact, it’s been great. This is a very rewarding job and the people who watch have been generous in their support, while my bosses have been… well, they’ve been generous too. I just wonder, what if?

Have I missed the bright lights of the big city? Would I have been able to compete at that level?

Today, if I were looking for work elsewhere, would I be taken seriously? A few years longevity is a good thing, but twenty years in New Haven makes it seem like I’ve been unable to escape.

Since I have been at WTNH, only four of the on-air people hired were older than I was at the time – and three of those came within my first year. This is a business of the young… and I say that even though this station isn’t anywhere near as youth obsessed as some others.

I remember early in my radio career, seeing people who’d been in one place too long, who were now just going through the motions. I promised myself that would never be me. I’ve kept my word.

It is still important to me, after all this time, to know whether I’ve entertained or not. There are no gimmes. A bad Friday night 11:00 weathercast can ruin my weekend… ask my wife.

Even tonight, I brought home a snippet of tape because a few seconds of well timed on-air chatter with the floor director seemed memorable. Every show counts. I am never unhappy to go to work. I have never taken, or needed, a ‘mental health’ day.

I still have my fantasy jobs – things I’d like to do and sometimes even dream about. I’d like to do a game show. I’d like to do a sit down fun chat show. I’d like to fill-in again on Good Morning America. Who knows?

I worry about losing a little off the fastball – about someone up-and-coming who might want my job. I worry about a new owner or manager who might not care that I’ve put twenty years in. After all, in the 21st century, company loyalty is something employees have toward companies… not the other way around.

About 15 years ago, my agent said there would come a time when I’d want to shave ten years off my age. I think I could actually pass with that lie. Until recently, I’d regularly get viewer mail telling me to stop coloring my hair… even though it’s never been colored. But, I won’t lie about my age because I’m proud to have the experience and knowledge that only comes with being 53.

I am not sorry that I’ve made it to 20 years. I am not disappointed in what I’ve accomplished. I have a wonderful life. I only wonder where the other paths led.

On The Radio – WTIC

This was my morning to be on WTIC. Even though I had been in radio for 11 years, I was apprehensive. I’ve only done talk shows a few times, and haven’t done one solo in better than 20 years.

I feared there would be no calls. What would I do or say? How could I fill that much time? And, what about topics I wanted to shy away from?

I have a rule to stay away from partisan politics because I work in a newsroom. Even though talk show hosts would normally be expected to let it all hang out, I had my ‘real’ job to return to. Even the weatherman should be ‘above’ the political fray.

I woke up early – around 7:15 AM. For me, who usually doesn’t go to bed until 3 or 4 AM, that’s the middle of the night! Actually, knowing I’d be home in time to catch a little nap made it easier to get into the shower and get dressed.

A definite advantage radio has over TV is the dress code. I could wear anything and not even shave. I went with a black pullover sweater and jeans with sneakers.

Remembering the last time, I left the house about 5 after 8 and headed directly to Dunkin’ Donuts. Medium coffee, cream and sugar, I was set. I had a long enough drive to allow the coffee to reach the correct drinking temperature.

This being the day after Christmas, traffic was fairly light. I absentmindedly blew by Route 9 on I91 and ended up heading to I84 in Hartford. Though I’ve been to WTIC before, I never remember how to get there. And, the directions are only moderately helpful because I never remember if the phrase “I84 West” means I’m driving west on I84 or coming from the west on I84!

WTIC is located in a nondescript, two story building in a Farmington office park. It’s a perfectly fine place for a radio station, I suppose. Deep inside, I really feel WTIC deserves to be in a free standing building of its own. It is one of America’s storied radio stations, with a long and rich history. It should be in a building that makes a statement. This building does not.

Mike Constantinou, my producer, was waiting in the parking lot when I arrived. The lot itself was 10% full. WTIC and its three sister stations were, in essence, still closed for Christmas. Only the air staff was on hand, and even then it was a smaller staff than usual. There was a sub for traffic, a sub for news, a sub for weather, and me subbing for Jim Vicevich.

We walked inside and I said hello to Ray Dunaway, who along with the vacationing Diane Smith, does the morning drive show. Ray has the deep, ballsy voice I always wanted, and never got. Like me, he had known from childhood that he was going to be in radio and then just followed through.

Before long I had headphones on and was schmoozing with Ray. We talked global warming (both of us are somewhat dubious of the gloom and doom) and how kids growing up have a misconception of the cleanliness of our air versus the pollution I knew as a kid.

He’s used to working with a partner and plays well with others, so I had no problems.

Ten O’clock came along and Ray left… leaving me the studio. I had told Mike that I wanted to run the board for the phones, but let him handle the commercials, news and traffic. As the news played out from a small studio off to the side, I sat down and got as comfortable as possible.

The studio is average sized for a radio studio. There are three mikes at the table surrounding the audio console, and one mike at the console itself. Off to the left were two computers – one for the commercials and logged content and another for communications between the producer and me. Slightly behind me and also to the left a lone PC on the Internet.

I had noticed a memo in the newsroom admonishing the staff not to use company computers to check their private email accounts whether they be Hotmail (actually, in the note it was Hot mail), Yahoo or anything else. At the same time, I couldn’t call home on the studio phone because you needed an accounting code to place an outside call. This is 2003 and I’m paying 3&#162 a minute for long distance service at home; they must be paying less. What are they worried about? After all, the studios are full of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and there’s the liability that comes when the air staff is live. Internet and phone access should be way down the list of concerns.

News gave way to traffic and weather and then I was on. It was like getting back on a bicycle. I was ready to go.

In a talk show, you throw out topics in much the same way bartenders seed the tip jar. You’re trying to get your idea out to the audience. And, if they deviate or find a better place to go, you go there too.

Quickly, I started taking calls. After the fact, Helaine said I was trying too hard… and maybe I was. I didn’t have tomorrow to correct my mistakes. It was now or never. I wanted to limit calls – keep bringing in fresh ideas.

The common wisdom in talk shows is, it’s very easy to let someone go on too long. You’re better off moving through many calls. Of course to do that, you need calls.

A few minutes into the show, I started having technical troubles. It was my fault without a doubt. The controls for the phone lines were straight forward, but not very well marked. After a few calls I started pressing the wrong buttons and got trapped in some sort of talk show hell where I was camped on a line with someone who had been dispatched and no way to get to the next listener. Bad for the rhythm of the show.

I had received a note with the names of my traffic and news reporters. Next to the traffic reporters name, Rachel Duran, was a note saying, “Don’t call her Jill.” In some sort of radio insanity, the folks who report traffic on many different stations use many different names.

Best line of the morning (spoken on air but directed to Mike the producer): “Some people don’t call because they’re worried about being on hold too long. There should be a policy. If there are more than two callers waiting, we’ll open up another register.”

A woman called from Bristol. She had no idea who this new voice on the air was, and when I told her, she still didn’t know who I was. After nearly 20 years in the market, I’m entitled to have a little fun with that, so I told her we had given out $1,000 to each of our TV viewers last week and she had missed out.

From then on, I began to ask all the callers if they had gotten their $1,000 and everyone seemed to go along with the joke. Later, I began asking if anyone had gotten a hot tub from a friend… a not too veiled reference to Governor Rowland who had accepted a hot tub and is now in hot water.

I made it to the top of the hour newscast with only minor cuts and scratches.

Things went well as we began the second hour, but then trouble. The phone lines dried up. Beads of sweat began to form. I made a crucial mistake – a rookie mistake: I said we were out of calls.

As soon as I said it, I knew I had crossed some sacred talk show line. Sure, it’s not my job, but I’ll still kick myself every time I remember I did it.

With no traffic in Connecticut, every time Rachel (not Jill) came on the air, I asked her for a traffic report for some obscure area of the state, like Occum or Forestville or Union. She laughed and took it like a trooper.

The first rule of improv is going along with the bit. Rachel (not Jill) played the game correctly. Her willingness to have fun made the bit funnier. Actually, without her laughter it wasn’t funny at all. She made the bit.

As noon approached I was rolling and actually dreaded the end coming so soon.

I’m sure if I did it again, I would do some things differently. And, when I listen to the aircheck I brought home, some of my talk show shortcomings will come into sharp focus. I still have my amateur status, so that’s not a big deal.

Maybe there will be another time. You never know.

My blog – quoted in print

“It’s embarrassing to me,” Fox said. “Forget the movie. This was the perfect storm.”

I got a call from Pat Seremet at the Hartford Courant yesterday. She had heard how I missed my shot at WTIC. The weatherman, unable to attend because of weather. Now that’s news!

I’ve attached her story to the link below.

Let me explain the use of the term “Perfect Storm.” In order for us to have had this teeny bit of snow stop a significant portion of the state, everything had to fall in line in exactly the right order. It was an incredibly unlikely set of circumstances. If any single thing would have changed, we wouldn’t have noticed the snow at all.

Continue reading “My blog – quoted in print”