REMEMBERING MY MENTOR – JEFF KRAUS – Garry Armstrong

If fate had been kinder, Jeff Kraus would be celebrating his 80th birthday with us. Many people who’ve achieved success in broadcast journalism would be partying.

Some of the names are familiar even if they’re not around to remember the man who opened career doors for them. Alan Colmes of the Hannity-Colmes tandem on Fox News, “Big Dan” Ingram – a hall of fame deejay during the heyday of classic rock and, still with us, Charlie Kaye – the successful CBS News executive who just recently retired.

We all cut our newbie teeth in radio at WVHC-FM, the original radio voice of Hofstra College/University – celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. In its infancy, Hofstra Radio was guided by Jeffrey Kraus. His spirit is still there in the studio walls of the latest class of college radio students.

WVHC Probably 1961 or maybe 1962

I met Jeff Kraus in late 1960. I was beginning evening college classes at Hofstra and peaked my nose inside the tiny radio operation. I was full of hope and dreams at age 18. Just out of a shortened stint in the Marine Corps, I wanted to be “somebody” but not sure who, what or where.

The tall, thin gent – in a blue suit that would become legend. Wearing cowboy boots and puffing a pipe. He looked like a young Leslie Howard or Ronald Coleman. He sounded a bit like Coleman as he addressed me in a voice like the Lord of the Manor.

Jeff Kraus WVHC 1966 or maybe 1967

I was immediately impressed. I sounded and looked maybe 5 or ten years younger than Jeff Kraus but he was just 21 for all his cosmopolitan manner. I don’t know how it happened but – in the blur of seconds – we formed an unlikely bond. Mentor and student, two non-similar guys who would become best friends.

I was a bit hesitant. I was one of a handful of minority students at Hofstra as the new decade began with JFK promising bold ventures for millions of young Americans.

I was intent on becoming an actor or an author. Maybe both. During the day, I sold children’s shoes at a big Department Store. The job paid for my college fees. Tuition back then was something like 16 or 17 dollars per credit. Hofstra was a relatively young commuting college without dorms. All that would change in decades to come.

WVHC 1963 or maybe 1964

The constant was Radio Hofstra. We had an odd collection of people on the WVHC-FM staff which had just grown from carrier current to 10 mighty watts at 88.7 on the FM dial.

I think we were perceived as weirdos by others on campus. We weren’t jocks, frat members or lab rats. Jeff Kraus steered the ship of wannabees with a calming influence. I wanted to be “on the air”, spinning records. However, my hearing impairment left me with flawed diction, not good enough even for a beginner. Jeff worked patiently with me, pointing out my diction problems and helping me find a “radio voice”. He encouraged me to write and gave me great latitude in producing music shows and writing radio drama.

Little Theater – WVHC

This was the door opening for me. I was rapidly promoted from record librarian to program director to, wonder of wonders, station manager as Jeff moved into an executive capacity. These were heady times for me as I found confidence and maybe a little swagger in my work. Jeff would always “school me” if I overstepped boundaries with the new confidence.

My favorite time was – after we signed off the station at midnight and headed over to our favorite bar. This was my introduction to Imbibing 101. I can still smell the pipe smoke (I shamelessly copied Jeff’s debonair style, adopting pipe smoking) and the sips of scotch, brandy, and vodka as my liquor taste quickly expanded. My shyness faded and, for the first time in my life, felt like I was one of the gang. Jeff led his wannabees in chat about post-college life. We were too good for conventional broadcast media. We dreamed about going to work for the BBC or CBC. We’d do “exceptional stuff” for an audience surely just waiting for us.

Studio B – WVHC

This was also a very special period for aspiring college radio folks who had easy access to the nation’s number ONE media market in New York City. I’ve told the story a zillion times about calling DIRECTLY through to CBS, ABC, NBC, and other media giants. The iconic (yes,  overused) figures like Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Arthur Godfrey, Howard Cosell and news legends who’d worked with Ed Murrow – made themselves accessible to us. They gave interviews, did promotional “ID’s” and generally encouraged our little group to pursue our dreams in the big leagues. Jeff Kraus was generally recognized and respected by the big time media moguls. Jeff was seen as the man who sent well-trained prospects out to mesh with established news people.

1965 in the WVHC office

The success I encountered in later years on radio and television is directly linked to those early years at Hofstra and the tutelage of Jeff Kraus. Despite repeated “Thank you’s”, I’m not sure Jeff appreciated how he molded the professional lives of so many people.

Jeff Kraus left us — too young at age 53 in ailing health. Rest assured he’s not forgotten. They’ll be many stories about JCK as he is still affectionately remembered when many of his radio kids gather later this month to celebrate Radio Hofstra’s 60th anniversary.

One final round.

Here’s looking at you, Jeff.

TOP 40 RADIO – Rich Paschall

Top 10, actually, by Rich Paschall

When we were in our later grade school years, owning a transistor radio was just about the coolest thing ever. You did not have to stay home and listen to a radio that was plugged into a wall, you could actually carry the radio around with you and listen to it just about anywhere.  Yes, the reception was not real good everywhere you went, but it was still better than having to stay in one spot.

Imagine, walking around with a cordless device and listening to your music!  This little device could fit into large pockets and was powered by a rectangular 9-volt battery.  Life was good.  The radios were so cheap you could save up for one, or annoy your parents until they got you one.

A good model came with an earphone. It was much like the earbuds they give you on plane rides, except it only had one for one ear.  Apparently, technology had not yet advanced to the two ear stage. It didn’t matter back then, as long as you had one.  If you got a model that would fit in your shirt pocket, and then you stuck one earbud in an ear, you might resemble someone with a “hearing aid.” No matter, you were still cool.

Your radio only received the AM band. You still had to sit at home to listen to FM radio. That was unimportant as there was nothing on the FM band for teenagers. There may have been some jazz stations, and a classical station or two, and a lot of stations you had trouble tuning in.  Who needed that when we had advanced to the age of the transistor?

The AM stations played the popular music of the day.  Two of them were very popular with teenagers and cool people all over our town.  One was WLS (World’s Largest Store, as in Sears) that had welcomed rock and pop and everything cool, man.  The other was WCFL (as in Chicago Federation of Labor).

Yeah, it started out to be something else.

These top 40 stations were groovy. They introduced us to the best acts: The Dixie Cups, The Serendipity Singers, The Shangri-Las and The Trashmen (seriously). Oh Yes, and we heard those other acts we still hear today: The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, Jay and the Americans and someone named Barbra Streisand.  It was the good old days. We just didn’t know it then.

At night when you were supposed to be in bed sleeping, you could put the radio under your pillow and listen to one of your stations through the pillow. This muffled the sound enough so nosey parents could not hear it. You could then stay up past 10 PM and hear the late night DJ.

Silver Dollar Survey

Top 40 radio was just an idea, a concept. It seemed like they did not actually have 40 songs.  You would hear the top songs many times throughout the day.  Approximately 10 songs were in heavy rotation.  If you loved one of the top songs, you did not have to worry about missing it.

WLS AM 890 did actually count down the top 40 every Friday afternoon.  In an era of 2 and a half-minute records, it was doable in the afternoon drive slot.  Many of us would rush to a nearby record store to get a printed copy of the “Silver Dollar Survey.” Then we would have the top 40 for the week, although we were unlikely to hear the ones at the bottom if we missed the countdown.

The survey was allegedly based on record sales.  Local acts seemed to do well. Perhaps they were not big outside the midwest.  We didn’t care. If a group we had heard of was playing at a high school “sock hop,” then that was the place to be. Radio gave us our music and our cultural interests. I guess it was not hard to sway a 14 or 15-year-old  toward certain records.  It is the same today

Now the top 40 stations are on the FM channels and streaming services.  Again, they are not really top 40, but a handful of songs in heavy rotation.  Turn them on now and listen to Post Malone, Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Halsey, Panic! At the Disco, Drake, maybe even Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. You may ask, why do I know this handful of stars and their songs?

It seems that everyone 25 and under who rides in my car has also anointed himself the music director.  This may mean a change to B-96 or 93.5 Latino Mix! If there are too many commercials, we can also choose 103.5, I Heart Radio which contains a lot of commercials for themselves. In the afternoon, we can catch the ubiquitous Ryan Seacrest.

The format is the same.  Young people sing and/or dance along to a handful of songs.  Stations try to lead you to their favorite stars.  If people 15 to 25 buy singles, they are downloads, not 45s.  If they buy an album, that too is likely a download rather than an album on vinyl or a CD.  They may forego that to purchase a streaming service, although many are free.

The technology has changed, but the appeal of Top 40, which is really Top 10 or so, has remained.  With all of the music options, the release, and ranking of songs, whether if be on FM or online, seems to be important to the demographic that buys music in one form or another.

Top 40 is where we developed a love of music. It is those songs that harken us back to the “good old days” when we were able to carry our music around with us. Radio was then, and still is to many, our portal to the music that will stay with us.  The Beach Boys said in their 50th-anniversary album, “That’s Why God Made The Radio.” It’s a good song by a group that remembered why they made music 50 years earlier:

If you want to see the Beach Boys perform the song on the 50th-anniversary tour, click here.

Note: Today WLS is conservative talk radio, and WCFL is no more.  That frequency is WMVP, ESPN 1000.

SPEAKING OF SMART PHONES … Marilyn Armstrong

Word Prompt Xmas Zombies

You’d think one day with Bank of America would have sufficed me for the week, but you’d be wrong. Having also finally signed on with Sirius for the absolutely lowest price we could get for a year’s subscription, I discovered the ONLY way I could turn the radio on was to call them — on a smartphone — from the car.

The Renegade

Lucky me, I charged the phone the other day because even though I have it turned off, the battery gradually weakens, so even if it looks good, when you turn it on, it will drain really quickly.

As we pulled into the driveway, having completed — or Garry having completed — a trip to the dentist (I forgot to take my antibiotics, so I have to go back in January), I said: “Gee. I hope I have Sirius’ telephone number in my contact list.”

I might have if I ever turned the phone on so it could synchronize with our computer. But it’s pretty much always off, so when I finally turn it on, it beeps, jangles, dings, twitters and occasionally makes some other noise I don’t recognize.

Maybe that’s the sound it makes when it rings? I’ll have to check on that.

Phones

Anyway, I finally made my way to Sirius website where they had no record of my ever having signed on with them and they wanted my password.

Did I have a password? Our little Google phone does not offer the full Gmail experience, so I have no folders and cannot look anything up. I opted for “I forgot my password” because I not only forgot it, I’m not sure I ever set it in the first place. It isn’t unusual for me to sign up with something, but never log into their website. I figure they’ll email or call me if they want to get in touch, but then come these moments when it’s obvious — I need to “be in touch.”

I got their telephone robot. Of course, I got their telephone robot. They are waiting for me wherever I go. They line up secretly in hallways, waiting for a brief glimpse of me so they can ask me the same questions repeatedly and when I answer them, they can tell me they didn’t understand me.

Do the people who program these things do it on purpose? Can all of this be accidental? I’m like Garry with slow drivers. He is sure they have drones watching for him and blocking the roads on purpose.

After a while, I just sat there saying AGENT AGENT AGENT and at some point later, I got one. An agent. This one seemed to speak some version of English and I could mostly understand him when he slowed down enough. Otherwise, it was just jumbled noise at high speed.

He asked me — again — for radio’s number which I gave him, no problem as it was printed across the radio’s face. In very big letters. Then I had to spell it out, one letter at a time. With extra backup words if I thought there might be confusion.

He then said he was going to send a signal to the radio to tell it to turn itself on and wanted to know if we had a clear sky above us (“Garry, look up. Can you see the sky?” “Yes.”)

The sky was seen and declared free of flying debris and trees.

Next question: “Is your telephone (incoherent mumbling).”

“WHAT? Can you slow down? NO idea what you just said.”

It turned out he wanted to know if my phone was connected to the radio. I gagged at the thought and said “NO.” He then said he was sending a signal, but it might take up to five minutes to work, but no problem he’d stay on the phone while we waited.  After which he immediately hung up.

I don’t think he was on the phone for a full minute before hanging up. I redialed the number. I got another representative. Gave them my name. Again. Spelled Marilyn. Again. Then I had to spell “ARMSTRONG” which usually, I don’t have to spell because it’s Armstrong and everyone knows how to spell it. Except for this lady who I guess needed to make sure I used the usual number of consonants and vowels. Nothing weird like ending it in a double “G.”

In fact, I had to repeat every single thing I had said on the previous call. She said she was sending a signal too and would, of course, stay on the phone, not to worry.

Then she immediately hung up. But by then the first signal had come through, so I hung up.


NOTES FOR NEXT YEAR:

We now have Sirius radio which we got for $3.99/month for a year. Plus taxes and other weird charges, so it’s more like six dollars and when the year runs out, I’ll go through the same siege again. I’ll reject the price. They’ll beg me to stay and lower the price by a buck. I’ll still refuse because their basic price is obscenely high. I’ll tell them to just turn it off. Who needs it anyway? 

Just before next Christmas, they will email a better price, but not good enough. I will reject it out of hand. They will call me. Beg me to sign up, but only when they offer me another year at $3.99, will I take it. 


It took about an hour to set up the radio, what with two phone calls and repeating the same information one letter at a time, then using it in a word so they couldn’t misunderstand me. It takes a long time to spell out a 10 letter code. And of course, spelling “Armstrong” was a bit of a high point.

I made Garry sit and listen to this because he can hear now, so sooner or later, he is going to have to deal with this. He needs to learn the ropes.

I do speak clearly. I got a degree is in speech and drama and I used to be on the radio. Even relatively recently, I was on TV and radio. At no point in any TV or radio appearance did I have to spell out the words. I have a standard Bachelor of Arts. It’s not a valuable degree, but at least it means I speak clearly. I had to learn to speak clearly. It’s part of the degree program.

So, why is it that none of these people or their robots ever understand anything I say? Are they keyed to mumblers so that people who speak clearly are at a disadvantage?

Or are they just screwing with me?

SOMETHING ALWAYS HAPPENS – Marilyn Armstrong

When Garry came into the bedroom, I was staring at the radio. Garry takes his hearing aids off at night, so we have bedtime conversations at high volume. Shouting, really.

“Why are you staring at the radio?”

“I’m trying to figure out if it’s on. Oh, it just started to make noise. It’s on.”

“But why are you staring at it?”

“I thought if I stared at it for a while, it would start to play. Or not. One way or the other, I would find out what the red light means.”

“What red light, and why are you staring at it? How will staring at it help?”

“That’s how I figure things out. It didn’t come with instructions.”

Pause. “Have you taken any drugs?”

“No. See, there’s the red light. I didn’t if know the red light means the CD player is on or off. I had to wait to see if it started playing. I was pretty sure a blinking red light means pause, but I wasn’t sure what a steady red light means. I waited when there was no light. Nothing happened. So I tried it the other way. Now it’s making noise. Therefore, the red light means it’s on. It’s slow getting started.”

I wasn’t trying to be funny, but Garry started to laugh and couldn’t stop. “That’s the sort of thing I would do,” he said,

“Well, how else would I know what the red light means?”

He laughed some more.

Garry thinks I know a lot of stuff I don’t really know, especially about technical issues. I push buttons. If staring (and waiting) doesn’t fix what’s broken, I push another button. Or push the same button again. Or hold the button for a couple of seconds and see if it does something different.

While I’m waiting, I watch. Intently. Maybe I’ll get a message. Isn’t this how everyone fixes stuff? I used to look things up in the manual, but since no one supplies a manual anymore, it’s more art than science.

My husband finds this hilarious.

I spend a lot of time staring at computers, waiting for something — anything — to happen. Hoping an idea will occur to me or for the system to reboot. To see if a blue screen will recur, or the diagnostic will tell me there’s no problem, even though I’m sure there is.

I am waiting for a message.

I must be doing something right. Beethoven is playing on the CD player/radio. And most of the time, the computers work.

THE ” WAR OF THE WORLDS ” MYTH – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I went to a presentation celebrating the 80th anniversary of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. The reason this particular broadcast has lived on in history and is still remembered and talked about today is really quite interesting.

Orson Welles broadcasting “The War of the Worlds”

The radio play starts with a typical program playing music from a live band. This fictional program is then interrupted by a realistic sounding “newscaster” reporting an increasingly destructive invasion by Martians. The Martians wipe out New Jersey and proceed to annihilate Manhattan. They are reported to be landing all over the east coast of the United States. The U.S. army is reported to be vanquished and the audience is told that we have no defenses left.

Rehearsal of War of the Worlds

Newspapers the next day, including the New York Times, headlined a nationwide panic that made this incident the most notorious event in broadcast history. The unprecedented mass hysteria was talked about in newspapers, books, articles and radio and TV shows for the past 80 years.

The day after the broadcast

There were reports of thousands of panicked calls to police and radio stations across the country. There were stories of traffic accidents, near riots and hordes of panicked people in the streets and on the roads, fleeing the Martian invasion. There were even reports of suicides and deaths due to the hysteria caused by the broadcast. It was claimed that the stories continued in the newspapers for two weeks, with over 12,500 articles about the panic.

The day after the broadcast

Today, however, this version of history has now been debunked and fallen out of favor. The current belief is that whatever panic occurred, it was small and not widespread. Most listeners understood this was a dramatization. While some may have been scared by the story, few panicked. Evidence shows that at the time of the event, newspaper reports of the story actually stopped after a day or two, not weeks. The story was not the long-lasting, national headline grabber we believed it to be.

In addition, far fewer people heard the original broadcast than most people believed. This fact makes the magnitude of the reported panic much more implausible. A rating service the night of the broadcast reported only 2% of listeners were even tuned in to The “War of the Worlds.” This was true, in part because Welles was scheduled opposite one of the most popular shows on the air – Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

In addition, several important CBS affiliates, including in Boston, didn’t even air Welles’ show. Instead, they aired local commercial programming, which further reduced Welles’ national audience.

History does show, however, that the story grew in magnitude and in detail as time went on. So the 1940 claim that one million people heard the broadcast is grossly exaggerated.

Just as the size of Welles’ audience has been inflated, so have the reports of mass hysteria. There is no documentation of any deaths or even hospital visits, as claimed, due to the shock of the broadcast. In reality, there were almost no contemporaneous news accounts of mobs in the streets or highways jammed with fleeing people. In fact, people later reported walking through the streets of major cities at the time of the broadcast and finding them as empty as usual at that time of night.

There is another piece of evidence used to counter the mass panic scenario. If the terror and chaos had been as bad and as widespread as reported, CBS and Welles would have been severely reprimanded or even punished. But no sanctions were levied and no official rulings or regulations were promulgated by the FCC.

Welles facing the press the day after the broadcast

So why was the mass panic story started and why did it survive for so long?

One credible theory is that newspapers were to blame for the origins of the story. Radio was still a relatively new medium in 1938 – only 18 years old. But already radio was taking advertising dollars and audiences away from the newspaper industry. So the newspapers seized upon this opportunity to trash the radio as an unreliable source of news. A newspaper trade journal at the time wrote: “The nation as a whole continues to face the danger of incomplete, misunderstood news over a medium which had yet to prove …that it is competent to perform the news job.”

You can’t trust the radio! Fake news!

People are now debating why this myth has persisted for so long. One answer is a man named Hadley Cantril. He wrote a scholarly book in 1940 that gave academic credence to the panic. He used numbers and statistics that made his story seem plausible, but which have subsequently come into question.

He had no hard facts to back up any of his assertions. And he is the only legitimate academic source that claims there was a sizeable panic. Yet his writing has kept this version of the story in textbooks, as it still is today.

There is a more philosophical explanation of the persistence of the mass hysteria myth. In 2000, Northwestern’s Jeffrey Sconce wrote an article called, “Haunted Media”. In it, he suggests that the “War of the Worlds” myth captures our unease with mass media and the internet’s power over us. We all fear, on some level, the media and the internet “…invading and colonizing our consciousness.” The myth is “…a cautionary tale about the power of the media.”

Jeffrey Sconce

Radio opened up a new means of mass communication and shared experiences. Now the internet is doing the same thing. Sconce states that “…today the internet provides us with both the promise of a dynamic communicative future and dystopian fears of a new form of mind control; lost privacy; and attacks from scary, mysterious forces.”

This is particularly true with today’s epidemic of fake news, foreign intervention, and manipulation of the internet and domestic political dirty tricks. We deal with political misinformation being spread to millions of people every day. A national panic may not have occurred because of a radio broadcast in 1938, but it is more likely to occur today because of the abuse of the internet.

NOSTRADAMUS OF NONSENSE – TOM CURLEY

A couple of weeks ago, Ellin and I watched the Golden Globes.

Normally we don’t much care who wins or loses, but for the past few years I’ve been getting “screener” copies of all the movies nominated for all the award shows. We watch as many as we care to watch and can always watch the ones that win.

So, we watched the show. Near the end of the show Oprah Winfrey was given the Cecile B. DeMille award.

It’s their version of a life-time achievement award. The winner gets to give a speech without having to worry about the dreaded “music” telling them to shut the fuck up and get off the stage before they get “the hook.”

In 2017, year the winner was Meryl Streep. She gave a speech eviscerating our “So called Commander-in-Chief.” This year Oprah didn’t specifically name the President at all. Even so, she gave a presidential speech and by most accounts, a pretty good one. In the middle of it, I paused the show and said to Ellin. “Holy crap, it sounds like she’s running for president.”

And sure enough, that was the headline the next day.

I’m writing all of this, not because I support or oppose Oprah Winfrey running for president. I’m not writing this because if he’s done nothing else, Cheesy MacCheese Head has proved the old adage we were taught as children: “Anybody can grow up to be President.”  More importantly, he’s proved that just because anybody can be president, not everybody SHOULD BE!!

No, I’m writing this because I predicted that Oprah Winfrey would be president 28 YEARS AGO!!!

Don’t believe me? I have proof. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far … well actually, it was this galaxy. I wrote a show called “A Half Hour Radio Show.”

The premise of the show was that two hosts, me and my partner Jeff, would present a half hour of witty, satirical bits, and skits. The problem was, we never ever did any of them because something would always happen. We would never get to our actual show. In the first episode, the radio station we were on was sold during the opening music and they installed an instantaneous ratings computer that computed ratings in real time. Every time we went to commercial, the format would change so we never got to our show.

After that, things got much weirder.

In one episode, Jeff and I got sent 30 years into the future to do a show with our future selves. Why? Well, we still had the show 30 years in the future and we realized one day that we had no show for that week.

We thought it would be funny to get our selves from 30 years ago to come to the future and do a show together. Then they remembered that they actually did do that, so now, they had to do that. So, they did.

If that confuses you, it should. If figuring out time travel doesn’t give you a headache, you’re not doing it right.

The point of that particular show was to look at the world 30 years from then. Our young selves asked our old selves about what life was like. We learned things like:

  • There were 5000 TV channels. Today, cable, satellite, fiber, etc.
  • Every song had its own channel. Today, it’s Pandora, Spotify, etc.
  • There was a commercial channel. It only played commercials. Today, it’s on YouTube.
  • When asked who was the President of the United States, our older selves answered: “Oprah Winfrey.”

It’s on tape. You can listen to it here.


Not only did I write it, I wrote it the in early 1990s
when 30 years in the future was 2020!


I was JOKING!! I was trying to be FUNNY!  I thought that was all CRAZY stuff! Considering what’s been going on, maybe it’s not so crazy after all.

I wanted to make the future as funny and absurd as I could. I never thought I’d become “The Nostradamus of Nonsense.”

PUNCHLINES AND PROPHECIES – BY TOM CURLEY

So, last night Ellin and I were watching the Golden Globe Awards.

Normally we don’t that much care who wins or loses. But for the last few years I’ve been getting “screener” copies of all the movies nominated for all the award shows. We watch as many as we care to watch and can watch the ones that win. So, we watched the show. Near the end of the show Oprah Winfrey was given the Cecile B. DeMille award.

It’s their version of a life-time achievement award. The winner gets to give a speech without having to worry about the dreaded “music” telling them to shut the fuck up and get off the stage before they get “the hook.”

Last year the winner was Meryl Streep. She gave a speech eviscerating our “So called Commander-in-Chief.” This year Oprah didn’t really mention the President at all. Even so, she gave a presidential speech and by most accounts, a pretty good one. In the middle of it, I paused the show and said to Ellin. “Holy crap, she’s running for president.”

And sure enough, that was the headline the next day.

I’m writing all of this, not because I support or oppose Oprah Winfrey running for president. I’m not writing this because if he’s done nothing else, Cheesy MacCheese Head has proved the old adage we were taught as children: “Anybody can grow up to be President.”  More importantly, he’s proved that just because anybody can be president, not everybody SHOULD BE!!

No, I’m writing this because I predicted that Oprah Winfrey would be president 28 YEARS AGO!!!

Don’t believe me? I have proof. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far … well actually, it was this galaxy. I wrote a show called “A Half Hour Radio Show.”

The premise of the show was that two hosts, me and my partner Jeff, would present a half hour of witty, satirical bits, and skits. The problem was, we never ever did any of them because something would always happen. We would never get to our actual show. In the first episode, the radio station we were on was sold during the opening music and they installed an instantaneous ratings computer that computed ratings in real time. Every time we went to commercial, the format would change so we never got to our show.

After that, things got much weirder.

In one episode, Jeff and I got sent 30 years into the future to do a show with our future selves. Why? Well, we still had the show 30 years in the future and we realized one day that we had no show for that week.

We thought it would be funny to get our selves from 30 years ago to come to the future and do a show together. Then they remembered that they actually did do that, so now, they had to do that. So, they did.

If that confuses you, it should. If figuring out time travel doesn’t give you a headache, you’re not doing it right.

The point of that particular show was to look at the world 30 years from then. Our young selves asked our old selves about what life was like. We learned things like:

  • There were 5000 TV channels. Today, cable, satellite, fiber, etc.
  • Every song had its own channel. Today, it’s Pandora, Spotify, etc.
  • There was a commercial channel. It only played commercials. Today, it’s on YouTube.
  • When asked who was the President of the United States, our older selves answered: “Oprah Winfrey.”

It’s on tape. You can listen to it here.


Not only did I write it, I wrote it the in early 1990s
when 30 years in the future was 2020!


I was JOKING!! I was trying to be FUNNY!  I thought that was all CRAZY stuff! Considering what’s been going on, maybe it’s not so crazy after all.

I wanted to make the future as funny and absurd as I could. I never thought I’d become “The Nostradamus of Nonsense.”

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #14 – STUPID OLD PEOPLE

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #14 – STUPID OLD PEOPLE

Wednesday – July 15, 2015

It’s Frisbee Wednesday again. No more fooling around. New England has turned up the heat … and unfortunately, the humidity too. It’s in the 90s with 99% humidity. As someone said, “It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity.” (I could not find the book from which this quote was taken, but I remember reading it. If anyone can locate the source, let me know.)

On the way to be on the radio.

On the way to be on the radio.

There’s been an excess of stupidity lately. It’s hardly a new phenomenon, but for some reason, it’s more “in my face” this summer. I would like to blame it on the weather. Heat makes people snappish and bad-tempered. It gives me a headache. Ultimately, it makes everyone stupid.

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It even makes the dogs stupid. They will sleep wherever they can find a cooler spot, no matter how dangerous — despite living in air-conditioning. It’s too nasty out there for man or beast.

Most people don’t realize how sweltering it gets in New England. How hot and how the combination of super-heated air and ultra high humidity makes it feel like Disney World in August. It feels like there’s no air out there.

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We live in a region of extremes. No wonder the American Revolution began here. Talk about hotheads. Sam Adams had a real mouth on him. He kept needling everyone until we began a hopeless war against a super power … and somehow (with a little help from our friends, the French) won.

Because we won that war, we now live in a free country where any moron can proffer his worthless opinions on social media or, for that matter, network news. Is this a great nation or what?

TURN OFF THE RADIO

So we got an invitation to guest on a radio show last weekend. I will not give the name or call letters. Or say who hosted it. Because the host and hostess are lovely, sweet, kindly people. Shockingly unprofessional and painfully ignorant, but well-intentioned.

In studio.

In studio. Looking happier than we felt.

Good intentions are not enough. You need to know something about the subject you are discussing on the public airwaves. Otherwise, you sound stupid.

The subject of the show? Movies (what else?). The call-in person being interviewed was the daughter of a super famous Hollywood star who is no longer with us. Suddenly, our host, who had been uncharacteristically quiet, began the classic “old-timer’s rant.” Don’t you just hate when that happens?

“The movie business,” declared our host as he ramped up his complaints in which he extolled the good old days to the detriment of anything recent, “Isn’t like it used to be. Today it’s all about money. Not like the greats of the past, like Cecil B. DeMille. Now, it’s only about making money.”

Unlike the old days, when they did it for free? For art? Because in the old days, they treated talent so well? Were so concerned with truth and accuracy? When studio heads were generous, fatherly, treating their employees with respect and concern for the well-being and careers?

More traveling.

More traveling.

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but making movies is a business. It has always been about money. Sometimes we get lucky. A movie maker who can afford to take a loss makes a movie just because he or she believes it’s worthwhile. Such benevolence was as rare “back in the day” as it is now. Hollywood was and is all about the bottom line. Everyone knows it.

Those golden olden days made gazillions of dollars for the guys who ran studios. They paid pitifully low salaries to anyone who worked for them and wrote contracts forcing actors, directors, cinematographers, and many others to grind out movies by the truckload without regard for quality or if a vehicle was suited to the talent. All that mattered was money. Moguls became rich as Croesus and laughed all the way to the bank.

We sometimes forget — even those of us who are “into” movies — most of the stuff churned out by Hollywood is/was crap. For every classic we love, maybe 100 (more?) junk films were pumped out. Movies that have been (thankfully) forgotten.

Studios don’t own talent today. Actors, directors and others make their own deals. They can’t be forced to make movies they feel will make them look stupid, or represent values they do not share. They do it anyway, but no one holds a virtual gun to their heads.

RANTERS MAKE OLD PEOPLE LOOK STUPID

Blanket ranting about the good old days by people my age, and weirdly, a cross-section of ranting younger people who can’t use senility as their excuse — as if everything new is automatically bad and everything old was great — makes old people look like imbeciles. It gives seniors a bad name and causes young people to think we are stupid.

No one can control the big mouths, supersized egos, and free access to media that morons have. I sometimes wonder how many of these ranters are in early stage senile dementia.

That’s when “we live in a free country” kicks in. We’re stuck with morons because they have the absolute right to be stupid, ignorant, and proclaim that stupidity and ignorance to the world. What’s scary is how many people listen to and believe it.

Good to be home!

Good to be home!

Can’t we add a teeny tiny codicil to the First Amendment requiring free speech include a semblance of fact? A hint of truth? That there be a relationship between what one is saying and reality?

Thank the universe I retain the right to not listen.

RADIO DAYS – WMEX

We were on Fireside, WMEX in Quincy, Massachusetts. Hosted by Jim Callahan and his beautiful (in every way) wife, producer, and co-host Nancy, we had a great time. Lots of laughter. Garry had the opportunity to tell a whole bunch of his celebrity anecdotes to a new audience and he sparkled, as always.

Again, he heard the familiar refrain: “You should write a book!”

He really should.

All the pictures were taken with the Pentax Q7 and (mostly) the f2.8 5-15mm “standard” zoom.

A HALF HOUR RADIO SHOW

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

This site hosts the original broadcasts of the cult radio comedy show “A Half Hour Radio Show,” syndicated around the US in the early 1990’s.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

When I was in college, I worked at the radio station. The people I met there included two husbands and almost all the people I call friends today. Sometimes, I was part of this show. I wrote some stuff, did voices on and bits. Hung around, heckled, made suggestions, joined in when another body was needed.

It was the biggest hit our little college station ever had. We were young, silly, and frequently stoned. Since then, the show’s producer, Tom Curley,  has put it through, many iterations, refined and rewrote it. After all these years, it’s still funny. You don’t waste funny.

Welcome to my fondest remembered past, the audio time capsule of my youth. From when the world and I were young …

The Show Must Go On

See on captclerk.podbean.com

COVERING R&B MUSIC

Black artists and white singers, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

At the dawn of Rock and Roll in the 1950’s and even into the early 1960’s, it was not uncommon for white singers to cover African-American singers.  Black artists did not get radio play on white radio stations.  That shut them out of a lot of markets and kept much of America from hearing their songs.  This opened the door wide for white singers to record songs heard only on black R&B stations, leaving the impression in many areas that they were the original artists.

The Memphis area, Tennessee label, DOT, founded in 1950, became big by hiring white singers to cover black songs.  Indeed they made stars out of some of these singers.  Among the biggest was Pat Boone.  The crooner recorded Fats Domino’s 1955 song “Ain’t That a Shame,” which became a big hit.  It had been suggested that Boone change the lyric to “Isn’t That A Shame,” perhaps to sound more “white.”  Fortunately they resisted that bad idea.  Boone followed with a number of covers that made him a household name.  His next success was the Little Richard song, “Tutti Fruitti,” which Boone did not want to record.  To Boone “it didn’t make sense” but he was talked into it and it went to number 12.   A song that went all the way to the top was “I Almost Lost My Mind,” originally by Ivory Joe Hunter.  Nat King Cole even covered the song, but Boone had the hit.  The main reason was Boone got a lot of radio play.  The others did not.

DOT also made a star of Gale Storm when she covered the Smiley Lewis R&B hit, “I Hear You Knockin.”  She also recorded “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”  Snooky Lanson and The Fontane Sisters also benefited from the era of covering other artists.  Eventually DOT cashed in off admitting to the practice with an album of 30 of these songs.  “Cover to Cover,” includes 7 recordings by Pat Boone alone.  It also includes a mediocre version of Chuck Berry’s Rock Classic, “Maybelline,” by Jim Lowe.

The white versions were generally slower and toned down in comparison to the R&B versions.  They were playing to a different audience so they produced versions they thought would be more appealing to that audience.  It was a sign of the racially segregated times and something that would not happen now.  Of course there are still many covers, but for various other reasons.

When Elvis Presley hit the scene, he also brought with him cover versions of other songs.  His 1956 hit “Hound Dog,” was originally by Big Mama Thornton, but Elvis may have been influenced by the 1953 novelty version by Jack Granger and his Granger County Gang, aka Homer and Jethro.  The 1954 hit, “That’s All Right,” belonged to Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and was originally called “That’s All Right, Mama.”

One of the consequences of all these cover songs was they helped pave the way toward acceptance of this genre of music and eventually of some of the black artists who originated the songs.   Little Richard is said to have claimed that while teenagers and young music lovers may have had Pat Boone on top of their dressers, but they had “me in the drawer ’cause they liked my version better.” 

By the late 1950’s, with the segregation of music dying out, the Doo-Wop group Little Anthony and the Imperials came along and started to hit the big time.  While many of their early songs found great success for other artists, they found wider radio and television play than earlier Black R&B stars.

For a look at the Linda Ronstadt version of this song, see this past article.

ON THE WAY TO OUR DREAMS

He wanted to be a movie star, on the silver screen. I wanted to be an author. Somehow on our way to our dreams, we found our way to the college radio station. A puny thing, just 10 watts when Garry and I met in the tiny studios under the Little Theater. I was 17, Garry 22. He was a little older than most of the undergrads because at 17, he’d enlisted in the Marines and by the time he got out, a few years had passed.

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALLWe found the radio station by accident, but it fit. Garry stayed and became its Program Director. I hung around and began dating the Station Manager, who coincidentally was Garry’s best friend. Which is where our personal history gets a bit tangled and hard to explain, so I won’t. I was the Chief Announcer. Even though I knew I wanted to be in print, not electronic media, the radio station was a great place to try out new skills. There were scripts to be written, newsletters to create. And I had my own radio show and a whole bunch of great friends, most of whom are still great friends.

We were all oddballs. Creative and talented. Almost all of us went on to careers in media and the arts. We turned out a couple of authors, audio engineers, talk show hosts, DJs, TV and radio producers, news directors, commercial writers, college professors and Garry, a reporter whose career spanned 45 years, 31 at Channel 7 in Boston.

Surprisingly little footage of Garry’s on the air career  survived and until someone found this clip, we had nothing from his years at ABC Network. An old friend of Garry’s sent us this footage from 1969, the last year Garry was at ABC before he jumped to television. It’s a promotional piece for ABC News and features faces and voices from the past … and one young up and coming fellow, Garry Armstrong.

Let us return to those days of yesteryear, when television cameras used film and there was a war raging in Vietnam. 1969, the year my son was born, the year of Woodstock, the end of an era, the beginning of everything else.

Look at the equipment circa 1969. Antiquated by today’s technical standards, but the standards by which the news itself was gathered and reported were incomparably higher than what passes for news reportage today.

WHAT’S THE SCOOP?

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It seems to me the importance of whatever is going on in the world has an inverse relationship to the amount of attention it gets in the press. By “press,” I’m referring to newspapers, radio, television and other traditional news outlets, newer stuff like social networks, websites and blogs. Plus even newer sources of information such as newsletters and email. “Press” is the collective dissemination of information from a wide variety of perspectives and mediums. These days, it’s a free-for-all. If you care about truth and facts, you will need to do some independent reality checking.

News is loosely defined as whatever news people say it is. Whether or not this actually is news is subjective. The control of news content is not, as many people think, in the hands of reporters or even editors and publishers. Whatever controls exist are defined in corporate boardrooms run by guys like Rupert Murdoch who have no vested interest in keeping us well-informed. The news biz is about power, politics and money. Mostly money. It’s business, not public service.

That would, in theory, make “independent” sources — bloggers, for example — more “honest” … but don’t bet on it. Everybody’s got an agenda. Independence doesn’t equate to accuracy or honesty. They may not be beholden to a corporation or sponsors, but that doesn’t make them neutral or fair. They may be … but then again, maybe not. I’ve read blogs so blatantly lacking in any kind of journalistic ethics it shocked me. I am not easily shocked.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Pri...

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin acknowledge applause during a Joint Session of Congress in which President Jimmy Carter announced the results of the Camp David Accords. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure exactly when news stopped being stories about important stuff going on in the world and became whatever will generate a big audience likely buy the sponsors’ products. Money has always driven the news to some degree, but not like today. Now, everything seems to be driven by the bottom-line. It hasn’t improved the quality of the news. Once upon a time, important issues and stories got a free pass, an exemption from needing to have “sex appeal.” Significant news got on the air even if it wasn’t sexy or likely to sell products. Not true any more.

For a brief shining period from World War II through the early 196os and perhaps a bit beyond, the “Ed Murrow” effect was a powerful influence in American news. Reporters were invigorated by getting respect for their work and tried to be “journalists” rather than muckrakers.

When I was growing up, Walter Cronkite was The Man. He carried such an aura of integrity and authority I thought he should be president not merely of the U.S., but of the world. Who would argue with Walter Cronkite? He sat next to God in the newsroom and some of us had a sneaking suspicion God personally told him what was important. If Walter said it was true, we believed. Thus when Cronkite became the guy to get Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat to sit down and talk — the beginning of the Camp David Accords — it seemed natural and right. Who was more trustworthy than Uncle Walter? Who carried more authority? He walked in the glow of righteousness.

UncleWalterOld

He always made my mother giggle. It was not Walter, the reporter or man who made her laugh. It was his name. “Cronkite” in Yiddish means ailment, so every time his name was announced, my mother, who had a wild and zany sense of humor, was reduced to incoherent choking laughter. It was a nightly event. Eventually she got herself under control sufficiently to watch the news, but the sound of her barely contained merriment did nothing to improve the gravity I felt should surround the news.

To this day, the first thing I think of when I hear Walter Cronkite’s name — something that less and less frequently as the younger generations forget everything that happened before Facebook — is the sound of my mother’s laughter. That’s not entirely bad, come to think of it.

Walter was one of Ed Murrow’s boys, his hand-picked crew at CBS News.

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I can only wonder what the chances are of any of us living to see a return to news presented as news and not as entertainment. Where reporters and anchors check and doublecheck sources before broadcasting a story. Today, Jon Stewart’s comedy news The Daily Show gives us more accurate news than does the supposed “real” news, I like Stewart, but I don’t think this is the way it’s supposed to be.

For a look at the how we got from there to here, two movies spring instantly to mind : Network — a 1976 American satirical film written by the great Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet starring Faye DunawayWilliam HoldenPeter Finch, and Robert Duvall. Its dark vision of the future of news has turned out to be very close to reality. Too close for comfort.

The other, for veterans of the TV wars, is Broadcast News, a 1987 comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by James L. Brooks. The film concerns a virtuoso television news producer (Holly Hunter), who has daily emotional breakdowns, a brilliant yet prickly reporter (Albert Brooks) and his charismatic but far less seasoned rival (William Hurt). When it first came out, it was almost too painful to watch.

And finally, Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom …the HBO series that gives the most realistic look at how it works and sometimes, how it fails … and why it matters.

The world goes on. We think we can’t survive without this or that. We think the world will go completely to Hell without real news and serious reporters but we survive. Maybe the worse for wear, but trucking along. Nonetheless, I’d like real news back on the air. I’d like to see a return to fact-based reporting. I know how old-fashioned that is, but I wish I could believe what I read, what I see, what I hear. I miss being able to trust the information I get. I would like to be less cynical or at the least, discover my cynicism was misplaced.

Just saying.

Ours was the last generation …

I get a lot of posts about things that were common when I was a kid that you don’t see anymore. Rabbit ear antennas for televisions.

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45 RPM record players. Vinyl records. Tape recorders that used actual mylar tape. Dial telephones. Galoshes. Roller skates that fitted your shoes and needed keys to adjust. Rabbit ear antennas for black and white televisions and of course, black and white televisions. And no remote controls.

My son’s generation gets this one:

rememberI’m sure my granddaughter’s generation will be the last to remember when you had to connect to the Internet using a modem … if she remembers. By the time she is a grandmother, who knows what technology will look like?

The thing is, my mother’s generation was born when seeing a horse and carriage was more common than seeing a car. Not everyone had electricity. Telephones were luxuries. Yet she lived to see men walk on the moon, something no one in my granddaughter or son’s generation has seen because we abandoned our manned space program and never revived it.

July 2012 - Farm Stand

Every generation sees the end of something and the beginning of something else. The 1300s, 1400s and 1500s saw monumental technological advances. The 1600s saw the industrial revolution which changed not only technology, but the way everyone lived. Talk about revolutionary changes, the world went from an agrarian economy to a city-based industrial economy. It was also the beginning of urban poverty and crime.

cows come home

The world is always changing. What is more interesting is not what has disappeared, but what has remained. Living in the country, we still see cows munching on grass and cooling off on hot summer days by wading in streams.

Stagecoach in Tombstone

We buy vegetables sometimes, when a farm has extra produce to sell, at stands that work on the honor system. Weigh the veggies and put the money in the can. Many people don’t lock their doors. A fair number don’t know where the keys are and couldn’t lock them if they wanted to.

cow in stream

Some of the old ways linger long in the country. But everyone has WiFi and cable or satellite. Everyone has a cell phone and all the shops take plastic. They will still accept cash, so far, anyway.

It’s not remarkable if things change. It’s remarkable when they don’t.

You’re ALL out of order! Historically speaking.

MAD-Magazine-Anthony-Weiners-BackMy husband is astounded the people of New York could really seriously consider electing Anthony “The Peter Tweeter” Weiner. How can people be so dumb? Of course he knows the answer. He’s just in denial.

I reminded him how the good citizens of Washington DC elected Marion Barry, Jr. multiple times, even after he was arrested, convicted and served time for cocaine. And he’s by no means the only known criminal to be elected after being convicted and serving time. Sex scandals, corruption, bribery, extortion, armed robbery, witness intimidation, drugs, embezzlement, murder. You name a crime and we, the American people have elected someone who committed it. Was known to have committed it. Was convicted in a court of law for committing it. And we elected them anyway, frequently more than once.

And then we have the gall to complain about the poor quality of our elected representatives? And demand term limits?

We have term limits. They are called elections. If you don’t want them, don’t elect them. It’s not as if foreigners sneak over the border and vote for their own candidate. We nominate and elect them. It isn’t the Russians, the Pakistanis or the Mexicans. It’s us. And we keep doing it. If ever a nation has the politicians it deserves, it’s the USA.

It’s funny, if you’ve got the right kind of sense of humor. The Hall of Shame list is broken down by presidency, governmental branch and by scandal, many of which have cool names that resound through history. Watergate. Teapot Dome. Iran-Contra. Koreagate. Only the juiciest scandals get really good names.

The number of indictments does not represent the number of crimes. It just shows who got caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Keep in mind many people convicted under one administration were actually appointed or elected during (or by) preceding administrations. They just didn’t get nailed until years later.

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My vote for top scandal of my lifetime: Watergate. I doubt I will live to see anything that can touch it for sheer bizarre excitement. Watching it unfold was a total reality show immersion experience. Nowadays, they try to create reality, but that was reality. Everyday, some totally weird new stuff showed up on TV. I used to carry a transistor radio with me so I wouldn’t have to miss the daily hearings. (Note: Transistor radios were predecessors of computers. You turned them on and live sound came out, but no pictures.) I turned on the TV as soon as I got home to watch the day’s events unfold. Crazy stuff! The best live continuing series ever.

I can’t believe I’m waxing nostalgic for great scandals of the past. With all the hoopla during the Clinton and Bush administrations, nothing matched Watergate. But that was just the big one in my lifetime. Historically, although there was no electronic media to cover the event, the biggest government scandal in American history? Take a guess. Let’s not always see the same hands.

It was the Whiskey Ring scandal. It took place during the massively corrupt administration of President Ulysses S. Grant’s (R) and involved whiskey taxes, bribery and kickbacks. It ended in 1875 with 110 convictions. That’s the record, folks. Hopefully, it will never be matched, much less beaten.

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

Most crimes, serious or minor, were punished by slaps on the wrist. A couple of months, a small fine, probation or community service, most of which was made to “disappear” by a pardon from the next occupant of the Oval Office. Without regard for party affiliation.

In case you are detail-oriented, I put together a list of most of the elected and appointed officials on the Federal level who were convicted while holding office. It’s in a separate post, The American Hall of Shame. Originally part of this post, it was huge, so I gave it its own space. Wow, eh?

More than a few of the people who were convicted of crimes while in office were subsequently re-elected, some while still serving time. The list goes all the back to … well … George Washington. It doesn’t start to get really intense until the Reagan administration, not because there weren’t many criminals, but the because officials were virtually untouchable for many years. Everybody knew they were criminals, but no one was willing to point a finger.

Somebody might cut that finger right off. No, really.

See The American Hall of Shame for delicious details of the America’s elected and appointed criminals and scandals. History can be fun!

 

Daily Prompt: Party Animals on the Radio

We don’t go to parties often nor do we give parties any more. Garry can’t hear at most gatherings and I always wonder why I’m there. But … for everything I say that’s true, there’s an exception. Also true, just completely the opposite of what I just said.

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Last night, we were on the air on WBZ 1030AM, gabbing about movies with a bunch of other movie-centric folks and it was, as usual, a whole lot of fun. Some good arguments  on the role of movies in cultural and social change. The odd warm interchange about remakes and franchise movies in particular, the quality of horror movies and movie monsters.

75-GarNK-83My opinion? On monsters, if you can’t see the seams, they’re cool. And as for remakes and franchises, isn’t there something new worth doing?

Then, there was the sad death of Harry Reems, star of Deep Throat, the first genuinely funny porn movie. Talk about cultural influence! A whole generation … never mind.

So we talked about movies, laughed about movies, made valid points about movies, a few on and off target comments on The State of the Art and Arts, American culture, took some call ins, did a bit of trivia. Jordan gave away WBZ pens (with ink!).

By the middle of the night, when I took a few in-studio shots, we were all looking pretty scruffy. You can’t tell about a few of us because I was holding the camera (yay, me) and the nature of shooting pictures in a studio is that there aren’t a lot of angles from which to shoot. Small and cluttered is never a great photo venue. But, at least you get a sense of the studio, its size and us. In the middle of the night, sans snacks or coffee.

Jordan Rich, our gracious host

Jordan Rich, our gracious host

It was fun. It’s always fun. It’s easy to forget that you are not just hanging out and whatever you say is actually being heard by a lot of people across the country. WBZ has a very powerful signal. The show is also simulcast in Cincinnati and everywhere in the world by live Internet feed.

It was my first time on the air in a year or so. I haven’t felt up to overnighting, but this time, I vowed I was going to make it.

So that was the party and I got to be one of the animals. Tomorrow, I’ll feel inspired. Today, I mostly need a nap.