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Pat Piper has made a career learning something new. As a journalist in the news business, “something new” occurs every hour so he’s becoming an expert at understanding stuff he never thought about. Learning became a common word in “Future Talk: Conversations About Tomorrow” (Warner Books), the popular book he ghostwrote with Larry King as […]

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Archive for December, 2014

An Hour With Joe

By on December 23, 2014 in See It Here

Joe Cocker flew to New Orleans to be a guest on Larry King’s late night radio show which we broadcast from the top floor of the Marriott for one of 724 National Association of Broadcasters conventions held in that city. Broadcasters like New Orleans and we all know why.

You can spot Joe right away and I had been warned by his manager he didn’t like flying so have some hot coffee ready which, now that I think about it, was a subtle hint. Because he was the first guest and I had made sure the set was good to go and that Larry had the one-line rundown about each guest (Larry doesn’t want to know a lot before he talks to someone for an hour),  I stood outside and saw this limo pull up and a guy dressed in jeans and a blue shirt that had been buttoned wrong got out of the car.

“Hey mate,” he said and we walked into the lobby. I had never met Joe but everyone he saw was named “mate.” He wasn’t walking too well so I grabbed his arm as we got into the elevator.

“I really like the show,” he said. “We catch it after our show sometimes.”

“Everyone is excited you’re going to be here,” I told him, adding, “and they’re all broadcasters so many play your records.” Note: we used the word “records” back in 1986.

With just Joe and me in the elevator I suddenly realized why his manager suggested coffee. Joe was shit-faced. He drank because “he doesn’t like flying.”

A producer’s dilemma: Big Guest. Big Radio Show. It’s Live. Every broadcast owner/manager/suit in the United States is in the audience and the first hour guest is loaded. I did what any radio professional would do:

“Joe, what do you say we get some coffee and I can move you to the second hour so you can relax a little?”

“I’m good. Let’s do this.” The elevator door opened and I walked with Joe into the room with audience members standing around all with drinks in their hands because we had a full bar set up in the back.

“Oh shit,” I thought to myself.

“Oh. Shit!,” Joe said looking at the bar. “I’m gonna have a beverage.” He was off and the suits parted ways like the Red Sea as Joe placed his order.

By this time Larry was on the set, we had about two minutes to air, and people were gathered around him getting autographs and making conversation. I whispered in his ear, “Joe is here but we may have to cut it short.”

Larry looked at me and, of course spoke loudly enough so everyone could hear. “Why would we cut Joe Cocker short? He’s a great guest…”

Of course, every self-appointed broadcast expert heard that and started in with “What kind of clown producer are you?-do you have a pulse pal?-you sure wouldn’t work for me….”

Ignoring the “experts,” I put my hand up to slow Larry down and moved to kneel next to him to try and explain my fear. Larry leaned in and then there was commotion on the other side as people started raising their voices.

Joe had just sat down next to Larry.

Sometimes, you just have to let it go. That’s the beauty of live broadcasts.

Joe and Larry started and went for the entire hour. It was fast-moving, lots of laughs, good questions from listeners around the country and Joe answered each with depth.

When it was over, Joe and Larry shook hands, did the backslap routine and I started to take this now-fired-up hero of mine out of the room.

Larry tapped me on the shoulder before we left and whispered, “Keep an eye on Joe. I think he’s drunk.”

I looked at Larry and said, “Joe Cocker? Really?”

Larry didn’t miss a beat. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure.”

Joe and I went down the elevator and through the lobby, stopping from time to time for a quick autograph and made it to his driver standing outside.

Joe turned to me.

“That was fun. I’m feeling good.”

I shook his hand and said, “Have a good flight home, Joe.”

He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I hate F**^ing flying.”

Two Holiday Things I just Don’t Get (and I’m not talking about gifts)

By on December 22, 2014 in See It Here

 

When I see all the cars parked in shopping malls, the Scrooge in me doesn’t think these people are wasting money and time and should be working. In fact, Mr. Scrooge is replaced by the Free Market/Free Enterprise Ideologues who say this is good, competition is at work and those who don’t offer what the buyer wants at the price the buyer is willing to pay will have to close their doors.

But there’s another part of “the Holiday Season” that makes less sense, which of course, means we’re talking about people. It involves two things centered on sending Xmas cards.

1-There’s just something cheap and distant about sending an e-Xmas card though it is indeed fascinating to watch the reindeer circle the globe and all of nature coming out of the woods to shake hands with a snowman. But the sender uses paypal or their credit card and writes their last name with something about good wishes and hits “send.” There’s something missing. Now, if I’m writing on a blog twenty years from now, I’m sure readers will just say, “that old man has just got to get over it” because everyone will be doing this.

I might add, I did an interview with Bill Gates some years ago (OK, 14 years ago) and he said we’ll probably be watching TV in our living rooms with all the characters in 3D walking around the place. The future Xmas card?

2- Some people actually write a note on a Xmas card and use the United States Postal Service when they hit “send” (someone who writes this blog does that). But here’s the thing: I get a few cards from folks I went to grade school with–or from a few I work with—that have the happy greeting on the inside and then either just sign their name or have the card embossed with their name. I like these people but I don’t want their autograph. Tell me what’s new? Tell me how the past year went or the plans for the coming year. Tell me something. Like the digital card, I find it hollow.

To quote that old man I first mentioned while seeing all the cars in the parking lot: “I haven’t taken leave of my senses, I’ve come to them.” Maybe we should all take a few hours this holiday season and read it. Hitting “send” is the easy part. What is key is what is done before that.

 

Merry Xmas to all (now I’m gonna hit “send”).

“No” Needs To “Know”

By on December 19, 2014 in See It Here

As soon as President Obama announced the United States was going to move in the direction of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, the usual crowd starting singing an all-too-familiar (and tiring) song.

And if that song sounds familiar, it’s the same routine we heard when he wanted to push the House to take a vote on the Senate immigration bill. Need I go on with all the other issues?

Here’s the thing: Most people with a pulse want to be able to travel the 90 miles across the Florida Straits to Cuba, buy things, drink things, smoke things, stay a few days and then come home. Casino owners would love to set up shop in Cuba and so on. Cubans want to come to the U.S. and do the same thing. The polls show this.

Ok, here come words from the aging hack:

I remember standing in front of a black and white TV on October 22, 1962 when President Kennedy told the country he was imposing a blockade of Cuba because surveillance had detected missile sites with weapons that could reach the U.S. I could see the look on my mom’s face as the president spoke and asked, “what’s going on?” She stayed fixed on the television, a hand over her mouth and said “We may be having World War 3.”

The embargo actually began two years earlier during the Eisenhower Administration when the White House stopped all exports to Cuba.

Now do the math. This was 54 years ago. We didn’t talk to Cuba and Cuba didn’t talk to us. We spied on Cuba and Cuba spied on us. After a few generations, you reach a point when the question has to be asked, in Washington D.C. as well as Havana, “How long do we keep this going?”

The “Bad Idea” crowd is pointing to hypocrisy because the US wants to do business with Cuba but is still having a tiff about the same issues with other countries (Venezuela and China come to mind). They say there is no foreign policy consistency.

I offer a sentence from someone the right, the-far-right, the-whacko-right, the middle, liberals and even whacko left quote time and time again:

“I’ve always believed that a lot of the troubles in the world would disappear if we were talking to each other instead of about each other.”

Ronald Reagan said that 40 years ago in a speech to the Ford Motor Company.

The “Bad Idea” crowd has always been scared of trying a new approach because it is comforting to think about the good-old-days, the-simpler-days, the-traditional-values days….(yawn) …blah blah blah.

Just a little newsflash for you: all of that still exists, even when the calendar changes. After five decades, it might just make sense to step away from the way it used to be to the way it is.

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