Sunday, October 12, 2008

Midnight Caller

Nearly Four Months Later...

Where have I been? I, friends, have been traveling the lands of commerce and communication, enjoying the thrills of many hunts and the viewings of priceless objet d'art -- meaning I've been catching up on work, reading, scouring the internet for rare film soundtracks and seeing a few movies. One recent Saturday night, though, found me making my "professional" radio debut as a guest on a popular Boston AM radio talk show.

A little backstory: For a few years now, some people -- friends, family, even complete strangers -- have been telling me I have "a great voice." Granted, as a film/media fan I've been "doing voices" for years; acting silly as a general form of communication and trying on various accents, ever the hopeful-yet-under-the-radar actor, I suppose. I mentioned these random compliments one day to my employer, DL. A short time later yet another unsolicited compliment was paid me, this time in DL's presence, when a client asked me if I'd ever done any voice-over work. This had to be the twentieth such kind word paid to me in three years or so, I joked.

DL, a genuinely good person and always ready to lend someone a hand, offered to put me in touch with a certain well known Boston radio personality. As a follower of certain spoken word and vocal performers (we miss you, Don LaFontaine) I've long been interested in their world and work. I wouldn't want to be an on-air personality, necessarily... but movie trailers, animated programs, books-on-tape... those in particular interest me. So I took DL up on his offer and spoke to the Radio Professional. He was kind, instructive and complimetary to the utmost, even going so far as to asking me to read from a few sample scripts in order to get a feel for my performance range and comfortability with the mic.

Old superbuddy and audio engineer extrordinaire Tim Hulsizer answered the call to arms, arriving with his trusty hi-tech digital recording device, and we recorded a few takes from the sample scripts. Later, after giving them a listen, the Radio Pro was again very complimentary, but it seemed that my recordings must have lacked whatever specific magic touch necessary to be considered pro-level work. Suggesting I take a class or two, which I couldn't do in my present situation even if I had the time, I thanked him for giving me a listen and that was that.

Cut to a month later, give or take. It's a rainy Saturday night and big boss man DL is scheduled to make a recurring appearance on said Radio Pro's nationally-heard late night chat show. I offered to tag along. It'd been a very long time since I'd been in a television/radio broadcast station of any kind and I'd said it would be a real treat for me to join him, help carry some props and such for his appearance, listen to the show from a quiet, out-of-the-way spot in some remote green room, and in general just perform as a sort of overgrown helper monkey. He accepted, and off we went that night into the wind and rain to the nearby radio broadcast station.

As he parked the car, I went inside with the closed cardboard box of props and stopped off at the Security Desk to sign in. "Hello," I offered. "I'm here for the live show tonight." The Guard picked up the phone, calling to the host and saying fairly obliviously, "Hey, the dinner delivery kid's here."

Nice. Nothing boosts one's self confidence in the den of one's peers more than being mistaken for a 38 year old sandwich "kid."

Anyway, once all that was cleared up, DL and I were greeted by the Radio Pro and we went to the studio. As I walked through the atrium and into the broadcasting area, soaking from the rain, arms loaded with the box of props, I was hit by that Old Feeling. The one minor league baseball players must get when they walk the grass at Fenway Park... The one budding concert pianists must feel when they grace the stage of Symphony Hall. The cameras, the sets, the desks of seasoned broadcast professionals, the wired and rigged grids above my head leading to various booths and control rooms. I'd felt it before a few times -- touring the local cable access studio when I was 14, visiting the various levels of the film studies building in college at 22, waiting for a job interview at The Boston Globe at 30. It was a feeling I was well acquainted with and here I was feeling it again. I'm a thirty eight year old child in more ways then I'd care to admit.

With about three minutes to go, we set things up in the performance studio. The round table, the microphones, the warm glow eminated from the panel readouts of the recording equipment nearby, it all gave me a palpable sense of belonging and brought me back to my college radio days where I was not only a DJ but a news program writer and producer as part of my pre-Keene State College 2-year media communications studies. The Engineer signaled to the radio Pro that magic time was approaching. And as I turned to excuse myself... I was told to pull up a chair and have a seat. I was being invited to join the broadcast.

In a split second, my wistful comfort was transformed into nervousness. "I'm not ready for this," I shuddered to myself. "I don't belong here tonight... I'm supposed to be outside listening to the show, not in here being part of it... I'm no expert in anything that could be part of this discussion... I'll frig this up... I'm going to crash and burn." As the show's opening theme began, the Radio Pro asked me to remind him of my full name for the necessary introductions. I gave it, adding (and requesting, in nervousness) "...but you don't have to use my last name." DL and the Radio Pro chuckled at what they thought was my little joke. I later told DL that I wasn't actually kidding. The intro theme faded down, the ON AIR light came on, and off we went...

And I was... not great. Where DL and I work, the business is a good one, full of life and knowledge and wonder and happiness. It's a great place to be and it's DL's labor of lifelong love. And I enjoy it fully, myself. I'm just not an expert in the field, is all. I can't tell yout the history of any of our products nor the origins of the methods used in creating them. In fact -- as anyone who really knows me can tell you -- if the subject of a particular conversation isn't film, screenplay writing, original film scores or somehow cinema related in even a slight sense, I'm pretty much useless in said conversation. Imagine you're a lifelong sports nut, the kind who can name the batting average of every pro ball player since the Ted Williams days, who happens to shelf books at the library, and you're asked to co-chair a symposium concerning the use of subjective narrative structure in eighteenth century Russian poetry. The sensation of being a fraud whilst being beamed out to thousands of listeners is really quite something. At least now I know what it must feel like to be a Republican.

As the show went on, though, I got a bit more comfortable. Granted, I was still a relative no-nothing. I had only the slightest on-air-banter ability, I confused Bob Dole for Al Gore (yikes) and the one time a movie trivia question was lobbed, I didn't know the answer. (The film was nearly sixty years old and one I'd never seen, in my own defense.) But the Callers were fun as they phoned in to answer logic and trivia questions, the night was lively and in the end a good time was pretty much had by all. Afterwards, the Radio Pro and I shook hands and DL and I left the station, venturing back out into the chilly, stormy night after our two shared hours of national media exposure.

So what did we learn, Charlie Brown? In the end, I'm not really sure. These radio appearances happen quite often and if I'm asked to join in again sometime, I'm not sure what I'll say. While it's great to be helpful and give DL, the Radio Pro and the Callers someone else to play off, I'm just not sure what I have to offer. I know a second chance could yield a certain feeling of further confidence and maybe even ability but I'm not sure what I'd get out of it personally or professionally. It's best to go into certain situations with absolutely no expectations, I think. That way, if something doesn't go your way it's no big loss. While I'm confident I could host the hell out of a certain, specific kind of film/cinema related talk radio situation -- and while it's always nice to be asked to step up to the plate -- not everybody hits a homer their first time up to bat. I still think I could be a fairly decent to actually quite talented voice performer. And we'll see what happens with that, if anything.

And who knows? Perhaps it will. Perhaps... Someday, somehow... In a world... Where Silence Rules... One Man... Will Rise... And Awaken the Hero... Within Himself! This Summer! VOX HUMANA! Rated "R." Children Under 17 Not Admitted Without Parent Or Guardian...

...Or at least a 38 Year Old Sandwich Kid.

Theatrical Reviews
Raiders Of The Lost Ark ****
The Big Lebowski ****
Mongol ****
Jaws ****
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson ***1/2
The Dark Knight ***1/2
Iron Monkey (HK) ***1/2
Burn After Reading ***
Hancock ***
Choke ***
Star Wars: The Clone Wars **1/2
Hellboy II: The Golden Army **1/2
The X-Files: I Want To Believe **

DVD/Home Video
Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) ****
Hyperdrive: Series One (BBC-TV) ****
Akira (Japan) ****
Hot Fuzz (UK) ****
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) ***1/2
Commando: Director's Cut (1985) ***1/2
Futurama: Bender's Big Score ***1/2
The Warlords (Hong Kong) ***1/2
Batman Begins (2005) ***1/2
The Doors (1991) ***1/2
The Jerk (1979) ***1/2
Closer (2004) ***1/2
Sharkskin Man and Peach Hip Girl (Japan) ***
Warm Water Under A Red Bridge (Japan) ***
Amazing Stories: Season One (TV) ***
Where the Buffalo Roam (1980) ***
Battlefield Baseball (Japan) ***
SF: Short Films (Japan) ***
Hold Up Down (Japan) ***
Love And Honor (Japan) ***
Three Businessmen (UK) ***
Demon Pond (Japan) ***
Dead Run (Japan) ***
Shinobi (Japan) ***
Be Kind, Rewind ***
Hellboy (2001) ***
Ashura (Japan) ***
The Ten ***
Redbelt ***
Around The World In 80 Days (2005) **1/2
The Submersion Of Japan (Japan) **1/2
Windtalkers: Director's Cut **1/2
May 18th (South Korea) **1/2
Another Battle (Japan) **1/2
Explorers (1986) **1/2
Izo (Japan) **1/2
The Postmodern Life Of My Aunt (China) **
Everyone Sinks But Japan (Japan) **
The Go-Master (China) **
Pistol Whipped **
Kichiku Dai Enkai (Banquet of the Beasts) *

Star Wars: Episode III ***1/2
The Martix: Reloaded **1/2
Cloverfield **1/2
Daredevil **1/2