Friday, February 11, 2011

Here Comes Another Old Radio Tale

In the decades that I've been in the business, I've interviewed countless celebrities and rock stars, minor and major governmental figures, both local and national, and a wide variety of business owners who managed to "have something" (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, saynomore!) on various members of the sales staff -- usually it had to do with some humungous annual contract rather than some other nefarious and sleazy motive. But the freaking baker I interviewed last week, literally took the cake.
So our well-meaning time pig ushers this massive former CPA into the studio just before 7:30 in the morning. He'd apparently just finished the morning baking. This man, at first glance an admirable artisan who took two years off from his actual life to travel to France and study with the massively snobbish froggish cuisine fiends, is passionate about bread. Now, I am of the opinion that folks passionate about anything usually make for a good interview. "Usually" being the key word. Mind you, we're giving this dude an interview in MORNING DRIVE at about the best possible time -- for what is actually a very small ad contract. We were hoping that he would develop into a great business partner. He does make some damn fine sourdough.
The interview started with me introducing this individual and pointing out that he has recently reopened and returned to town. I explained where folks could find his shop and asked what types of bread were available (seeded, raisins, baguettes -- you get the picture). I then explained that good sourdough wasn't easy to find and asked him to explain why his was so flavorful without the overly sour taste that you can find in cheaper varieties. After he droned on for a full minute (a lifetime in our business, especially in morning drive!) about the differences and the superiority of his product, I redirected the interview back to the fact that the store had reopened in a new location and that folks shouldn't get his bread confused with less finely-crafted loaves. He told us about studying with those Jerry Lewis-loving food nazis (again droning on far too long, requiring redirection several times) and pontificated at length about how people in town shouldn't be gullible enough to buy inferior product made from (gasp!) packaged yeast.
Now I know a little tiny bit about baking sourdough. My mother had her own starter and made lovely crusty loaves for years while I was a small child -- and then thanks to her immense skill in the culinary arts, a not-so-small child, and then a strapping adolescent. So it was fairly easy for me to ask him the right questions and make remarks that hopefully would make the interview less than mind-numbingly boring to listeners who just didn't give two shits about bread unless it was anchoring the cheese to the turkey en route to the mouth. I mostly find it a vehicle for butter, myself. [2011 note: And now eat only multi-grain and not much of it.]
Needless to say, after six minutes I really thought the listeners had probably just about had it -- I know that he was told to expect no more than 90 seconds to two minutes, max. I'm thinking: "this guy's going to be thrilled!" So after naming him and the store again (and making sure I pounded home the reopening and the new location once again for good measure), and presenting him with a novel based on the premise of a young woman becoming a baker after a tragic life-altering divorce, I wrapped it up and got back into music. I haven't mentioned we were a music-intensive morning show? Well, we were. No long raps here about Christina Aguilera's nasty piercings or her lack of taste and style -- although the other morning I couldn't help but comment that J Lo and Ben had moved one step closer to divorce by announcing their engagement. [2011 me again: wow, this is old.]
Music safely playing again and the computer switched back to AUTO mode, I shook his hand and ushered him out of the studio and to the door. He seemed happy -- smiling and handing baguettes to all and sundry (or all and sundry in at that hour). But his pleasant mood was illusory.
The next morning when I got off the air and checked my voicemail, I heard his voice -- brusque and brief, name and number in a clipped recitation. When I called him back, immediately, he wasted no time in ripping into me.
"That was the worst excuse for an interview I have ever been subjected to. I've been interviewed by some lousy interviewers before, especially those idiot television reporters, but at least they didn't interrupt me constantly! I counted you interrupt me NINE times when I listened to the recording when I got back to the shop! There's just no excuse for that level of rudeness! And how dare you affiliate me with that stupid novel! Novels are mostly escapist drivel anyway and I can't believe you would connect me with something as useless as this trashy book!"
I must insert here that this was in no way some bodice-ripping romance. It was a very affecting story that explained bread making in some detail with a lovely story about a woman reclaiming her life after a surprising and bitter divorce. Hmmm. Maybe I hit a nerve?
Neil Young and Elvis Costello hung-over and with colds in a 8' by 8' room with a rabid wolverine will be interviewed on my morning show before Cad Rafferty, Baker from Hell, ever sets foot in the studio again. Have I mentioned that I interviewed a hung-over and cold-virus infected Pete Townshend? I was damn good. It was one of the first series of reunion tours. I do not suck at this.
This painful one-sided phone conversation continued for sometime. Quite some time. My face burning and my blood pressure dangerously close to meltdown level, I managed to choke out a dozen, or more appropriately a baker's dozen worth of "I'm sorry you feel that way,"s and an equal number of "that certainly wasn't my intention,"s, until he wrapped with the totally unexpected comment, "I could die tomorrow and just had to get this off my chest. I like you (!) and thought it would be helpful for you to know how I feel."
It wasn't. I hope he does.

[Enjoy - I did, now. Bastard]

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