Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Suburban Man: Innocence Lost

By Rick Kaempfer

Have you ever had a joke get away from you?

It started innocently enough.

When my oldest boy Tommy was just learning to talk, I used to tell a joke every time I fixed one of his toys. Keep in mind I only told this joke if his mother was within hearing distance.

The joke: “Remember Tommy, Dad can fix anything.”

My wife laughed every time I said it because I’m such a mechanical moron.

I’m not just being self-effacing here. I’m really, really, worthless. When we got married, one of the first things my wife purchased for us was an actual tool box to replace the Marshall Field’s box I used to store my four tools (screwdriver, hammer, pliers, and pointy metal thing.) She also bought some more tools, and she even knows how to use them.

As Tommy grew older (he’s 12 now), I said the joke less and less because his toys got more and more complicated. Pretty soon, I was able to fix almost nothing. Instead of even trying, I would send him to his mother. At some point I assumed he had figured out that his mother was the mechanical one.

He hadn’t.

We were going over his latest report card the other day, and Tommy was a little concerned about his grade in gym class. I told him not to worry about it. “Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, and you did well in all the academic subjects. That’s your strength. Gym just happens to be your weakness.”

“But you don’t have any weaknesses,” he said in all seriousness.

“Are you kidding? I have tons of weaknesses.”

“Like what?”

“Well, for one thing, I’m not exactly mechanically inclined.”

His mouth dropped open.

“What do you mean? You can fix anything.”

“No I can’t,” I said. “That’s a joke. I only say that to make your mom laugh, because she knows that I can’t fix anything.”

He was crushed. He didn’t say a word for several seconds as he processed this bombshell.

“Are you OK buddy?” I asked.

He nodded, but I could tell he wasn’t.

“So,” he said tentatively, “when you call yourself Mr. Rand McNally…”

I nodded sadly. “Remember when I got lost trying to find the Cubs Scout outing? And the time I got lost in Ikea? And that night we looked all over the parking lot for our car? And…”

He held his hand in the air. He had heard enough.

I probably shouldn’t have copped to this the same week we had our little talk about Santa Claus. A young boy can only handle so much.

This article first appeared on the blog of "NWI Parent," a publication of the Northwest Indiana Times. I'm now a regular columnist/blogger for them, writing a weekly column called "Father Knows Nothing"

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Suburban Man: Clean up the house day

By Rick Kaempfer

I’m often asked what it’s like to live in a house run by men and boys. Let me put it to you this way…if you ever stop by my house unannounced, can I request a specific time and day?

Every Friday, my boys and I do something called “Clean up the house day.” Without a strict adherence to this weekly policy, we’d be living in squalor.

When they’re at school, I stop writing about noon, put on my iPod, and begin cleaning up the house (I’m using the male definition of “cleaning” by the way). By the time they come back from school, I’ve dusted, swept, vacuumed, watered the plants, cleaned the kitchen, thrown all of the stray toys and books onto their beds, and done several loads of laundry.

As soon as they walk in the door, they are handed a gigantic pile of clothes to put away, a swiffer, and a garbage bag, and they’re expected to clean up their own rooms (again, I’m using the male definition of “clean”). They have about an hour to tackle that herculean task, before they go to phase 2.

During Phase 2, Tommy (age 12) puts on the rubber gloves and cleans the bathrooms (do I need to keep reminding you I’m using the male definition of “clean”?). Johnny (age 9) and Sean (age 5) are expected to take care of the basement without getting into a fist-fight.

If they finish early, that’s fine, but they are absolutely forbidden from re-messing up any part of the house until their mother gets home. They’ve learned the hard way that this is a completely non-negotiable rule. After mom gets home, life can return to normal.

I just want the weekend to start off well for my lovely wife. It isn’t too much to ask to come home to a house that isn’t disgusting at least one day a week, right? Even if she just sees the house clean for an hour or two, it seems to put a smile on her face.

Also, from a selfish point of view, after the weekend has started off with a “clean” house, then when the house starts to accumulate new piles of randomly strewn toys and books and crumbs and crap over the weekend–it’s not all my fault. She was here too.

Plus, I don’t have to hear her sighing and muttering the word “disgusting” under her breath all weekend long.

So, if you stop by on a Friday, any time after 5 is fine. If you stop by on a Thursday, even if all the lights are on and you can see us inside the house, we’re not home.

It’s for your own good.

This article first appeared on the blog of "NWI Parent," a publication of the Northwest Indiana Times. I'm now a regular columnist/blogger for them, writing a weekly column called "Father Knows Nothing"

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Gift Giving Advice from Rick Kaempfer*

(Celebrity Snippets will return next Saturday to it's regularly scheduled time slot with a memorable story about Larry King. I'm pre-empting that feature to bring you this very special holiday announcement.)

I know you're busy shopping for presents, so I wanted to remind you of an inexpensive option for that special someone on your list. You're probably one step ahead of me here, but have you considered giving the book "$everance"as a gift?


1. The Writer's Guild is striking.
Everyone on your list is already starved for comedy—and $everance has been called "whiplash-fast choke-on-your-coffee funny" and "a brilliant satire." (And much more: Praise for $everance)

2. Christmas is for Children.

And I have three of them…who will be getting every dime that I make from this book. The littlest one (Sean) literally steals the money right out of my pockets. (And the Writer's Guild thinks they have problems).

3. It's only $16 if you buy it online from my publisher.
Look at your list again. Do you really want to spend more than $16 on most of those people? Give them $everance. They get to laugh. You save some cash.

I know what you're thinking, you've looked for $everance before, and it's hard to find in the stores, and it's…oh look….here's a direct link. (www.encpress.com/SEV.html).

Quick, click on the link before it's too late. It's like the Wii videogame system this year. When you find it, you gotta buy it. If you can't give it to someone you love (or don't love) as a gift, you can still make a fortune selling it on eBay. If not, at the very least it can level out that wobbly table in the basement (Simply place it under the slightly shorter table leg, and voila!)

I'd like to see the Wii do that.

*If you've already received this advice via e-mail, I apologize for the redundancy. I only have a few hundred e-mail addresses, and about 10,000 people read this blog every week. I'll officially stop hounding you now, and return you to the free entertainment I provide without advertising support or pledge drives. (hint, hint. sniff.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Suburban Man: 2007 Toy Guide

By Rick Kaempfer

When my kids handed me their Christmas lists this year, my mouth dropped open. After I regained my composure, I said what any sane parent (not named Rockefeller) would have said: "Sorry kids, Santa told me he's not bringing anything this year that costs more than $100."

"But Dad…"

But nothing. Don't tell Santa there isn't anything worthwhile out there for less than $100. We found a ton of gift ideas, and we don't even have Santa's extensive connections in the toy world.

Some of these toys are for girls, some are for boys, some are for younger kids, and some are for the "But Dad" crowd, but every single one of them costs less than a hundred dollars.

Ten Toys Under $50

(FatBrain, Suggested Retail price: $15)
This hand held quiz game is for kids 7 and up. It has all the features kids love in their handheld gizmos, including flashing lights and beeps, but it also clandestinely educates them (Quizmo answers 693,135 questions). Why isn't it for kids under 7? It doesn't answer their favorite question: "Why?"
Quizmo is available at Smarti Pants Toys in Highland.

Cranium Zooreeka

(Cranium, Suggested Retail price: $17.99)
In our family we've always found the Cranium games to be a step above the other games on the market. Cranium's latest effort, Zooreeka, was voted the Best Game of the Year at the 2007 Toy Fair, and it's easy to see why. It's perfect for kids who have trouble maintaining their own habitats.
Zooreeka is available at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, and Target.

Cranium Sounds of the Seashore

(Cranium, Suggested Retail price: $17.99)
This is a Cranium game for little kids (3 and up). It's a matching and memory game featuring the sights and sounds of the sea. It's just the thing for America's global warming generation.
Sounds of the Seashore is available at Toys R Us and Target.

Hannah Montana Singing Doll
(Disney, Suggested Retail Price: $29.99)
If you have a daughter, you know all about Disney Channel's biggest attraction: Hannah Montana. This Hannah doll even sings her hit song "Best of Both Worlds." Ear plugs for parents not included.
Hannah Montana Singing Doll is available at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart & Target for around $20.

Rubik's Revolution

(Sevens Town Ltd, Suggested Retail Price: $34.95)
The makers of the original Rubik's Cube have come out with a new handheld electronic version of the cube that has six built-in-games (and no cubes to turn). It's also not quite as challenging as the original because it's aimed at 5-10 year olds, but that just means that the rest of us have a chance this time.
Rubik's Revolution is available at Toys R Us and Target (for around $20).

Motion Detector

(Snap Circuits, Suggested Retail Price: $21.95)
This motion detector is aimed at the 8-10 year old crowd. It's a Snap Circuits toy, which means it must be assembled, but it's really not that difficult. And once it's assembled, anyone who walks in front of it is greeted with the sound of a laser and a flashing red light. Unlimited fun for families with cats and dogs.
Motion Detector is available at Smarti Pants Toyz in Highland

Bathtub Car Wash
(Alex Toys, Suggested Retail Price: $25.00)
Finally a bath toy that actually makes sense. This toy has received the National Parenting Seal of Approval. It comes with little washable cars, and a squeegee that needs to be filled with liquid soap. It's virtually impossible for a child to play with this toy without getting clean.
Bathtub Car Wash is available at Smarti Pants Toyz in Highland.

Barbie Chat Diva

(Mattel, Suggested Retail Price: $29.95)
The most realistic Barbie on the market. This one talks on the cell phone all day.
Barbie Chat Diva is available at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart & Target.

TMX Elmo
(Fisher Price, Suggested Retail Price: $39.99)
Winner of the "Best Toy of the Year" award at the 2007 Toy Fair, it's similar to the earlier 'must have' Tickle Me Elmo. This one, however, performs new tricks when he's tickled, including falling over on his side, shimmying on his back, and lying on his belly and slapping the floor next to him.
TMX Elmo is available at Toys R Us and Target.

EyeClops Bionic Eye
(Jakks Pacific, Suggested Retail Price: $49.99)
Point the eye at anything and it magnifies it by 200 times, displaying the image on your television screen. Kids will be amazed by close up looks at things like hair and salt, and will be grounded if they try to get a close up look at dad's bald spot.
EyeClops Bionic Eye is available at Toys R Us and Wal-Mart.

Five Toys Under $100

Fold 2 Go Trike
(Radio Flyer, Suggested Retail Price: $99.99)
Winner of the "Best Outdoor Toy" award at the Toy Fair 2007, this is a tricycle that comes completely assembled (my prayers have been answered!). It folds up, is made of sturdy steel, has real rubber tires, and can handle any terrain. Did I mention it comes assembled?
Fold 2 Go Trike is available at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart & Target at prices ranging from $39.99 to $64.95.

Kid Tough Digital Camera

(Fisher Price, Suggested Retail Price: $69.99)
An actual functioning digital camera with 1.6 inch color display, built for little hands, and much, much, more durable than a grown up digital camera. It was chosen as the best electronic/entertainment toy at the 2007 Toy Fair. It comes in both pink and blue, and is the perfect present for a little brother or sister who can't fight back without incriminating photos.
Kid Tough Digital Camera is available at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, and Target at prices ranging from $49.99 to $64.99.

LEGO Creator Monster Dino
(LEGO, Suggested Retail Price: $89.99)
The Dino LEGO has batteries, motors, remote controls, censors, and easy to follow instructions. He can walk, move his head, and roar. Engineering degree not included.
LEGO Creator Monster Dino is available at Toys R Us and Target. Alsip Nursery in Frankfort and St. John also carries Legos products.

Smart Cycle
(Fisher Price, Suggested Retail Price: $99.99)
This toy was featured on the Today show a few months ago. The smart cycle is a child-sized stationary bike for 3-6 year old kids. Simply plug the jack into the TV, insert the software cartridge, and voila, your child is riding in a video game. Instead of turning his brain to mush, however, this video game forces him to exercise.
The Smart Cycle is available at Toys R Us and Target.

Spy Video Car
(Wild Planet, Suggested Retail Price: $174.99)
Winner of the "Best Toy for Boys" award at the 2007 Toy Fair, the Spy Video Car has an infrared night-vision video camera attached to it's front bumper. When the child puts on the special spy goggles, he or she can see what the camera sees. It works indoors and out, daytime and night, has a range of 75-feet, and almost certainly will see something it's not supposed to see.
Despite the suggested retail price, Spy Video Car was available at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, and Target for less than $100 at press time.

Aren't we forgetting something?

You might have noticed that we've mentioned several award winning toys, including the winner for "Best Toy", "Best Outdoor Toy," "Best Game", "Best Entertainment/Electronic Toy," and the "Best Toy for Boys."

What about "Best Toy For Girls?"

You might not be surprised to learn that the "Best Toy for Girls" (FuReal Friends Butterscotch Pony) doesn't qualify thanks to Santa's "Under $100" rule this year. It retails for $299.99. We only mention it now because we know the truth. Dads are suckers for their little girls. (They have it at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart and Target, Dad.)

We'll even give you a free rationalization. It's cheaper than a real pony.

This article appears in the Nov/Dec issue of NWI Parent Magazine. There's another piece of mine in the same issue.

Also, check out my blog at NWI Parent. It's called "Father Knows Nothing"

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Celebrity Snippets: Charmian Carr

Charmian Carr played the part of "Liesl" in the Oscar winning film "The Sound of Music."

Last time in Celebrity Snippets, I wrote about my encounter with Julie Andrews , but these are the essential ingredients of the story for you to understand the significance of my encounter with Charmian Carr.

When I was growing up, the Sound of Music was a very important film in our house. My father came from Austria and he forced us to watch it so many times that we knew the film by heart. After he died, The Sound of Music reminded us of Dad even more.

I made the mistake of telling John Landecker about this, and he thought it was hilarious that a 30-something straight male loved that movie. He brought me along to an interview with Julie Andrews to embarrass me. He thought I was in love with her--but I confessed after the interview that I was actually in love with the girl who played Liesl, Charmian Carr.

As it turns out, telling that to John was an even bigger mistake.

I figured the odds of running into her were minimal, but wouldn't you know it, she came to Chicago just a few years later to promote a sing-a-long version of "The Sound of Music." When John heard she was coming, he insisted that I book her to appear on the show.

I did. But I knew I was in for it.

He wouldn't tell me what was going on in the days before the interview, but I heard a lot of whispering between John and the other members of the show. Whenever I walked into the room, they shut up. Or they laughed. I was bracing for the worst.

On the morning of the interview, I was unbelievably nervous. John had even been warning the audience about my childhood love of Liesl, and that something truly memorable was about to occur.

She arrived at the studio about fifteen minutes early, so I met her at the door and brought her to the green room. I must say, she was still quite beautiful. I know she's easily fifteen years older than me, and I know how ridiculous this sounds, but I couldn't even bring myself to shake her hand. I had sweaty palms.

I tried to warn her that something was going to happen. I told her that John had been teasing me about my love of the movie, and described our Julie Andrews experience to her. She seemed amused by it all, but I must admit...I had a difficult time maintaining eye contact.

Take a look at those eyes.

When I brought her into the studio, John was nearly bouncing off his seat with excitement. Within seconds, he was handing each of us a script, and explaining to the audience what was about to occur.

He had transcribed the love scene between Liesl and Rolf, and wanted to know if Charmian would recreate that scene live on the air, with me playing the part of Rolf. I don't think I've ever been more embarrassed in my life.

She was obviously a little taken aback by this, but after looking at me, shrugged her shoulders and said "Sure, what the heck."

John cued the music, and boom, we were acting out the scene. I was sitting five feet away from the real Liesl, and she was calling me "Rolf" with love in her voice. I stammered through my first line, which sent John into convulsions, and onto the floor, but it didn't stop Charmian. She was such a good sport about it.

We did the entire scene. For those two or three minutes, she was sixteen going on seventeen, and I was the blond-haired Austrian teenager she was in love with.

Can I confess it now?

It was probably one of my all-time favorite moments in my radio career because it was such a unique and personal experience.

Don't tell that to John, though. It would ruin the moment for him.

How many people have both of these autographs on their "Sound of Music" soundtrack?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Suburban Man: An Embarrassing Collection

By Rick Kaempfer

My youngest son Sean (age 5) is an avid collector.

He used to collect harmless things like leaves, rocks, paper clips, and coins. (Hint: Don’t jingle the change in your pocket around this boy. He’ll follow you around until you fork it over.) A few months ago, however, he started a brand new collection that is even more embarrassing.

He collects bottle caps.

Beer bottle caps.

My wife was horrified immediately, but I must admit, I thought it was funny at first. Plus, it was actually kind of nice to have an occasional beer brought to me without asking for it. It was even good for a few laughs when we had friends over.

“Oh, you’ve really got him trained, don’t you?”

“He’s collecting bottle caps,” I would explain.

My wife gave me a disapproving look each time, but I wasn’t concerned. It’s not like anyone believed he was drinking the beer himself. I collected beer cans when I was a kid, which was a rather popular trend in the 70s. I considered his bottle cap collection the same sort of thing. As far as I was concerned, it was totally innocuous.

On the other hand, I hadn’t anticipated that his collection would accumulate at such an alarming rate. Soon, whenever he brought out his huge collection to proudly display for friends and relatives, I felt compelled to add: “He didn’t get all of those from me.”

Unfortunately, the way he got the rest of them has become a bit of a problem. Upon entering a new home, his first destination is now the refrigerator. The other day we went to visit my mother, and he not only went into her refrigerator, he said these words as he did so…

“Hey, what kind of beer you got?”

The look on my mother’s face that day, in addition to the look on my wife’s face the following day when we found him rifling through the garbage for bottle caps at my sister’s house, has convinced me this collection has to go.

I don’t want to throw them out or ban the collection outright because that will make him want to collect them even more. That’s just the kind of kid he is. (I have no idea where he got that rebellious streak from…oh, wait a minute…never mind.) No, the only way to get him away from bottle caps, is to convince him to collect something else.

It has to be something colorful (which is what attracted him to the bottle caps), easy to accumulate (which will get him enthused), and free (which will keep me out of the poorhouse.)

Have any ideas?

This article first appeared on the blog of "NWI Parent," a publication of the Northwest Indiana Times. I'm now a regular columnist/blogger for them, writing a weekly column called "Father Knows Nothing"

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A little something for the Germans

Half Empty will return next week. I wanted to turn you on to this interview I did for a German radio magazine called "RadioSzene." Those of you who understand German can follow along. Those of you who can't, may get a kick out of it anyway.

"Hoffentlich passiert so etwas nicht in Deutschland!"

Ein knallharter Blick hinter die Kulissen des amerikanischen Radiogeschäfts

Ex-Radiomoderator und Produzent Rick Kaempfer aus Chicago hat ein Buch über die amerikanische Radioszene geschrieben. Es trägt den etwas ungewöhnlichen Titel „Severance“ (zu Deutsch: „Abfindung“). Eine Mischung aus Satire und Wirklichkeit: Kaempfer klärt den Leser über die Besitzverhältnisse der amerikanischen Radiosender auf und beschreibt den Arbeits-Alltag in einer (fiktiven) amerikanischen Station.

Martin Schmitt, Nachrichtenredakteur bei der Hörfunkagentur „BLR&RadioDienst“ in München, hat sich Ende Oktober mit Rick Kaempfer in Chicago getroffen und mit ihm über sein neues Buch und das Radiogeschäft in den Vereinigten Staaten gesprochen.

Interview mit Ex-Radio-Personality Rick Kaempfer

Schmitt: Rick, bevor wir über Dein Buch sprechen, erzähl uns doch etwas über Deine eigene Radiokarriere!

Kaempfer: Nun, ich bin seit 20 Jahren im „Radiobusiness“ in Chicago. Ich war unter anderem Produzent der “Steve Dahl & Garry Meier Show” (WLS Radio, Chicago). Die Sendung ist in der berühmten „Rock and Roll Hall of Fame“ in Cleveland gelistet. Das Konzept der Show: Rock and Roll und Comedy-Elemente. Ich habe dort unter anderem als Comedy-Autor gearbeitet. Anschließend war ich im Team der “John Records Landecker Show“ (WJMK-Radio Chicago). Eine Sendung, die ebenfalls Mitglied der „Rock and Roll Hall of Fame“ ist. Das Konzept der Sendung: Comedy und Oldies.

Schmitt: Nach 20 Jahren im „Radiobusiness“ hast Du vor ein paar Jahren einen Schlussstrich gezogen und gesagt: Jetzt reichts! Ich schreibe ein Buch über das Business. Der Titel des Buches lautet „Severance“ – eine Art Comedy-Buch?

Kaempfer: Das Buch erzählt die Geschichte eines Radio-Moderators, der sich geradezu darum bemüht, gefeuert zu werden, um dann eine fette Abfindung zu kassieren. Aber seine Radiostation denkt gar nicht daran, ihn zu entlassen. Der Sender will ihn notgedrungen halten, damit er die hohe Abfindung nicht zahlen muss. Schließlich macht der Programmdirektor ihm das Leben so schwer wie möglich, mit dem Ziel, dass er von selbst aufgibt und kündigt. Das ist die Kurzfassung des Buches. Eine Art Satire über den alltäglichen Wahnsinn innerhalb eines Radiosenders.

Rick Kaempfer im Interview mit Martin Schmitt in Chicago

Schmitt: Aber es ist kein Buch über Deine eigene Karriere im Radiogeschäft, oder?

Kaempfer: Nun, vielleicht sogar doch ein kleines bisschen. Im letzten Jahr, in dem ich noch aktiv als Radiomoderator gearbeitet habe, war ich wirklich sehr unzufrieden und unser Team stand auch kurz davor, gefeuert zu werden. Aber unser Geschäftsführer hat uns nicht entlassen, weil wir noch ein Jahr unseren Vertrag zu erfüllen hatten. Aus dieser Zeit stammen auch einige Ideen für das Buch.

Schmitt: „Severance“ scheint wirklich das erste und einzige Buch zu sein, welches das „wahre“ Leben im Radiogeschäft beschreibt. Ist es nur ein Buch für Radioleute?

Kaempfer: Es ist ein Buch für jeden, der sich dafür interessiert, was tatsächlich im Mediengeschäft abläuft. Ich glaube, in den USA wissen viele gar nicht, was hinter den Kulissen passiert. Wenn sie es wüssten, wären sie schockiert! „Severance“ ist ein Buch aus dem wahren Leben. Leute, die es lesen, werden wahrscheinlich gar nicht glauben, dass ich dort die Wahrheit über das Mediengeschäft geschrieben habe. Das ist übrigens auch der Grund, weshalb ich nicht mehr zurück ins Geschäft will.

Schmitt: Die Medienlandschaft in den USA unterscheidet sich ja grundlegend von der Situation in Deutschland: Nur zwei, drei große Konzerne kontrollieren praktisch alle Radiosender in den Vereinigten Staaten. Das klingt nach einer wahnsinnigen Medienmacht!

Kaempfer: Oh, in der Tat! Allein das Medienunternehmen „Clear Channel“ besitzt in den USA 1.200 Radiosender. Der Konzern erreicht damit 27 Prozent der gesamten Radiohörer der Vereinigten Staaten. Betrachtet man einzelne Bundesstaaten, sieht es sogar noch krasser aus: In Florida beispielsweise hat „Clear Channel“ einen weitesten Hörerkreis von 70 Prozent. Das ist unglaublich! Ein weiteres Medienunternehmen ist CBS (dort habe ich gearbeitet). Zu der Gesellschaft gehören ca. 300 Radiostationen. Daneben gibt es noch zwei andere Konzerne, die ebenfalls je einige hundert Radiosender besitzen. Die Folgen: Egal, in welcher Stadt Du Dich in den USA befindest, Du hörst immer dieselben Stimmen. Da werden Shows aus New York oder Washington im ganzen Land ausgestrahlt. Wenn Du also hier in Chicago bist, hörst Du dieselbe Sendung wie in Detroit. Bist Du in Detroit, hörst Du die Show aus Dallas. Das war vor zehn Jahren noch ganz anders: Damals hatte noch jede Stadt ihre eigenen Radioshows und ihre eigene Identität. Heute haben wir in ganz Amerika einen Einheitsbrei. Es ist im Prinzip wie hier im „Starbucks Coffee“: Starbucks wendet das gleiche System an, nur eben mit Coffee-Shops. Da läuft etwas ziemlich schief in Amerika.

Vom Radiomoderator zum Buchautor: Rick Kaempfer

Schmitt: Also eine Art „Franchise-System“ für Radiosender. Vielleicht gibt es ja ein solches System in zehn Jahren auch in Deutschland?!

Kaempfer: Nun, ich glaube, in Deutschland sieht es anders aus. Bei euch gibt es eine strenge Medienaufsicht. In Deutschland ist alles besser geregelt als in den USA. Bei uns wird alles dem freien Markt überlassen. In Amerika ist man für alles offen. Wer das meiste Geld hat, kann kaufen, was er will, egal was es ist. Hoffentlich passiert so etwas nicht in Deutschland!

Schmitt: Willst Du vielleicht nicht doch in ein paar Jahren wieder ins Radiogeschäft zurückkehren oder bleibt es beim Rückzug?

Kaempfer: Also, wenn die großen Gesellschaften die Radio- und Fernsehstationen ausgepresst und genug Geld damit verdient haben, dann werden sie die Sender verkaufen. Es könnte auf Dauer langweilig werden und sie wechseln in ein anderes Geschäftsfeld. Warum nicht vom Mediengeschäft in die Landwirtschaft wechseln? Die interessieren sich nicht für die Branche, sondern nur fürs Geld. Wenn Sie in einem Bereich nicht genug Geld machen können, wechseln sie in einen anderen – erst dann komme ich ins Radiogeschäft zurück!

Schmitt: Wie kann man denn Dein aktuelles Werk „Severance“ bei uns in Deutschland bestellen?

Kaempfer: Ganz einfach übers Internet unter www.encpress.com

Schmitt: Vielen Dank für das Gespräch!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Suburban Man: A Turkey Story

By Rick Kaempfer

When the last time you did a seventh grade homework assignment?

My sister is teaching 7th grade language arts, and her class had an assignment that was giving them trouble. She wanted to show them what could have been done with it, so she asked me if I knew a writer that would be willing to tackle the project. (She's very subtle.)

The class was given the following writing prompt...
You are a turkey farmer. One day while you are feeding the troops, one of the birds begins to say the alphabet. A thought pops through your mind, “Instead of selling these turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner, I could . . .

I wrote the following story...

Roscoe the Turkey

Rudy came out to the pen to feed all the turkeys like he did every morning, but this weekend before Thanksgiving, he was also coming out to say a final farewell to his favorite turkey Roscoe.

"Roscoe," Rudy sighed, "I brought you breakfast."

Rudy tossed the food into the pen as he always did, but this morning instead of responding with his usual clucking noise, Roscoe said the letter "A." He pecked at another bit of food, and then said the letter "B". He took another bite, and said another letter until he had eaten twenty six times, and recited twenty six letters of the alphabet.

Rudy ran back to the farm to tell his father. "Dad," he yelled, huffing and puffing with excitement and fatigue after the long run, "Dad, we can't sell these turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner!"

His father looked up from the tractor. "Why not boy?"

"Roscoe can say the alphabet," Rudy said. He held his hands at his hips as he regained his breath.

"Beg your pardon?"

"Roscoe, the turkey," Rudy explained. "He can say the alphabet. He just said the entire thing, A-Z."

"Great," his father replied. It was obvious he didn't believe him. "He'll make someone a fine Alphabet turkey soup."

"I'm serious, Dad,'" he said. "We can make more money if we keep him. Think of what someone will pay to watch a talking turkey. We can take him to the State Fair and make a fortune."

That got his father's attention, and a few minutes later Rudy and his father were both leaning against the turkey pen fence, watching Roscoe say the letters of the alphabet. Rudy was mesmerized, but his father still wasn't impressed.

"I don't know, boy," his father said doubtfully. "It's only the alphabet."

Rudy tried another tactic. "Dad, what if I told you that Roscoe also knows about insects, bodies of water, parts of your face, the host of the Tonight Show, and the most popular drink in England. Would you promise to spare him if I could prove he knows those things?"

His father smiled. "Rudy, if you prove that, we're going to the State Fair."

Rudy tossed another bit of food into the pen. Roscoe said "A". Then Rudy asked him, "Roscoe, what do you call that flying, stinging, black and yellow insect?"

"Bee," Roscoe said.

Next Roscoe identified the body of water in the Mediterranean (Sea), and after another few specks of food identified the part of the face that provides sight (Eye), followed immediately by the first name of Tonight Show Host Leno (Jay), and after another few pecks, he identified the favorite drink in England (Tea).

Rudy's father was impressed. The people who each paid five dollars at the State Fair to see Roscoe answer those same questions were just as impressed.

That Thanksgiving for the first time ever, Rudy's family ate ham.

Her class loved the story, except for Tommy's best friend. He gave it a 2 out of 10, and said that I really needed to work on my writing technique.

That child has been banned from my home.

If you're a fan of "Suburban Man", check out the blog of "NWI Parent," a publication of the Northwest Indiana Times. I'm now a regular columnist/blogger for them, writing a weekly column called "Father Knows Nothing"

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Celebrity Snippets: Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews has won an Oscar for best actress for her performance as "Mary Poppins." The following year she was also nominated for best actress for her role as Maria in "The Sound of Music."

My father grew up in Austria, so the movie "The Sound of Music" was very special to him. He was about the same age as the Von Trapp children during the war, and it struck a chord. We went as a family to see it in the movie theater, and then we watched it together every time it was on television. It was not optional viewing.

In the summer of 1974, he even sent my sister and I to spend the summer with his old school chum in a small town outside of Salzburg…the very same hills that were alive with the Sound of Music. After my father died in the late 80s, the movie took on added significance to me. It reminded me of Dad.

Somewhere along the line during my years with the John Landecker show, I made the mistake of telling John about this. He thought it was hilarious that a 30-something year old straight man loved "The Sound of Music." He filed that little bit of information away, just waiting for an opportunity to use it.

That opportunity came soon enough.

When Julie Andrews came to Chicago in the mid-90s to star in the Broadway-bound "Victor-Victoria," I spent weeks setting up a special one-on-one interview for John. When I finally did secure a taped interview at the theater, he got a little twinkle in his eye.

I knew I was in trouble, but I figured it would be worth it. Our audience was Julie's audience, and vice versa. It was a no-brainer for the show.

The interview was actually quite entertaining. Her husband Blake Edwards, the director of the film Victor/Victoria, was sitting by her side throughout the interview and he was on a comedic roll—totally dominating the discussion. I was enjoying it tremendously as a fly on the wall.

I can still picture it vividly.

I was sitting just a few feet away from Julie Andrews, and I have to say, she looked fantastic. I was so impressed by her in so many ways. She seemed unbelievably nice, plus she was really showing me something by laughing at the ribald humor of her husband. In fact, I was enjoying it so much, I had completely forgotten about the butterflies in my stomach.

They came back quickly, however, when the interview was wrapping up. John pulled a CD copy of the Sound of Music soundtrack out of his jacket, and my face immediately turned bright red. I knew what was coming next.

"That's my producer, Rick," he said, pointing to me, "And he's been in love with you since 'The Sound of Music' came out. Would you mind autographing this CD for him?"

She looked at me and smiled, genuinely flattered. I was so embarrassed I wanted to crawl under my chair.

"Do you run into a lot of 30-something year old straight guys who loved the Sound of Music?" he teased.

"Don't let him get to you, Rick," she said, handing me the CD. "He just doesn't get it."

I still have that CD. On the way back to the studio, I didn't even realize I was clutching it tightly to my chest. John laughed out loud.

"You really were in love with Julie Andrews, weren't you?" he asked.

"Actually, no," I foolishly corrected him. "I was in love with Liesl."

Boy, would I come to regret that little confession. In the next "Celebrity Snippets," I'll tell you why.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Half Empty: Technological Breakthroughs in Breaking Up

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

A story in the news a few weeks ago caught our attention. A woman decided to get back at her ex-boyfriend by putting a picture of his wife and her phone number on "adult" websites. Sure, she was arrested for harassment, but you have to give her credit for her creativity.

It got us to thinking about the ways breaking up has changed over the past few years thanks to technology. The whole dynamic is different now. You can judge for yourself if the new dynamic is better, worse, or about the same.

Then: Put all of her pictures in a pile, and set them on fire; watching her face melt, blacken, turn into ash, and evaporate into dust.
Now: Click, highlight, and delete her photos from your hard-drive.

Then: Driving past his house and throwing microwaved tomatoes at it.
Now: Sending a digital photo to his cell-phone—of you giving him the finger.

Then: Having to make one last visit to her apartment to get all your records back.
Now: Sending an e-mail asking her to e-mail your music back to you.

Then: Risking it all by listening to the radio after the break up, knowing that at any moment the DJ could inadvertently play “your” song.
Now: I-Pod, baby. Either delete “your” song entirely, or don’t use the shuffle feature for a few months—just in case.

Then: Driving by to see if her lights are on.
Now: Using a scanner to listen in on the baby monitor.

Then: Sending him a pizza at 3 in the morning.
Now: Sending him a computer virus at any time.

Then: Re-reading her love letters from a happier time, glossing over the bad times and only remembering the good times.
Now: Looking at your cell-phone bill and tracking the memory of each call…she loved me, she started to get irritated with me, she told me I was a jerk, she broke up with me, she told me that if I ever called her again she would get a restraining order.

Then: Reliving the grief a million times each time an unsuspecting friend asks how he is doing.
Now: Emergency IM session with a few hundred friends—all at once.

Then: You can’t even recognize her face on those deteriorating old “Private Polaroid’s.”
Now: “Ex-Girlfriend” websites can give her the kind of world-wide audience she never expected.

Then: Throwing all of his belongings onto the front lawn.
Now: Selling all of his belongings on E-bay.

Then: Using the remote code to check her answering machine messages while she’s at work, only to hear her new boyfriend’s voice on the machine.
Now: Checking her cell-phone voicemail and deleting messages from her new boyfriend before she can hear them.

See what we mean? The whole world of break ups has drastically changed. Also, it occurs to us some of the old classics have been destroyed by technology forever. For instance, in the old days you could call a million times waiting for that one chance to get her on the line. Now, with caller I.D, automatic callback, and privacy manager, you would be exposed as the psycho boy you really are.

Also, you can’t use her phone number when you contribute to a charity anymore. What’s the use of getting her number on every single telemarketer’s phone list when she’s on the national no-call list?

Oh well, time marches on.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Suburban Man: It was sixteen years ago this week...

We were married on November 16, 1991 at St. Michael's church in Wheaton. The reception was at the Schwaben Center in Buffalo Grove. The honeymoon was in St. Kiits.

Tommy arrived in 1995. Johnny in 1998. Sean in 2002.

And despite the sixteen years of living with me, the birth of three boys, the diapers, the crying, and the constant stress of raising a family, the bride looks exactly the same...As stunning today as she was in her bridal gown on November 16, 1991.

Happy anniversary, Bridget.

If you're a fan of "Suburban Man", check out the blog of "NWI Parent," a publication of the Northwest Indiana Times. I'm now a regular columnist/blogger for them, writing a weekly column called "Father Knows Nothing"

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Half Empty: Bad Luck

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

Dave has twin 2-year old daughters and a five year old daughter. His wife travels quite a bit for work, so he actually watches them most of the time. During the rare moments when he gets to run errands on days his wife is at home, he has run into an incredible streak of bad luck. The simplest errands turn into lengthy debacles.

1. Picking up the Pizza: One hour
Yes, it's silly to pay for delivery when you live that close to the pizza place. No, he didn't get flipped off by old ladies because he was driving sooooooo slow. He just had bad luck.

2. Grocery Shopping: Two hours
Yes, the grocery store is only a few miles away. No, he didn't listen to the traffic report to see what was the most horrible route, take that route, and then read the labels of every can of beans in the store after he got there. He just had bad luck.

3. Doctor's Appointment: Three hours
Yes, the doctor's office was crowded, and you just never know how long it will take sometimes. No, he didn't sit in the waiting room for hours after his appointment ended reading any pamphlet he could get his hands on, including one about yeast infections and another about spider veins. He just had bad luck.

4. Driver's License Renewal: Four hours
Yes, the DMV is a nightmare, and this is by no means a record. No, he didn't get it renewed at lunchtime at the busiest location two years before it needed to be renewed. He just had bad luck.

5. Trip to Post Office: Five hours
Yes, the week before Christmas is a crazy time at the Post Office. No, he didn't go stand in the line with everyone sending packages to buy one stamp. He just had bad luck.

If you didn't know Dave better, you'd think he was intentionally picking errands that take a long time, and then making them take even longer just so he could get out of the house.

Not Dave.

On the other hand, if you get a flat tire on a day he happens to be out running one of these errands, you can count on that good Samaritan stopping his car to help you change that tire.

That's just the kind of guy he is.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Suburban Man: Halloween isn't for Everyone

By Rick Kaempfer

Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays when I was kid. Getting dressed up in a costume, ringing doorbells, getting free candy…what’s not to love?

When my oldest son Tommy got to the trick-or-treating age, I was looking forward to reliving the excitement with him. I figured he was going to love it as much as I did.

He didn’t.

In fact, he couldn’t stand any of it. He particularly hated dressing up in a costume. When he was five, he grudgingly agreed to wear the Woody costume because he loved Toy Story, but only if we promised he could take off the cowboy hat the second after I took the obligatory Halloween picture. We came to the same agreement when he was six, and seven, and eight.

By third grade, when he didn’t fit into the Woody costume anymore, he was ready to quit the Halloween tradition once and for all.

I figured his lack of enthusiasm had to be my fault somehow. My enthusiasm for Halloween must not have been translating properly. Maybe if I tried a little harder to get into that little braniac head of his, tried to think of the kind of costume he would like, maybe that would win him over.

So I told him we would brainstorm ideas.

“Tommy, you don’t have to pick one of these costumes in the store, or try to be like one of the other kids, you know. You can be anything you want to be for Halloween.”

Tommy wasn’t the greatest at brainstorming. “I want to be Tommy,” he said.

“You know what Albert Einstein used to say?”

That piqued his interest. Einstein is his hero.

“He said God’s greatest gift to mankind is imagination, because with imagination, there are no limits to what you can achieve.”

He thought about that for a moment. “Einstein said that?”

“Yes, he did. Now use that imagination of yours, Tommy, and I promise you that we will create a costume for whatever you come up with—no limits. Anything at all.”


“Yes, anything.”

“OK,” he said, “I want to be an accountant.”

He was the only accountant in the 3rd grade that year. He dressed up in a suit and tie, and carried a calculator. The next year he dressed up as an artist. He wore a smock and a beret (until the second after I took the picture). In 5th grade he was a scientist. He wore a white lab coat.

Now he’s in middle school and the kids don’t have to dress up anymore. When he found that out, he broke into the biggest grin I’d seen on his face in years.

This year he’s finally wearing the costume he wants to wear for the first time.

He’s going as Tommy.

This article first appeared on the blog of "NWI Parent," a publication of the Northwest Indiana Times. I'm now a regular columnist/blogger for them, writing a weekly column called "Father Knows Nothing"

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Celebrity Snippets: Michael Dukakis

Michael Dukakis was the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in the 1988 election vs. George H.W. Bush.

This excerpt from "The Radio Producer's Handbook" details the single worst moment of my broadcasting career. It shaped me for years to come...

Depending on the number of shows on your station, the secret in-studio phone number (commonly called the hotline) may not exactly be a secret. During the 1988 presidential election, Michael Dukakis was in Chicago attending a fundraiser. One of the writers of this book (OK—it was Rick) had unsuccessfully attempted to get him on the show he was producing.

As the traffic reporter was discussing the traffic created by the Dukakis motorcade, the hotline rang. It was someone claiming to be in the limo with Dukakis. He said that Dukakis wanted to get on the air to let Chicago know he was sorry for the traffic delay. Because Rick had made several calls to the Dukakis campaign, he believed the caller.

The hosts (Steve Dahl & Garry Meier) were pleasantly flattered that a presidential candidate would be calling the show, and they believed it too. However, about three seconds into the Dukakis call it became obvious that isn’t wasn’t Dukakis. It was a hoax. If Rick had insisted on speaking to Dukakis himself on the phone before he told the host, the entire situation could have been avoided.

I was lucky that Steve & Garry made a bit out of my stupidity that day. The show wasn't ruined (only my reputation was). However, that moment also turned me into a different producer. I vowed never to let anything like that ever happen again.

About a month later when Steve & Garry were at a live broadcast somewhere, the hotline rang again. I was back at the studio running the controls.

"Hey, who's this?" the caller asked.

"Who's this?" I challenged.

"It's Jim Belushi," he said.


"No, really. It's me. Jim Belushi."

"Yeah, and I'm Michael Dukakis."

I hung up on him. He sounded like an imposter to me.

About twenty minutes later I was listening off the air to Steve and Garry during a commercial break. (The sound still came back to the studio, but it wasn't going over the air).

"Hey Garry," Steve said. "Look, it's Jim Belushi."

"Hey guys," Belushi said. "I tried to call you at the station to find out the address of this place, and some guy hung up on me."


I got much better with experience, but every time I hear someone mention the names Michael Dukakis or Jim Belushi the hair still stands up on my neck.

And it's been nearly twenty years.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Half Empty: Adding years to your life

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

This year both of us turned 44, and quite frankly, we’re getting a little worried. Let’s just say that neither of us are exactly in the greatest shape, and both of our fathers died young. We’re peeling off years at an alarming rate and we need to do something about it…and fast!

There are two possible solutions.

1) Exercise, eat right and do yoga.
2) The Rick and Dave solution.

The pundits will have you believe that the first choice is the most prudent option. Try it if you like, but at best, you'll add five, six, maybe eight years to your life. Big deal. That's maybe one Cubs playoff appearance, if you're lucky.

That's not the Rick and Dave way. We’re overachievers. We need more. With the Rick and Dave solution, you can add decades or more to your life.

How do we do it? We lie to ourselves.

Self-deception is not a half-hearted pastime. Simply saying: “Age is only a state of mind” or “Look at John Glenn! He went up in space in his seventies” is not going to cut it. The novice self-fibber's house of cards will come tumbling down the first time he pulls a neck muscle changing lanes. (Shut up. We've done it.)

No, self deception is an art. When you're a pro (like we are), you know you won't actually live longer, no matter how many times you say it. Words alone are ineffective. However, words that make it seem like you're living longer can bring you immortality.

With our help, a few well placed words can turn any situation into an excruciating how-long-have-I-been-here moment. As you continue to experience excruciating moment after excruciating moment, you will slowly but surely add years to your life. Before you know it, it won't even matter how old you are anymore, because it will seem like you've been alive since the beginning of time.

Try it yourself with a few examples for beginners.

1) "Let me take (Child A) to the pre-school birthday party!"
You don't have say another word. Father Time will take care of the rest. Don’t worry if the first few minutes of the party go by quickly--the kids are cute for about five minutes or so. After that, time starts to crawl. The more screaming kids, the better. The more fights, the slower the earth rotates. By the time the party is over, you will already have lived longer than your father.

2)"Honey, tell me more about your job."
Then get specific. Ask about paperwork: "What sort of information do they ask for in the requisition forms these days?" Or, ask about specific petty co-worker squabbles: "So, what's the status of Ralph's stapler. Any sign of it yet? I bet if you open Doris' desk..." Better yet, offer advice on how to deal with issues at work: "You know how I would reorganize your department if I were you?" Any of those office discussions will actually make the clock start moving backwards. Remember, God could have created three universes in the time it takes a typical husband to explain a new office voice-mail system.

3)"I sent back the RSVP for the wedding!"
Oh, not just any weddings. Family weddings don't count. Weddings of close friends don't count either. Any other wedding, however, will do. It’s a little known fact that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel between the salad and the entrée at his mother's best friend's daughter's wedding.

4) "So, you're an 80+ year-old die-hard Republican, huh?"

This one is almost too easy. Just bring up any liberal argument about any subject, with this simple opener..."You know what those people say?" That phrase lets a Republican know you're on his or her side. It's code for "You may speak freely on this subject." Buckle up before you do it though. That angry bronco bucks. If you want to add a decade to your life, try this one: "I have never seen such hatred in my lifetime like the hatred these people have for the President." Don't allow yourself to get distracted by the veins popping out of his neck or the throbbing temples of his "I hate their hate" hate. Listen to every word and nod. Then bring up illegal immigrants and welfare mothers living at the Ritz. If you really, really, want time to stop, bring up Bill Clinton. (But not without a paramedic standing by!)

5) "Let's get to your office Christmas party early this year, honey."

Again, time might go quickly initially because of the open bar, but it’s not going to last. After your third drink, your spouse will tell you to slow down before you do something embarrassing. Once the drinks stop flowing, and you have to actually engage in conversations without lubricated assistance, you'll be knocking on the door of the space-time continuum. After the third reference to "Ralph's stapler" and/or the third discussion of the weather with Ralph's wife, time will actually stop moving altogether. Many experts believe that Methuselah didn’t live all that long, he just sat through his wife's wacky holiday slide show a couple of times.

6) "Put little 3-year-old (Child A) on the phone, would you?"
That little three-year-old voice is so cute...for one second. Then, you're liable to get a play-by-play of the paint drying. "And um...my shirt is green...and um...squirrel!..." Don't set the phone down on your end either. That's cheating. You must simply endure. Every time you feel yourself about to say "Can you put mommy on the phone, honey," ask another question about the child's wardrobe or better yet, Dora the Explorer.

There you have it.

You probably never thought that reading this column would actually help you live longer.

On the other hand, if you’re a frequent reader of Half Empty, maybe that's why you're reading it in the first place.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Suburban Man: The birth of Tommy Kaempfer

I wrote the following piece when I returned home from the hospital after the birth of my oldest son Tommy, twelve years ago this week.

October 19, 1995

The phone rang at the office. It was the very pregnant Bridget on the line. “I’m not sure, but I think my water might have broken.”

Like any rational adult, I went into a sitcom panic. “What do you mean, you think your water might have broken? Isn’t that usually accompanied by a huge swoosh of water?”

After we both calmed down (although now that I mention it, Bridget was pretty calm) we decided to swing by the doctor’s office and have him check. It was his day off and he conducted the examination over the phone with another doctor. The fluid was checked under a microscope.


Like any rational adult, I called everyone I knew and said “We’re going to have a baby!”

Of course, reality set in when we got to the hospital. The woman in the room next to Bridget’s was in her second day of labor. Later in the night we heard a woman screaming in such excruciating pain that we thought it was a baby crying. I knew right then and there that my beautiful wife would be numbing the pain with drugs. The more, the merrier.

I’m pretty sure that my mother set some kind of speed record from Mt. Prospect to Chicago in the middle of the afternoon. Bridget called her sometime around 1PM, and she was in the waiting room by 2PM. Apparently we weren’t the only ones anticipating the birth of this child....Oma wanted to be there when her first grandchild was born. As it turned out, she wasn’t.

After sitting there for eight hours with very little progress I sent her home. That’s when all hell broke loose. Bridget had to be induced, and almost immediately she started feeling intense pain. My memory banks have catalogued this beautiful moment between the anesthesiologist and my wife. It went something like this....

Dr: So, you think you need something for the pain?
Br: Yes, yes, yes....oooooh.
Dr: OK, we’re going to have to ask the father to leave the room for a moment.
Br: Groan. Groan. Groan. Groan. Groan.

(Rick leaves the room, returns 1/2 hour later)

Br: Oh, thank you doctor, thank you. I just wanted to really, really, really, really thank you.

We both knew we were in the home stretch then. Well, at least I knew. I’m not sure if Bridget even knew where she was for the next few hours. Thank God. It was so great to see the transformation from the really unhappy Bridget to the really happy Bridget.

It was now 2AM. Time to start pushing. They called Dr. Sabbagha. He checked out the goods and decided that we still had some time, so Bridget kept on pushing while the doc took a little nap. Molly the nurse helped us push. She held one of Bridget’s legs and I held the other and we coached her through each push. About every third push Bridget’s leg slammed me right in the family jewels.

Then I saw it....

At first I wasn’t sure what it was, Molly had to fill me in. It was the baby’s head. The hair threw me off. I didn’t expect to see hair, I was expecting to see a perfectly shaped bald (Michael Jordan-esque) head. But there was no mistaking it...the time was near.

Molly went to get Dr. Sabbagha, and told us we could keep pushing if we wanted. BIG MISTAKE. With her first solo try, Bridget grunted hard, and poof - there was the head...all the way out. I’m not sure what I said, but I think it went something like this....

“STOP. STOP. STOP. Holy Bleep.”

Molly came back in, saw the head and said...”Oh my God, we better get Dr. Sabbagha.”

He barely had time to get his gloves on before the event. Just a few moments later, at 4:06 a.m. we had a bouncing baby boy.

We didn’t even know the name of the baby when I called Mom up around 4:45AM. We hadn’t allowed ourselves to really put a lot of thought into a boy’s name, it just didn’t seem possible that we would have a boy. Bridget's entire family at the time consisted of nothing but girls.

Naming a child is one of the most awesome responsibilities a person ever faces. Our momentous decision was made something like this....

Rick: We need to come up with a name.
Bridget: It’s a boy. I can’t believe it’s a boy.
Rick: I guess the name Grace Anne won’t work now.
Bridget: Well, what do you think?
Rick: Let's name him after our fathers.
Bridget: I'm not naming him Eckhard or Stanley.
Rick: Fine, then let’s name him after our Dad’s middle names. Peter Thomas or Thomas Peter?
Bridget: I don’t know, I’m getting stitched up right now.
Rick: OK. Thomas Peter.
Bridget: Fine.

Most of our friends and relatives heard about Tommy on the radio. As a matter of fact, in one of the earliest broadcasting debuts in history, Tommy was on the air when he was 2 hours old.

The following is a transcript of that telephone conversation that morning. The participants are John Landecker (center), sidekick Vicki Truax (the only female in the group picture), and proud papa Rick.

John: Oldies 104.3 WJMK, It's 12 minutes after 6:00 with John Records Landecker and Vicki Truax. The hotline...the private line...is ringing. Hello.

Rick: Hello.

John: Well?

Rick: I'm a papa.

(Loud cheering and whooping in the studio)

Vicki: A girl or a boy?

Rick: A boy.

Vicki: I KNEW IT!!! What's his name?

Rick: Thomas Peter.

Vicki: What time?

Rick: 4:06 a.m.

John: Wow. How's everybody doing?

Rick: Everyone is fine.

Vicki: Bridget is fine too? Is she exhausted?

Rick: Yup, she's holding Thomas right now.

John & Vicki: Awwwww.

Rick: 7 pounds, 3 ounces.

John & Vicki: Awwwww.

Rick: And I recorded the entire thing on Digital audio tape.

Vicki: You're kidding? She didn't make you turn it off?

Rick: No. I had it put in a nice place where it didn't get in anyone's way.

John: We've got Thomas' birth on tape.

Rick: Yup. And we got his first bath on tape too, and his first cry.

John: Something tells me we better get more tape. OK, here's his first eyelid opening. Better get that on tape. We're going through his first toll...let's get that on tape. Hey Rick, don't you just want to...

John, Vicki & Rick: Hug and kiss them all the time?

(That was something Vicki said so often about her daughter it was a running joke on the show)

Rick: He is so damn cute.

John & Vicki: Awwwwww.

Rick: Wait a second...is he crying? Hold on.

Sound: A tiny baby cry can be heard.

John: Is that him?

Rick: Yup. His on-air debut.

John: Wow!

Rick: He's got some lungs on him.

John: That kid sounds like he's two years old.

Rick: Yeah, he's got good pipes.

John: Does he want to come in and do a few record talkovers?

Vicki: How long is he?

Rick: 21 inches.

John: So what was it like?

Rick: It was so cool. It was just like the movie "Alien." The baby kind of popped out and looked around. Then he jumped up and sucked my eyes out...

John & Vicki: (Laughing)

John: Then Siguorney Weaver came in with some sort of a mechanical device. It was unbelievable.

Vicki: You guys. Is he all wrinkly. Does he have hair?

Rick: Yeah, he does have hair. That was the first thing we saw. I asked the nurse...ewww...what is that? That's his hair. Oh.

John: Did you get it on tape?

Rick: Of course. Uh, oh. I have to go. We need to take Bridget up to the recovery room.

Vicki: You're still in the delivery room?

Rick: Yeah.

Vicki: That's dedication.

John: How many calls have you made so far?

Rick: This is my second call. I called my mom first.

John: Wow. Well take care of everyone.

Rick: Thanks.

John & Vicki: Bye.

John: There they go. Dad Rick, Mom Bridget and now Thomas Kaempfer.

Vicki: I kind of liked the other name Rick was talking about before.

John: I don't think Bridget was ever going to agree to Ringo.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Suburban Man: Paperwork

By Rick Kaempfer

This year we have three kids in three different schools.

You know what that means don’t you? That’s right. Three times the amount of paperwork.

How much paperwork do we get? We could build a life-sized paper replica of Chicago and still have enough paper left over to build a paper forest to house the thousands of shivering homeless squirrels.

How much paperwork do we get? The Library of Congress called us for storage advice.

How much paperwork do we get? We measure the weight of our recycle bins in increments of Luciano Pavarottis.

We’re literally swimming in paperwork. At my house, we have an in-ground swimming pool in the backyard and the kids and I go for a paperwork swim after dinner every night.

There aren’t enough hours in the day to read it all, and even though school has only been in session for a little more than a month, I feel like I’m helplessly and hopelessly behind.

That’s why I’m proposing a brand new approach.

I propose that America’s public schools institute a color paper coding system, much like our terrorist alerts: RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, and WHITE. The color of the paper should match the importance of the paperwork.

For instance…

If something absolutely must be read, it has to be printed on red paper. What would fit in this new RED category? Anything that requires the parent’s immediate attention (permission slips, disciplinary issues, announcements of unexpected school holidays, etc.). In fact, as an additional touch, write the most important part of the most important paperwork in ALL CAPS. Bold type and exclamation points would help too, but I don’t want to get greedy.

If something is simply suggested reading, like an update on what your child is doing at school, or information about special school events like “pajama day,” those memos must be printed on orange paper. Other ORANGE level paperwork includes lesser medical emergencies like "Your child has been exposed to strep throat, pink eye, and head lice." Each parent could read the orange paperwork based upon how good they are at parenting. The good parents can read it all, and the rest of us can sleep at night knowing that we only missed something “somewhat important.”

Any and all school clubs and activities like orchestra/chorus, boy scouts/girl scouts, chess club/intramural sports, PTA and the like should be printed on yellow paper. That way, if you or your children are involved in only one or two of these activities (or in a dream world, none of them), you can quickly skim and dispense.

All school fundraisers need to go on green paper. We have a special circular file for those already, and the green color will just help us find them more easily.

WHITE paper
No need to use the colored paper in your classrooms. Eventually all of the classroom papers come to our Luciano-sized bins, and since you’ve already taken the time to grade them, we can just look at the grade (preferably written in bold red pen), pat ‘em on the head if they’ve done well, pat ‘em elsewhere if not, and dispense.

I know this isn’t a perfect system.

Teachers will probably argue that this system is more work for them, and I suppose that’s true. On the other hand, think of all the time you waste sending home second reminders to parents who missed the first one. The red paper should take care of that.

Administrators will probably argue that red, orange, yellow and green paper is more expensive than white paper. That may be true, but I know a Chinese distributor who promises his color paper is brighter and bolder than American paper, and cheaper too. (Just don’t lick it.)

I know I’m speaking on behalf of the majority of parents when I plead for your help.

Think how much easier your life would be if parents could spend a little less time reading paperwork, and a little more time actually guiding their children to become better citizens. Your students would be better behaved, more responsible, more attentive, and possibly even punctual.

Just send us a few "How to make your child a better citizen" tips on an orange piece of paper, and we’ll get right to work.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Celebrity Snippets: John Mahoney & Virginia Madsen

John Mahoney is probably most famous for his role on the long-time hit show "Frasier", for which he was nominated for an Emmy. He got his start in Chicago theatre at the Steppenwolf. Virginia Madsen is also a native Chicagoan, and has been in countless films, including the recent hit "Sideways", for which she nominated for an Academy Award. They appeared together in the film "Almost Salinas"

This John Mahoney & Virginia Madsen interview took place during the bad old days at WJMK when the studio was literally falling apart around us, the station was cutting back in ridiculous ways (only one engineer for three radio stations), and the powers that be were trying to force us out. Nevertheless, we continued to try to put on a first class radio show. Some days it went better than other days. On the day John and Virginia were in the studio, we hit a new low--although it was certainly not their fault.

The following story about John Mahoney & Virginia Madsen is taken from my first book "The Radio Producer's Handbook," (co-written by John Swanson) which, by the way is still available at amazon.com. It comes from Chapter 3 "Crafting a Great Interview", page 30, in the section about live in-studio interviews...

There are times when even an in-studio interview can derail for technical reasons. John Mahoney and Virginia Madsen were appearing live in John Landecker’s studio to promote their film Almost Salinas. By a fluke of nature, the transmitter of the radio station malfunctioned about a minute after the interview began. The station was not on the air at all.

However, the producer of the show, Rick Kaempfer, was the only person in the room who realized it. The headphones were not plugged into the on-air monitor because the show was in delay, and therefore, the host and the guests had no idea that something was wrong. Instead of telling everyone and ending the interview, Rick calmly walked out of the studio and called the Chief Engineer.

While the engineer worked on getting the station back on the air, and Rick flop sweated like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News, the interview was completed. None of it aired live because the transmitter wasn’t fixed for another twenty minutes. However, the interview was recorded on a DAT (Digital Audio Tape), and it was replayed on the air the following day, just as it originally occurred.


I think this was the day I decided that when the plug was officially pulled from the John Landecker show, that I would not be returning to radio.

The plug was mercifully pulled only two months later.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Suburban Man: Anna Kaempfer

My grandmother, Anna Kaempfer, died a few weeks ago. (That's her about ten years ago with my oldest son Tommy.) I wrote this eulogy for her funeral. I hope you don't mind if I share it with you.

Anna Kaempfer was my grandmother. My Oma.

And she lived 93 years.

A long life, through turbulent times, and in difficult circumstances

And those hard times did have an effect on Oma. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone tougher than her.

On the other hand, and my cousin Bob will attest to this—there were times over the years when the real Anna Kaempfer came out.

The whole expression on her face would change as she recounted the stories from her youth, from her days in Rumania. We only ever saw one actual picture from those days…a black and white photograph of the biggest “street” in town…

But Bob, and my sister Cindy, my brother Peter and I, all had vivid pictures of her beloved hometown in our minds from those stories she told. It was so obvious that everyone and everything she ever loved lived in that time, and in that place. She made it sound like heaven on earth.

She would smile. And she would laugh. And for those few moments, when that town came back to life before our eyes, we would see the real Anna Kaempfer.

These past few years as the Alzheimer’s began to take its toll, the memories began to fade, but her hometown never left her. The last time I visited her, just a few weeks ago, that’s where she was.

She told me so herself.

But she didn’t need to tell me. Because I saw it in her eyes when she played with my five-year-old son Sean, who absolutely loved to visit her. And I saw it in her smile.

She was home.

And, Oma, it’s a very short journey from heaven on earth, to where you’re going now. It’s just at the end of that black and white street.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Celebrity Snippets: Bob Newhart

Bob Newhart is one of the most popular comedians in American history. His comedy album from the 60s: "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart" is one of the top selling comedy albums of all time.

The following Bob Newhart story is taken from my first book "The Radio Producer's Handbook," which, by the way is still available at amazon.com. It comes from Chapter 3 "Crafting a Great Interview", page 34, in the section about phone interviews...

Recording phone interviews in studios that aren’t normally used for recording interviews can present all sorts of logistical problems. Normally, you have to kick a production person out of his studio to do this, and he has everything set precisely the way he wants it. A few years ago, Rick was attempting to tape a phone interview between John Landecker & Bob Newhart.

The production director had no idea how to set up his control board to record a phone call. The first two times Newhart got on the line, the production director accidentally hung up on him. By the time the studio was properly set up, Newhart had been waiting on the line for twenty minutes. Luckily, he had a great sense of humor about it. He thought that they were trying to do a phone bit like the ones that made him famous.

When we finally got him on the air, he and John had a great conversation. They talked about his breakthrough album that John memorized when he was a kid, and Bob's two most successful television series.

We also played John's all-time favorite Bob Newhart bit: This one about Abraham Lincoln.

And, of course, the clip of one of the most memorable moments in television history.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Suburban Man: The Birth of Sean Kaempfer

By Rick Kaempfer

Tomorrow, September 19, 2007, my youngest son Sean turns five years old. (Photo: Sean, eighteen months)

When he was born, I was still the executive producer of the John Records Landecker show on WJMK Radio. Like we did with the birth of my two other sons (Tommy and Johnny), the John Landecker show followed the pregnancy on the air. I even recorded the actual birth on digital audio tape as it was happening, and then called into the radio program with a full report live from the hospital.

His brothers were both born early in the morning (Tommy at 4 AM, Johnny at 2 AM), but Bridget was in labor DURING the show for Sean. I called into the show every hour and gave updates, some of which are referenced in the transcript below. Sean was born less than hour after the show ended that day.

This is the transcript of the call the following morning, September 20, 2005. The show members at that time were John Landecker, Leslie Keiling, and Bonnie Greene.

John: Magic 104.3, 8:14, John Records Landecker along with Leslie Keiling, that's Sister Sledge "We are Family". Rick, our producer, are you there?

Rick: I'm here.

John: You're a brand new dad.

Rick: Yes I am.

John: Bridget are you there?

Bridget: Hello. I'm here.

John: Do you have a radio at the hospital?

Bridget: No. We had one down at labor and delivery, and we were listening. The anesthesiologist thought you were really funny.

Leslie: Oh great.

John: You mean when he called him "Shakes"?

Rick: And a heroin addict, I believe.

John: Ha! So, how long do they let you stay in the hospital these days after delivery?

Bridget: 48 hours, and I'm taking every last second of it.

John: Well you sound good.

Rick: She looks good too.

John: Do you feel good too?

Bridget: Yeah. And we got a little trooper here too.

Leslie: Is the trooper in there with you?

John: No hold on a second, we're not giving anything away here. OK, so Rick. So far you have Tommy...

Rick: He'll be seven next month.

John: And Johnny...

Rick: He's 4 1/2.

John: Now people want to know. Hit it, Vinnie.

(Music: Theme song from "My Three Sons")

John: It would be my three...

Rick: Sons.

John: How big was our boy?

Bridget: 7 pounds, 12 ounces.

John: How long was labor?

Bridget: I'm not exactly sure because when we got here I was already in labor.

Leslie: That's the best way isn't it?

Rick: It really wasn't that long. I think she only had to push about ten times.

Leslie: And then went to the prom.

(Everyone laughs)

John: Let's get to the tape. Now Rick, you taped this yourself?

Rick: I did.

John: Any problems?

Rick: None at all this time. I had the surgical gloves on, and was helping the doctor. I had a leg in one hand, and..

John: Now wait a second here. What leg were you hanging on to?

Rick: I was hanging on to one of Bridget's legs.

John: Oh. So let me get this straight. You're hanging on to Bridget's leg with one hand, and the microphone in the other hand?

Rick: No, I set the microphone down on the table.

John: Oh geez. I had an image in my head here...

Rick: I'm very talented.

(Everyone laughs)

Rick: I did test levels.

(Everyone laughs)

John: The first time you didn't even know the microphone was on, the third time you're testing levels.

Rick: Exactly.

John: OK, roll the tape.

Dr. Sabbagha: Hi, hi, there it is. Can you push a little more?

Bridget: Ugh

Dr. Sabbagha: Hi there. Push push.

Nurse: Hi pumpkin.

Dr. Sabbagha: God, you're beautiful. Say something, precious.

Rick: It's a purple baby. That's Johnny's favorite color.

Baby cries.

Dr. Sabbagha: There he goes.

Rick: It's a boy!

Bridget: It's a boy?!

Rick: My three sons. Good work!

John: Rick. Guess whose crying in the studio? Oh, look, I got two of 'em crying.

Leslie: That's so beautiful.

Rick: It was soooo cool. I really got to enjoy it this time.

John: (sarcastically) Oh, and I know how hard the whole birthing process is for you.

Bridget: I actually thought he was funny this time. He made me laugh.

Bonnie: Because you hated him the other two times, right?

Rick: She kicked me in the knutchkies the first time she was so mad at me.

Bridget: I did not.

You did too.

Oh come on now, you two. You just had a baby.

Rick: I'm actually really proud of her. You should see her. You'd never believe she just had a baby.

Leslie: How are the boys. Are they excited?

Rick: (long pause) Uh...no.

(Everyone laughs)

Bridget: Tommy was so excited for about ten seconds. He came running into the room, held the baby, and then...hey what's in this cabinet?

Rick: And Johnny didn't even want to hold the baby.

John: Oooooooh.

Bonnie: Johnny's the middle child now.

Rick: Yup. My mom asked Johnny yesterday how his day went, and he said...Um, let's see...I went to school...I played in the park...um...She asked, 'Did anything special happen?' and he answered..."No."

John: Oh well, that will be an on-going story.

Rick: We're going to all go to a White Sox game tonight and beat up a coach. (This was the day after the William Ligue story)

John: You were gloating all morning, weren't you?

Rick: Yes I was.

John: I told you! Cubs fans are gloating all over the city. So...the name of the child is...

Sean Harrison Kaempfer

(Baby noises in the background)

John: Is that him?

Bridget: Yup. I'll put the phone up to him.

(More baby noises)

Bonnie: He sounds like a puppy.

John: OK, Sean. That's Irish for John, right?

Bridget: Yes, technically it is. S-E-A-N.

John: Harrison, I've got to guess, is...

Rick: Let's just say it's not for Harrison Ford.

John: It's for George Harrison, isn't it?

Rick: Yes it is.

John: I knew it!

Rick: But I didn't pick Sean. That was Tommy's idea.

John: And Johnny wanted to name it...

Rick: Johnny abstained.

(Everyone laughs)

John: Johnny threw his headphones down and walked out of the Security Council meeting!

Rick: That's right.

John: Well congratulations everybody. We now have Sean's first on-air performance on tape too.

Bonnie: Are his eyes open yet?

Leslie: He's not a kitten for Pete's sake.

Rick: Blue eyes.

Bridget: He's kind of dozing right now.

Poke him. Wake him up.

Leslie: Isn't it good that Bonnie doesn't have children? Have you taken him out for a walk yet?

Rick: We've got newspaper all over the floor...

Bonnie, it's a baby.

Bonnie: Sorry...

John: Well thanks for procreating.

Rick: My pleasure.

John: I'll bet it was. And now we have the vasectomy next.

Yes we do.

Leslie: And then we'll hear Rick making baby noises.

(everyone laughs)

Sean Harrison Kaempfer. That's a cool name. You'll have to change your answering machine message you know.

Rick: I'll do that today.

John: Cause it says, Rick, Bridget, Tommy & Johnny can't come to the phone. Well thanks guys, and congratulations.

Rick: Bye.

Bridget: Bye.

Bonnie: Of course, it will be awhile before Sean can come to the phone.

Leslie: Whoa.

John: The next time we do anything with children, you don't talk.

Bonnie laughs.