Saturday, April 21, 2007
Celebrity Snippets: Ann Margret
Once a week long-time radio producer and author Rick Kaempfer shares his favorite brushes with greatness in a feature he calls “Celebrity Snippets.”
Ann Margret is an Academy Award and Emmy nominated actress. She turns 66 years old later this week.
I always knew that Ann Margret was one of John Landecker’s dream guests.
He had a crush on her when he was in his teens, and despite John’s long high-profile radio career, he had never met her, and never interviewed her.
Shortly after I was named John’s producer I began to investigate angles to convince Ann Margret to come on the show, but nothing worked. She really doesn’t like to be interviewed, and no matter what I said or did, her people wouldn’t budge.
The breakthrough came when she was cast in the lead role of “Annie Get Your Gun.”* The show was playing in Chicago for several weeks, and I knew that I would never get a better chance to book her.
Even though we had a host who clearly loved her, an audience which was demographically perfect for her (we were an Oldies station), and I had a great relationship with the publicity department of the show (Broadway in Chicago), the best we could get was a short recorded phone interview.
If it had been anyone else, I would have refused the offer. We almost never did recorded phone interviews during our ten year run on WJMK. Our first choice was always live and in the studio (we accepted less than that only for the biggest celebrities). Our second choice was taped in person, face to face. And our third choice was live on the phone. There was no fourth choice.
Nevertheless, John agreed to return to the radio station in the middle of the afternoon to record this phone conversation with her.
This required technical assistance. Unlike most major market radio stations, we only had one production studio that could record phone calls. Recording a phone call required kicking the commercial production director out of his studio to do it. Luckily for us, Al Urbanski—our commercial production director at the time—was one of the only radio production directors in the country that wasn’t grumpy and bitter. He was always positive, always happy, always had a smile on his face.
In this case, Al was especially excited. He happily turned over his studio for an interview with the great Ann Margret.
The interview itself, unfortunately, wasn’t memorable at all. Ann barely spoke above a whisper, which made it very difficult to record. The content was nothing special either. She wouldn’t speak about Elvis, which was John’s first question. She also didn’t have a great sense of humor, so John’s prepared material didn’t go over so well, and she wasn’t even really that flattered by John’s lavish praise and love.
After we finished editing it together, the interview was no more than five minutes long. We considered not airing it all.
The reason I remember the interview so well, however, really has nothing to do with Ann Margret or John Landecker.
A few hours after the interview was taped, our production director Al Urbanski collapsed at the radio station and had to be taken to the hospital. He died later that night. One of his last acts on this planet was recording that Ann Margret interview for us.
The next morning when we played the interview on the air, the room was somber. To be fair to Ann Margret, the interview might have been much better than we remember, but it will forever be tainted in our minds.
To think of that interview, is to think of Al.
We still miss him.
*The same morning the interview aired, the Chicago Sun-Times reviewed “Annie Get Your Gun.” If I remember correctly, they gave it the worst review in the history of the Broadway in Chicago series. Ann Margret, in particular, was singled out for her weak voice and lack of stage presence.
For hundreds of additional celebrity and radio stories, check out my book "The Radio Producer's Handbook," which is still available at Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
If you missed any of the previous Celebrity Snippets, click here: http://celebritysnippets.blogspot.com