Saturday, August 04, 2007

Celebrity Snippets: Joan Collins

Once a week long-time radio producer and author Rick Kaempfer shares his favorite brushes with greatness in a feature he calls “Celebrity Snippets.”

Joan Collins is probably most famous for her role as Alexis in the 1980s television series "Dynasty".

To me, the most memorable interviews aren’t the great ones. They’re the terrible ones.

Whenever I think of the worst interviews I’ve ever been associated with in my career, there’s one name that always comes to mind first: Joan Collins.

In the mid-90s, one of the big radio syndicators was experimenting with offering satellite interviews from New York. The idea was that a celebrity could sit in a radio studio, and do ten minute interviews in virtually every major market, and it would sound as if they were in the studio with each host.

The radio stations liked the idea because the sound quality was better than phone interviews. On the other hand, the split second satellite delay had a tendency to throw off the timing of the interviews. The host and guest often talked over each other, stopping and starting sentences; waiting for the other to continue. (You’ve probably seen the same phenomenon in satellite television interviews. Annoying, isn’t it?)

If only that was the problem with the Joan Collins interview.

Joan Collins arrived for her morning interviews with freshly done hair, and she made it known to the producers in New York that she absolutely would not wear headphones. I could hear the negotiations over the satellite as we prepared for the interview. The producers told her that she wouldn’t be able to hear the questions without her headphones, but she wouldn’t budge from her demands.

Instead of telling her she had no choice, they decided to rig up a tiny speaker so that she could hear the questions without mussing her hair.

Unluckily for us, we were the first interview.

As soon as John Landecker asked her a question, we heard the feedback. When she tried to answer the questions, we heard feedback. When we tried to play an audio clip of the movie she was promoting, we heard feedback. It had been going on for about a minute, but it seemed like an hour. It was horrible radio.

John finally said to her, “Listen, lady, you’re gonna have to put on your headphones and turn off that speaker. This is ridiculous.”

When she wouldn’t do it, John ended the interview.

We went to a commercial break, and listened in on the satellite to hear what she was saying about the interview to the people in New York. The first thing we heard her say was: “Well, he was a rude little bastard, wasn’t he?”

Yeah, Joan.

John was the rude one.

This story (and scores of others) can also be found in my first book “The Radio Producer’s Handbook,” which is still available at

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Suburban Man: Performance Food

By Rick Kaempfer

Until recently, it’s been nearly impossible to find a restaurant that all three of my boys will enjoy.

Johnny loves pizza, but his brothers don’t. Sean & Johnny love German food (any kind of sausage), and Tommy won’t touch it. Tommy likes Mexican food, but his brothers can’t stand it. Johnny likes Chinese food, but his brothers scream at the mere mention of it. Sean and Johnny will tolerate (fried) seafood, but Tommy would rather eat dirt.

There are exactly two establishments on our list of restaurants acceptable to all three boys: McDonald’s and Burger King. (And yes, I realize it’s a stretch to call either one a restaurant). Even with these two, an argument is bound to ensue. Tommy & Johnny prefer Burger King. Sean prefers McDonald’s.

Needless to say, we don’t go out much.

So when Bridget told me she wanted to go out to dinner for her birthday this year, and she claimed to have a bold new plan to get the boys to eat at a respectable restaurant, I checked her temperature.

“So where do you want to go?” I asked.


“Japanese food?” I asked, picturing a scene to end all scenes.

“They’ll love it,” she said. “When those chefs start chopping the food and flipping it in the air, the boys will be enthralled.”

It sounded good, but I’ve been burned too many times with other “good” ideas. I sat through the painful dinner at the restaurant with the playground. (“Can I go play now? Can I go play now? Can I go play now?”). I spent $70 for the right to watch the boys hold their ears in front of untouched plates at the unbelievably loud Rainforest CafĂ©. I choked down the worst hamburger of all-time just so the boys could watch a little choo-choo train deliver the dinner they didn’t eat at the Choo-Choo diner. This sounded like another one of those “good” ideas.

But it was Bridget’s birthday, so I went along with it.

This time, Bridget was right. From the first moment the chef starting chopping and catching the food in his hat, the boys were on the edge of their seats. When the chef refused to continue the show unless the boys ate the meat in front of them, they dug right in.

“Is this shrimp?” Johnny asked.

I thought about lying, but I nodded instead.

“I love it!” he screamed.

That even got Tommy to taste it. I almost fell off my chair. By the end of the dinner, all three boys had eaten food they never would have touched, and all of them loved it.

The following week we were on our way to visit my brother in Michigan and the traffic in Chicago was terrible. Bridget suggested we get off the highway and grab some dinner in Greek Town.

Again, I paused.

“Greek food?” I asked.

“They’ll love it,” she said. “We can get them Saganaki.”

“I’m not eating that,” Tommy whined.

I raised my eyebrows at her, remembering the success we experienced at Benihana.

“OK,” I said. “Greek Town it is!”

The whining ended the second we walked into the restaurant. A waiter walked by, screamed “Oopa”, and set a plate of cheese on fire. The flame actually touched the ceiling of the dining room.

“WOW!” Tommy yelped.

That night, for the first time since we became parents, all five of us ordered real food at a real restaurant and ate a real meal like real people. No kids menu. No chicken fingers. No complaining.

See that light at the end of the tunnel there?

I’m starting to believe that I actually might get my life back some day.