Saturday, August 18, 2007

Celebrity Snippets: Boy George

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

Boy George was the lead singer of the Culture Club.

By Rick Kaempfer

The year was 1985.

Boy George was one of the most famous singers in the entire world, and his band The Culture Club had just released their third album.

Unfortunately, their third album was a flop. The record was floundering, and the crowds were not coming out to see the concerts. I think the best way to describe how badly it was going for them was this--one day the program director of a radio station in Champaign-Urbana received a phone call offering up Boy George as an in-studio guest.

That program director was me.

I accepted the offer immediately, of course. I was also doing the afternoon show on WPGU at the time, and Boy George was far and away the biggest celebrity I ever had the opportunity to interview. I researched his controversial career diligently, and had a long list of questions ready.

He was scheduled to arrive at 4:00 p.m.

Around 3:15 one of the WPGU staffers came into the air studio to tell me that a huge crowd was forming outside the radio station door. That was certainly a new phenomenon for us, and only made me more nervous.

Around 3:45 the same WPGU staffer told me that a limo had pulled up to the door, seen the big crowd and left.

By 4:30 it was pretty clear that Boy George had been spooked by the rabid fans, and had decided to cancel the interview without telling us.

I did what any professional broadcaster would have done at that moment. I asked my friend Dave to come into the studio and pretend like he was Boy George. We were having a great time goofing around. Dave talked in the worst British accent you’ve ever heard, jokingly referred to himself as “Oy George” (Dave is Jewish), and began describing his favorite sandwiches in ridiculous detail.

Imagine our surprise when a newspaper photographer arrived at the studio about ten minutes later.

“I was listening on the radio and heard you had Boy George here,” he said.

“Did he sound like this?” I asked, pointing to Dave, who used that same horribly fake British accent in front of the photographer.

“Yeah,” the photographer said. “Where is he?”

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Half Empty: Middle Aged Road Trip

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.

Because tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death, we're re-running the piece about our recent trip to Memphis. We hope you enjoy it.

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern & Dane Placko

Let us set the stage.

Rick had to go to Memphis for a media conference. He knew that Dave badly needed to get out of town (he has three little girls including twin one-year-olds), and they both knew that fellow college buddy Dane would be game for coming along. So…after getting approval from mildly disapproving spouses…the plans were made for an old fashioned boy’s road trip.

Of course, it wasn’t technically a road trip in the old-fashioned sense of the word. The idea of driving, for instance, was abandoned pretty quickly when Dave and Dane pointed out to the clueless Rick that Memphis was not “about four hours” away from Chicago.

Other than that, it was exactly like a traditional hard-core partying road trip…

*In the airport, Dane had all of his hair products confiscated by security. Dane, a news reporter, had no idea that these were no longer allowed in carry-on bags. The airport security man was kind enough to pose for this picture with Dane’s confiscated items.

*In the airport, Dave bought three bagels. When the total came to $8.10, Dave asked if they offered a financing plan.

*Our first meal in Memphis (lunch) was memorable. When the waitress brought Dave’s lunch, she slammed it on the table and snapped—“YOUR PLATE BURNED MY HAND!”

*Dane and Dave were eager to go to Mississippi, just a few minutes away from Memphis, although they had very different reasons.
=Dane wanted to cross Mississippi off his state list. He now has been to every state but Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, Texas, New Mexico and Oregon. Rick and Dave were just as impressed as you are.
=Dave, the same man that calls his mother every day and uses the parking brakes every single time he parks the car just like they taught him in Driver’s Ed, is actually a maniacal gambler, and knew that Mississippi has casinos.

*Rick and Dane walked around the casino looking at gamblers. Not one smile in the entire casino. Dave was one of the “happy” gamblers, sitting at the $5 blackjack table. Only the smallest bladder on the planet (or possibly an enlarged prostate) prevented him from remaining there to this day.

*While Rick attended his conference the following day, Dane & Dave went to Sun Studios and took the very cool tour there. That's Dane on the left standing in the exact spot Elvis recorded “That’s Alright Mama.” That's Dave on the right, proudly singing about getting the AAA discount even though his card had expired.

*Rick got home from the conference just in time to break up the fight between Dane and Dave. Dane wanted to go to the Cotton Museum. Dave said he would rather be poked in the eyes by Liza Minnelli.

*That night we explored Beale Street, the party center of Memphis. After an incredible BBQ dinner, we settled in at a blues bar. After one of Dave’s three trips to the bathroom, he claimed to have spotted Dennis Quaid. Rick and Dane would have been much more impressed by Randy Quaid.

*Next stop: Pat O’Briens. The Memphis version of the famous New Orleans nightspot is almost an exact duplicate of the original. A rock and roll cover band was playing Van Halen in the courtyard. Rick and Dave wandered out to listen. Dane yelled “This is too loud!” and went to the dueling piano bar to listen to the Billy Joel medley instead.

*After a night of drinking, we stopped in for a late night burger. After we ordered the burgers, Dane noticed they weren’t being made on a grill. They were being boiled in a vat of animal fat. Mmmm.

*The night came to end when Dave’s “throbbing headache” had to be relieved with a medication cocktail that included Tylenol and Ambien.

*The following morning, the three middle aged travelers went to Graceland, where we suddenly didn’t feel so old.

*Dave got a little cocky at Graceland. He tried to get the student discount with his University of Illinois student ID card from 1985. “1985 Dave” had a full head of hair. “2007 Dave” has a gray goatee, and a shiny polished dome. The cashier didn’t go for it. This is her reaction when we tried to take her picture.

*Rick was grumbling that there weren’t any new Graceland snow domes since his last visit, so he bought an Elvis/Nixon magnet instead. This is the geek by Elvis’ grave.

*Lunch at Corky’s was the best meal of the trip…an unbelievable BBQ pork meal. Dave went to the bathroom there twice. Dane told Dave that he would make a provision in his will donating his bladder to Dave.

*After lunch, Rick and Dave took a nap. Dane went to the Cotton Museum by himself. If you ever meet him, ask to see the video. He videotaped the experience on his cell-phone, but we couldn't figure out how to upload it here.

*Not wanting to go out drinking again, the boys settled on an excursion to Arkansas for their last night. It wasn’t until they arrived at the dog track that Dane & Rick realized why Dave was so excited about this…it was attached to a casino.

*If you ever feel like you are at the lowest point in your life, remember this: You haven’t hit rock bottom until you spend a Saturday night at a dog track in Arkansas.

*Although...the bar was serving 20 ounce Michelob beers for 50 cents a piece. Rick had three dollars in his pocket and a song in his heart.

*Dane picked the winners of the first two dog races. After that, not so much. This is Dane tearing up his betting slips.

*Dave got in a poker game, and was one $250 pot away from losing everything. When he didn’t lose the hand, he got out, and didn’t return. Although, he did stop at the video poker machines on his way back from his second bathroom trip.

*The night ended when Rick got heartburn. He bought Pepto Bismol in the hotel gift shop…at the nicer hotel next door.

*The next morning when we checked out of the hotel, Dave asked the clerk to name the most famous person who ever stayed at their hotel. She said: “The tall guy from the TV show ‘Martin’ had his family reunion here.” Top that.

So, was our middle aged road trip fun? I know it might not sound like it, but we had a great time. Will we do it again? Probably.

Next time, though, Dave is getting a catheter.