Saturday, October 28, 2006

Guest Blogger: Scott Redman

Scott Redman is a partner at Crowley, Barrett, and Karaba, Ltd., Attorneys at Law. Before embarking on his legal career, he was also the general manager of WPGU radio in 1985, my last year in Champaign-Urbana. He lives in Chicago with his wife Cindi and his daughter Lauren.

"Deal or No Deal"

By Scott Redman

As many of you may know, Deal or No Deal came to Chicago for an open casting call. I am sure that the idea of possibly winning $1 Million (or more) crossed many people's minds and then fluttered away like so many other crazy ideas.

Well, not so for my mother-in-law, Pat, who went to Navy Pier last weekend to "try out" for Deal or No Deal. My father-in-law, Earl, went along for the ride. They left their house in Rolling Meadows at about 5:30AM and when they arrived at Navy Pier, they found themselves about one zillionth in line.

After about 7 hours of inching their way to the front of the line, they both decided to try out. They had to fill out a questionnaire and then each had a very short, maybe 2 minute, interview with an assistant producer. They played up the fact that they were going to be great grandparents (that's another story) and rode touring motorcycles in a local club. That apparently piqued the interviewer's interest as it was "something different."

That was Saturday. On Sunday, Earl got a call from the production staff inviting him to a "call back" on Tuesday. Earl, who was just along for support, got through to the next round - Pat was left in the dust.

Earl was instructed to arrive at the Congress Hotel at a specified time on Tuesday evening with 4 to 6 "supporters," dressed as if they were going to be on the show. Based on availability, Earl selected his wife (Pat), Cindi (my wife, his daughter), his son Jeff, my 7 year old daughter Lauren (a big fan of the show), me and his friend Harry (a pilot for American). Pat inserted my mom, Barb, into the group as well.

When we got the hotel we were provided with a two page instruction sheet. As it turns out, not only is Earl auditioning for the show, but so are we - as his supporters (we would later find out that there have been plenty of great contestants that have not been picked for the show because their supporters were too lame). This information sheet encouraged all of us to be very enthusiastic, but not to act. It also gave us advice such as "Answer questions in complete sentences" and so on.

The fact sheet also explained that Earl would go for a one on one interview with a producer. We would then be called into the room and would play a simulated round of Deal or No Deal. We were to act as if it was the real thing and give it all we had. That was more than I bargained for as I am not good at faking excitement (certainly not as good as my wife is).

Most importantly, the fact sheet explained that if Earl was selected for the show he and his supporters would be flown in for the show. Interestingly, it is the producers that pick the supporters from those that came with him to the interview, not Earl, and there was no mention of who was paying for lodging.

So while we waited in the bullpen, the staff took a number of digital pictures of Earl holding up a sign with his name and applicant number - very similar to a mug shot. They then gathered all of us and took a group picture. As we waited in the holding area, there were many other groups waiting for their interview. It was interesting to note the stereotypical (or at least what I perceived as stereotypical game show contestants).

There was the "Howdy Pard" cowboy guy and his hootin' and hoolerin' gang. There was the large black man and his "junk in the trunk" team. The "Yo, how you doing" Italian guy (with his cool sunglasses hanging from the back of his shirt collar) and his tightly-panted female accomplice were there. And then there was the tall blonde MILF (who had previously been on Wheel of Fortune (wonder why!)) with her tall brunette sister-in-law MILF (in all fairness, my wife is a MILF too). There were a fair number of kids in tow as there seems to be a lot of kids on the show as supporters - I guess we were not the only ones to think of that angle.

After a while in the bullpen, Earl's name was called. The producers had 5 meeting rooms set up and we were assigned to room B. We had to wait in the hall while the group ahead of us finished. We could hear them yelling and screaming as if they were on the show. The pressure started to build. Then Earl was called into the room. His interview went fine- as far as we know - and now it was our turn to play the game.

In the room there was a video camera and an easel with a dry-erase board. The amounts $0.01, $10.00, $750.00, $100,000.00 and $1,000,000.00 were drawn on the board and five paper "briefcases" (numbers 1, 7, 13, 18, and 25) were sitting on the board's easer ledge. The producer acted as the show's host, introduced Earl and asked him to introduce each of us. Earl was clearly nervous as he forgot both his daughter's name and forgot to even introduce Barb. Then he was asked to pick his case and we encouraged him to pick #7 as that is Lauren's age.

Earl then picked the "Black Cat" (#13). The dollar amount was written on the back and the producer showed it to the camera first, and then to us. $1,000,000.00!. Much to my surprise I had an honest reaction. No acting. I dropped to the ground in anguish. I had already forgotten that this was not for real. Earl then picked #1 which had $0.01. We screamed and jumped up and down like idiots. High fives for everybody.

The "banker" then offered $32,000.00. Like all the fools before us on TV, we gave the contestant our opinion. No Deal!! Earl's next pick was #25 and it had something other than the $100,000.00 - I was so excited I cannot even remember what it was - just that it was not $100,000.00. The game was then over and Earl was given an opportunity to switch his case with the last remaining case. We implored him not to. He kept #7 and it is a good thing because it had the $100,000! We jumped and screamed and hugged each other. Earl's interview was over.

It was very interesting to say the least. I have always wondered what it took to get picked to be on a game show. It clearly takes an interesting story, a bunch of unbridled enthusiasm, and it probably doesn't hurt to be a MILF (or have one in your group!).

Don't bother to ask me for Earl's number because you want to borrow some of his soon to be gotten winnings. We were told that we should forget that we ever interviewed for Deal or No Deal as they may call us in 2 weeks, 2 years, or never. We were admonished to not call them. Typical Hollywood "don't call us - we'll call you."

I bet you $50 the blonde MILF gets a call next week.

If you missed any previous guest bloggers, click here:

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Half Empty: Halloween Costume Ideas

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.

Halloween Costume Ideas

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

If you’re anything like us, every year you get invited to Halloween parties, and every year you back out because you can’t be bothered to come up with a costume.

That’s why we’ve come up with a list of costumes (for grown-ups) that are topical, timely, and easy to slap together. You can get more elaborate if you want, but let’s face it…you really don’t want to go to the effort.

1. Dick Cheney’s Hunting Buddy
For this costume, you merely need to pull your shirt all the way up over your head so it appears that your head has been shot off, and then wear a hunting vest and carry a shotgun.
Sample party comment: “Don’t worry, I won’t be shooting my mouth off tonight.”

2. Mark David Karr

Everyone’s favorite fake murderer will be a big hit this year. All you need is a pair of pants pulled all the way up to your chest, a tucked in polo shirt, and a glassy look in your eyes.
Sample party comment: “Shouldn’t we wake up the kids?”

3. Red State
Dress yourself from head to toe in red paint, wear a Dale Earnhart T-shirt and carry a bible.
Sample party comment: Pass the pork rinds. Hey--you're not one of them homos are you?

4. Blue State
Dress yourself from head to toe in blue paint, wear a PBS shirt, and hand out Planned Parenthood brochures.
Sample party comment: Excuse me, hostess? I couldn't help but notice that this party isn't ethnically diverse.

5. Ann Coulter

A long blonde wig, a short black skirt, and a gigantic chip on your shoulder is all that’s needed to pull off this costume.
Sample party comment: “The only reason we’re eating salsa is because the damn liberals let all the Mexicans into the country.”

6. Prince Harry

This is your chance to wear that Nazi uniform your grandfather brought back from the big war. You’re not dressed as a Nazi, you’re dressed as Prince Harry dressed as a Nazi.
Sample party comment: “Easy on the vodka. I don’t want to get blitz-krieged tonight.”

7. Mark Foley
Die your hair gray, and wear an expensive suit with a “No Child’s Behind Left” button on your lapel.
Sample party comment: “I don’t use a bookmark. I just bend over the page.”

8. Robert Novak

Wear a three piece suit from the eighties, comb your hair over your bald head, and scowl.
Sample party comment: “I’m going to the bathroom. Anyone else need to leak?”

9. Dusty Baker
Wear your Cubs jersey, put a toothpick in your mouth, and hold your Cubs hat upside down asking for donations.
Sample party comment: “Will work for appetizers.”

10. Jim Hendry
Put a pillow under your shirt, doughnut crumbs on your face and a folded up Tribune in your back pocket.
Sample party comment:"I brought a cheese tray. It cost $5000."

11. Ozzie Guillen
Wear a White Sox cap, pretend like you've forgotten how to speak English, and never stop talking all night long.
Sample party comment: "No comprende, Senorita. Cervesa?"

12. Nancy Pelosi
Wear a women’s business suit, use a full can of hair spray, and don’t blink the entire night.
Sample party comment: “There aren’t any chips in this bowl. We were told the chips would be there.”

13. Rush Limbaugh
Wear a sports jacket over a golf shirt, and put the biggest fattest cigar you can find in your mouth. Carry a microphone and a Viagra prescription bottle.
Sample party comment: “Are you trying to get a rise out of me?”

14. President Bush's War Strategy
Wear a "NO EXIT" sign around your neck and never leave.
Sample party comment: "Nice try, but turning out the lights is not going to work. I'm not going anywhere."

15. Angelina Jolie
Puff up your lips, wear a lot of lip gloss and carry around about a dozen baby dolls.
Sample party comment: "I don't care if that's your husband, he's leaving with me."

Got any others? Send them in, and we’ll post them before the big weekend in the Reader Response section of Friday’s “This Week News & Views.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Suburban Man: Older Parents, Younger Children

By Rick Kaempfer

I see the trend wherever I go these days: older and older parents with younger and younger children.

My generation was a little slow out of the child-raising blocks. While we were in our twenties, it was the furthest thing from our minds. We had places to go, people to meet, and careers to pursue. Most of us didn’t seriously think about starting families until we got into our 30s, and many of us waited until after 40.

We’re paying the price for it now.

I get a particular kick out of this phenomenon whenever I go to the park or playground with my youngest son (age 4). The kids are running, jumping, sliding, and squealing, while the parents are huffing, puffing, chasing, and screaming. A typical 2—6 year old child has more energy than an entire village of 40-somethings. A one hour visit to the park for a child merely ensures a good night’s sleep. A one hour visit to the park for an adult may require hospitalization.

I’m not making fun of you 40-something parents, believe me. I’m one of you. I feel your pain…literally. It’s usually in my back, but sometimes I feel a little tightness in my hamstrings and pectorals. Sure, we could take drastic measures and consider something like getting into shape, but who has the time? If these kids aren’t getting us into shape, a whole year with Richard Simmons isn’t going to help.

That’s why I’ve developed a series of energy-saving activities that will allow you to make it through a day without first aid treatment, while still providing your children with delightful fun and exercise. Feel free to replicate these in your own home. There’s no charge.


You’ve probably played more than a few games of hide and seek in your time, but have you ever tried playing “Hide”? In this game, you volunteer to do the hiding, and your rambunctious little one has to “Seek.” There are at least a few places in your home where your child won’t look, and let’s face it…they aren’t that great at seeking. Take a magazine with you, don’t make a sound, and relax. I’ve been known to get fifteen-to-twenty minutes of resting time with this technique, and my kids love it. They think I have magical powers.

You’ve probably gone on the teeter-totter in the park with your kids, but have you ever used the device as it was intended to be used? Put the little one on one side, sit down on the other….and then don’t move. Your child will remain teetering in the air, unable to escape, for as long as you need to rest. Listen to them squeal with delight as they stare danger in the face and survive.

*Time trials

A stop watch costs a few bucks, but it’s worth every penny. When the kid’s energy level is making him or her bounce off the walls, it’s time to head outside and do time trials. Fix yourself a nice cool (or hot) drink, grab a chair, pick a starting line and you’re all set. The key to this game is insisting on a circular path. I always make the boys run around the house. The house always remains the same size, and they can chart the improvement in their times.
(Note: If you don’t want to buy a stopwatch, you can always count the seconds out loud. This makes them run even faster—and tends to tire them out.)

*Big Helper
After chasing Junior around the house all day, household chores become even more chore-like. But wait! You’ll never have to fetch another thing as long as your “Big Helper” is in the house. Phrasing the request correctly is essential. I recommend the following: “Do you think you’re a big enough boy to go fetch the garbage can upstairs?” That usually works. If it doesn’t, don’t forget the stopwatch. “I bet you can’t get the garbage can upstairs and bring it down here in thirty seconds. Ready? Go!”

I know a lot of you are also older parents, and I’d love to hear some of your tricks of the trade. Click on the “E-Mail Me” link, and send in your suggestions. I’ll share them with the whole class.

If you’ve missed any previous episodes of “Suburban Man”, click here:

Sunday, October 22, 2006

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, eleven 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 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 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.