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:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Suburban Man: Separate Bedrooms?

By Rick Kaempfer

When I first saw the New York Times article about the latest trend, separate bedrooms for married couples, I scoffed. I don’t personally know anyone who has taken that drastic step, so I thought it was just one of those non-existent trend trends.

I didn’t really think about it again until I retired for the night.


My wife and I are totally compatible in everyday life. We almost never argue. My weaknesses are overcome by her strengths. Her weaknesses are overcome by my strengths. Together we can take care of our children and our home with minimal muss and fuss.

On the other hand, we’re not sleep compatible at all.

Bridget falls asleep in seconds. It’s really incredible. If we could figure out a way to bottle and sell that, we’d make a fortune. Her head hits the pillow, and whammo! She’s out cold. I toss and turn—sometimes for hours and hours.

Bridget can shut down her mind at bedtime with a snap of her fingers. I prefer spending every night torturing myself for all the things I haven’t accomplished that day.

Bridget likes her flat sheet tucked in at the end, trapping her in a tucked-in-sheet jail. I don’t see the need for an extra layer of sheets at all, and when I’m trapped in the sheet jail, my legs feel compelled to break out.

Bridget likes it warm and cozy—she could sleep inside a furnace if she were wearing flame retardant pajamas. I like it ice cold. I could asleep outside in the middle of winter if someone would invent a nose warmer.

Bridget likes her mattress firm—Marine style. You could bounce a quarter on her perfect mattress. I like to be enveloped in a soft mattress—so soft that it’s impossible to get out of the bed without doing sit-ups. It’s the only exercise I get.

Bridget is a sleep Nazi. She needs a good night of sleep and will do absolutely anything to make sure she gets it—including going to bed at 7 PM if necessary. I’m a sleep freak. I like to stay up ridiculously late in my nice quiet house, enjoying the silence and solitude.

When I get to bed, everything has to be just so. My pillow has to be the perfect temperature. If I don’t fall asleep before it gets warm, I won’t fall asleep. My blanket has to be perfect. If I can’t completely wrap myself up in my blanket, I won’t fall asleep. If I’m not exhausted or in the perfect environment, I might as well not even go to bed.

See what I mean about not exactly being sleep-compatible?

We’ve used separate blankets since our second or third year of marriage. We have a king-sized bed, but it’s really two double beds pushed together, so we essentially have separate beds too. We might as well be Rob and Laurie Petrie from the Dick Van Dyke Show.

Separate blankets, separate sheets, separate beds.

It occurred to me while I was tossing and turning the night after reading that New York Times article that while we don’t technically have separate bedrooms, we’ve come as close to that concept as possible.

As a matter of fact, when I worked in radio, which I did for the first twelve years of our marriage, I slept on the couch more often than I slept in bed (I didn’t want to wake up Bridget at the ridiculous hour of 2:30 AM). For those twelve years, five nights a week, we actually did have separate bedrooms.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why get along so well. She’s well rested enough to avoid crabbiness, and I’m too tired to be crabby.

It was probably the secret to Rob and Laura Petrie’s marriage too.

If you missed any previous Suburban Man columns, click here: