Back in the early ’80s when I was in broadcast management, one of my young colleagues at CHEX 980 AM Radio was producing and hosting a weekly public affairs show that offered a mix of local and out-of-town guests.
“I’m going to try and get a big-name guest for next week’s show,” James Careless said.
“You do that,” I replied, matter-of-factly. I was assuming he would snag someone from the political scene — maybe a junior cabinet minister or something.
A week later, he pops his head into my office and says, “I just recorded the interview with my special guest!”
“You’ll have to listen to find out.”
So I listened. And that Sunday morning at 10 a.m., over the CHEX airwaves, from New York City I heard a familiar voice …
Ted Koppel. That’s right — THE Ted Koppel. He was the star of Nightline, the highest-rated news show on late-night TV at the time.
“How in hell did you get Ted Koppel?”
James just smiled. “I just asked him.”
That’s when I got the “nothing ventured, nothing gained” gambit. It turns out James was just as surprised as anybody when a) he got through and b) Ted agreed.
“Everyone assumes I’m too busy, or inaccessible, so they never ask,” he told my colleague. “In truth, I love talking to people. If I have a few minutes, I’ll talk to anyone. But few people ever ask, because they assume I’m this big network news star who won’t give them the time of day. But that’s furthest from the truth.”
That lesson resonated with me.Fast forward to last September. When I decided to add a weekly Elvis show to www.yourKawarthaOLDIES.com, I envisioned inviting various guests to wax on about the King of Rock and Roll. I mean, who doesn’t have a fond memory of Elvis, a favourite song, or remembering where they were when he died that fateful day in 1977?
Since then I’ve welcomed Wally Macht, John Badham, Graham Hart, and Bobby Curtola as guests. Paul Rellinger is coming in on January 19th to co-host. Relly’s a radio guy from way back, and there isn’t a microphone he doesn’t like.
But I’m also thinking of reaching out to the Premier of Ontario, too. Maybe even Justin. Perhaps Lloyd Robertson, too.
And there’s someone else I’d love to have: Peter Mansbridge.
“I dunno, Gordo,” Jay Scotland says to me. “Mansbridge is a busy guy. But here’s his email address here at the CBC. Ya never know.”
So I composed a short message and sent it off, hoping to hear from him someday, but probably never.
I heard back in 10 minutes. He replied from his Blackberry (I’m a Blackberry man too, just so ya know).
“I’m up to my eyeballs with the election coverage,” he wrote, “but remind me after October 19th.”
Instead, I waited until after the swearing in, after Paris, and after the New Year.
On Sunday night, I wished him a Happy New Year and a quick reminder. He replied right back, saying he would get to it the following week.
On Monday afternoon, the audio arrived in my inbox. Bam. Done. The voice is unmistakable Mansbridge, reminiscing about his introduction to Elvis as a kid, his favourite song (“Don’t Be Cruel”), and where he was when he heard the news that The King was gone. And he remembers exactly where he was.
A quick caveat: knowing that Peter Mansbridge must get hundreds of emails a day, I somehow had to place myself in his world. So I casually mentioned in my initial email that I’m the guy who narrates the video every year for The National Business Book Awards. Nominees are whittled down to a shortlist and highlighted in a video shown as part of a gala luncheon.
As he has for a few years now, Peter serves as a jurist. He attends the luncheons and has seen the videos (and thus, heard my voice, usually recorded at home in my pyjama pants). The reference may have served as a connection that perhaps hastened his reply.
Would he have replied at all, without it? I think so — eventually. I understand Peter to be remarkably generous and grounded — and accessible. He works for the people after all.
I had asked him, when he had a minute, to find an audio producer somewhere in the CBC and lay something down for me. Listening back to the audio, you can hear him removing a lavaliere microphone upon finishing. These are the miniature clip-on microphones they wear on TV. My guess? He was on the set of The National to record the bumpers for that evening’s newscast and, when he was done, asked the control room to keep rolling with the audio.
Peter Mansbridge, Chief Correspondent of CBC News, will be my special guest on “Tuesdays with the King” on January 26th, 2016, from 8 to 9 p.m. on www.yourKawarthaOLDIES.com.