I sought this interview on national TV to officially release my new audio book, Alive in the Andrea Doria. After a few months of e-mail correspondence with WGN producer Tom Barnas of The Midday News, the day finally arrived: Columbus Day*, October 12, 2009. I arrived in Chicago, 3 ½ hours early, not wanting to risk missing national exposure.
The building guard led me to the greenroom. It was a little bit like being a star! Although it was a modest room, it was actually green, and I had my own bathroom, refrigerator, and curling iron. I waited for 2 ½ hours feeling rather anxious. I rehearsed over and over what I wanted people to learn from my message during my few moments of fame.
Tom Barnas came to introduce himself; he was a nice young man with a heavy load of responsibilities. I handed him a box of chocolates from Schocolad, a gift recommended in thanks for TV interviews. (I hope he likes chocolate!) We discussed what I should expect during the interview. I realized later that nothing can prepare for this experience– even the media training classes I’ve taken. It’s a leap into the unknown, not knowing when the cameras are directed at you, what questions will be asked, and how quickly I’ll be able to formulate a response—without stumbling, deviating, or being too verbose. The five-minute segment passes like a flash of lightning; at the end, you don’t remember anything you said, but wish you would have said something else.
I walked out of the large studio decorated with large photos of Chicago as the two news anchors continued to deliver the news and introduce other segments. They had to keep up a frenetic pace, hopping from one end of the studio designated for segments (author interviews, chefs doing what they do best, a band playing, etc.) to the anchor desk for the news. Several large cameras mounted on tall stands, wheeled around, following the anchor persons. I wondered how everyone could keep everything straight. There wasn’t a minute to spare, and no room for mistakes. The one hour of midnight news had to go on LIVE!
It was an enriching experience, not just being on live TV, but being in the studio that once produced classic TV programs in American culture: Bozo the Clown, Family Classics with Frazier Thomas, and Garfield Goose with Ray Rayner. The studio ceiling had dozens and dozens of projector lights to enhance these marvelous shows. I asked a cameraman why all the lights and he proudly replied, “Don’t forget, Bozo used to be taped here!”
All I can say is, I hope I didn’t come off as a bozo. Based on feedback I’ve received, it seems like I did not make a fool of myself—everyone’s greatest fear in front of the public.
* I asked to have the interview on Columbus Day for several reasons:
- Christopher Columbus symbolizes great Atlantic crossings, like 101 voyages made by the Andrea Doria.
- Admiral Andrea Doria (for which the ship was named) and Christopher Columbus lived during the same time period and in the same town of Genova.
- Columbus Day is a proud day for us Italians.
- And perhaps most importantly, Captain Piero Calamai, master of the Andrea Doria was promised direction of the new sister ship “Cristoforo Colombo”
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. Unfortunately, the Captain never again received request to navigate. The release of my audio book on Columbus Day is in honor of the man who died unnecessarily of a broken heart.
To see the interview, click on http://www.wgntv.com/news/middaynews/