I have always admired those writers and interviewers who possess the talent to draw the most interesting information from an interviewee in a seemingly effortless fashion. Perhaps this was one of the many reasons I chose to go into broadcasting, because I hoped to plug,in to that talent somewhere along the way. Sadly, I always felt I had fallen short.
Johnny Carson was one of the greatest. No matter how many times Carson had a specific guest on his program, the interview always sounded new. You would always walk away from watching “The Tonight Show” feeling that you learned something new about someone he had talked with hundreds of times.
Legendary baseball announcer Marty Brennaman is another whose command of the English language and ability to draw new information from an over-used guest was and is uncanny.
While topic is always important, the back stories seem to be what captures the attention of the audience. When Johnny Carson talked with Burt Reynolds, it wasn’t always Reynold’s latest movie that was so captivating. It might have been a chance encounter the two had at a restaurant.
When Brennaman talked with a star baseball player or manager, how well he played the latest game might not take center stage as much as how he and his family have settled into their new home in Cincinnati and acclimating their children to a new environment might be the hot button to that interview.
I have always wondered, as many have, where successful authors come up with such fascinating stories time after time to create such masterful novels that keep their fans spell-bound and keep their books on the best-selling list.
Songwriters hone their craft daily and quite often admit to having to write a hundred songs to come up with one hit, yet, each tune depicted a largely different topic or perspective to an otherwise well used subject.
Recently, while my wife, myself and a friend were dining at a local restaurant, I was approached by a longtime friend (I’ll call him Jim – mainly because that is his name) who complimented me regarding the stories I write in this newspaper on a weekly basis. Jim then asked where my stories come from. I admitted that most came from real life, but some of the time I make embellishments on names and places to protect the innocent (and sometimes the not-so-innocent).
I invited Jim to sit down, and he began suggesting stories I could write about. Some of the stories I knew, some I didn’t, some I had been involved in, and some I had not, but each story was knee-slapping funny. As each story began to unfold it seemed that we always found a point in each story that if we changed the names, places or revealing circumstances around the story to protect the innocent and the not-so-innocent (even sometimes us), the story lost all its humor, and there was suddenly no purpose in telling it.
Many were the times when we would suggest a story and either he or I would say, “We can’t tell that one! Those people are still living, and if we do tell it, we might not be living! Or at least we may be on the run!”
I always enjoy reminiscing with friends and reliving the old times. That’s truly some of the riches we accumulate as we go through life. Some events were wonderful, some not so wonderful, but the years have away of shining a light on those events that make them so much more attractive in hindsight than they were while we were experiencing them.
I remember a conversation I had some years ago with Jim and he shared with me that he had lived a lot in his life, good and bad, but he wouldn’t change anything about it even if he could. That my friend speaks volumes about a life well-lived.
Where do my stories come from? The best ones come from people like you — and Jim. Do me a favor and never stop sharing them with me.
Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. You can email him at [email protected] and follow his work at www.HerbDayVoices.com.