#43 – The Best Seat in the House

Radio and TV folks always get the best seat in the house.  If there’s an event coming to town, or if you’re fortunate enough to take the show on the road, there’s always a special “seat” just waiting for your royal rear end.  I’ve given a lot of thought about this and in no particular order, here is my list.

Watching the Kentucky Derby perched on the roof of Churchill Downs next to the Twin Spires.  WHAS originated it’s Derby Day Coverage from a rather crude but efficient structure nestled on the roof between the newer grandstand building and the original grandstand sprouting the Twin Spires.  We called it The Plywood Palace..and what a view!

Flying first class anywhere.  Often, broadcasters get bumped to first class to cover events abroad.  Such was the case when going to Ireland for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  Working with Bord Failte (The Irish Tourist Board) our group was given the royal treatment with First Class or Business Class seats to the Emerald Isle.  That was years ago.   They don’t do that anymore.

Sitting behind Ernie Harwell doing play by play at Tiger Stadium.  I suspect there are people that would pay big money for that privilege.  During my stint at WJR, I went to a Tiger game and sat in the booth with Ernie and Frank Beckman.  What a thrill!!!  Harwell had been brought back in an emeritus play by play role to work with Beckman who was the regular play by play announcer in 1996.

The Best Seats in the house at any concert, play, or sporting event that your station is co-sponsoring. As part of a sponsorship package, stations get top shelf seats for the event which are normally given to clients.  Some are held back and distributed to staff.  Sharon and I sure enjoyed sitting in the KMJ suite at Bulldog stadium during Fresno State Football games.

Disney Trips.  There was a time that Disney would host press events at Walt Disney World.  Broadcasters from around the world would be invited to broadcast their shows from various locations throughout Walt Disney World depending on what they wanted to promote.  It might be a new hotel or a new attraction at the Magic Kingdom or Epcot Center.  Having nearly carte blanche access to just about everything was a very rare treat.

News Events.  One really stands out.  Shortly after Bill Clinton was inaugurated, radio and TV stations across the country were invited to a press event on the front lawn of the White House.  WHAS’ Wayne Perkey and I traveled to Washington for what was a roll out of an ill fated national health care plan.  The White House rolled out the red carpet including lots of people for us to interview like the First Lady, Al Gore, Donna Shalala, and Dee Dee Myers.  I also handled producing duties for our sister station, WOAI in San Antonio.

The squeaky chair behind the mic.  I guess the best seat in the house is the one behind the mic.  I remember very clearly a detailed memo Ron White gave me when I started at WGRD.  It stated “you have chosen broadcasting as your profession.  Therefore, you owe it to broadcasting, to be a professional”.   I always considered that the most important professional piece of advice I every received.   It truly is a privilege crack open that mic and do the things we do.

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