This 1982 picture of me with actress Kate Mulgrew is one I have had in my archives for quite a while. The version you see here, however, appeared on national television last month, when CBS News Sunday Morning profiled her and discussed her new memoir. She grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, where I worked my first radio job, and as CBS sketched her biography, they flashed that picture, which is presumably in her book. It was taken when she appeared on a radio show I co-hosted at KDTH. She had already appeared on Ryan’s Hope and starred in Mrs. Columbo by then. Her role as Captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager and her current role on Orange Is the New Black were yet to come. Through all the years, apparently, that photo has been among her souvenirs.
My co-host, Bob (who had been doing the show for several years before I came aboard), frequently landed celebrity interviews. His practice was to take pictures and send them to the guest along with return postage, asking them to autograph the pictures and send them back. He e-mailed recently: “The biggest celebrities—Bob Hope, George Burns, Wolfman Jack, Helen Hayes, Tony Randall, and Loretta Lynn—graciously returned them.” But Kate apparently did not.
In the picture, I am trying very hard not to look starstruck. I listened to the interview not long ago, and I sounded that way, too, trying to come off sophisticated and cool while choking out questions through my nervousness. All I remember of Kate Mulgrew is that she had the extreme self-confidence and laser-like career focus that’s sometimes hard to distinguish from runaway narcissism. She wasn’t particularly warm. Bob remembers her as coming off utterly consumed by her career as well. He also remembers that he landed the interview with the help of Kate’s mother, who told us hilarious stories during the commercial breaks but refused to go on the air.
As I think back on my tenure at KDTH (part-time guy starting in 1979, afternoon guy for about a year-and-a-half starting in 1982), I realize how lucky I was to start my career there. It was incredibly well-equipped and full of broadcasters any kid would be lucky to learn from. Whether I knew any of this at the time is much less certain, because I was very green, quite naive—and pretty much unaware of everything going on around me. For example, I didn’t realize that Bob and I were in what he calls a “forced marriage.” He was simply told one day, “Jim’s going to be on the show.” To his eternal credit, he was remarkably gracious about it, making me feel welcome and tolerating my inexperience. We did the show together for only a few months before he went into copywriting and production full-time. (He’s still got a remarkable collection of tapes, pictures, and other memorabilia from his radio days, and it’s been fun dipping into it with him now and then over the years.)
I never would have known about my brief moment on national TV if a friend in Florida hadn’t seen it and screencapped it. He says he recognized me immediately, even though I was only on-screen a couple of seconds. After I posted the picture on Facebook, I heard from a couple of other people who had seen the segment—one recognized me, but another did not. I was still in my big bushy beard/long 70s hair phase, and I can’t believe I wore that shirt. The Mrs. points out that I had a lot of shirts like that back then, which may be true, but that doesn’t mean I was right.
Horizontal stripes? Really?