Bachelor Bob

I met “Bachelor Bob” Guiney this morning.

I had no idea who he was, mind you, but I met him.

It started yesterday, when my editor received an e-mail from a local teacher. The teacher and her sister had nominated their mother for the dubious honor of having “America’s Messiest Garage” in a contest on the morning talk show “The View.” (“The View” is the panel show hosted by Barbara Walters, Meredith Viera, Star Jones et al.) The mother, who was blissfully unaware, had been selected for the program. At 7 a.m. today, the mother — still in her pajamas — was called to the front door to discover a TV crew, several large trucks, a fire engine, the Central High School marching band, Shelbyville Mayor Geneva Smith and Bedford County Mayor Jimmy Woodson standing in her front lawn (in the rain, I might add).

The host of the pre-taped segment identified himself as Bob Guiney, and at one point, when he was shaking hands with the mayors, he introduced himself to me as well. No one on the TV crew had much time to talk, of course; they were busy.

The name “Bob Guiney” stuck in my head for some reason, and so I Googled him when I got back to the newspaper. It turns out he was the star of one of the more popular seasons of ABC’s reality show “The Bachelor,” and since that time he has appeared every now and then as a roving correspondent for “The View.” Since (being a man) I don’t watch either of those shows, I didn’t know him, but several of my female co-workers were suitably impressed.

As we speak, professionals are overhauling the winner’s garage, and tomorrow afternoon the TV crew will document the finished product for posterity. The winner and her daughters will be flown to New York later this month to appear live on “The View” on the same day their segment is televised.

I had carried an umbrella during the half hour or so in which we waited for the segment to begin, and then walked from our staging area to the winner’s home. But once things got busy, I had to drop the umbrella so that I could take photos and notes.

Two or three hours later, Mayor Smith stopped by the newspaper on some errand and stopped by my desk to speak to me. She placed her hand on my shoulder as she started to talk, then laughed.

“You’re still wet, John,” she said.

It’s true; I was.

JACK-FM links

The original JACK-FM in Vancouver.

My local JACK-FM’s site is still under construction — but note that they’re using the same logo as Vancouver. (The URL refers to the station’s previous format.) The name and logo have been trademarked and are being licensed to stations along with the format.

A good story on the format from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Frampton comes alive? That’s the fact, JACK

In the old days, radio stations had huge playlists, and played a wide variety of musical styles and genres. But a radio programmer named Gordon McClendon noticed one day that teenagers at restaurants or other hangouts with jukeboxes would happily listen — pay to listen, even — to the same songs over and over again. McClendon went out and bought a small record rack, which — by sheer chance — happened to have 40 slots. He filled it with the 40 most popular records and directed his disk jockeys to keep playing those 40 records over and over again. Top 40 radio was born.

Top 40 wasn’t by itself a bad idea, but a number of other factors over the years — the increasing use of programming consultants and the gobbling up of radio stations by a handful of corporations, such as Clear Channel and Infinity — have made many radio formats predictable and boring. Because of our short attention spans, radio tries to make sure that the target demographic for a particular station never hears a song it doesn’t like, because that would be an invitation to change stations. So we get all these niche demographic stations, each of them an exercise in tedium.

But recently, programmers noticed the opposite phenomenon from Gordon McClendon’s jukebox. Individual people are not idiots or automatons. They’re capable of liking more than one type of music, and many do. Furthermore, the availability of MP3s, satellite radio and other programming sources has given people the chance to listen to a wider playlist than is offered by the typical cookie-cutter radio station (pop, soft rock, urban, country, etc.)

This has led to an ironic new development — one which thrills me to no end. The hottest new format in the country right now is called “JACK-FM,” and most of the stations are using that trademark to market themselves. It’s based on a station in Vancouver which had built a following on the Internet. The basic format is oldies from the 70s, 80s and 90s — but the playlist is huge, as much as three times the size of the normal radio station. And the selection is eclectic. Here, in chronological order, is the exact rundown of songs that I’ve heard while thinking about or working on this post:

  • “Baby I Love Your Way,” Peter Frampton
  • “Tubthumping,” Chumbawumba
  • “Dancing With Myself,” Billy Idol
  • “Stacey’s Mom,” Fountains of Wayne
  • “Tell Me Something Good,” Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
  • “Missed Again,” Phil Collins
  • “Crash,” Dave Matthews Band
  • “Respect,” Aretha Franklin

I think this is a killer format. It makes me want to install a radio in my car. (Don’t ask.) It’s not the old days when disk jockeys played whatever they wanted to. (The JACK-FM marketing slogan is “We play what we want,” but don’t be fooled — the playlist, big and friendly as it is, is almost certainly coming from corporate automatons.) Even so, it’s a tiny step in the right direction, and I am having a heck of a time listening to it.

The news from Lake Wobegon

When I posted about two other public radio shows yesterday, I mentioned A Prairie Home Companion. In her comment on the post, Georganna noted that she’d been to see APHC in person. So have I, several times. The biggest thrill was probably the show that they did to celebrate the re-opening of the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. That was personal to Garrison Keillor because it was a visit to the Grand Ole Opry which gave him the inspiration to create APHC.

I have to admit, I really don’t listen to APHC too often any more; there for a while, it was getting a little too political. It’s not necessarily that I disagreed (or agreed) with the politics so much that the politics took away from the timelessness and innocence that first attracted me to the show. I probably need to check back in and see what’s going on lately.

Anyway, just by coincidence the New York Times has a nice profile of Sue Scott, the show’s female voice actor. (You may have to register with the NYT web site if you haven’t already.)

Not much. You?

Something I Said? : Innuendo And Out The OtherSince cutting back to budget cable a month or so ago, I’ve rediscovered what used to be one of my great Saturday morning pleasures: listening to “Car Talk” and “Whad’ya Know?” on public radio.

“Whad’ya Know?” did a show from Nashville a few months back — I should have gone, but tickets were in the $40 range, and I just didn’t need to spend that kind of money. As I note elsewhere on the site, I was once the phone-in contestant on the “Whad’ya Know?” quiz. One of my uncles, in Louisville, Ky., heard me and called my mother to ask if that was really me on the radio. I hadn’t told them about it yet, and they’d never heard of the show.

For the uninitiated, “Whad’Ya Know?”, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is a sort of combination talk show, quiz show and comedy show hosted by Michael Feldman. Feldman opens each week’s show, after a little comedy teaser, by saying “Well, whad’ya know?”, to which the studio audience responds “Not much. You?”

The show’s home base is in Madison, Wisc., but (like another public radio staple, “A Prairie Home Companion”) it frequently goes on the road.

If I ever do get to see the show in person, my real dream is to be called upon to read the “Four Disclaimers” which precede the quiz portion of the program.

Inspired casting

Because cameras are not allowed in the Michael Jackson trial, the E! network (which I can’t get at the moment) has been airing a nightly re-enactment, with actors playing the parts of the different participants.

I am not one of those people who are obsessed with the trial — I’m content to believe that, whether or not he’s broken the law, the sleepovers Jackson freely admits to are inappropriate enough. Anything past that is just disgusting.

But I had to be amused by this: Jay Leno is testifying today, about the fact that Jackson’s accusers supposedly approached him for money at one point. In a publicity stunt that I find somewhat amusing, the part of Jay Leno will be played tonight on the E! re-enactment by … Jimmy Kimmel.

I almost wish I could see it.

Meanwhile, the man whose desk Leno is not worthy to dust, Dave Letterman, was in fine form last night, interviewing one of his own employees. Danica Patrick is the wunderkind of the Rahal-Letterman race team and, as a rookie, did remarkably well in the Indianapolis 500 time trials. Could she have a chance at becoming the first woman to win the big race? Patrick was a charming interview, from the moment she came out and called Dave “boss,” and I decided then and there I was going to have to root for her this weekend.

Tania

I just got through watching an absolutely riveting, edge-of-your-seat documentary on PBS’s series “American Experience.” “Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst” tells the story of how an underground radical group, the Symbionese Liberation Army, kidnapped the newspaper heiress, who for a while claimed she had joined the SLA and taken the name “Tania.” A security camera photo of her holding an automatic weapon during a bank robbery became an iconic image of the 1970s.

Later, Hearst was successfully able to convince authorities that she was a victim of fear and “Stockholm syndrome,” not a true accomplice; her prison sentence was commuted by Jimmy Carter and she received a pardon from Bill Clinton. The documentary concludes with a glamorous-looking Hearst as a celebrity guest on a British talk show.

I was 12 and 13 when the Patty Hearst saga was taking place; I remember a vague outline of it but none of the gripping detail which was brought out in this documentary. Several key SLA members, who had been released after serving their jail terms for kidnapping Hearst, were arrested again and tried in 1999 for a murder committed during a bank robbery of that period.

As I watched, I kept wondering why Spike Lee hasn’t done anything with this story; it really seems like his milieu.