Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The REAL Newsroom

This has been a fun week. I’ve been making the rounds promoting my book. This morning I was on KRTH 101 radio with Gary Bryan in Los Angeles and 12 other radio stations around the country. A list is provided at the end of this post.

But part of the fun of this marketing blitz is sharing the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of these personal appearances. And it’s good stuff to know when you go out to sell your book.

Yesterday I made my first television appearance. I was on the Channel 9 2:00 News in L.A. My segment was a delightful respite between horrific psychos stories and grisly freeway accidents.

Channel 9 is one of two TV stations CBS owns. Their facilities are on the CBS Radford lot in Studio City. I have a long history with that dream factory. It was the home of MTM Enterprises and my partner, David Isaacs and I got our first staff job there on THE TONY RANDALL SHOW. You never forget your first lot.

We were so thrilled to be there. At the time I drove a crappy Nova and David drove an even crappier Chevy Vega. One of THE BOB NEWHART SHOW producers saw him drive in one day and yelled out, “Better cars are coming!”

We later did our Mary Tyler Moore series there on the same stage she did her good series on. But I’m proud to say some classic episodes of television were written in our very office. Not by us. After we had moved out Larry David wrote all the SEINFELD episodes there.

When things got too crazy on that MARY show we would chill out on Gilligan’s Island. How many industrial parks feature that?

I directed numerous episodes on that lot. JUST SHOOT ME, STARK RAVING MAD, and of course CONRAD BLOOM. At the time I was doing BLOOM the CBS Big Brother house was there and they were in the middle of production. The contestants were supposed to be completely cut off from the world so I would walk by, hear them in the backyard, and yell out things like “Ohmygod! President Bush is leaving his wife for Paula Zahn?” Yes, I'm still 14. 

Where the Big Brother house was now stands the sprawling Channel 2 and Channel 9 complex. My publicist Sharon and I arrived at 1:45. We were led into the newsroom. It was just like the Aaron Sorkin show except five times as many desks and no one talked fast. Most of the desks were empty. I guess psychos tend to take late lunches so not much was happening.

Bumped into anchor Sandra Mitchell coming out of the restroom. She couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming. We shook hands, both apologizing that our hands were wet. She asked about my name pronunciation, which really impressed me. Didn’t she have enough to worry about with the massacre update, Jennifer Hudson family murder sentencing, and guy who set someone’s face on fire to concern herself with little me? I’m a big Sandra Mitchell fan.

Passed by the control room. No Emily Mortimer screaming in the anchors’ ears. And yet the newscast seemed to go on. I don’t know how.

Watched the program from the producer’s office – not easy to do without Lexapro. Finally it was time for the interview. We entered the studio and I was taken aback. I’ve been on many local news sets (and thrown off many news sets), but I had never seen anything like this before. Here’s a photo. What’s missing?
That’s right. People. No cameramen. No floor director. No make up guy. Just the two on-air anchors. No wonder we found a parking spot.

Sandra teased my segment along with a preview of an avalanche then threw it to commercial break. At this point six guys named Dave would usually swarm around me attaching my microphone. Not this time. Suzie (who was just as gracious and friendly as Sandra) put it on herself. If that would have happened twenty years ago 30,000 union workers would have gone out on strike. It’s a different world.

The interview came off pretty well. You can judge for yourself. They showed the book cover a lot so that’s the main thing.   Sandra and Susie were very complimentary.   I did have a few jokes.  But as I left I worried that I might have been too frivolous for a hard newscast.  Then I bumped into the next guest for a Channel 2 or 9 newscast --  Dodger-Elvis. Not sure what he’s going to discuss but I can only assume it’s the Middle-East.

My thanks to Sandra, Suzie, and everyone at Channel 9. Below is the interview. And as promised, these were the stations that interviewed me this morning:  WAOR South Bend, KWNG Minneapolis/St. Paul, WTDW Detroit, WMJI Cleveland, KLPX Tucson, WRTA Altoona, KTRS St. Louis, WBAL Baltimore (my old Orioles stomping ground), WVSL Scranton, WDUN Atlanta, WXKR Toledo, and KRED Eureka, CA.  By the last six I had no idea what I was saying.  

More info, photos, and cool videos on my website – www.megenerationbook.com.




43 comments:

John said...

The KCBS/KCAL studio is also home to Los Angeles' hottest weather babes. Hopefully, Viacom didn't also replace them with robots when you did your interview.

gottacook said...

Nicely done, especially given that ridiculous perch you were required to sit upon (if it were me, I'd be preoccupied about whether my midsection was protruding). I was probably always going to buy the book, but this interview had the effect of making it more likely to be sooner than later, and I hope likewise for people previously unaware of it.

Johnny Walker said...

Nice job, Ken! Pretty bland questions. I guess they don't even pretend to have read the book any more, but you came across as relaxed and funny.

404 said...

As someone who has yet to catch one of your broadcasts, it was nice to be able to put a voice to the words I've been reading all these years.

Kirk said...

After reading your blog for these past couple of years, nice to hear what your voice actually sounds like (yes, I know you're a sportscaster, but I don't believe your broadcasts are carried in Cleveland. If they are, let me know where so I can listen.) You did a very good job, especially seeing as you had to compete against two pairs of crossed-legs of the female variety. As soon as my disposable-income situation improves (it's been a long recession for me.) I'd like to buy your book. It definitely goes on my birthday/Christmas list for any relative or friend looking to buy me something.

Mark said...

Dang. Wish I had listened to WMJI this morning. Now we need to get you on The Daily Show where I think they DO read the book before interviewing the author.

Big Bad John said...

Here is a link to the KRTH Audio.

http://www.smokinoldies.com/KRTH Los Angeles - Ken Levine July 25, 2012.mp3

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Ditto Mark: love to see Ken with Jon. Two brilliant comedy bulbs blinding us with their laugh rays. Or something like that...

To The Daily Show!

Ken Levine said...

Big Bad John,

That link doesn't seem to work. Can you repost? Thanks.

me

Eric J said...

I concur with the others who would like to see you with Jon Stewart. I emailed The Daily Show with that suggestion. Don't hold your breath--Jon and I aren't that tight.

Good KCAL interview at least on your part.

Michael Hagerty said...

Nice job, Ken.

As for the ghost town newsroom...welcome to the new reality (at least in local TV). Robotic cameras, reporters shooting their own stuff in the field, creating their own on-screen graphics online...some night a newscast will open with "Good evening, I'm Jill Jones, Bill Smith is on assignment helping out in the mailroom."

Christodoulos said...

Very nice interview, Ken, made me think of a Friday question. If I were to buy your book (which I will), which movies of the era would go well with it? Which movies do you feel capture the experience of everyday life in the 60's?

Johnny Walker said...

This link should work, Ken:

Ken on KRTH LA

KGHanson said...

Ken, that was a good segment and a fine interview. I understand the culture shock regarding the lack of the union throng on set.
Unfortunately the only time I have been to visit CBS was as a member of the audience for The Price Is Right.

Johnny Walker said...

You can also here Ken talk to Pam Atherton for an hour about his book here:

A Closer Look with Ken Levine

tb said...

Dodger Elvis! Like flies you attract these people! They could have mentioned your blog too, but still, way to go

Donald said...

Ken:

Trying to contact you for a story I'm writing for the Chicago Tribune about book tour interviews. The Academy Library is closed, so on deadline, this seemed the fastest way to try to contact you.

Mike said...

They tell me that Sorkin's NewsRoom is 25 years out-of-date. TV can no longer afford News. I guess you found this out for yourself. Tell Sorkin.

Ken Levine said...

Don,

You're welcome to email me at bossjock@dslextreme.com.

Big Bad John said...

Johnny Walker, thanks for the quicker link. A copy and paste was working for me on the original post.

Ken, Go get 'em!

Breadbaker said...

I had forgotten about Bush leaving Laura for Paula Zahn.

And your book arrived yesterday.

Anonymous said...

I'm convinced! I am going to buy the book. Great interview. BTW - What is your secret for looking so young? You look like you are about my age and I was born in 1964. Julie

Anonymous said...

I doubt the audience knows what Haight-Ashbury was let alone where it was.

Cap'n Bob said...

WTF? I've had two novels published and my lousy hometown paper wouldn't even mention my signings. Worse, the local library wouldn't carry them. And you get on every TV show from Maine to Pismo Beach? Something tells me you have a lot more pull than I ever will. My envy aside, congrats on the publicity blitz.

VP81955 said...

I had forgotten about Bush leaving Laura for Paula Zahn.

Wouldn't you?

Oh -- and if there's a Dodger Elvis, shouldn't there be a Mariner Hendrix or Cobain?

(BTW, "That '70s Show" was also produced on the same soundstage as "Seinfeld" and "MTM" -- so if you hear someone yell "dumbass"...)

Ane said...

So... How do you prounounce your name?

Ken Levine said...

Le-Vine (rhymes with... rhyme)

VP81955 said...

Actually, IIRC, the Bush infatuated with Paula Zahn was George H.W., the elder prez.

cshel said...

Great to see your interview, Ken! Brings you to life for your fan base. I hope you sell a bazillion books.

If I had known ahead of time that you were going to be in my neighborhood at Radford, I would have gone over there and screamed and cried and shouted your name outside the studio lot - like a Beatle, er, Bieber fan. Well, at least until I realized it was getting kinda warm outside and wandered across the street to get a McFlurry.

Pam Atherton said...

@Johnny Walker... thanks for posting the link to our interview. It's an about an hour long, but I promise, Ken is hysterical in it... and it gives you a good feel for what is in the book.
--Pam

iain said...

Huh, count me as another who sadly missed you on WMJI this morning. I'm glad your interview was on Lannigan's show, as he's one of the few "pros" left in the market.

Ane said...

You learn something new every day. I always assumed Levine rhymed with scene, for some reason.

D. McEwan said...

But what does "Ken" rhyme with?

And to think I DVR'd the whole hour and then fast-forwarded through it to you, when I could have waited for the video to be posted.

No crew? On-air talent fixing your mike? What planet is this? And yet they needed two women to do the interview.

I had just read the chapter on Haight-Ashbury a few minutes before watching the broadcast. Spooky. The anchors didn't always seem to notice your jokes. They'd sit there silent while I was laughing at home.

Ken Levine said...

Doug,

If there were cameramen, they would have laughed.

Gary West said...

Ken - this is all great! Congrats on the book. I haven't picked up my copy yet - but I can't wait. When you're done with all these great interviews - I'd love to interview you for the Mr. Pop blog. I'll be ordering the book this week in "prep."


Just finished a terrific interview with your friend Bobby Rich. What a career he has had! It'll be on the Mr. Pop site next week.

Gary West
Mr. Pop Culture
Mr. Tech History

Phillip B said...

Cap'n Bob needed a publicist. We all need a publicist. If I win the lottery, you can be sure I'll hire a publicist if only to say "he will have no comment at this time.'

Friday question, somewhat related. Is Jon Stewart really now the ultimate interviewer? I know he gets better ratings than Charlie Rose, actually reads the book (unlike Letterman), and looks more lifelike than Larry King, Barbara Walters or Piers Morgan - but have things shifted that far since Johnny left us?

Richard Y said...

To Capt Bob at 10:50 am.

I have to totally agree with your post, I am in same boat.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

The thing that's really eerie when I've guested as an expert commentator on TV news over the last few years is you'll come in and there'll just be the one or two anchors sort of marooned by themselves on the set at a podium or desk with teleprompter stuff scrolling and some papers. Every so often a runner brings them some more papers.

On one BBC show, there were two presenters sitting side by side, and they never spoke to each other while I was there. When one was doing a piece, the other was reading and marking copy and then they'd switch off.

It seemed terribly isolating for the anchors.

wg

chuckcd said...

I loved Stark Raving Mad. Wish it could have lasted.

Janet said...

I especially liked the part near the end when you were talking about optimism and you said you hoped some of that would bleed over to today, and that today's younger generation could use some of that enthusiasm. You know, sort of the message of your book. And the very next question? What is the message of your book?

Ken Levine said...

Janet,

You noticed that too? At the time she said it I thought, "Isn't that the exact answer I just gave?" It reminds me of that classic Bob & Ray routine where the interviewer, not listening at all to the guest, does that very thing six or seven times.

Thanks for watching. I hope it inspired you to at least buy the book.

Janet said...

Ken, I was feeling smug that I bought your book already but I just realized it was your travelogue. So yes, I will be buying this one too.

Ken Levine said...

Thanks Janet. Enjoy my life.