Monday, August 20, 2012

Tonight's the night!

Hello from Seattle. Tonight’s the night of my big book signing at the Mariners’ Team Store at Safeco Field from 5:00-7:00, before the M’s take on Cleveland.  Note:  You don't need a ticket to get into the store.   Happy to sign books, body parts, whatever you got. It’s also a great chance to meet and thank you all for reading this blog. So hopefully a lot of you will swing by because, well…

It could be Torrance all over again.

I’ve touched on this before but during my radio daze I would often have to do live remotes. These were broadcasts from stores designed to bring in customers. In almost one hundred years of radio broadcasting, station personnel have still not realized that watching some schmendrick sit in a store window playing records is not a big draw. Even the lure of free bumper stickers and discount coupons for lube jobs are not enough to get warm bodies into your store. These remotes usually make the stations look bad and force the disc jockeys to violate their restraining orders requiring them to be at least ten yards from any minor.

I’ve done these remotes in hardware stores, tuxedo rental shops, record stores, a Denny’s, and an exclusive country club. That was fun, telling the thirty-five people in Los Angeles who were even eligible to come on by.

When the Dodgers were on XTRA 1150 I co-hosted a pre-game show with Ben Maller (now with Fox Sports Radio). One time we had to do the show from a tire store in Torrance. But since it was a day game from the east and we were on west coast time, the show started at 8:00. The store wasn’t even open until 10:00. We sat there alone in the parking lot, looking like a couple of complete idiots. You can see why I wouldn’t want to repeat that lovely episode.

(Later that same year we did our broadcast from a car dealership in Anaheim, again set up in the parking lot. The dealer also happened to have his gardener there that day. All the listeners heard for a half an hour was a deafeningly loud leaf blower.)

When I had a book come out in 1993 (IT’S GONE… NO, WAIT A MINUTE) I didn’t have any book signings. My publisher (Villard) said no one knows who the hell I am so it makes no sense. My team, ladies and gentlemen!  If you have one of those I'll be happy to sign it too.

Then when I came out with my travel book last year (WHERE THE HELL AM I? TRIPS I HAVE SURVIVED) it turns out there were no more bookstores.  Damn!  Why didn't I write it thirty years earlier? 

I wonder – did they have book signings in other eras? Did Herman Melville appear at the Milwaukee Cream Citys’ Team Store in 1865 and read MOBY DICK?

I have a few friends who ghost-wrote books for celebrities and athletes. If they have a signing I always try to go. One was particularly great. It was for a noted athlete. As is usually the case, the author will read a portion of his book. This athlete stumbled and bumbled and couldn’t pronounce half the words he uh… wrote. I can only imagine the audiobook. Mine is almost eight hours long.  His must be thirty. 

And then there’s the story about basketball legend, Charles Barkley. When someone criticized something in his book he claimed he was misquoted in his autobiography.

I will do my best to get through my passages tonight. And worse comes to worst I’ll just lapse into Mariners play-by-play.

See you all at 5. Well, maybe not all of you. Many of you. Some of you. Hopefully more than Torrance.

23 comments:

willieb said...

My favorite remote: 8 AM one Saturday morning in June in a parking lot outside Sears. "Spring savings, come buy rakes and lawn mowers and patio furniture!" Poured rain. For two hours. I moved inside. Eight people came. One bought a TV. The store owner didn't want to pay me because no crowds showed up...until I reminded him about the contract he signed. The best part of the whole thing was that when I moved inside, I got to watch Saturday morning cartoons on their display TVs.

MikeBo said...

oneLanguI'd be there, but for the distance between Stockton and Seattle. And since I'm retired, and not on a company expense account, I can't justify a flight on Southwest and charge it off to marketing. But, I'll be there in spirit. Hopefully, I can persuade you to sign your name on my Kindle - twice! Once for each book of yours that I've bought on Amazon. I even have them on my desktop. But I'm not gonna lug that to a book signing. And as one old radio guy who used to do cauliflower auction reports in morning drive to another who did remotes from a Torrance parking lot - Bon Chance!

bettyd said...

That Charles Barkley thing reminds me of one time Chris Everett was on with David Letterman promoting something and had an article in Sports Illustrated. Letterman mentioned something that was in the article about her relationship with Jimmy Connors and how they had some incident (break up, fight, hot sex - I don't recall) the weekend of the Wimdledon final. She lost and the article says that Jimmy was part of the reason why. Chrissy says to Letterman - why are you bringing up that old rumor. He just looked at her and said - your name is on the article in Sports Illustrated that I just quoated from. It was pretty funny.

Melissa Banczak said...

You need to do a book signing down here in Key West. Happy hour starts at 7am. (Schooner Wharf)Mango mimosas and conch fritters. Yummy. It'll be fun.

RCP said...

Hope it's a great book signing, Ken. I'd like to get my copy signed but can't make it to Seattle. Next time I'm in LA I'll walk around with a copy and luckily run into you. Better yet - I'd love a home-cooked meal - where do you live?

I'm still laughing about Melville.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Couple of Friday questions.

Today's death by presumed suicide of Tony Scott, who with his brother, Ridley, was one of the two executive producers of THE GOOD WIFE raises the question: how does a show cope with a death like that at what must be a pretty crucial moment, right before the new season starts?

Second, how do voice-only characters on TV shows, such as Mrs Wolowitz on BIG BANG THEORY or Carlton-your-doorman on RHODA get paid? Do they get less because they're voice-only, or do they get paid normal rates on the basis that (I assume) they have to be on-site to deliver realistic-sounding interactions?

wg

Johnny Walker said...

Shocking news about Tony Scott :( You can't help but wonder how a man his age, and who was so successful, could be driven to suicide...

Johnny Walker said...

Aha... Wikipedia (font of all knowledge) suggests there are rumours that he had inoperable brain cancer. If true, that makes some sense to me.

VP81955 said...

And then there’s the story about basketball legend Charles Barkley. When someone criticized something in his book he claimed he was misquoted in his autobiography.

Who does Charles Barkley think he is -- Hedy Lamarr? (She claimed to be misquoted in what purported to be her autobio, and please, no "Blazing Saddles" jokes.)

Actually, I have a Barkley anecdote from his days with the 76ers in the late '80s. Some elderly lady called a Philly sports talk show to criticize him about something or other (it wasn't racial or personal). He asked the station to have the woman call back, invited her to a game, and chatted with her in private in the Spectrum beforehand. I saw it from a distance and didn't hear what they were saying, but from all accounts they got along well. Very engaging. Barkley can be volatile, but I think for the most part his heart's in the right place.

Nixon said...

I think that the radio stations realize that having a couple of jocks show up doesn't do much for the station but it's about the easiest thing for a radio sales person to sell. The advertisers seem to think, probably cuz they're told that it will happen, that if these announcers show up at their store a huge crowd will form. People used to come to remotes but these days they are an embarrassment.

Nixon said...

...and another thing! Speaking of baseball announcing...how come you baseball guys-and you're the only sport who seems to do it-so often add a 'y' or 'ee' to the end of words, making it like baby talk? "Hey Kenny...yes Ricky?...see that?...Wedgie's sending Figgy up to pinch hit for Smoaky to see if he can hit one of Weavie's screwgees"

chuckcd said...

Thats "Headley" as in Chase Headley of the Padres.

Ken Levine said...

I agree there are a lot of nicknames in baseballs and some are longer than players' actual names, but in my case I'm known by a lot of people -- inside baseball and out -- as Kenny. Same for my partner, Rick Rizzs. Kenny and Ricky are what we call each other off the air. But we have names that support it. Our producer/engineer is Kevin Cremin. We never call him Keviny.

Josh said...

Ken, i know people have mentioned this before, but what are the chances of you doing more Mariners play-by-play in the coming year(s)? Ken Wilson and Red are great, but you really bring a passion and perspective to the game you can't find with the other guys. I'd love to listen to you and Rick all season, and I know others would as well.

lolly b said...

I had really been looking forward to making the trek from Salt Spring Island down to Seattle today, but alas, I have been given the opportunity to parody Lady GaGa in a music video. I had almost convinced the producers to shoot at Safeco when we realized we'd never make it over the border with the stilettos we had picked out for you. I'll aim for the next signing.

Thanks for so generously sharing your thoughts on writing with all of us.

Ken Levine said...

Thanks Josh. Let the Mariners know. Would love to do more games beyond this year. I want to call a perfect game too!

cityslkrz said...

We just happen to be in Seattle this week from New York!
Don't leave until we get to the stadium and save us 3 books.

D. McEwan said...

Charles Dickens's public readings from his books were legendary, made him another fortune, and depleted his energy to the point that they are considered to have contributed to his death. He did punishing tours to build up his estate as his health failed, since he had 10 kids to provide for.

But Dickens wrote best-sellers. Melville had a day job.

I have done 6 bookstore readings. You came to one. No one came to one of them. (Almost literally. There were two people there, both old friends. We went and had a drink together instead. One of the two friends had driven 50 miles to be there!), and I didn't show up for one. (My plane was delayed and I arrived at the bookstore 3 hours late. Only my neice had waited, though the bookstore owner said there had been a nice crowd there of maybe 20 people to hear the announcement that I was stuck on a runway, 500 miles away. They did, at least, manage to sell a few copies, but not signed. (I signed all the store stock, so folks who had been there were allowed to come back and exchange their unsigned book for a signed one.) And at the one in Sacramento the next day, I read two chapters to four people who were annoyed that I was interrupting their reading.

At the one only two friends attended, at the exact same time as my reading/signing, another bookstore, one mile away, had the entire cast of Queer As Folk doing a signing. Same audience, of course. Thanks, QAF. I drove past it when I went home. It was two hours later, and they still had a line around the block.

Good luck tonight. Sell many books. Break a pen.

D. McEwan said...

In fact, I sold more books at the one I didn't show up for than at the ones I did show up for. Hmmm.

BowlingJoe said...

Thanks for the signing and quick chat tonight, Ken. I'll definitely write to the Mariners and suggest more games for you to call. You're too good at this to be held to just a handful of games per year.

Paul Duca said...

Doug--although a fictional character, a mystery book I read included an author out on a book tour...a middle aged woman worn down by all the rigors and indignities involved in promotion, including this appearance--"In Indianapolis I sat for three hours and the only person who came up to me was to ask if the store had a ladies' room"

Matt Patton said...

I'm still trying to get my head around the thought of Herman Melville doing a book signing. Look at the photo; that man could bring down a room full of people snorting laughing gas . . .

Oscar Wilde, on the other hand, would probably have a ball.

redwarf said...

Ken, I did show up "tonight", one night later. Of course, I was going to the game, but I was so excited that you would be there signing, too.
Mr. Menteck (sp?) was there signing his book. And I agree -- I would love to hear you on more Mariner broadcasts!