Tuesday, August 30, 2016
It’s the summer of either 1969 or 1970 (I’ve narrowed it down to those two). I’m a sports intern at KMPC radio in Los Angeles. KMPC was the big full-service radio station in town. They had star disc jockeys like Gary Owens (from LAUGH IN), Wink Martindale, Jim Lange, Geoff Edwards (all your favorite game show hosts), Roger Carroll (announcer of THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS SHOW and many others), and occasionally Bob Crane (HOGAN’S HEROES). The morning man, Dick Whittinghill, was an LA institution.
And when the station wasn’t playing Sinatra or Streisand, it was airing sports. KMPC was the home of the Rams (I’m so glad they’re back), the Angels, and UCLA football and basketball. Dick Enberg and Dave Niehaus were among their play-by-play men. We’re talking “high rent district.”
KMPC had their own planes and helicopters and even a news reporter in a trench coat who was a character right out of Raymond Chandler named Donn Reed who cruised around the city at night filing reports of hold ups and hostage situations. “Donn Reed – nightside.”
My job that summer (whichever summer it was) was to write up sports reports every half hour for the newscasts, change the ticker tape ribbon (my fingers are still purple), and keep track of the police scanners should a liquor store robbery break out. For this I was paid minimum wage. But I didn’t care. I LOVED it. On the side I was writing comedy bits for Gary Owens and interning for Dick Enberg at Rams’ games at the Coliseum. I also got as many Angel tickets as I wanted, but who the hell wanted to schlep out to fucking Anaheim in late afternoon traffic?
One morning I’m at my desk in the newsroom and Stanley Spero, the General Manager comes in. He asks if I’d do him a favor. There’s going to be a movie about a radio station that will soon go into production and one of the people from the film wanted to spend a couple of days just hanging around a radio station, soaking up the atmosphere. Would I mind spending the next two days with this person, showing him around, answering any of his questions, etc.? I said, “Sure.” (Like I’m going to tell the boss “No.”) So he said great and left. A few minutes later he returned with the person.
And this was the 1969 (or '70) Paul Newman. The Butch Cassidy Paul Newman. I imagine many of you women readers are now swooning. (Note: If there are readers who don’t know who Paul Newman is please do not tell me. I will be depressed for weeks.)
So for the next two days me and Paul Newman were BFF’s. I’m happy to report that he could not have been nicer and more down-to-earth. He was gracious with everyone. I thought to myself, “Oh why can’t iPhones with cameras be invented fifty years sooner?” Like an idiot, I didn’t get a photo with him or even his autograph. I was “too cool” for that. Moron.
When the movie came out I was the first one to see it. Looking back, I was the ONLY one to see it. But those two days together were amazing. I felt guilty taking KMPC’s $1.25 an hour. I went from Newsroom Kid to Sundance Kid.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM