Never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television. - Gore Vidal
Twenty years ago, while covering the Washington County Quorum Court for Grapevine, an alternative newspaper in Northwest Arkansas, I asked the person videotaping the meeting the for Fayetteville Open Channel, “Why don’t you any live call-ins any more?”
“You want to do one?” he asked, which was the birth of On the Air with Richard S. Drake, which made its first appearance on July 1, 1991. There was no device in the building for handling call-ins for that first show (since they hadn’t done one for several years) so I had to take the call and repeat the question back to the guest.
It was sort of like a public access version of Ghost Whisperer.
Tiring of the call-in format after a few years, the show has concentrated on pure conversation for the past 14 years or so. Still, at this moment I have to pay tribute to the late Peter Harkins, who was not only a great writer, but had a wonderful call-in show on FOC in the 1980s, which I watched religiously, and made me think that perhaps I, too, might do a similar show one day.
The City of Fayetteville gave me (the show, rather) a “day” several years ago - July 5, which I have decided to celebrate on a yearly basis in some form or another, since there is no expiration date on on the bottom of the proclamation.
I mean, what are they gonna do? Throw me in jail?
This being the 20th year, I thought about having some sort of public dinner, where I might invite all my past guests and former crew, maybe to Gaylord’s - oh, wait a minute. Anyway, things get in the way, as usual. Still, the year ain’t over yet, and I can do it at any point, if I want to, if I find place I like almost as much as Gaylord’s.
Still, since this is July 5, this is a fitting time to tell you who is actually responsible for any success the show may have had, and why I have never become bored with it, even after two decades.
Nobody in front of the camera ever looks good without the hard work of the folks behind the scenes, and over the years I have been blessed with some of the hardest working folks I have known, men and women ranging all the way from their teens to their seventies, from all walks of life.
From directors to camera operators to call screeners to folks to worked the sound board, I owe you all a huge debt. And even more, as with all of public access, you represent the diversity of Northwest Arkansas.
And then there are the guests.
I have a very low threshold of boredom, so I try never to have the same sort of show twice in a row, and I have been fortunate that so many have agreed to sit with me for a good old-fashioned conversation. I am really grateful that a few have even agreed to come back more than once, or twice, earning frequent flyer miles on the show.
Smart guests make me look smart, and I will be forever grateful for that.
I figured out a few months ago that over 2500 individuals have appeared on the show since 1991, and that’s a pretty nice number by any standard. I think that the reason that so many like to appear on public access interview shows is that, as opposed to programs on commercial media, is because we will run the entire interview, and not edit for time.
I think that people appreciate that.
Perhaps we’ll do something in public later this year. But I couldn’t let today go by without saying thanks to one and all.
The first time I ever got a proclamation from the city
In 1992, just before we celebrated our 50th show, I said to my director, “Why don’t you call the mayor and tell him that you want to surprise me with a proclamation honoring the 50th show?”
Okay, she agreed. And the plan was set in motion.
Now over the years, the show has received two proclamations - well three if you count our “day” and I have gotten two keys to the city, which may have been connected to the show or my writing - not sure which. I know that Alderman Stephen Miller gave me one on the show once, so at least one was probably connected with the show.
Turns out getting a key to the city isn’t nearly as difficult as one might suspect, nor are they as big as they are in the movies. They are pretty dandy, though.
But I digress. But as the song goes, it’s my blog and I’ll digress if I want to . . .
My director called Mayor Vorsanger and explained the situation, and he agreed. A few days later he actually hand-delivered the proclamation himself - because despite our political differences, Fred Vorsanger is a gentleman - and left it at Fayetteville Open Channel for my director.
A few days later, when we were doing the show live at the studios of Access 4 Fayetteville (yes, I know the Access War stuff can get confusing) I was presented the proclamation on the air, when I was so surprised!
We drank champagne on the air, and toasted the good fortunes of the show.
I could have gone about it in a more straight-forward manner, but this was much more fun.
Quote of the Day
No man, for any considerable time, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true. - Nathaniel Hawthorne