The Leonard Lopate Show was a Peabody Award-winning program which aired on multiple broadcast frequencies within the largest radio market in the United States. It claimed an audience of over 1,000,000 listeners and I couldn't help from wondering, as I stared into my styrofoam coffee, whether it was an intelligent choice for the very first public speaking experience of my life…
The green room at WNYC Studios offered a menagerie of surprisingly cheap furniture. It was lit awkwardly in overhead fluorescent, and was uncomfortably over-air conditioned. I'd traveled straight to the studios from home just after waking up, which meant that at the time of my arrival, I hadn't spoken to anyone yet. Soling had arranged to deliver his part of our interview by phone from Massachusetts, so I was on my own. An improbable policy of silence among visitors (including waiting guests) was strictly enforced, so it seemed like the very first words I would speak that day would be into the microphone.
These difficulties conspired to arouse an anxiety which required prompt remediation, by whatever means necessary. I decided to invoke a ritual I'd learned of from a story about Francis Ford Coppela, who would drive away bad luck by asking the cast and crew of his productions to chant a nonsense word three times before beginning their work.
Broadcasters were full of superstitions, I decided, so I asked show producer Melissa Eagan whether she knew of anything either she or I could do or say to bless my performance.
I also foolishly mentioned that I had no public speaking experience, no media training, and that I was feeling anxious.
Maybe that wasn't such a good idea…
Eagan turned immediately to the control room, with a concerned expression on her face. A production assistant asked me into the recording booth a moment later. I shook hands with Mr. Lopate, who faced me from across his desk. I placed a pair of headphones around my ears, and we were off.
I have no idea what happened next, but I discovered myself thanking Lopate for his interview when it was done, just as the senior engineer cut our feed for an interstitial. At that moment, a chorus of loud applause rose from the console behind.
It was Eagan, along with her associate producers, engineers, and assistants.
They were on their feet.