Yesterday was one of the most upsetting moments in my almost 22 years with WGTD. . . one of the moments in which I would give just about anything to be able to press a button and magically reboot the day. The 21st of April is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and for the occasion I was playing a truly remarkable interview I had recorded with a woman in Racine named Edith Isenberg. She is one of that generation of Jews who were children at the time of the Holocaust and who are making a point of speaking out now because the generation that came before them are basically all gone, and Edith’s generation is the last who can bear direct witness to the events of the Holocaust.
I recorded what turned out to be a long and endlessly fascinating interview with Edith, and both of us were so pleased with how it turned out. One of the things which makes it an especially interesting and important conversation is that she is not afraid to include some humor along the way – and also she tells the story with profound grief and regret and yet remarkably little bitterness about the events which overtook her young life and which ultimately claimed the lives of so many, including her beloved grandparents.
Anyway, we began the interview Monday – and were to finish it yesterday (Tuesday) – except that when it came time to play it back yesterday, the tape began to malfunction badly . . . stopping every few seconds, unspooling into the tape deck, etc. I was in the production room at the time, recording an interview with the president of Gateway Technical College (it was the only time he was available) but I could tell from the flurry of activity which I saw through the window that something was seriously amiss – and sure enough, by the time I came out of the production room, Dave McGrath, our news director, had been forced to simply end the program prematurely and join us with the state network. I was devastated because I knew there were all kinds of people making a very special point of listening to the program that day expressly to hear this particular interview on this special day . . . and when I thought of the acute frustration and disappointment of those listeners, I was literally sick to my stomach.
At least Edith is an understanding and forgiving person- and she graciously accepted my apology. And fortunately, there is another copy of the interview which ( I trust ) will not malfunction . . . although just to be certain, I am going to go into the station this weekend and make a digital copy of the interview so there is no chance of a repeat of yesterday’s catastrophe. I don’t use that term lightly, by the way, because this really felt like a catastrophic turn of events. (I couldn’t help but regret that it had to be as important an interview as this one that malfunctioned. Why couldn’t it have been an interview with some blow-hard politician instead?)
Anyway, this mishap with Edith’s interview joins a short list of my greatest WGTD regrets, which include:
the Saturday afternoon when I was hosting Saturday by Request and got locked out of the studio when I went to the bathroom and forgot to unlock the radio station doors behind me. That was back in the days when all of our music was played off of long-playing records, and I was stranded long enough (until the general manager could come from home to let me in with his keys) that the record reached the end of the side and our listeners were treated to Thumpa Thumpa Thumpa for I don’t know how long! Arrrrgh!
the day when I helped then-general manager Frank Falduto record an interview with the archbishop of Milwaukee to talk about the closing of Catholic schools and parishes in Kenosha. F.F. had no idea how to even turn on the power for any of our machines, so I had to do it for him – and somehow in reaching past and over him to turn on the tape deck, I somehow missed one button and he ended up at the end with a blank tape. My name was mud until I got on the phone and persuaded the archbishop to submit then and there to another interview – and the second one turned out better than the first.
the loss of what I would now regard as one of the most precious of my interview recordings. Some years ago, I recorded an interview with Racine’s own Laurel Clarke, an astronaut with NASA. We spoke in the living room of her parents’ home and had an absolutely wonderful chat about her career. Some months later, as kathy and I were traveling to the Twin Cities to visit my family at Christmas, our van’s tape deck ate that cassette as we were listening to it, and I had to simply throw it away. I felt terrible- but then felt much much worse when Laurel Clarke was killed in the most recent space shuttle disaster – and I would have given ANYTHING to have that tape back.
the time I interviewed the author of a book about America’s Guantanamo Bay. . . and for the entire interview, mispronounced Guantanamo as Guantamano. And in a related occurrence, there was the time I interviewed urban activist Geoffrey Canada, whose remarkable memoir about growing up in a gang-infested inner city neighborhood is called “Fist. . . Stick . . . Knife . . . Gun” but to which I kept referring as “Fish . . . Stick . . . Knife . . . Gun.”
The mishap with Edith’s interview joins this list of moments I wish I could somehow redo. If only life permitted such rewrites!
pictured above: This brings back memories of a rotten moment earlier this year when a Marshall Fields shopping bag I’d filled with cassette tapes broke just as I was getting into my car.