Maybe it happened before I played Becky Thatcher in our grade 8 production of the musical, Tom Sawyer. But if it did, I can’t pinpoint the moment.
I caught the performing bug. Nothing was as exhilarating as acting on stage. I even sang a couple of solos. They had to lower the pitch an octave or two, but contrary to what I warble out now in the car and the shower, back then, I could hit all the notes.
After a few acting classes, and getting roles in bigger, outside-of-school productions I thought, this is the life for me. But my poor self-esteem and practical nature had other ideas. Struggling actors sometimes lived in their cars. They endured horrific humiliations during auditions. My flaws were readily apparent, I thought, and I didn’t need some cigar-chomping producer to rip me to shreds. Pushing aside the thrill of acting was easy when I assumed I’d fail. The search for an alternative began.
Radio. I’d always loved radio, especially Hamilton’s 1150 CKOC. Scott “Hollywood” Harris in the evening. Nevin Grant’s “In Touch With Today”. Mornings giggling along with pre-scandal Jason Roberts. Winning prizes, making requests, calling the talk shows, wondering how some things were done. Later, while in high school, I briefly dated a real, live radio DJ. (He was kind of a jerk.)
In the office of the Guidance Counselor, who was also the football coach and cared more about the latter than the former, “What are you going to do after graduation?” I had good marks but they weren’t spectacular. No nuclear physicist career for me. Gazing around the room, buying time, my eyes settled on a brochure for the broadcasting program at Niagara College. “Radio. I’m going to get into radio.”
Q107 became my textbook. I studied Samantha Taylor, and was late for class a few times so I could enjoy all of Scruff Connors’ show. I secretly idolized Barbara Frum on CBC. (She wasn’t cool for my age group!) I punched around to other stations to hear how much they sucked compared to Q.
That was almost four decades ago. I found that acting thrill while earning a steady paycheque. Radio’s been good to me and bad to me. It’s been a best friend and a complete bitch. I’ve loved it and had knock-down, drag-out fights with it. It’s family. We always get back together. Sometimes I think I don’t know it anymore. Then I realize that some of its caretakers don’t respect it enough to treat it well. I’ve had moments on air that I thought were award-worthy and others so lame, it was mortifying. You have to know when to leave the party. Maybe another opportunity will come and maybe it won’t. But like Ross and Rachel on Friends, we need to go on a break before we can reunite again.