My Radio Mentor

Monday May 14th, 2012 – Milwaukee, WI

   I find it extremely important to pay the proper respect and honor those who have had a hand at helping to make my life a more worthwhile journey. There have been several who have stood out far beyond the rest, and I’m humbly grateful for all of the kindness and guidance they’ve shared.

My grandfather is the shining example, with C. Cardell Willis following a close second. Those two had a personal influence on me more than I’m sure they know. Gramps helped me my taking the time to be the father figure my birth father never was. Maybe he wasn’t the father he planned to be himself, but he sure made up for it with me. He got a second chance, and he did it correctly.

Cardell was my comedy father, and he showed me the ropes that Gramps never could. I needed a mentor to help me live my dream, and he was it. I could not imagine anyone kinder or wiser for that role, and I’ll always remember him fondly. I hope I can live up to the memory of them both.

The person I consider to be my first and biggest mentor in the radio business is Pat Martin. Pat helped me get started in that snake pit of a racket, but despite that I like him anyway. I have often joked with him that I wished we’d never have met, but that’s not true at all. Pat is another gem of a soul that has been there for me through thick and thin and helped me when I needed it the most.

Radio has been a lot colder and crueler to me than comedy ever was. I only got into it because I thought I might have a better chance to not have to be on the road constantly and become ‘stable’ enough to create an environment to have a family of my own. I never thought it was fair to make a wife and especially kids have to go through the loneliness of me being on the road constantly.

How laughable and utterly ridiculous that all sounds now. Stability? Are you serious? Comedy has been WAY more ‘stable’ than radio ever was, but I kept going back like the abused wife in a trailer park thinking it would be different the next time. It never was, and I’m still disillusioned.

None of that was Pat’s fault. He’s had to drink continuously from his own cocktail poured from the bubbling cauldron of radio insanity. He started as a disk jockey, and worked his way up from there to program director, G.M. and eventually station owner. Radio has been his lifelong dream.

Pat was always there to offer a kind word whenever I got fired, as he could relate to it himself. He always told me I had big market talent, and that eventually I’d get my shot. When I was hired at The Loop in Chicago, I think he was more excited than I was. He told everyone he knew about how proud he was of me, and that I deserved it. Then I got fired, and he was there then as well.

Today is Pat’s birthday, and I wanted to take him to lunch to show how grateful I am for all his kindness. He told me I was one of the very few who remembered, and I could tell he loved every bite of our delicious corned beef and pastrami sandwiches at Jake’s Deli – his choice of venue.

I don’t know what this may mean in the big picture of life, but it felt great to be able to give the royal treatment to someone who I feel totally deserves it. I heard it in his voice when I called and saw it in his eyes when we ate. I know he felt appreciated, and isn’t that what we all want to have a chance to feel – especially on our birthday? I fall short too often, but today I did the right thing.


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