What a Way to Make a Livin'
She's shorter than you think and even more petite than expected. She'll look you in the eye and smile like she knows you... but I'm pretty sure she gives that look to all the microphone holders like me, eagerly waiting with our questions on the red carpet.
Interviewing Dolly Parton last week brought back a lot of memories from my early days of interviewing musicians.
I got my start on TV by making "The Night Show," a little show that could. It aired weekly on a tiny TV station in Middle of Nowhere, Alabama. Somehow, with no experience, I managed to shoot, edit, produce and co-host the late night show with my best friend. I was barely 20 years old. To this day, I'm still proud of those first couple of years on television.
The idea started while I was working overnights as a master control operator, going to school in the day. I got the show… because I asked.
"Can I use the equipment to make a late night show with local bands? I'll do it off the clock," I asked. And the General Manager said "Go for it."
I'm not sure anyone believed the two of us would make this work, but we ended up airing fifty episodes in two and a half years.
Looking back, it's a study in "fake it until you make it." I learned to edit fast to get the show on the air. Same goes for shooting video. For rookie show bookers living a two hour drive from the nearest large city, we did well.
Our guest list started with local bands, but grew to include Cyndi Lauper, Flaming Lips, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Liz Phair, Blink 182, Tonic, Kula Shaker, The Cranberries, The Cardigans, Moby… if 99X played them, we wanted them. There were a few curve ball interviews, too - Vanilla Ice, Andy Dick, Susan Powter ("Stop the Insanity!"). I'm sure I'm forgetting someone.
We made mistakes (like trying to be SNL in our first few episodes… "The Night Show" archives are heavily guarded, but I sure love to laugh at myself in those early skits!)
Something must have clicked, because eventually we were picked up for syndication through the American Independent TV Network. It beamed us out to dozens of small, independent stations across the country.
We barely made a dime, but we sure made a lot of memories. We also made the distinction of being among the first TV shows in history to also stream online. Unfortunately, those 1999 AOL connections weren't quite fast enough for optimal online viewing - but we were multi-platform in the 90s.
In 2000, our network switched to all-Spanish programming. That was the nudge we needed to get out of the late night business and move to New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina's winds of change set me on course for a career in news. However making "The Night Show" is where that course began.
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Jeremy Campbell is an ATLien, storyteller, traveler... & often all three at once.