Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"When we're not on,

we're not watching either"

ONE OF THE FUN THINGS about my career trajectory is that I'm probably one of few people to have both:

1) interviewed Daley as a reporter, and
2) nine years later, served him smoked salmon canapes as a server at the 410 Club.

I've also had the great pleasure of serving canapes to some of the same media people I used to compete with or rub shoulders with in professional groups. For instance, the NBC5 holiday party. Hey, there's Warner, who may or may not recognize me in the dim light as one of the supposedly smart up-and-comers from NABJ Chicago in the mid-90s. There's Carol, who exclaims "hi!" as if she recognizes me, though I don't think we ever met; maybe she's just all full of holiday cheer and her cougar instinct is coming out. There's Anna, whom I used to run into sometimes when I was editor/reporter of a community newspaper and she a newly minted reporter at Channel 5. We'd exchange a flirtatious smile and a "hi," but we were so busy. Not long thereafter I managed to piss off one of the paper's advertisers, got myself relieved from the job, and I was out of the biz for a good while.

Later, as I'm lugging HiBoy chairs upstairs up to the balcony, there's a nice-lookin blonde sitting by the now-closed balcony bar. She wants to know if it's still open -- or can I open it back up? I say sorry, it's closed and I can't bartend -- they haven't trained me on that yet.

"I always wanted to be a bartender," she remarks. She was a server once too, she tells me. The irony: when she finally got into her "real job" it only paid her half as much. But since that time she's worked her way up the pay scale.

I ask what's her job. She's an on-air reporter. I recognize her name only vaguely, because, as I let her know, I don't really watch local TV news.

With a knowing nod and a wry smile she replies, "To tell you the truth, when we're not on, we're not watching either."

SO THEN WE GET into the fact that I've done reporting too: I mention that I did some time at City News, among other places.

"Oh yeah," she says. "We used to use their stuff."

"Yeah -- you TV guys would rip it off the wire and read it -- and take the credit." We both laughed. "Or you'd sit outside in your fancy news van while I walked up to the tenth floor at the projects to interview the murder suspect's neighbors. Then I'd come down and you'd ask me what I got." Ah, the memories! I reminisced about the low salary -- how I could barely afford to keep my car running.

She asks me why I was waiting tables. Was I trying to figure out what I wanted to do?

"Really," I tell her, "I still want to write. But I'd rather do it on my own terms. I'd rather free-lance, and write books."

"You almost have to be unemployed to do that."

"Yeah. Unemployed, but with lots of money."

"Or have a sugar mama!"

"But you're probably not rich enough for that, are you?" I tease.

"Nooo, honey!" she laughs. "I'm married with three kids. That's enough!"

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: "WHOOOO! IT'S NOT OVER! [to the DJ:] 'PROMISCUOUS GIRL!' [to the partygoers leaving the dance floor] GET YOUR F*CKIN' ASSES BACK ON THE FLOOR!"

(The above, from a certain young anchorbabe -- first name Anna-- who commandeers the DJ's mic at closing time. Sadly, we have to inform her that the party is, indeed, over.)

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