I have never been a fan of John Ghiorse. I fully understand that I've lost the last two readers who regularly stop here who aren't looking for information about popes and capybaras, with that admission. But there you are.
For those who have been lucky enough to have never had the John Ghiorse Experience, first let me say that your lucky souls are enviably untarnished.
The guy scares me.
I blame him for the loss of my first "professional" radio gig. So hearing that he's retiring today just makes me glad that I won't have to hear his mumbling soporific drone guggling out of the teevee anymore when I'm trying to figure out what to wear, build, paint, rig, or dig up tomorrow. Actually it wasn't his fault, a lot, that much, the firing.
I worked at an unremarkable AM radio station that seemed to be there solely so that the two sales guys could take members of the Chamber of Commerce to lunch and coerce them to buy very cheap commercials that played between really awful music that was beamed to our station from some KuKluxKlan garrison somewhere in the Midwest. I conceived, wrote, produced, and voiced those commercials in what I called Pearls-B4-Swine Productions. The morning guy was self-possessed to the point of autism, and the General Manager was a weasel whose mood swings and fey manner belied his reputed penchant for extramarital dalliances.
The station was owned by a regional limited liability corporation that rarely paid much attention to us. Every so often -- in bursts of impulsive creativity that today we would call "manic episodes" -- the GM would develop an abortive and complicated gimmick that would invariably be re-devised, put into realistic broadcasting terms, and then complained about. For instance: There was a completely misfired attempt at filling midmornings with "live" local "talent" which meant that I would act as board-op for some client, politician, or "local celebrity" deejay. Without any thought given to the appropriateness of music played or the personality's talents or abilities, or my other duties.
I'm sure that there was some arcane logic to these forays into uncomfortable stammering and unsuitable inaptness. My suggestions re: show prep, playlists, chat material, breaks and scheduling, went unheeded and in one case were brushed off as "smarty-pants college kid fussing."
And so, at 9:08 on the appointed day, right after the live news break, I thrust my paw out at the teevee star weatherman who sat across from me. And he did... well... nothing.
And no matter what I tried...it just. Got. Worse.
I reminded him of the names of the songs, which seemed superfluous to me since they were Top 10 hits that most people could recognize pretty readily. I reminded him to give the time and temperature. I mentioned that he could ---
The in-studio phone line rang and I picked it up.
"What THE HELL is going on in there? Can't he talk? Talk to him! Make him say something! This sounds ridiculous!!!" screamed the GM.
So, I did something. I flipped on both of our mics as Glen Campbell faded into the ether, and announced, "Everybody, you're listening to John Ghiorse sharing music with you this morning. John, as a meteorologist, have you worked much in radio?"
"Really. Cuz you look pretty comfortable back here in the studio, with the turntables and all."
"Do you get to do this kind of thing a lot, guest deejay, talk to schoolkids, that sort of thing?"
"So, John Ghiorse, what kind of music do you like?"
As I waited for him to fill the dead air that he left at the end of each sentence, my mind raced to every possible thing that I might know about him that could fill airtime.
"Well... let's get back into the music. It's nine-thirty-eight twenty-two minutes before ten. Here's Freddie Fender."The in-studio line lit up again: "Hey, this isn't your show, it's the John Ghiorse Show. Shut the hell up and let him talk. It's his show."
I let a commercial break run out and turned on his mic. Silence. I gave a pretty recognizable hand signal for "Go ahead, start talking."
He delivered a beautifully-improvised, if perfunctory, weather report and introduced another song. As "Another song."
And then the studio door burst open and the boss shouted something and I shouted something back and it all looked like a dysfunctional family being really bad in front of a guest.
Which is exactly what it was.
And that was radio a quarter-century ago. I don't believe that it has gotten any better.
Enjoy your retirement, John.