overnight shift working for The Evening Sun and it was one of the happiest times of my life.
I was making a decent living (I bought my first house on my 18th birthday on Kane Street, right by the Joseph Lee Fields I played Little League on as a kid) and I was 17 (so young, in fact, that my Pop had to sign a parental permission slip so I could join the Baltimore-Washington Newspaper Guild, which was the shop union…and yes, I DID walk the picket line in 1987 during a nasty two-week strike).
And, now, I was working at a “big-time” newspaper.
The place was so much cleaner and more efficient and more professional than The News American. People also weren’t desperately trying to keep their jobs or send out resumes, especially with the union situation. Basically, it was a very “lazy” place and people were a lot more “prim and proper” than what I was used to down the street. People at The News American were hungry. People at The Sun were sort of “fat,” and I don’t mean physically, I just mean “comfortable.”
I wasn’t used to that.
But that was during the day.
On the overnight shift in the sports department — which was the only shift I ever worked there — it was a cool place, a very laid-back place with only a few workers in the newsroom in the middle of the night.
During my final months at The News American, somehow the Entertainment Editor Scott Lebar befriended me in the newsroom — I was everyone’s pet/kid/prodigy, probably because I had all of the “rough edges” that a short, cocky kid from Dundalk would have. And I also outworked the interns who were there from college, because they usually showed up late, stoned, hung over or were pretty much lazy by definition.
Imagine ME, being 15 and half the size I am now with twice the opinion of myself, with a pregnant girlfriend and every rough edge Dundalk would offer, running through a professional environment at a news desk for a major metropolitan newspaper and having guys like John Steadman have my back.
It must’ve been a scream!
One day, Lebar yelled across the newsroom for me. “Hey kid,” he said. “A guy named Steven Tyler from Aerosmith is calling here in about a half an hour. You like rock music, right? Do you know anything about them and can you put some questions together?”
Turned out that it was Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton who called, and I impressed Scott so much that he just let me DO the interview. I got a byline with one of my favorite bands (I had purchased “Toys In the Attic” at the Harmony Hut at Eastpoint Mall on 8 TRACK for godssake in 1976!), some backstage passes and great seats for the concert at the Civic Center (prior to that I had ANOTHER life routinely camping out overnight for tickets to big shows like Journey, Rush, U2, Def Leppard and Styx at the Hecht Company all the time with my buddies and had to pay full price for seats that I got for free as a music critic) and I got paid a whopping $25 for my efforts!
I WAS STEALING MONEY, man! I had just turned 16 and was in my senior year of high school and, suddenly, I was hanging out backstage with the likes of Kiss, REO Speedwagon, Hall and Oates and, my all-time favorite band, Rush (and bass player Geddy Lee, who I ABSOLUTELY IDOLIZED, not only was an off-the-charts baseball fan, but has become a friend of mine over the years). By this point, my “rough-around-the-edges” Dundalk parents were a disaster for me — but such is the life of any adolescent, right?
I mean, who wants to hang out with their parents when they’re 16, right?
I usually did these interviews from my parent’s home, which is where I lived with my girlfriend and infant son.
So, when the great Geddy Lee — and lemme say this: there was NO BASEBALL PLAYER, ATHLETE OR SPORTSFIGURE ALIVE in 1985 who compared with Geddy Lee! — called to chat with me, you can only imagine the silence I wanted in the background.
My parents — Dundalk through and through — just didn’t get it.
The dogs barking, the birds howling, the television blaring, the neighbors yelling (and so many families lived within FEET of each other) — it was just the most unprofessional stuff I’ve ever done and when I REALLY want to embarrass myself (and I have not listened to them at ALL during my radio career), I’ll bring in those interviews and play them on WNST one day.
I have EVERY ONE of them cataloged on little mini-tape cassettes and I probably did about 300 interviews in my eight years of interviewing