Monday, December 11, 2006

I Miss Glenn Mitchell

I really do. It’s been over a year now since he passed away, and I feel his loss every day. I suppose that’s strange, considering I never met him in person, and as such, never knew him personally. I was, however, a loyal listener and a regular caller, especially to the Friday Anything You Ever Wanted To Know shows. I believe that Glenn recognized me as a caller, and knew that when I was calling, I had something genuine to contribute – He had the ability to make you feel that way, even if you were just a caller – That’s probably one of the reasons he was such a celebrated interviewer.

If you’re not from the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex, you probably don’t know of Glenn. He hosted his radio show from KERA for many years. His interviews were always excellent; the only person I can think of who comes close in preparation or knowledge is Terri Gross of Fresh Air. His interests, experience and education were eclectic, and his interviews reflected that: He might go from a Harvard scholar to a leading author to a local musician in one week – In each instance, he would know more than enough to not only ask excellent questions, but to have an uncanny knowledge of his guest's place in things as well. Glenn’s long time friend, Don Mason, said Glenn was, “An incredibly deep, well-rounded, thoughtful man. It’s important to understand the depth of this guy. He can cover a baseball game or write an essay or do a brilliant interview with another smart person. Combine all that with a great and wicked, and often quite sick, sense of humor, and you have a pretty remarkable package.” That’s an honest to goodness Renaissance man, indeed.

Fridays were always Anything You Ever Wanted To Know shows, the origin of which outlines Glenn’s humor and smarts – in the early 80’s, while covering for another KERA host, his guest, Linus Pauling, stiffed him at the last minute. rather than panic, Glenn calmly invited listeners to “Call in with any question and I’ll answer it.” This wonderful diversion became a much loved regular event, wherein people might call to ask the origin of a word, the best Indonesian restaurant in Fort Worth, or what those people are doing in the grassy area beside a local highway interchange. On occasion, he’d host the Friday shows live from the Dallas Public Library, allowing him to add “Professional Smart People” to the show's mix.

His Annual Christmas Blockbusters made that holiday an extra special treat. A mélange of music, interviews, commentary and features, the Blockbuster was always unique and never boring. In keeping with his sense of humor, Glenn seemed to delight in finding the worst possible renditions of popular Christmas songs that he could, (And believe me, he could find ‘em), nowhere else could you hear so many songs that would make you cringe and laugh at the same time…

Glenn grew up throughout the American heartland; Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, and Illinois, tagging along with his Registered Nurse mother and sister. He chose SMU for college because it was the farthest away from his Chicago area home, (As did I with the exotic University of Washington).

Glenn worked for KERA from the day it opened until his passing, with a couple of years’ hiatus at a local am station. He loved radio for what it best offered, what he referred to as, “The immediacy of broadcasting.” He listened to his own station, but also haunted the local sports am station, which notably hosted Howard Stern. When asked how a guy like him could listen to such shock jock schlock, he answered, “That intellectual stuff is a bunch of bullshit; I don’t see why you can’t listen to The Ticket in the morning, read Proust in the afternoon and go to a ballgame at night. I’ve never understood that kind of attitude.”

Maybe that’s why he could always make you feel welcome, and a part of his world.

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