Q & A / Aug/Sep 2012
He grew up at Edwards Air Force Base during the Golden Age of experimental flight and space travel only to be mesmerized by a radio news reporter during a contest he won in high school. A lover of books and 1920’s era music, he left KCBX last year, a station where he had a 36-year tenure ranging from volunteer during its start-up as a community radio station in 1975 to Program Director. Today he is busy producing radio shows where his little studio in Santa Margarita now reaches people all over the country. We dropped by one day to see how he was doing…
Guy, we really didn’t prepare any questions for our interview today.
I don’t prepare questions either. Well, I don’t and I do. I don’t write them down. Generally speaking, I’m comfortable with the first question I’m going to ask. And the first question is usually a general overview type of thing. From there I just listen. And inside the comment they make to the first question is going to be the follow-up question, or maybe two or three questions. So, in a way, I’m kind of taking their lead. If everything is prepared it can be too forced and you end up missing opportunities. I remember my very first interview in 1972, my boss said, “Ok, I need for you to interview these two women who had written a book on the history of Morro Bay.” And so I went to the library and picked up a book on how to interview and it said, “Write down ten prepared questions.” So, I wrote down my questions and I did the interview. When I listened to it afterward I thought to myself, “No! You missed it, you completely missed it!” So I tore up that whole idea and since then it’s been just do your homework and have a good opening question. The rest takes care of itself.
What was it like growing up during the heyday of space travel?
One of the Yeager brothers was a year ahead of me, one was a year behind [Chuck Yeager was the first pilot to break the sound barrier]. I was right in the middle of the test programs. My dad was in charge of base communications and my mom worked for General Electric which made a lot of the engines and was there when the sound barrier was first broken. So, sonic booms were a part of my childhood because they were going on all of the time. The reverberation from the boom was so powerful that when the jets hit sonic speed it would break windows in the houses below. The Air Force people were out replacing windows all the time. I remember it happening at our house once, it was our kitchen window. But that was part of the excitement. The first sonic boom would surprise you. Then us kids playing in the desert would stop and wait to see when the next one would hit and count the seconds to the one after that to see how many they could get as they went Mach 1, Mach 2, Mach 3, and so on.
Did you know any of the astronauts?
Ed White was a good friend of our family. He was the first American to do a spacewalk. He lost his life in Apollo 1. He helped me build a glider for a contest I entered which was just an unbelievable experience. He was an aeronautics engineer and he built this glider with a massive wingspan, just an incredible wingspan. And when we finished it after weeks of working on it together we went out to test it at the baseball field. And we let this thing go in the early morning air and it seemed to lay in the air forever. And even when it finally started coming down to kiss the ground and lightly brush all of the dew which had built up on the baseball field; it just glided over it in a such a way that it left a long trail where it had cut through the dew. It was just an unbelievable experience.
So, how did you go from flying gliders with astronauts to radio?
I was over at a friend’s house building a soapbox derby car in his garage with the radio playing in the background. And they had a “name this tune” contest going where the winner got to be a disc jockey for a week. Anyway, as soon as the song started playing I told Joe, “Oh, I know this one.” And Joe said, “Call ‘em, you have to call ‘em!” And I had absolutely no interest. I didn’t want to do it. The broadcast kept saying, “We’ve had a lot of good guesses but still no winner.” Finally Joe went in the kitchen and called the station and handed me the phone and said, “Tell ‘em, Guy!” So, I won the contest, but I did everything I could to convince Joe to go down to the station and pretend he was me. When I went down to the station I found myself just totally enamored with the newsperson there. I was the DJ for the last hour of each day that week and at the end of those 60 minutes I would point to the newsperson on the other side of the glass indicating it was his turn to take over. He had a pencil behind his ear and this mellifluous voice with this fluid, great delivery. As I sat back and watched him I said to myself, “That is what I want to do.”
Any interviews stand out in particular for you?
In the late 70’s Leon Panetta was our local congressman. Now, of course, he’s Obama’s Defense Secretary. His office then was on Marsh Street located on the second story of the original French Hospital. He was going to be holding a major news conference and for some reason I arrived really early, so I went over to Sunshine Donuts which is where the government office building is now where the county supervisors meet. I got my coffee and donut and sat down at a table when in walks Congressman Panetta. I mentioned to him that I was going to be attending his news conference and he says, “Do you mind if I join you?” We sat there and talked until we were both almost late to his news conference. I don’t want to imply that Leon and I are good friends, but over the years, even when he was at the White House, I was able to get him on the phone. If he didn’t answer immediately, he’d call me back and it would be just like we were sitting at that little table at Sunshine Donuts.
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