One of the best compliments I've ever gotten in my life is, "you're so interesting." A friends mother told me that once when she tagged along with her daughter on a visit to Baltimore a couple of years ago. Then a year or so later I heard it again from a boss/friend of mine. Words have always been very important to me and those particular words brought me life. Maybe when you're younger you want to be beautiful to look at or funny, even engaging or entertaining but as I have gotten older I have found that "interesting" suits me just fine. So when I got invited to interview Jonathan Goldsmith the guy from those Dos Equis commercials who became the "most interesting man in the world," I decided it was time to blog about some people I have found fascinating over the years. These three people all happen to be women.
I'll start with the one I've known the longest my aunt Evelyn. She was my dad, Al's, older sister by seven years. He was four and she was 11 when their mother Mary died. Their father Ernest, though kind-hearted and compassionate, a pastor who served many of the poor in the city of Detroit, didn't know much about raising kids so it fell to my aunt to take care of her two younger brothers. I think my dad said she was tough on them but imagine the challenge of being asked at 11 to be a mother to two boys, my dad and his brother Don just 7. When she was a teenager sitting in a service at her father's church, she suddenly felt a clear "leading" to become a missionary, and she did. She never married but spent her life in Africa teaching children and translating the Bible into their language. She would come home on furlough every four or five years but no longer seemed to feel comfortable in the states. She was always ready to go back to her home in Zaire. She contracted Malaria when she was working in Africa and I can remember how sick she would get, it's a disease that never leaves your body so you can get flu-like symptoms at anytime. She always said that people in America never took anything seriously, they just wanted to have fun. She lived very simply in Africa and had seen a lot of hardship in her years there. She didn't come back to the US until she was in her late 70's and could no longer do the work. I remember going to her funeral with my dad. She was interesting, she lived a very unconventional life.
The second woman who I found interesting was Midge Andrews. She was a single mom with two kids Casey and Johnny who lived in our neighborhood. I should also mention their dog Bimbo, a dalmatian I remember him well. He had one blue eye and one brown and that dog could shed like nothing I had ever seen. There were dog hairs all over their house. Midge worked full-time back in the 60's, an era where it was uncommon for mom's not to be at home during the day. She drove a beat up old blue Volvo station wagon and she smoked. I grew up in a very conservative home where smoking and drinking were frowned upon so to me she was like a movie star cause those were the only people I ever saw smoking as a kid. Midge wore her hair in a ponytail and always had lipstick on. I don't remember a lot of other make-up on her face but she didn't need it she was pretty in a Natalie Wood kind of way. She seemed mysterious, always with a lot on her mind. If she gave me a ride in her car I would wait for her to push in the lighter on the dash and then watch her put that glowing red knob up to her cigarette, it was like watching magic. She wasn't much of a housekeeper but I don't think she ever had the time. Besides the dog hair being everywhere the other thing I remember about the Andrews house was that there wasn't any furniture in their living room, I figured they sold it or lost it in the divorce settlement. The other thing that was different about Midge compared to the other moms on our block was that she dated. Once in the wee hours of the morning she called our house in a panic because one of her boyfriends had come over to her house drunk and loud and was trying to break the front door down. My dad called the police and went over to wait with Midge until they came. Midge talked to me like I was an adult even though I was just a kid but inside I had always felt older so I liked it. Her kids were smart and interesting like her or maybe just different than the rest of us, Johnny was one of my first crushes. A couple of years after I got married his band performed on a local tv show I hosted in Grand Rapids Michigan.
My third and last most interesting person is Lorna Ozmon a talent coach I worked with probably 12 or 13 years ago. Lorna still coaches people in radio in fact she is the president of Ozmon Media and if you go to her website you'll see her referred to as one of America's leading radio personality development specialists. I still think she's the smartest person in radio I've ever met and I've been in this business for 42 years. I was so impressed at how much she studied radio listeners and what they wanted, she could quote research and back it up with reality like no one had ever done for me. She gave me plenty of practical ideas that helped me to improve my skills and I still use them today. Her family had worked in Hollywood and she always said that talent coaches there, wouldn't say anything cruel that might upset a movie stars ego, they would always frame up their critiques in a more palatable way which was very unlike her experience in radio where bosses seemed to verbally abuse air talent on a regular basis. When she said that I thought about one boss I'd had who told me he didn't like my laugh. What was I supposed to do about that? Lorna was the first person in radio who told me that I had what it took to make it, to do the job. I have always second-guessed myself and my abilities. She also helped me to identify someone on my show who frequently brought kind of a negative vibe with them. I had always been such a loyal person, I guess it was at times hard for me to see others clearly. It was the only situation since coming to WPOC in 1985 where someone was asked to leave my show. I still feel sad when I think about it, it wasn't an easy thing for me to do. I guess if you count Bill Bailey in 1987 there were two circumstances, but he was with us for such a short time it never felt like he was part of the WPOC family.
I'm sure there are plenty of interesting people I've met in my life but those are the three women who came to my mind today! Who would you say is the most interesting person you know?