Sweating my first TV appearance

Published 8:53 pm Saturday, August 6, 2011

As I prepared to leave home Thursday morning, my wife checked my tie, fussed a bit with my suit coat and pronounced that all was in order. Seeing me in my best dark pinstriped suit, my mother then asked if I was preaching somewhere that day.

Ha. Ha.

In fact, I was headed to the Suffolk News-Herald office, where I was to meet Andy Damiani and a crew from Prime Media. I had accepted an invitation from Mr. Downtown to appear on his weekly television show, Roundtable Talk, and we would be filming at my office that morning.

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“I always knew you would be a star someday,” my mother said as I closed the door. I’m pretty sure I could hear her laughing with my wife as I walked to my car.

I’ve always said that I’ve got a face made for radio, which makes the fact that I’m faceless for much of what we do at the newspaper just about right. Even in the photo that appears with this column most weeks, the hat tends to distract from the mug, and I’ve always figured I was doing readers a service by giving them something besides the moonface to look at.

But there would be no hat in this segment with Andy Damiani, and as the crew set up for filming, I realized that I was sweating everywhere I had skin. And the last thing I needed was for Suffolkians to be subjected to a bald guy who looked as if he’d stepped onto the set from a thunderstorm. So I grabbed a paper towel to dry my dripping scalp, took a few deep breaths and sat down across from Andy.

After many years as mayor of Suffolk and many more as the unofficial spokesman for the downtown area, Andy Damiani is definitely in charge when it comes to his show. He knows the shots he wants, he knows what he’s going to say, he knows what he’s going to ask and — I daresay — he even has a pretty good idea what his guests are going to say in response.

Still — and perhaps even because of all that — he puts guests at ease right off the bat. Having spent a lot of time with me in the past chatting about various topics of interest to those of us who love Suffolk, he knew my tendency to look up and away from him as I answer questions. It’s something I do when I’m thinking on the run. “Just keep looking at me, Res,” he said. And when I immediately forgot his advice at the beginning of our interview, he gave me a gentle, discreet reminder.

Before I knew it, my eight minutes (just over half of what Andy Warhol promised me, by the way) were up, and he was looking into the camera behind my shoulder to introduce his next guest. There was so much more I wanted to say, and there were some things I wanted to take back, as well.

But my turn in the chair was over, and it was time for Darlene Rawls of the Western Tidewater Community Services Board to sit down. I watched from the side, amazed at how easily she seemed to handle the interview. And then George Richards sat in the chair across from Andy and I saw how at-ease two friends can be in front of the camera.

Damiani’s show is on Charter Cable Channel 13 at 8 a.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day. The show should be on in a week or two, so be sure to be on the lookout for me. I’ll be the bald guy with sweat running down his scalp.