Friday, November 5, 2010

Me, About Brad About You

By Peter Rodman
March 20, 2010

I guess I must've missed the big news, that Brad Schmidt (of 'Brad About You' and Channel 2 fame here in Nashville) had gotten a DUI, and been dismissed from the station.

Back before Brad was really all that well known, I had read a lot of his 'crime beat' work in The Tennessean, and it was straight-up good writing. At some point, he and Susan Thomas (another writer there) went "undercover" in a local housing project, and wrote a month-long series on what it was like to live there. Despite some moral qualms about its pretensions, I read the first installment, and liked it--so I invited them to come on the air each Sunday night for the whole month, as a sort of live 'update' about their life as a 'couple,' supposedly living in a downtrodden and somewhat dodgy area of town.
We made a big deal out of promoting their appearances, and to this day, I believe that more or less put Brad Schmidt's name on the map, as far as public recognition goes. These were his first-ever local media appearances, and they garnered lots of attention. We took phone calls and really mixed it up nicely, for nearly an hour of each week's program, and I could tell Brad was happy with the recognition, and more than a tad intrigued by my gig, as a celebrity interviewer. Go figure.
Anyway, we hit it off quite well, and I even took he and Sue out for a beer, after one of the shows.

A year or so later, I got canned from Lightning–strictly for internal political reasons–and saw Brad at the Ryman one night, a few months later. Delaney Bramlett had appeared there as a surprise guest, and just to make conversation in the lobby at intermission, I said to Brad, “Delaney’s amazing…I was just at (his daughter’s) house with him last night, and we played and sang for hours! Just amazing…”
Brad was by this time a “Page 3″ columnist at the paper, essentially covering the same celebrity beat I had carved out for myself, at Lightning. He came back rather loudly, with “Oh, the great Peter Rodman was with him last night! At the house! He knows everybody!”
There was an awkward silence.
I didn't know what to say.
I could almost feel my face turning red.
Finally, I spoke.
“Give me a break," I said, obviously stung.
Then, lowering my voice, "I can’t believe you’d say that to me, Brad. I was just making conversation!”
I went away not feeling so good at all.

Ironically, I’ve heard people mocking Brad in that very same tone (as I'm sure he has) over the ensuing years, ever since he went full-bore, into the “celeb” beat. People always tell other people you're too big for your britches, if they're not big enough for the job. But even though we're supposed to know it's only professional jealousy, it still hurts.
Anyway, that night when I went home, I think I pulled the covers over my head, and curled up into fetal position for a few months--my exile from public life now seemingly complete.

A few months later, the Mavericks invited a whole lot of people into the recording studio, as they recorded an album they hoped would evoke (on video) a circus-like atmosphere, kind of like when the Beatles recorded “All You Need Is Love,” with lots of people hanging around in Abbey Road.
I saw Brad there, but was careful to stay to myself–not too anxious to get burned again, at all.
It had been a rough time for me, finding out how many folks were NOT really my friends, now that I was no longer on the radio.
Eventually, after the session wore on, Brad got up to leave. I watched as he went around shaking hands and gregariously saying goodbye to everyone, and I thought to myself how bon vivant, and what a “man about town” he’d become, and how different that was from the relatively shy and unassuming guy I’d first met and put on the radio, simply because I liked his writing, before all the celebrity fluff.
After Brad left the studio, I remember I was thinking about leaving myself. It had been a fun day out for me, and so good to be around 'music folk' again--and at the time, there weren’t too many fun days, for this newly anonymous, former radio talk show host in Nashville.

About ten minutes after he’d gone, Brad came walking right back in.
I was even more startled when he walked straight up to me, offered his hand, and said, “Hey, Peter. I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye to you before. So I came back, just to let you know that. Good to see you again.”
And with that, he turned and left the studio again!
Obviously, he had remembered the hurt in my eyes, back at the Ryman; he knew he'd once kicked me when I was down, and now he had decided that he didn't want to do it again.
He may even have gotten in his car and then come back, just to be kind.
And he may not have known it that day…but I do hope he’ll know it now:
It meant the world to me, that he did that.
So many people may have a public face–Brad certainly does, I did–but they are capable of growth and change, and Brad showed me a lot, just by that little gesture.
He’d obviously given it all some thought.

I’m sorry to have rambled some here, but I just thought this might help tilt things away from the “pro or con” nature of some of the discourse surrounding Brad's dismissal. I endured much the same thing surrounding mine--there was a lot of crazy gossip out there--though in my case, there wasn't much behind the firing, but internal politics. The bosses didn't like me anymore.
"I didn't like his show," said one, when pressed by the Nashville Scene, for a reason.
At the end of the day, radio shows come, and radio shows go.
Mine got cancelled. So what?
Likewise for Brad's TV tidbits. These days, a local station hardly needs a specialized reporter for celebrity stuff we can all get, everywhere we look.
That's just the fact; I'm not saying it's a good thing.
But I can say I’m less of a fan of Brad's celebrity work, than I was of his earlier, straight-up reportage.

And now, let me add something else:
It’s important to remember that (because it’s politically correct, and as a requisite to federal funding for all kinds of things) Tennessee has a “.08″ DUI law, and virtually ANYONE is illegal to drive, after two drinks. Period.
So what I guess I'm saying is, "There but for fortune, go you or go I."
I know this will not be a popular thing to say, but I don’t care:
It’s a ridiculous law.
Either close the bars altogether, or make it .10, which is far closer to realistically “drunk.”
I myself no longer go to bars at all, with rare exceptions. It's ironic that the very downtown area that's supposed to attract folks to Nashville is so ardently avoided by most of its residents, for this very reason.
Who wants to go have two glasses of wine, and end up paying $5000 for the priviledge of losing their license? Is that your idea of a great night out?
Allow me to just say, "No thanks!!!"

As I write this, I honestly do not know any of the circumstances of Mr. Schmidt’s arrest. In fact, I just found out about it today--almost a month after the fact. (Note to Self: Must get interested again!)
But it sounds rather like Channel 2 might have been seeking an opening to make a change anyway. At a station so concerned with cost savings that they’ve literally trained their reporters to be 'all-in-one' solo cameramen for themselves, this is not too shocking. I hardly think a DUI arrest--unrelated to the job-- merits much more than a suspension. If he were a vital anchorperson, that's what Brad would have incurred. So let's be real, here: This was a business decision they wanted to make.
As a media guy of over 30 years myself-– in print, on TV, and radio -– I can vouch for the fact that a lot of this harsh turbulence more or less “comes with the territory.”

I do want to say that there are lots of facets to most people inside the media, me included, just like there are for anybody else. And if Brad has stumbled here, he seems to know it--having gone away for a month of personal reflection--and I would hope people would be a little more compassionate, instead of just piling on. I know what it feels like to be in the public eye, and then suddenly you're nobody. I remember every person who stood by me when I needed them, and yes--everyone who didn't, too.
I think I know a little bit about how Brad must feel, right about now. No one can take too many pot-shots, without getting bruised.
I've been there, and believe hurts.
There is "alone"--and then there is going from having a very public platform, to being completely alone.

All of which is just to wish the boy well, in whatever his future pursuits might be.

Copyright 2010 by Peter Rodman. All Rights Reserved.

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