Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sonny

He was a high school kid that evening when he first walked into the lobby of the TV station and asked the receptionist if there if there was anyone who could "give him a tour" of the place.

That's exactly what I did that day in 1953 while visiting the Nation's Capitol. And a kind announcer by the name of John Trimble introduced me to the inner workings of a big TV station... WTOP TV ...where 10 years later...I would be employed.

So. I volunteered to show him around. He was a nice kid, but obviously physically disadvantaged...and at first glance, perhaps mentally as well.

But looks are deceiving.  That was certainly the case with "Sonny." After talking with him for no more than 5 minutes, I realized that hiding behind that blank expression....was a pretty  sharp  mind.

But the Lord had not blessed Sonny physically....with either appearance or coordination.

I showed him the studios and explained the workings of the place as best I could....and sent him on his way..

Normally, the story would end there.

But not with Sonny.

He came back...many times. Kinda got to be a nuisance....nevertheless I remained patient ...and answered all his questions.  A few of the engineers got used to his hanging around ....and most were patient and generous with their time as well.

Long story short....Sonny graduated from high school, enrolled in a engineering course....10 years later....with the help of  a substantial inheritance, he opened his own recording studio in Washington.

Meanwhile, hardly a week went by when I didn't get a phone call from him,

I was very happy for his success and even arranged for several recording projects I was involved in to be produced at his studio.

He sold his business at just about the right time...and took a less stressful job with one of the big hotels in DC....installing and operating their public address system.

As far as I know, the system he installed is still in operation....as it was the state of the art in the 80/s. But installing a complicated PA system....and operating it....are two different things.

It's a shame the hotel didn't discover that in spite of Sonny's mental agility....his physical agility was almost non existant. For example, back in those days, we recorded on reels of audio tape.  When editing, you would go to the word you wanted to remove...rewind the tape an inch of so...then take a razor blade and cut out the "offending" word...and make your "splice."

Well, Sonny was not agile enough to reverse the tape....a few inches....he would always rewind it all the way back to the beginning of the reel. It was a huge waste of time.

Also, when operating a PA  (Public Address) system....to activate a mic...he always did it backwards.....which produced a shockingly loud "feedback" noise. He made this same mistake for 40 years.

It was no big deal.

Until that evening in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan was attending an event in the ballroom of the hotel....and the lights dimmed....and the opening act was to begin..... and Sonny got his cue to open the speakers mic and.....

"WHAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM".......

Sonny's trademark "feedback"..........had struck again!

It was so loud and shocking.....that ...to Reagan's Secret Service Agents it sounded like an attack of some kind....so they piled on top of the President to protect him from ....whatever it was.

It was just Sonny....turning on a mc.

The picture made the next morning's Washington Post.

-Ed