Some of my words and actions on this show lately have been inexcusable. Sometimes you have to stand firm in your convictions and bravely face your accusers. Other times you have to come clean, own up, and apologize. It’s what my grandfather, early in life, referred to as “being a man.” And what he referred to, later in life, after he had sorted out his issues, as “being a man trapped in a woman’s body.”
I’ll start at the beginning.
We have a segment here on The Evelyn Smits-Davis Show called “American Vay-Cay,” where people send in photographs from their vacations. And since it’s a radio show, my listeners, of course, can’t see the photos. So I describe them. It’s a joyous time for me each day – a literal snapshot of the American family.
But during an on-the-air call last week with Peggy Yates, from Bethesda, Maryland, I said something way out of line. I was overtired and my comments about her photograph veered off in a direction I hadn’t planned, and still can’t fully explain. I didn’t mean to offend people, but I did. And that makes it wrong. Here’s the beginning of the clip: ”Well, isn’t that a good looking family! Listeners, I wish you could see this. We’ve got Peggy, her shirtless husband, Randy, and a couple little tykes spread out on a beach blanket, enjoying a picnic lunch.”
I won’t play the rest. But as you’ve probably heard, it involves, among other things, my saying a word with a vile history in this country. Six hundred and eighty four times.
My hope is that my mistake will be the catalyst for a much-needed dialogue about chest freckles–which of course should not be considered grounds, as I said at the time, for “a spanking, then deportation, then a spanking.”
I hope that we can put that unfortunate incident behind us. And move on to the inexcusable thing I did the following day. My guest was the actress Ashley Penniman, who was here to promote her new film, “Bones Schneiderman.” Ashley Penniman is so young and so lovely, and was very gracious in her appearance. Which, I’m sure, made my treatment of her seem all the worse.
Sometimes we do things we can’t explain. We have a randomly used segment on the show called, “Captive Audience,” where I sing to the guests, who are always taken aback because they assumed they’d have the chance to talk about themselves and their work. To Ashley, I sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” our country’s beautiful national anthem. But that’s not the whole story. I replaced every fourth word with a word I will not repeat now, because I’ve since learned it is a euphemism for “otter vasectomy,” and is thus extremely offensive to the Dutch.
As soon as I finished the song, I knew I’d make a terrible mistake. But this is talk radio, and the show must go on. Doing the right thing, the heroic thing – maybe offing myself with cyanide smoothie–just wasn’t an option. I couldn’t just leave twenty minutes of dead air. So I sang it again.
Sadly, this pales in comparison to my inexcusable behavior the next day. As you recall, we did some cooking last week, when the celebrity chef Suze Campanelli was on. She was so kind, and so pretty, and I don’t know if she’ll be returning to the show because of how things ended, but if you’re listening, Suze, I’m sorry for using the end of that segment to reveal that I’d placed a suggestive classified ad in The New York Review of Books claiming to be written by your thick-ankled Aunt Rosemary.
Finally, I need to apologize to the family of one of my longtime listeners, Rotini Johnson, of Oklahoma City. This morning, in response to Suze’s informative segment on authentic Italian cooking, Mr. Johnson called in. At this point my mind was very much on dealing with Ashley Penniman’s lawyers, who were demanding to see proof of my medical degree, which they claim is the only thing that will justify the Mammogram Surprise segment, which followed “Captive Audience.”
So I was distracted. But it’s no excuse for the way I treated Mr. Johnson. He seemed delusional, and believed that because I had pronounced his first name during the Italian cooking segment, I might help him. He said he was nearing the end, and simply needed to hear a human voice. Assuming a hoax, and wary of saying something offensive, I stayed silent. As much of the country now knows, thanks to the segment being played over and over again on cable news alongside a photo of my head, Mr. Johnson passed away during that call. Having since learned that he was of Dutch extraction, I must further apologize for slipping up and saying that vile word right before we cut to a commercial. I thought the mic was off. It’s my sincere hope that my mistake will spur a national dialogue on the wisdom of naming your kid after a noodle.
Gregory Beyer is a writer living in New York. His journalism, essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times.