DID CHARLTON HESTON REALLY ASK ME THIS QUESTION?
During the years I produced the Michael Jackson show on KABC Radio, whenever Michael took vacation, management invited celebrities to guest host the four-hour talk show. As the producer of the show I knew that just because you were a celebrity did not mean you could do live, unscripted radio which included taking listener calls. But it was not my decision to make. Management was more concerned with keeping the ratings strong while Michael was away, and celebrity guest hosts were one way to accomplish that.
During one vacation break, our celebrity guest host was none other than Charlton Heston. He was a regular guest on the program promoting books or movies, so he agreed to come in and host the program. Together we planned a different subject for each hour with a variety of guests. This was live radio so there was no rehearsal.
Part of the plan was that I would be sitting next to Mr. Heston directing him, putting listeners on the air and letting him know when to go to a commercial break. I had cue cards ready with the station l.D. and the call-in phone number. He arrived about 8:30, we sat down and reviewed his prep material getting ready for the show. At five minutes to nine, we headed into the studio and got set up behind the microphones, with me sitting to his left. The first segment was just going to be him telling the audience what to expect for the next four hours.
The clock was ticking down and we’re about a minute away from going live. All was good to go until Mr. Heston turned to me and asked this question.
“WHAT DO I SAY?”
The Oscar-winning actor needed his script, except this is live radio and it’s improvised in real time.
Stunned, I quickly recovered from my momentary panic and told him to just pretend he’s having a conversation with a friend. Tell the listeners who they’re listening to, give the station ID and tell (read) them what’s coming up. During every commercial break, I ran into the office and typed up a script for the next segment. Once the guests started coming on it got easier since he did not have to carry on the conversation alone.
I learned my lesson and never again did I make the mistake of not having a script prepared whenever an actor was guest hosting.