WTTW Channel 11 After Action Report
Posted by Bob Skilnik on July 27, 2007
Imagine you’re in a nice-sized conference room that overlooks the “Chicago Tonight” studio at 5400 North St. Louis in Chicago. I mean you can actually watch the entire 3-ring circus that goes into making a one-hour television program which is a mix of live interviews, punctuated with off-site video segments. And if you’re too lazy to get up and really observe the live production, you can sit at a nice-sized conference table and instead, watch a big (60″ I’m guessing) HDTV of the program—this way, seamlessly—as live melds with tape.
But the early highlight of the night was sitting at the conference table and discussing Harry Potter with Cook County Board President Todd Stroger (and some of his coat-holders) and Cook County States Attorney Dick Devine. We’re talking “Twilight Zone,” out-of-body-experience, late-60s-flashback sort of moments here.
After Devine and Stroger left and eventually went verbally dueling on camera, with Elizabeth Bracken as moderator, I had a wonderful conversation with a young guy whose name I’ve already forgotten—part of Stroger’s group—about beer & booze. Since I’m the (take your pick) “beer guy,” “beer man,” “beer historian,” “beer blah, blah, blah,” the nomenclature even makes politicians want to talk about their times with a bottle in their hand. I felt like a parish priest and the confessional booth door was open…
After Stroger and Devine finished their public dust-up (don’t ask; it’s Chicago, it’s Cook County, it’s politics) on camera, I eventually got tapped to stand outside the studio and received last minute instructions from the executive(?) producer. “No long-winded answers. Keep it short and sweet. Sit, shake hands with Phil (Ponce), always look at him; do not look at the monitor. When the interview is over, stay seated until I say “CUT!,” thank Phil and then get up and leave.”
So wth a 4-minute lull as some video rolled for another segment, I sat with Phil while he gathered his notes, we made some chit-chat (He said he enjoyed “Beer: A History of Beer & Brewing” (“I can tell you enjoyed writing the book.”), and his last words were, “Let’s just have fun with this!” And we were live…
I think it was a 7-minute segment, and of course, I had no control over the questions. A segment producer and I did talk in general terms about subject matter and I gave them everything I graciously received from Jonathan Cutler from Piece, Pete Crowley from Rock Bottom, Tim Lane from Goose Island/Clybourn, Matt van Wyk (rhymes with bike) from Flossmoor Station and Nick Floyd from Three Floyds in Munster, IN. Add some tidbits about Two Brothers in Warrenville, IL, wait for Phil Ponce to sort it all out and ask me some questions, and I probably got to use 2% of the info everyone sent me.
Anyway, as far as the producers are concerned, it all worked out so well that they want me to come back in the fall and do a “Fall Beer Review.”
I’m ready. So if you’re from a local brewery and want to get a mention (no promises, as you’ve already seen), think of me. Send me your info and fall line-up of beer samples as soon as they become available and I’ll try to do something promotional with the time I have—when I get “the call.”
One dose of this media adventure and another dose switching off as part of four rotating columnists in the print and online versions of FoodFare in The Times of Northwest Indiana, and things are finally looking good for a regularly-scheduled outlet for local beer news. Other glitterati as columnists for The Times food section will include Michael Foley, formerly of the Printer’s Row restaurants, Gale Gand, executive pastry chef extraordinaire and Food Network contributor, and Alpana Singh of Chicago’s WTTW, Channel 11 “Check Please!” Good company, but no idea how I got mixed in with this all-star crew.
“Mr. DeMille; I’m ready for my close up.”