‘Am I sitting in a tin can’

Standing in the back of the control room this evening, talking with the engineer, the young man running the teleprompter and the reporter who was casually sitting at the lighting position. We work in a dark control, as you should, and on the light panel there is a small gooseneck lamp so you can see the many buttons and potentiometers.

The reporter, says to no one in particular, that she thought it was a microphone, until she saw the little beam of light coming out of the bottom.

So I started singing “Ground control to Major Miya,” which she took up. And then she asked me what my favorite Davie Bowie song is. Which was a mistake on her part.

I’m not a Bowie fan, really. I know the hits, and I appreciate his place in the scheme of things, culturally, and his artistic image. He’s just not for me. But, I said to the young woman who may know Bowie’s entire catalog or just has a tenuous grasp on her parent’s appreciation of Bowie’s music, I’m going to say his duet with Bing Crosby.

I could write an essay, I said, on how Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy allowed for the post-postmodern remix culture we all live in. This was where I looked at everybody listening, to make sure they were still with me, and the two college students and engineer, who is about my age, all agreed.

Some music executives, I said, sat in a boardroom with a lot of drugs and said what if we put Bowie and Mr. Crosby together. And there were a lot of drugs in that boardroom to come up with that idea. But then you take a look at the conceit of the special, Bing is house-sitting for his distant relative, Sir Percival Crosby, and along comes Percival’s neighbor, David Bowie. He comes over to borrow a cup of sugar or his piano or something, a conversation develops and then they sing this song.

Bowie hated Drummer Boy. The show writers had to add in the Peace On Earth bridge to get him to go along with it. He only did the special, Crosby’s last, since his mother was a fan of the crooner. And so this unlikely thing was born.

I’m riffing on this singularly odd musical moment, we’re out of ideas, we can only mash things up, and the continued success of this bizarre collaboration has made every pop culture thing possible in the last 40 years. Everyone is really going along with the argument. (Remember, this Christmas special, where the gag is Crosby staying at a relative’s house, which turns out to be the former home of Charles Dickens, is older than everyone listening to me.)

Sometimes I wonder if my best role here is just in saying random things like this that makes people think. But right about then another student walks up. He’d been sitting at the camera position, as far away as possible in the room.

“I heard you say Bing Crosby’s name. I have a Bing Crosby story. Well, my family does.”

And if there’s one thing that life tells you, when people come from across a room to interject themselves into the conversation with an anecdote, it’s worth hearing out. They don’t always pay off. But this one did, in a big way.

Sadly, it isn’t my story to tell. But if you see a studious young man with an intensity about old crooners behind his eyes, ask to hear the story. He’ll happily tell you about it. And it is worth hearing.

Anyway, that all happened between these two shows. Miya, interviewed the baseball coach in this show. She’s doing a nice job with it, but everyone here is doing some good work. Even the freshman, who’s apparently taking over everything:

And they talked, what else, basketball in the talk show. It is, of late, not the happiest of topics. But, hey, angry talk is sometimes successful talk?

(It’s actually easier, and better, to do happy sports talk. That’s why they’re putting smiles on their faces.)

Anyway, let’s all put smiles on our faces. Tomorrow’s Friday, and then the weekend will, happily, be upon us.

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