Friday, April 15, 2016

A Day in the (Nineties) Life

HANK: I’ve told you about my first job in radio, right? In 1970.  Ish. 
And how I got it—a complete newbie—because of the new EEO laws. For which I am forever and eternally grateful. I reported on politics, I wrote features, I put together the farm report. I covered crime.  I remember  Fred, the news director, looking at me askance for asking a robbery victim a question Fred thought was weird.
I had asked, in the post-robbery interview: “How did you feel when the guy took the money from the cash register? What was going through your mind?”

The news director was appalled. “Hank,” he said. Shaking his head. “Are you #%(@&(  kidding me?  How the #*%$@ do you think he felt?”
And now, of course, those are standard—yes, clichéd!--questions. I like to think I was ahead of my time.

Fellow radio veteran Nancy Cole Silverman’s memories are—different.

Radio Days
   By Nancy Cole Silverman

 In the late nineties, I worked as the General Manager of a Sports Talk radio station in Los Angeles.  Proof that God has a sense of humor. Sports was never my strong suit. I’m not a sports babe. But when the opportunity came to pitch the job, I did what any ambitious female executive would do, I leaned in. And what I learned from running a sports talk radio station  back then could fill a book, and in my case several. 
In many ways, my experiences in what was then a predominantly male field taught me a lot about the importance of persona.  To succeed, I needed to change mine. 

Allow me to explain.  The station’s outdoor billboard campaign was a tight shot on a woman’s bikini top with the words FAKE RIGHT/FAKE LEFT and the station’s call letters splashed across it. Their promotional items were logoed jockstraps and g-strings. My first directive from corporate was to meet with the station’s afternoon drive personality who looked like Jabba the Hutt.  When I walked into the studio and met him for the first time, he was sandwiched between the console and wall with two yardstick-sized pizzas in front of him, and his first words to me were, “Sit down, Babe, we need to talk.” 
Now if you’re thinking sexual harassment, I need to stop you right there.  Sports radio was not for sissies and if I wanted the job I was going to have to learn how to succeed without crying for a lawyer every time I heard a dirty joke or someone shot a jockstrap across the conference room. 

My point is, that to succeed in a man’s world, a woman needs to adapt more to her environment than her own sense of style. For me, that meant ditching the three-and-a-half-inch heels, and pulling my hair back in a ponytail. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to appear attractive, but what I didn’t need was for my team to be more aware of my femininity than they were of my ability to do my job.
I’ve talked with other women who’ve mentioned similar transformations while working with men.  One girlfriend told me she wore glasses when meeting with clients because she wanted to appear smarter. Another confessed she chose to wear bulky sweaters to hide her boobs, and a third confided she chopped her locks because men found her more believable.

My experiences in radio, particularly those working at a sports radio station during a time when there weren’t many women in the field, greatly influenced me when it came to the development of my character.  When I sat down to write the Carol Childs Mysteries, I didn’t want a female protagonist who was physically faster and more powerful than her male counterparts. I didn’t consider that to be realistic.  I wanted to capitalize on her feminine strengths; intuition and ingenuity. I wrote about a middle-aged woman who was smarter than she was strong, and had no trouble navigating her way through a crime scene or the nightmare of office politics, despite the fact her whiz-kid boss considers her to be the World’s Oldest Cub Reporter.  My tagline;  Where Brains Beats Brawn and a Mic is More Powerful than a Forty-five.
How about you?  How do you deal with brains vs. beauty? Are looks an asset, a liability, or a non-issue in a female protagonist?
HANK: Yikes. Wow. Things have changed, right? I hope?  Reds?  Weigh in.... 

As radio reporter Carol Childs investigates a series of Beverly Hills jewelry heists, she realizes her FBI boyfriend, Eric, is working the same case. Even worse, she may have inadvertently helped the suspect escape. The situation intensifies when the suspect calls the radio station during a live broadcast, baiting Carol deeper into the investigation.

In order for her to uncover the truth, Carol must choose between her job and her personal relationships. What started out as coincidence between Carol and Eric becomes a race for the facts—pitting them against one another—before the thieves can pull off a daring escape, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind, and taking the jewels with them.

Related subjects include: women sleuths, murder mystery series, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), book club recommendations, suspense, noir.

Nancy Cole Silverman credits her twenty-five years in news and talk radio for helping her to develop an ear for storytelling. But it wasn’t until after she retired that she was able to write fiction full-time. Much of what Silverman writes about is pulled from events that were reported on from inside some of Los Angeles’ busiest newsrooms where she spent the bulk of her career. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Bruce, and two standard poodles.


  1. I'm in awe, Nancy --- I know absolutely nothing about most sports and am impressed with how you were able to step into that world at the radio station. I'm don't imagine it was as easy as you make it sound.

    Although I don’t think a female protagonist’s looks need necessarily be a liability, I’m definitely a reader who enjoys discovering that she knows how to use her brain.

    I’m definitely looking forward to reading “Without a Doubt” . . . .

  2. Terrific story, Nancy. Huge kudos on taking on Sports Talk. You handled it with style and grace.

    I grew up in a neighborhood of boys (we called them that back then). I liken my childhood to being raised by wolves, so I can completely relate to how you handled it. Up until this moment, I thought I was the only person in the world of the female persuasion to have seen a flying jock strap - but never a logoed flying jock strap. As Kelly Craig, a South Florida reporter once said when she wrapped a story, "Remember, if you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter." Another woman raised by wolves, no doubt.

    Well done. Looking forward to Without a Doubt.

  3. Such a fascinating look into your world--and I love the description "World's Oldest Cub Reporter." And I could definitely imagine the sports guy jammed in there with 2 pizzas:).

    When I wrote my first-ever mystery, FINAL ROUND, my female golfer character was caddying for a man on the PGA tour. She definitely was dealing with a foreign man's world, though I doubt I nailed it the way it sounds like you did. But she never ever would have dressed up, worn make-up, or had fancy hair. She needed to look like she could handle the situation like one of the guys.

    Looking forward to your book!

  4. For some reason, this brought Elizabeth Peters' Vicki Bliss series to mind. 😊

  5. Back in the 70s I knew Jane Gross who was one of the first women sportscaster of men's sports. It was brutal back then and she was not a sissy.

    My work experience has been mostly in education and high tech, both environments that have always been more benign to women than most. And as you age you worry more about looking old than looking sexy.

    I may have to get HBO just to watch "Confirmation" - Kerry Washington as Anita Hill. Not then Senator Biden's finest moments.

  6. I did college journalism in the early 90s. I remember I was the assistant sports editor at the campus paper and the editor was also female. We threw our male editor-in-chief a few times. Lots of potty humor in those early-hour layout sessions as we worked frantically to put the paper to bed on time. And the girls gave as good as they got, as I recall. I do remember dressing up for the end-of-year banquet and one of the guys telling me "I cleaned up pretty well." And I remember the out-going editor-in-chief mentioning me saying, "She's proof that a female English major can make a pretty good sports editor."

    I went on to tech, where everybody wears jeans and t-shirts, and it's more about what esoteric nerd trivia you know than looks. However, my friend has continued in sports journalism. But it's not looks that drive her crazy - it's that male readers (mostly readers) can't understand why the paper would "waste space" on women's sports. I've talked to her a couple times, and I don't think she gets a lot of sexist garbage from her male counterparts (although she says the potty humor is pretty constant), but readers are a different story.

  7. Yeah it's a tough road -- back in the 70s, we were just beginning to learn about power and equality, you know? And women sportscasters have had it especially tough.

    And yes, I too have turned the corner into being worried about looking old :-). Which makes me wonder… Do men worry as much about how they look?

  8. I am at OHare right now and battling amazing lines-- Thank heaven for pre check! More to come when I arrive in Madison..

  9. Thanks for all the comments and the reads. Fortunately for us all, sports radio, like its counterpart talk radio, has come along way and we're hearing women in all kinds of roles.

    Mary, I remember trying to get women's basketball on the air and the struggles that it entailed. The team was willing to give the time away just to get on the air, the owner of the station said, "You couldn't pay me to run those games."

    Radio was a fun a gig and I'm appreciative of all the various formats I was able to work with. While sports radio was my 'final frontier,' I spent most of my career in talk radio, which is where my series is placed. It's been a fun series to write, with as many adventures about the news stories Carol Childs covers as those politic battles she faces behind the mic. I hope you enjoy reading it as much i did writing about it.

  10. It's sad to think about the sexism that still exists, 40+ years later. Witness the women's soccer team's woes, and all the attention football and baseball get, vs. any kind of less testosterone-laden sport.

    You sure spent time in the trenches, Nancy, and probably had to do three times as well as anyone else, just to get on the same perceived level. Our local Cincinnati TV stations have had women sports announcers for decades, long enough for the first one to have retired years ago. They made non-sports fan me pay better attention, I think. Women's voices tend to be more appealing.

    In the 70's I was an insurance agent, then absolutely a boys' club. In fact, one of my colleagues started a group called Women in Insurance Sales, and we had a whopping 15 members, citywide, which included mostly company reps. I was one of the very few who existed solely on commissions, and desperately needed a support group like that one at the time. It was the era of matching suits and blouses with pseudo ties (charming pussycat bows or string ties). None of us would have worn a dress without a navy blazer over top of it. I was 5'7", and deliberately wore 2 1/2" heels so I could be closer to eye level with more men.

    Since I did a lot of cold calling it was always a job to get my potential clients to take my high-pitched voice seriously; I still suspect a lot of the appointments I got were because prospective customers wanted to meet this apparent teenager who sold insurance. Once I was in front of the prospect I had to prove myself far more than my male counterparts did, be more knowledgeable, and work harder to do right by the client.

    As a consequence, my customers were fiercely loyal to me. Even though I have not sold an insurance policy since 1987, I still get commission checks from policies that are still in force. I wonder how many of my colleagues still do?

  11. Loved both of these stories, Hank and Nancy! Thanks so much for sharing.

  12. Karen,
    Thanks for your reply. I particularly appreciated that you shared your choice of dress for the job. Two and a half inch heels so you could look men in the eye. Whoever coined the term dressing for success had no idea. It's details like this I like to include in my just can't make this stuff up.

  13. Love this insight into your mysteries, Nancy. I always knew you were gutsy, but this confirms it! Can't wait to read the new Carol Childs. xo

  14. Loved your stories, Nancy and Hank. And Karen, love that you're still getting those commission checks!

    It's nice to think we have made some progress since the 70s. But not nearly as much as we should have.

  15. Another day, another new book to read! Yay!

    Deborah and Nancy, amen, yes, but it makes me feel so tired sometimes when I hear young women proclaiming, "I'm not a feminist!" Who do they think got them the advantages they enjoy today?

    In the field as an archaeologist, invariably visitors to a work site proceed directly to the first male they see. I once had to face down a whole platoon of Texas oil men--the leader of which was an Egyptian--alone, in the field. Baby, I drew that line in the dirt and nobody crossed it! And did I have a headache for the 2-hour drive home!

  16. I'm in Wisconsin! I'm headed out to my class… Flora you'll have to write a blog for us about that sometime!

    And you know what Nancy, so fascinating. The concept of dress for success… Means a lot of things, right?

  17. Nancy, your wonderful background of sports radio reminded me of one of my favorite television shows. Aaron Sorkin's short-lived Sports Night from 1998-2000 starred Felicity Huffman as the producer of a nighttime cable sports show with actors Josh Charles and Peter Krause as its anchors. It was a brilliant show, but it didn't get the support from network executives it deserved and was cancelled after only two seasons. Felicity Huffman did such a great job showing how as a female producer in a male dominated field she had to juggle with being tough as nails and retaining her identity as a woman. I sometimes wonder if the television executives wouldn't have given the show more of a chance if the lead character had been a male producer.

    I am so impressed with both Hank and Nancy as trailblazers and now using those experiences to bring us great stories. I've been a huge fan of Hank's writing for some time now, and I have your books on my wish list, Nancy. I hope to get started on your Carol Childs mysteries before Bouchercon in September. Carol is a character that is one I'm sure I'll enjoy.

  18. Thank you so much for your kind remarks. In looking back on my career in radio in thankful I had the opportunity to learn all I did. The experiences only added to my understanding of the industry and today make for terrific behind the scenes stories. I'ts been fun to recreate a lot of my experiences in the Carol Child's Mysterires. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have on writing them.

  19. FChurch, I love the scene you describe with regard to the line in the sand. How true! Men invariably want to address another man before talking to a woman. And I agree young women don't get it...not until they are no longer the freshest face in the room. It's one of the payoffs for me in writing The Carol Child's Mysteries, I feel I can recreate situations - some laughable, some not so much so - about what still goes on. There's an inherent tension between that happens when a woman has power that I think female authors understand best.

  20. Thanks, Kim. It's been fun to write the series. So much of what happened back then still goes on. You know the saying; 'The more things change, the more they stay the same."

  21. I have heard from young women that they can't believe how concerned 46 year old Charlotte McNally is about aging on TV--and they wonder why she cares so much . Well....

  22. Hank, I have to agree. The idea of Dressing for Success can mean a lot of things and I think smart women understand when blending in can work as much to their advantage as that old expression, Putting on the Dog.