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Head Strong | Chronicle of a week in Imus' big chair

The TV simulcast went well, except for annoyances such as MSNBC's location and hot klieg lights on a bald head.

On April 20, MSNBC announced that it had invited Inquirer columnist and WPHT-AM (1210) talk show host Michael Smerconish to broadcast a TV simulcast of his radio program - the first to succeed Don Imus, whose tenure with MSNBC, and then CBS Radio, ended in spectacular wise recently. Here are excerpts from Michael's blog/diary about his stint.


2:00 a.m.:

Alarm rings. I'm wide awake, feeling like a big shot about to occupy (temporarily) the seat formerly held by Don Imus. Destination: MSNBC studios in Secaucus.

2:04 a.m.: In the kitchen for OJ. Oh, look . . . like too many other mornings, a present from one of our dogs. So much for celebrity.

2:35 a.m.: I meet my producer, TC Scornavacchi, at the Wawa in Conshohocken. Big break: The Inquirer truck arrives with Jersey editions. He's not delivering, just making a coffee run, but still hands over the headlines. Meanwhile, West Conshohocken police extend greetings.

2:48 a.m.: We're Corzining down the Turnpike, grateful that the Staties on the shoulder don't notice.

4:10 a.m.: GPS cannot master the streets of Secaucus.

4:55 a.m.: In makeup. "Lots of skin to cover," Jimmy the artist tells me.

5:55 a.m.: I'm seated in the chair whose prior occupant got canned. Try not to say something stupid, I tell myself. I'm six cups of coffee into the morning while most are still sleeping.

6:05 a.m.: The TV component starts. I forgot to ask Tom Bowman, the producer: Am I supposed to look at, or ignore the camera? Awkward. (Tom, who was Imus' producer, is black. This last two weeks must have been brutal for this team.)

6:35 a.m.: Already our first guest, Jackie Mason, has hit his stride telling jokes. At my request, he does a bit about who is healthier, people who frequent delis or those who frequent health food stores. "All they eat are carrots, and they still can't see."

6:49 a.m.: Chris Matthews is talkin' Philly politics.

7:04 a.m.: Rudy Giuliani appears in studio as a personal favor to me.

7:55 a.m.: Camille Paglia on Virginia Tech. I love what she says even when I don't understand. Did she really just tell me that guns are a form of ejaculation?

8:07 a.m.: Richard Clarke convinces me that our Internet is vulnerable to al-Qaeda.

8:32 a.m.: My bald head is getting more powder because there are complaints about the glare off the Klieg lights.

8:48 a.m.: Jon Anderson, lead singer of Yes, is my guest - and can't remember the second verse of "Roundabout."

9:07 a.m.: Post-show sit-down with TV production staffers who have overextended themselves to me.


2:59 a.m.:

My limo is my Acura with dog hair in the back, driven by Fran Adams, a radio listener.

5:30 a.m.: Tom suggests more shots of TC. I told them three hours of my bald head was not going to be compelling TV.

6:35 a.m.: Pat Buchanan relates the story of his encounter with Ali G in his living room. Better than immigration any day.

7:34 a.m.: Phone interview with Sen. John McCain. Have had both Republican front-runners in two days, but the national Democrats are not returning TC's calls.

8:37 a.m.: Lisa Scottoline in studio - much-needed eye candy for my TV persona.

8:40 a.m.: Twenty minutes to go, and I need to run to the head - I've had a gallon of coffee, but I'm plugged into the console and can't move.

Postscript: The feet-in-their-pajamas blogger crowd continues to attack statements I've made, taken out of context . . . where's the beef?


2:33 a.m.:

The day's off to a good start. Inquirer driver Ed McCann, despite being a self-avowed liberal, left me papers even though it's not his route.

2:45 a.m.: The media continue to refer to this as a "tryout." No one has thought to ask me if I'd like to continue going up to Secaucus at 2 o'clock in the morning.

4:14 a.m.: Security waves us through: "Morning, Michael . . . you know where to go." I'm getting comfy.

5:37 a.m.: I have to leave the makeup chair to shave - for the second time today. "Five o'clock shadow" has new meaning.

7:43 a.m.: On-screen promo of upcoming guests Larry Platt (editor of Philadelphia Magazine), Lee Woodruff (who has written a book with her ABC News correspondent husband Bob about his recovery from a near-fatal injury while reporting in Iraq) and D.L. Hughley. Perhaps because of a recent Philadelphia Magazine cover, I suddenly think of Platt's wife naked.

8:22 a.m.: Shockingly, MeMe Roth, chair of the National Action Against Obesity, turns out to be a skinny hottie! Who'd 'a thunk it??

8:55 a.m.: Entire studio and production room hold their breath as D.L. Hughley brings up Imus' remarks. D.L. concludes by telling me he hopes I "get the gig."

9:01 a.m.: Day Three has ended. My BlackBerry is strangely silent. I note friends and family no longer feel obligated to share their reviews.

Postscript: MSNBC asks me back for two more days, but the downside is that I can't go see John Legend at the Tower tomorrow night. I give the tickets to some friends.


2:02 a.m.:

Oh, God! Where'd that blemish come from, and does my 12-year-old have acne cream?

4:10 a.m.: We successfully fooled the GPS by plugging in address of hospital across the street from MSNBC.

5:40 a.m.: Not sure my Etro shirt is TV friendly.

7:20 a.m.: Andrea Mitchell reminisces about Frank Rizzo.

8:06 a.m.: MSNBC wants to promote tonight's televised Presidential Debate. My solution?  I'm interviewing Pat Haggerty, the man who coached Borat on how to tell a joke. Not!

8:22 a.m.: Struggling to maintain radio responsibilities while on television. I'm still reading commercials and promoting a London giveaway.

8:36 a.m.: Larry Kane arrives to promote his book Lennon Revealed. It's kinda cool to interview on TV the man who gave me my start.


2:35 a.m.: Conshohocken Wawa - Uh oh! New Inquirer driver. He's grumpy. Truck full of papers headed for Jersey and he won't part with a single one. Raining buckets.

6 a.m.: Live Philly news by Joan Jones, whom I've added to my Travel Squad to lend more eye candy to the TV production.

8:05 a.m.: Ron Fricke from the Philadelphia Zoo is here, holding a six-foot alligator, which starts to wiggle. I'm thinking it would be great for YouTube if it escapes but not worth it. Especially if it sees my boots made out of his cousin.

8:50 a.m.: Joe Scarborough my final guest - fitting end to my week at MSNBC.

8:57:20 a.m.: Camera lights go dark and mic cut. Five days over, no glitches, no gaffes. Time to slide off the national stage and head back to the place where I've been content for all my 45 years.