As I started to doze off on last night's red eye out of Sacramento bound for Fort Myers I thought back to a man who had a short but amazing impact on my career in television news. His name is Ted Kavanaugh. His nickname, "Mad Dog."
As I headed back from Oregon in the late fall of 1978 Peter Spears urged me to write Ted Kavanaugh. Peter told me Ted was putting together a news operation in Minneapolis for Metro Media and thought I would be a good fit. I wrote and heard nothing.
Somehow I fell back into a job at KMBC almost as soon as I returned to Kansas. God love, Ridge Shannon, I still don't know what he saw in me. So I was back running chyron and writing news copy when Ridge suggested I call Ted Kavanaugh. Hmmm I thought, been there done that. I was too thick to realize that KMBC was owned by Metro Media and thank goodness Ridge kept insisting.
Finally I phoned Ted on December 11, 1978 and he actually took my call. We talked for at least 20 minutes. Near the end of the conversation we talked about my short lived experience in Eugene. "You know Peter Spears?!?" Ted asked incrediously. I replied in the affirmative and again he acted as if I had to be lying through my teeth. I didn't bother pointing out the letter I had written to him earlier in which I mentioned Peter. He seemed mystified by the fact that I had met and worked for Peter. It turns out Ted had been Peter's boss at KGO in San Francisco.
At the end of the conversation Ted said something about flying me up to Minneapolis for a face to face interview. My guts started churning. I had never flown before and the thought of taking to the air left me deathly afraid. My mind started racing trying to figure out a way to convince him that I could drive but I responded with a meek okay.
Off to work I went that day pondering the possibilities about a job in a big market like Minneapolis and chuckling at Ted's astonishment at my acquaintance with Peter Spears. I worked nights which usually meant I didn't get to bed until 1 or 2 in the morning and I would rouse myself around 10 or 11. I love sleep.
The following day, December 12th, my 23rd birthday, the phone rang bright and early at 8:30. I staggered sleepily to the phone. It was Ted offering me a job as weekend producer at WTCN, the soon to be NBC affiliate in Minneapolis. I was dumbfounded. My first thought was relief because I was dodging a much dreaded trip through the air. My second thought was it's the best birthday present I ever had and still is. The third was that I was about to embark on a great adventure helping build a big market news operation from the ground floor with a man whose nickname was Mad Dog. The crazines that followed is worth a blog of its own.