Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Two teachers

I met & befriended two men who were influential enough to be considered my mentors, Joel Oppenheimer & Lou D'Antonio. They had similarities. Both were geniuses & innovators in their art & craft; Joel as a poet, Lou as a radio personality, & were less well known than they could have been had they chosen to manage their careers differently. Both were natural teachers, & great storytellers with gifts for the American language. Both practiced the dictum of poet William Carlos Williams that "the local is the only universal." As good teachers, both had the patience to suffer fools - up to a point. Neither of them was religious in a conventional sense, although Joel was indisputably Jewish & Lou was raised in an extended Italian-Catholic family that provided his tales with wonderful characters. Yet both were deeply spiritual people in the sense artists find the connectiveness of things. My relationship with them was in the form of an apprenticeship, not a classroom experience. Urbane men, Joel transplaned to New Hampshire in 1980 (died 1988), Lou to Vermont in 1990. For love. Lou just passed over.

I was not like either of these guys. But I was intuitively aware that I needed something of what each of them had. Chutzpah? They helped me break through shyness, & to find the courage to circumvent my stuttering, so I was able to inflate a modest amount of talent & make some public - even competent - uses from it. Did I satisfy them? I doubt it. But given how little they had to work with in me, I made them proud on a few occasions.

Lou, I think, was most pleased when I showed up at his wedding with a good-looking blonde on my arm a few months after I'd been devastated by the end of a long relationship (which occurred in the middle of a WFMU fund-raising marathon, Lou had insightfully grasped the situation, & carried me through my show that week). The lovely woman & I proceeded to drink a lot of champagne & do silly dances & enjoy ourselves immensely. That was a side of me neither he nor a number of other WFMU DJs had ever seen.

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Rix, Glad to see you write about "The Duck". Reminds me of a very long time ago when WFMU housed the likes of Yourself, The Hound, Wildgirl, and Ms. Fish.. Vin Scelsa said some nice things about Lou on his WFUV show tonight. Great radio moments and memories.
I'll be writing more about The Duck. (Wildgirl is on Facebook)
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