Friday, September 12, 2008

Coming to you live...

Charles here.

One or two of you (which would be all of you who read my entries) may know that in addition to writing award-winning and breathtakingly brilliant novels, single-handedly fueling the economy with my advertising skills and redefining tonality on the tenor sax, I also am head writer, producer, artistic coordinator, director and host of The Smart Set, a weekly hour-long program dedicated to the plain fact that swing music is alive and kicking ass. If you’re a listener, then you know it’s a fun-filled 60 minutes, with great (if sometimes obscure) music and witty banter, all broadcast seemingly live from raucous and totally fictitious nightclubs throughout Rochester. What you may not know is how long it takes to write each show. I’m not complaining, but I am saying that if you add up the number of words I write each week for the show and consider that I’ve been doing it now for almost 5 years, you realize that, in terms of sheer words, I’ve written a whole novel’s worth of shows.
Here’s a typical opening:

Coming to you live from the Blue Buddha Lounge here at the Tiki Village Motor Inn, this is the Smart Set, Jazz 90 point 1’s weekly dive into the deep end with the Rochester Swing Scene. I’m your host, Charles Benoit. Well, there’s a hot and sweaty crowd here tonight at the Tiki Village Motor Inn, and not just in the hourly-rented rooms. Area hep cats and kittens are wall to wall in the Tiki Village’s famed Blue Buddha Lounge, and are packed into the lagoon pool like rats in a sack. Yes, they’re all here to dance the night away as some of the biggest bands in the biz hit the stage swinging. Lee Presson and the Nails, Ray Gelato and the Giants, The Royal Crown Review, Lavey Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers, Gene Krupa, and Rochester’s own Cab Calloway – they’re all here and eager to help transform this happy crowd into a drunken mob. Stepping up to the plate, it’s Canada’s own Dino Martinis with a little cautionary tale about premature proposals called Ring

And here’s a mid-show, twixt song mike break:

Whether your listening to the radio, listening to the internet or listening in on a police wiretap, you’re listening to the Smart Set here on member supported Jazz 90 point 1. Tonight we’re broadcasting live from the exotic Club Flamingo where there’s never a cover charge when you spend more than fifty dollars at the bar. And what a bar it is! Yes, no one can ever accuse the Club Flamingo of age discrimination. And remember folks, if you should spot any underage drinkers here at the Club Flamingo be sure to point them out to the management…they’re eligible for a special student discount on all well drinks! Here’s a band that’s a favorite with kids of all ages. It’s the folks of City Rhythm Orchestra with a little tale about a girl named Jack.

Sure, it’s all light and frothy fun, but it takes time to write this stuff. Now I do confess to recycling some lines and there are a few that have become standard lead ins (You’re in tune with Jazz 90 point 1, home of 167 hours of great programming, as well as one hour of the Smart Set… You’re in tune with The Smart Set here on member supported Jazz 90 point 1 and broadcasting around the globe and to all the ships at sea at Jazz 9 zero 1 dot org…) but on the whole it’s new every week. I also introduce the DJ that follows me and his introduction alone takes time. Instead of just saying “Next up it’s Andy Heinze”, I have to say “Back at the Jazz 90 point 1 studios, former phone book entry and the tall man in scene two, Andy Heinze, is ready to put you in a Latin Mood.” Each week Andy gets new descriptors (former ant farmer and horse whisperer… former mattress tag inspector and model citizen… recovering haikuist and confidant to the stars… former world sippy cup star and witness protection participant…endangered grease monkey trainer and champion quick draw artist…). Okay, not Pulitzer Prize stuff, but I’ve had to come up with 2 original and different descriptors just about every week for 5 years. According to my calculations*, that works out to well over 127,000 different introductions!

So why do I do it? Why do I spend about 3 hours each week prepping for a show that maybe 100 people ever hear? First, I love the music and, because the other DJs at Jazz 90.1 know great jazz, there’s little chance any of my favorites will ever make the air otherwise. Second, I like the sound of my own voice, especially when I get to do my smarmy, over-the-top announcer voice. Yes, I’m using right now as I type these very words! What fun!

But the main reason I love doing the show is that I love the writing challenge—coming up with new clubs, staying true to the brands I’ve developed for older clubs (The Imperial Hotel—where subservience is more than a tradition…The Golden Fleece Casino—separating fools from their money since 1958… Blue Buddha Lounge at the Tiki Village Motor Inn—Long a popular destination for adulterous couples and the post-prom crowd, the Tiki Motor Inn is truly a family tradition. Ask your grandparents about their favorite Tiki Village memories, then head to the Blue Buddha lounge and drink till you forget.) And best of all, it’s radio. Ten minutes after the show is over, no one remembers what you said anyway. And no one can point out all the typos that slipped into the final script.

If you live in Rochester, check it out some time (90.1 FM from 5-6pm EST) and if you don’t live in Rochester you can listen live on line at And it’s only fitting I close this long blog with a typical Smart Set ending:
As the drunken mob weaves it’s way onto exciting Ridge Road West, we say so long from the Blue Buddha Lounge. Back at the Jazz 90 point 1 studios, former pagan idol and person of interest, Andy Hinez is ready to put you in the mood. I’m your host, Charles Benoit, and I hope you’ll join us again next week because you are The Smart Set.

*2 terms X 52 weeks X 5 = 127,897

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