In about 12 hours, our final broadcast of The Lisa Birnbach Show will be over. Our mother ship, GreenStone Media, has run out of money. The founders of GreenStone wanted nothing more than to offer another voice to radio listeners out there, and in the end, without profit. Of all the noble failures with which I have been affiliated, this one's demise is the saddest for me. Oh there were plenty of good TV pilots, magazine start-ups, off-Broadway revues... all of that. But for me, nothing was as intensely Lisa Birnbach as this.
I have joked that the company wanted to call a daily talk show The Lisa Birnbach Show, and therefore I decided to apply for the job. At first, filling three hours a day with chatter killed me. I found myself excruciatingly blabbing about the news, my life, my kids' lives.... I cannibalized what I had seen, felt, and even dreamt the night before. After a few months though, as guests began to line up and pitch us, we turned a corner. With my shingle dangling out there for all to hear (on a live internet stream, or podcasts, or, if you lived in one of 10 cities, something called the radio), I found myself probing guests and issues that interested me. I didn't realize how interested I was in oxytocin, or Paul Wolfowitz's chutzpah, or how adult relationships alter when children enter the picture, or how environmental changes are somehow responsible for the asthma and diabetes and cancers that are all around us. Until my show began broadcasting last summer, I had no idea how profoundly uninterested I was in celebrity culture or award shows, or who is in rehab.
And I found out I was not alone.
It would help me get over this loss if you would stop thinking of me as a woman. All this broadcasting (get it?) for women by women can be misleading. This was not the self-serious pro-choice, natural childbirth, new age, lifestyle network sponsored by Massengill. (Hey, Massengill! Where were you when we needed advertising dollars?) We discussed recipes much more seldom than we discussed food allergies, we discussed renewable resources more than we discussed fashion, and we discussed sex more than we discussed weddings. We received more male callers (or gentlemen callers, for that matter) than we did from the wonderful women who listened faithfully. If you gave us a listen, you would see that we were not gender-based. Just ask Jeff, the truck driver from South Carolina who said he listened every single morning, and who believed that our show made him "a better catch," now that he was interested in remarrying. Or Raymond, from Schenectady, who seemed to (politely) disagree with every single thing I said, but was an avid listener, who taught me a thing or two. Or Phillipp, who listened over the internet from Munich, Germany, live, until 3 am. At least now he'll be able to get a decent night's sleep, for Pete's sake.
I won't, because I plan to find a new home for our program, for our little- engine- that- could- radio -show. A conversation with us could last 20 minutes, a lifetime compared to morning tv chat shows, but a blink of an eye nonetheless when it hit its groove. The radio stations who ran our programs are appreciated so much for their courage - shoud it even require courage to put interesting programming on the air? Apparently the answer is yes. Hats of to WIIN, WNSH, KKZZ, WGVC, WDLT, WEEV, WJOB, WTWK and KSRO. And I am so grateful to Susan Ness, Edie Hilliard, Jim Lamarca, Jane Fonda, Dina Dublon, Carol Jenkins, Gloria Steinem and the other GSM Board members.
What started as the hardest three hours of my day surreptitiously became the most lively three hours of my day. I will miss it, and I will miss my crew: Shelli Gonshorowski, Zach Marsh, Katie Pagenkopf, Alex Mallick, and of course, the improbably-named Heather Cohen. I will miss our regular contributors: Jill Connor Browne, Dr. Dale Atkins, Denise Foley, John Markus, Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr., Neil Pollack, E. Jean Carroll, and Jane Fonda.
Yes, I am a woman, but I hosted a talk show for people.
I will miss them like crazy.