Monday, July 6, 2009

Interview with Ted Williams

This is the third in an occasional series of interviews with each of the main characters from my books to give readers a quick update on their fictional lives.
I recently caught up with Ted Williams, the Miami TV news reporter and Deco Time anchor from my second novel, Miami Manhunt. I was in Miami recently and Ted took time out of his busy reporting schedule for a chat. It was actually Ray who got Ted to agree to let me interview him for my little blog/site.

I met up with Ted at his station, known for the flashy colorful graphics, alarming news alerts, and twirling news logo (similar to something like this) that looks like it can leap out of your TV and smack you in the face. After crossing the street, a Metro-Dade transit bus chugs by. On its side: a big billboard with Ted's smiling extra-white grill. In the poster, he holds a big thumbs up under his station's logo. Once the bus rolls by, a security guard greets me at the station's entrance and green-lights me onto the property. As I stroll on the black-surfaced parking lot where heat vapors rise in the distance, I notice Ted's convertible red BMW parked in a space that reads "Ted Williams." His license plate: TVGUY. With a film of sweat beading on my forehead from the sticky humidity, I finally make it to the lobby where Ted greets me.
"Welcome to South Florida's news station!" Ted says, shaking my hand and giving me a quick hug. He wears a three piece navy blue suit with a red tie. He matches the station's signature colors.
"Thanks Ted for agreeing to meet me. I'm in town visiting the folks and I couldn't resist stopping by and meeting you. Ray told me a lot about you." Ted beams with pride.
"Well, I hope it was all good. If not, I'll send a team of photographers to his South Beach apartment and do an expose on how he hasn't paid his South Beach parking tickets."
"You wouldn't, would you?" I say.
"Just teasing. I love Ray. He's like my Cuban brother,'' Ted says, as he escorts me into the news studio, marked by bright red and soft blue colors. In the corner, a euphoric weathergirl stands against a green screen and tells South Florida how it's going to rain for the next seven days.
After a quick tour of the studio where reporters sit in their pods and write up their copy, Ted points out the Deco Time set with its two fake palm trees that flank the show's sign written in those iconic white HOLLYWOOD letters.

As we walk around floor cables and maneuver through a coterie of studio cameras, we finally reach his dressing room.
A big TW adorns the middle of the white door. Once inside, we take our seats under the bright bulbs that rim the mirror. I think I might need some sunglasses for this interview.
"Ted, so you're still reporting for the weekday newscasts and anchoring for Deco Time on Friday nights. Do you see yourself doing something else in the near future?" Ted leans back in his chair, crosses his leg and drums his finger to his chin.
"Well, I am very blessed to be employed by the dominant station in South Florida. The owners have been good to me and have always supported my career goals and my work in the gay community. Right now, I'm where I want to be in my career. Hopefully, I can be a full-fledged anchor once you-know-who,'' Ted points to a framed picture of the salt-and-peppered current anchor, who has been on the job for 13 years, "leaves for the networks or a bigger market. I'm next in line." Ted winks at me to emphasize the point.
"What do you love about Miami? I know that you're from Boston but you have made Miami your home."
"Yeah, I did the reverse of what you did Johnny. Usually, people migrate to Miami from Boston, not the other way around. Anyway, I feel I am Miami, a part of this community. I love the year-round warm weather, the amazing sunsets.
I love that I am accepted here as a gay reporter and anchor. Because of my dark Portuguese skin, I also blend in here with the masses. There aren't many minority TV reporters in Boston and I always stood out. Here, I'm just another reporter doing work he is proud of. Everyone has been so warm to me and I have Ray's family as my adopted Cuban family. All my goals have come true here. I don't think I'd want to live anywhere else.
"Wow, that's how I feel about Boston sometimes,'' I say, still scribbling down my notes on a reporter's notebook. We share a smile.
"I've always wondered. What's up with your name, Ted?" He laughs.
"I'm often asked that question. Well, since you live in Boston, you know who Ted Williams was, right?" I roll my eyes.
"Um, yes, the famous Red Sox slugger."

"That's who I was named after, kiddo. My dad, who is Irish from Boston, loves baseball especially the Sox. How can you not, being from Boston. It's in our DNA. He told me that he always wanted to name his son Ted. He thought it would be a nice tribute. Little did he know that I would grow up not becoming a big baseball guy so it's a little ironic. The only ball that I'm familiar with is the disco ball swirling in the Miami night clubs. But people joke that I'm also named after the Boston tunnel from Logan Airport to the city."
"That's true. Your name is in big letters whenever I drive home from the airport," I say.

"I see it as a big welcome home sign whenever I visit Beantown," he says.
"Okay moving on. What do you think is the future of TV news. I've noticed you've been heavily promoting your Facebook and Twitter pages."
Ted leans back, takes a deep breath and turns serious.
"Well, as you know Mr. Diaz, TV stations have become facebook-and-twitter happy. You even wrote an article about this. Nice job by the way. Anyway, we have to go to where our viewers are or appeal to younger audiences and these social networking sites help us do that. I always update my facebook and twitter to let everyone know that I'm working hard on a story and when to watch it. It's part of the evolution of broadcasting. As long as we provide the most local and comprehensive news and do it in a way that is compelling and informative, we'll be fine. The social networking sites provide another vehicle to get our stories out there. They also provide greater interaction between me and my viewers, and I have a lot of them, for your information."
"I'm sure you do!" I tease.
"When you're not reporting or hosting Deco Time, you do these weekly Wednesday's Child segments. What do you enjoy about this part of your job?"
Ted smiles, gets up and grabs a framed photo of him with a 10-year-old boy with curly brown hair and a missing tooth.
"See this kid? That's Timmy. I played basketball with him, not that I could play, but good editing can go a long way in helping me look like I could play. Anyway, we did a segment on him. He's looking for a home. Within a few days, a loving couple in Coral Gables adopted him. This was a photo we took when I did a follow up visit. We had just played a game of basketball. I won't say who won. You can figure that out on your own. But to answer your question, I do these segments as a way to give back to the community. We can't just be all breaking news and entertainment stories. We have to give back in other ways too and highlighting these kids who want to be adopted in a great way of serving the community."
As we talk, a producer knocks on the door and pokes her head in.
"Ted, we need you in five for some promos."
"Oh right. Thanks Lisa," Ted says.
"Well Johnny, I gotta run. I hope I helped you out today. Feel free to hang around the studios. If not, me and Ray and our buddy Brian will be at Score tonight for our weekly meet up."
We both get up and shake hands.
"That sounds like fun. Thanks for the invite and for the interview."
"Anything for a Beantown Cuban,'' he says as he adjusts his tie in the mirror and quickly dabs some more foundation.