Media, Darling: My first record, part 2

We’re continuing our special holiday Media, Darling post about first records. Hope everyone is enjoying their time off!  
Wendy Kam Marcy: My first album was New Kids On The Block. I had a mad tween crush on Jordan Knight and used to fall asleep with him singing to me – I hid my Walkman under the covers and had a picture of him under my pillow. Years later, I met him and he signed my Hangin’ Tough tape. It was pretty amazing to see this guy that I’ve watched so many times on music videos and in concert actually standing before me. I even hugged him.
Benjamin Leszcz: My first CD was in fact two CDs: Bon Jovi’s Keep the Faith – and the Keep the Faith Mega Edition Bonus CD. My Dance Mix ’92 tape got tossed into the back of the closet – and I became a man.
Jeni Besworth: The first cassette I bought (that got played until you could no longer read the writing on it) was Blue Rodeo Outskirts. I had always listened to pop music/top 40 and one day my brother came into my room, stopped my ghetto blaster, which was blaring Wham! and scolded me on my taste in music. He lectured that I needed to branch out – “listen to CFNY!” – and expand my musical horizons. 
 
So, the next day (without him knowing of course), I switched stations and caught the last minute of Try. I had never heard anything like it. It blew my mind. I bought the tape that afternoon after school. To this day, they remain one of my all-time favourite bands. 
Deirdre Kelly: My first album was The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. I must have been 11, and was so inspired that soon after, I did my Grade 5 public speaking assignment on The Beatles (I was a school finalist). I bought it for the same reason I love it: I Am The Walrus. I heard that Lennon/McCartney song for the first time on a transistor radio I had hidden under my pillow at night. The Beatles, alas for me, had broken up, and CHUM was playing a documentary on the most famous band in pop music. I Am the Walrus came on at one point, and I was mesmerized: the serpentine melody, John Lennon’s nasal, aggressive voice, the surreal nonsense lyrics, as deliciously subversive as anything out of Lewis Carroll. 

I had never heard anything like it. It was like opium to my ears. I don’t think the song was released as a single, which is why I went to Kresge’s in Thorncliffe Park, where I grew up, to buy with my own money the Magical Mystery Tour album. I Am the Walrus is just one of several outstanding sonic creations on it, the others being Strawberry Fields, Fool on the Hill, Penny Lane and George Harrison’s psychedelic-evocative, Blue Jay Way

I am a huge Beatles fan still today. I met Ringo last year, and, in September, I met Paul McCartney at the world premiere of his Ocean’s Kingdom ballet in New York; he kissed me twice, and held my hand while we chatted. I was dumbstruck. But I did manage to find my voice to thank him for a lifetime of incredible music. 

Sarah Kelsey: Outside of Strawberry Shortcake on vinyl (seriously, it was her telling stories), the first album I remember loving was a mixed tape my mom and dad made. It was full of classic rock and oldies tunes. I played it over and over and over again on my toteable, plastic Fisher-Price cassette player. I practically brought it everywhere with me. It’s because of this tape I developed my love of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Elvis, Led Zeppelin, Creedance Clearwater Revival and The Band. Keep in mind I was probably three or four years old when I became obsessed with these tunes. My love of classic rock endures to this day.
 
Gabrielle Johnson: I feel like I’m really dating myself here by revealing that my first album was Miss Piggy’s Aerobique Exercise Workout Album, which was a parody of the Jane Fonda Workout. On vinyl.  My favourite song was Snackcercise – if memory serves, Miss Piggy instructed listeners to “reach for the bonbon, eat the bonbon, reach for the bonbon, eat the bonbon.” That is still my idea of an awesome workout.  
Karon Liu: If we’re not including cassettes, my first CD was Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. Ironic was being played every hour on the radio and MuchMusic and it was one hell of a catchy tune. I was 10 when the CD came out in 1995, so I had no idea what most of the lyrics meant until much later. Luckily my parents weren’t fluent in English, so they didn’t think twice when I sang “And are you thinking of me when you fuck her?” out loud in my room. Ever since the CD came out, I’ve always had it in my Discman, on the various mp3 players I owned over the years and currently on my iPhone. It’s the album I listened to the most, especially during the mandatory emo phase everyone had in high school. My second CD was — you guessed it — the soundtrack to Space Jam
Lisa Ng: My first CD that I ever bought (when it was cool to make the switch from cassette tapes to CD) was The Cranberries’ No Need to Argue in 1994. It was the perfect soundtrack to my angsty teen years and The Cranberries were the shit back then! I paid $13.99 for it at Future Shop and listened to it over and over again.
Chantel Simmons: For Christmas of 1985, my parents gave me a ghetto blaster. Yes, that’s probably an incorrect term now, but that’s what we called it back then. Move over, shared family room record player. With two cassette decks, I was in business. I could now make my own mixed tapes, so my first cassette was a huge deal: Starship Knee Deep in the Hoopla. No clue what my fascination was with that band, but I was obsessed with the songs We Built This City and Sara. That is, until a few months later when I got NKOTB fever.
Thanks to our Media, Darlings for sharing their fun memories of their fave cassettes, albums and CDs. What were yours? Tweet us @rockitpromo or leave a comment!

Media, Darling: Deirdre Kelly

Deirdre Kelly has been a staff writer with The Globe and Mail since 1985. Her first book, Paris Times Eight (Greystone Books/Douglas & McIntyre), a memoir using eight trips to Paris over a 30-year period to map a coming-of-age story, was published last year and is now a national best-seller. More info about the book can be found on her website.
How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
That’s an obvious question, but I’m afraid I will give something of a slippery response: I often come up with my own ideas. That’s the nature of my job; I have to be aware of trends, what’s being talked and written about, and generally follow my gut. I have good instincts after more than 25 years at The Globe and Mail (yes, I am that old) and can spot a story 10 miles off, if not a year before it really becomes news elsewhere, and well before a publicist tells me that they have something new to tell me.
PRs don’t tend to pitch trend stories, which, by necessity, would involve a variety of sources and points of view beyond their own client. I have always striven to think and write outside a press release. I dislike very much the idea that a journalist is merely an adjunct to someone’s publicity or marketing department.
That said, I have some regular features that need to be filed weekly, and am open to enterprising publicists who are reading those features. These include two new columns I write for the Saturday Style section: In the Mix and My Favourite Room. There have been a few instances where a PR has sent an email with the subject heading “In the Mix”, and then suggested a drink and/or bar for me to profile. Do I open this email as soon as I see it? Hell, yes! Said PR, by showing such winning initiative, instantly has my attention! I am THRILLED beyond words that they’ve taken notice of the column and have come up with a candidate that might suit my purposes. The same goes for My Favourite Room, though I must say sometimes the candidates aren’t hugely noteworthy, or worse, they ain’t got style. These are pitches based on having a client they want to push my way, and it’s not always the right fit. But, hey, I’ll never fault anyone for trying.
So, to answer your question: the ideal pitch would be conceived as a story with a unique angle and broad reach, an idea ultimately promoting the creation of an article saying something not said before.
What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
Speed and a certain degree of intelligence go a long way in my books. I work for a daily newspaper. The deadlines come screaming at me, every day. If I need something, I usually needed it yesterday, and it really helps when a PR basically drops everything and hustles to get me what I ask for. I am completely aware of how tyrannical that sounds, and believe me, I do apologize whenever the demand appears brusque and last minute. But I can’t help it. I really can’t. The newspaper is a ferociously hungry beast; it devours copy by the second.
As for the requirement of intelligence, what I mean is the ability to think while running ragged on your feet trying to confirm a fact, find a source or a quote for my story. I’ve had instances when a seasoned PR has known to refuse a quote if it doesn’t fit the needs of the story, and cajoled the subject to come up with something better. That’s the sign of a pro, and after the dust has settled, boy, do I remember that person. Next time, if they’re the ones pleading for me to do something for them, I will do everything in my power to repay the favour.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
Getting way too personal over a story. I’ve had this happen to me more times than I care to remember. This happened even recently over a style story I wrote, where the PR sent me a poison pen email, chastising me for not putting her client, whom I gave lots of ink, in the top graph. Wow. Talk about burning your bridges. Blatant hostility from PR people is more common than you might think. But I tended to experience it more often during my 15 years as The Globe and Mail’s dance critic. I was basically licensed to state my opinion in print, and sometimes that opinion wasn’t always complimentary about the production at hand.
Some publicists would hate me for stating my mind and punish me by making it difficult for me to access talent for future stories and deny me access to their events. I was once even refused review tickets to a show, and had to buy them on my credit card. Did the PR really think I wouldn’t review them, anyway? I’d love to name names. Unfortunately, there are quite a few. 
I guess my message is to develop a thick skin, and know that the world is made more interesting by having difference of opinion in it (or just differences, period).

My pet peeve
Besides having my name continually misspelled and mispronounced, (for the record I say my name DEAR-DREE, but I’ve had every variation, including Derrière, my all-time favourite). My biggest pet peeve is when publicists haven’t done their research and haven’t a clue as to what I do or have done at the paper. When I became a fashion reporter in 2000, after being an award-winning critic in the arts department for over a decade, I had a number of rather callow PR’s call and congratulate me on my recent hire. They would ask me where I was before, and when I said, “Here all along you dork,” (no, I didn’t, but I wanted to), there would be a strained silence on the other end. But beside having fun with them, those PRs taught me humility.
In this business, you really are as good as your last byline, and if people didn’t read the arts pages and were only fixated on dresses, then, really, who was I to call them on it? Journalists can be too often full of themselves, and I think it’s good to be reminded that you aren’t the queen bee when deadline rolls around. At the end of the day, it’s about teamwork and being respectful while getting the job done well.
What also bothers me is a PR who carpet-bombs the newspaper with the same request for a story/interview, and not let all of us know that more than one of us is poised to show up at the same event. That’s just bad form.

Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
Some of my best friends are publicists. Really. I say this in case I’ve come across as too holier-than-thou. But it’s true. I feel I owe much of my career to hard-working, self-sacrificing, smart, funny, endearing, one-of-a-kind (I’m thinking here of the incomparable Gino Empry, rest his soul) publicists who have helped me develop my stories done well, and deliver them on time. I love you all!
Here’s a story to share:
As a fledgling journo, a true wannabe penning weekly dance reviews for The Varsity, the student newspaper at the University of Toronto where I was an undergraduate, I arrived one evening to Toronto Dance Theatre to review a program showcasing the choreography of company founders, Patricia Beatty, David Earle and Peter Randazzo (ah, those were the days). At the entrance were three clippings of reviews of the previous week’s performances. 
One was from The Toronto Star, one from The Globe and Mail and the other was from The Varsity, with my byline on it. I stopped dead in my tracks. This was the first time I was receiving public validation for my efforts as an aspiring arts critic, which showed me I truly was on the right career path and that the community I was writing about cared about what I had to say. It was because of a publicist who was willing to give me my due despite my tender years. His name is Stephen Johnson, and he has my everlasting gratitude.