The one time I was on The Walt Bodine Show Walt fell asleep. His cohost at the time coolly leaned over while I was talking and gave Walt a little nudge, and he woke up and said “mm hmm,” just like he’d been following the conversation the whole time. It was all very professional.
For four months into a scaled-back schedule, hosting the show only on Fridays, and, if the past is any indication, he’s likely to continue in that capacity for an other 15 years. But just in case Walt might be considering retirement, I’d like to make a suggestion for his replacement: Charles Ferruzza.
First, a disclosure of bias. I worked with Charles at the Pitch and I consider him a friend, though I haven’t talked to him for the better part of a year. But I’m also friends with a a lot of people who would make terrible Walt Bodines, so I guess you can make your own judgment about my credibility.
For one, he’s a Kansas City institution, one of the few individuals who can claim the honor, dubious or otherwise. Everyone knows he’s the best food critic in the region and his reviews are eminently readable because they’re full of great stories about Kansas City, the kind that never make it into newspapers but which say more about the place where we all live than just about anything else you’re likely to read.
Second, he’s more than what he eats — a lot more. At our weekly editorial meetings at the Pitch, when all the staff writers would come in with new story ideas, Charles always had the most interesting comments because he basically knows everyone in Kansas City and everything that’s happened here since 1970, and he knows a good deal from before that. But it’s not party-line stuff; his knowledge of things comes from the city’s front lines, from the regular folks, if you will, who make the city work and who Charles has gotten to know as a critic and a socialite.
In that way, he’s a lot like Walt Bodine, whose show has always had that friends-chatting-over-dinner casualness to it, and, with the casualness, a more penetrating sense of authority than you get in more formal information sources such as the Star, NPR news or Kraske’s Show.
And, as if that ain’t enough, he has a voice for radio (if not a face). He’s hosted his own show on KKFI for a long time running and he’s helped out with other hosts as well. And these days when he’s on with Walt for the bi-weekly food critics show, he’s essentially acting as a host. And in that roll he sounds great, in my humble opinion — a gentle voice with a nice little touch of urban sardonicism mixed in.
And lastly — and this is the coup de grace — I’ve never known Charles to fall asleep when I or anyone else is talking to him. How can you beat that?