The Making of Yanni

Listen to this episode

S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership today on Studio 360.

S2: I’ll talk with a radio host who’s on every night and listened to by about 10 times as many people as all of you put together.

S3: So when somebody calls me and says, you know, my husband left me last year and I just met this wonderful man, our divorce has been final two weeks and I’m ready to get married again.

Advertisement

S2: I’m like now, not Delilah, queen of relationship advice and sappy love songs plus.

S4: The magical time that brought us Jani and John Tesh, I realized that if I was going to have a real full time music career, that it was going to have to be some, you know, some big event, that unlikely portal to stardom in the 1990s.

S5: Viewers like you. What I needed was something like a PBS special to make a whole bunch of loud noise. That’s a head on Studio 360 right after this.

S6: This is Studio 360. I’m Colonel. And I’m sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. First level of Justice Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden.

Advertisement

S2: I’d like to have the roasted chicken, please. Well done. Editing is all about timing. I tried to get a little bit away from the actual subject. You can see the place.

S7: Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, as you may have heard.

S8: We are wrapping up Studio 360 at the end of this month. After 20 glorious years as a public radio show and a podcast as well, it’s never easy saying goodbye. But we’ll take a stab at it in our special finale episode in a couple of weeks. Meantime, I wanted to share one of my favorite interviews of the last few years for this radio show that is itself about a radio show, specifically about another radio show host. If you ever switch away from your public radio station, you may recognize her voice.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S9: You are listening to Delilah.

S8: Like more and more famous people in show business. Delilah, Rene, Luke goes by just one name, Delilah. She’s hosted her national live calling show for 35 years, talking to listeners about their relationship problems.

S9: So you’ve been good friends for three years. How old are you?

S10: I don’t know. And he has all the qualities that she would want in a forever partner. And he’s crazy about you. Yes. And the problem is what I I don’t want to lose him as a friend.

S9: If I were you and I had somebody absolutely crazy in love with me that I liked and that was my friend and was attractive, I would take the chance.

Advertisement

S2: And then she prescribes a song, a particular kind of song.

S11: In this case, not a bad thing by Justin Timberlake is to see 8 million listeners tune in every night.

S12: Delilah has also published several books. Every one of them about love, which yeah, I know it all sounds a little treacly, cheesy, but she knows that calls herself the queen of sappy love songs, which is why with Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s a good time for Delilah.

S8: When we spoke in 2016, I asked her how she wound up in this racket.

S13: I have always loved music. My father was a musician. He had a country western band. I was raised around people that danced. You know, my parents would go out to the Eagles or the Elks almost every weekend so they could dance and they knew how to dance, like jitterbug and waltz and forced step and two step.

Advertisement

S14: And so music has always been a part of my life. And my father was a wonderful lyricist. So from the time I was small, I loved music, particularly lyrics. And I probably would be a musician except for one small fact, Kurt, which is why I can’t sing.

Advertisement

S15: Well, then, this is your vicarious way to be in the music business, I guess.

S14: Exactly. But I love music and I have like this this this storehouse of lyrics in my brain. So if you call me and you tell me a situation, I can find a song that hopefully lyrically speaks to your situation.

S15: Do you not have people feeding you? Give them this. Give her this, give her this or this is all in your head.

Advertisement

S14: Well, I have a person feeding me this. Her name is Jane. She’s been my producer for 25 years. And so she has a little different taste in music and a different storehouse of lyrics in her head. And so we will argue back and forth where I’ll say, you know, play Elton John, you gotta love somebody. And she’s like, oh, that’s so yesterday.

S9: Let’s play pink instead. And so we’ll go back and forth. And then I remind her, Jane, I’m the one that writes your checks. So we’ll go with what I chose and she’ll remind me D I’m the one that controls your microphone, so shut the heck up.

Advertisement

S13: And probably 90 percent of the time I defer to Jane because, you know, she’s smarter than me.

S15: Well, that’s always a good thing to do with one’s producers. But what isn’t? What is beyond the legal boundaries like hip hop and and a straight ahead rock n roll or you know, I can listen to that off the air comforts of my home when I want to get loud.

S9: But, yeah, I can’t really play, you know, straight up rock.

S15: What do you listen to the comfort of your home when you’re not trying to make the world love you on radio?

Advertisement

S16: Depends on my mood. I mean, sometimes it’s it’s more rockin. Sometimes, you know, I love I love the classic rock stuff from the 70s and 80s. I’m a child of the 70s and 80s. But I also love I mean, I love country. I love God. I love so much music. My son is into jazz and is in the jazz choir. So we’ve got jazz going all the time and blues. And five of my children are from Africa. So we play a lot of music from Ghana and reggae, which they love.

Advertisement

S15: So it’s kind of an eclectic mix since we’re talking because it’s valentine. about to be Valentine’s Day is do you have a favorite love? So.

S16: I have a lot of favorite love songs. You know, the songs that were popular when I was going to prom, the song that was played at my wedding. You know, those are songs that you just hear one or two notes, 7. It takes you right back there, right by my first husband, who is who has passed a long time ago.

S13: You know. Always and Forever by Heatwave was our song. And it’s been redone by Luther Vandross in a number of artists. But all I have to do is here like three notes of that song and bam, I’m right back, you know, saying I do to my first true love, I’m with you.

Advertisement

S15: So that song and lots of Motown songs, which take me right back to a particular room in the particular place when I was 19 years old. You know?

S14: Yeah. And you just feel it. You’re there now.

S15: Now you say again self-deprecatingly, I am the queen of sappy love songs. Are there songs that are just too sappy even for for Delilah?

Advertisement
Advertisement

S14: Yeah. There are songs that are so sappy, they. That’s like eating a spoonful of sugar. It just puts my spirit on edge, you know? But unfortunately, they’re really, really still requested.

S15: And I’ve heard that one song that goes over your line is Bette Midler’s version of The Wind Beneath My Wings.

S2: Yeah. Well, see, I like the version by Lee Greenwood, the bad. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

S17: But, you know, we need.

S14: That that I can. I can listen to maybe twice before I want to put a pen through my eyeball. But bet gets requested.

S18: It’s like how many years ago, 30 years ago, the movie came out Beeches.

S14: I still get requests for that song every night. Do you ever relent and play? Sometimes. If it’s a really, really, really good story and no other song, I can’t talk them into any other song.

S15: Or have there been callers that stick in your memory? Wow. That was an amazing conversation I had.

S13: Oh, yeah, yeah. You know, when you’ve got people that call and are willing to be completely vulnerable with a complete stranger. Only I realize they’re a stranger to me. But I’m not a stranger right to them. But when they call you, you’ve never heard of them before. Probably my favorite, favorite, favorite story was years ago when we weren’t on as many stations as we are on now. Now it’s hard for somebody to get through two or three nights in a row. Used to be, you know, I’d get the same, you know, 50 people that called every night. Anyway, a gentleman called wanted to dedicate a song. He was reminiscing. He was feeling melancholy, wanted a song for his girlfriend he had dated in high school. I aired his call and I took his information down. After I aired the call, a woman calls and says, oh, my God, I know that couple. I know him. I know her. We were friends in high school. We all went to prom together. I’m going to try to get in touch with her and let her know that Mike was thinking about her. Okay, great. Few nights later, the girl calls me and says, I can’t believe my old boyfriend got in touch with you. Can I get in touch with him? And I said, no, I can’t give you that information. If anything happened and you got hurt, I would feel responsible. But give me your information and I’ll see what I can do here. So now I have both their contact information. I talk to Janie and we agreed to do a three-way call with them and put them in touch. Okay. Off the air. Two or three weeks later, Mike calls me back. Can’t even talk. He’s so emotional. And Mike, are you okay? He says, yeah. He said after we talked with you, we agreed to meet well and we set up a time to meet in a restaurant. And he says, I walked in and she was as beautiful as she was the day I left and joined the military. He said, we sat, we talked for probably 10 or 15 minutes. She said, I have a little surprise for you. And in walked my 21 year old daughter.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S15: Well, that’s sort of the ultimate sappy but true Delilah story.

S9: Then it gets better.

S13: Six months later on the air, I get a call from the daughter who says, how would you like to come to a wedding? Of course, her folks got married after being apart 22 years.

S15: Wow. Well, your work is done.

S9: I was like, does anything get better than this?

S15: Do you remember the first time either of them called what song you played?

S13: I’m sure it was wind beneath my wings.

S19: I don’t remember.

S15: You have a lot of children. Thirteen children, which seems to me it would suit you to give advice to people about love. You’ve also been married four times. How have those two large fox shaped how you do your job?

S13: Well, with each one of the children that God either gave me through birth or adoption, there have been challenges in my first son. I was married to his father. He left when my baby was 10 months old and I was a single parent. And my son is mixed. His father was black. So my family had disowned me. I had no family to lean on. He was long gone. And here I am, 24 years old, with a mixed baby in a world that at the time that wasn’t really acceptable. So having Sunny and I was a single parent for 10 years, raising him alone gave me so much to draw on.

S14: Like so many experiences we went through, I mean, there was a time we were homeless. There was just so much stuff that we went through that when a young mama calls me and says, you know, I’m a single mom. I got three kids. I know what she’s going through. Right. I know what it’s like to choose between am I going to pay my rent or am I going to buy food for my kid? You know those I know those choices.

S15: And, you know, you know what happens when yet when relationships don’t work out that you were counting on being forever, forever and always, as our song said.

S14: And then I had a marriage that only lasted six weeks and was annulled.

S13: I married on the rebound and certainly discovered that you should not do that.

S9: And so when somebody calls me and says, you know, my husband left me last year and I just met this wonderful man, our divorce has been final two weeks and I’m ready to get married again. I’m like, no, no, don’t do that.

S18: Put the brakes on.

S15: So you have you have lived it as well as talked it.

S14: Yeah. There’s really not much you can you can call me and tell me that I don’t have some basis for understanding.

S15: Well, in that case, you have some big fans on the Studio 360 staff and some of them recorded a few stories about curb love issues to share with you. If your game to listen. Sure.

S20: Hey, Delilah, my name is a KIYA. I’d like to request a song for my friend. She interned here in New York last summer, and during that time she met a guy and she fell in love. Then she did move back to Miami. She just found out that she got a job in New York. So she’s got me moving back in the summer and she doesn’t know she should rekindle that romance or just leave the past in the past.

S14: Wow. Well, there’s a lot there’s a big piece of that story that’s missing that I would have to find out. But if they still love each other and they were still best friends and now she’s coming back. Yes. Yeah. You need, after all, Peter Satara and Cher. We keep coming back to.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S21: Hi, Delilah, this is Andy. I would like to dedicate a song to my friend Brooke. She fell in love with this guy Josh like eight months ago. And like, almost as soon as she fell in love with him, he started dying and he died. And it was incredibly sad. And she’s been incredibly resilient and and really appreciative of him, but is kind of having a hard time now. So I’d like you to play something for Brooke.

S13: That’s very sad. Celine Dion wrote a song years ago that isn’t played very often. But in situations like this, I would play it in. It’s called fly.

S22: And it’s about the loved one, the person that she’d lost their spirit flying. It’s just very beautiful. So that’s what I would play. Your horsfield is Saulsberry.

S15: Delilah, this has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for spending, especially this much time with me when you’ve got to spend the next five hours on the air.

S5: Thank you. Thank you so much. You can hear Delilah on the radio seven nights a week and online 24 hours a day. Hi, this is Delilah. You’re listening to Studio 360.

S8: Back in the 1990s, I wrote an op ed for The New York Times where I tried to make sense and make fun of an inexplicable pop phenomenon that was sweeping the planet.

S23: Yonni, another single name star.

S5: Johnny was a huge deal at the time. This New Age composer and performer doing concerts at the Taj Mahal in the Forbidden City in Beijing. He’d released his live at the Acropolis album in the spring of 1994, which sold more than 4 million copies. This baffled me in my Times essay. I proposed facetiously that Yanni’s success must be the product of some powerful global conspiracy because this young Yonni guy and his music were so completely.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S24: Blair, lots of people agreed. There’s one guy, the worst guy in the music, the Yonni man.

S25: You know, Yonni, first of all, anyone who looks like a magician and doesn’t do magic, I don’t like.

S26: Oh, no, this is Yonni. This guy is the biggest butthole I’ve ever seen in my life.

S8: So how did it happen? How did somebody who made what sounded like a high end Muzak, how at that moment of Nirvana and a tribe called Quest? Did he emerge as this superstar studio? 360’s Evan Chung has the answers.

S27: The 1994 TV special of Yanni’s concert at the Acropolis has all the trappings of a musician doing a victory lap after really hitting the big time.

S28: There he was, set against the backdrop of the Parthenon, backed by no less than the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, tossing back his dark flowing locks as he tapped at his synthesizers while an enormous crowd cheered him on.

S29: But if you thought that this was Johnny’s reward for being world famous, you’d have it backwards.

S27: Johnny wasn’t on TV because he was a star. He was a star because he was on TV.

S30: Johnny was a niche player. He was big in his area, but that’s relative.

S27: George Barris produced and directed the Life of the Acropolis Special and worked with Johnny for years.

S30: He wasn’t considered a big player in the overall music field.

S31: Field was the world of instrumental electronic new age music. He had been releasing albums for a small New Age label since the mid 80s and they got respectable sales within that market. But the general public dismissed all that stuff as music for hot stone massages or being put on hold.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S30: He was being buttonholes a new age artist and there was no superstar in that order.

S27: If Johnny was well-known for anything, he was for being the new boyfriend of a celebrity. So I opened the front door. Open the door. I took one look at him. I lost my heart. This entire 1990 Oprah episode is actually devoted to Dynasty actress Linda Evans and her meet Cute with Yanni.

S32: It was as if he was made just for my eyes. I mean, there’s a thing about him that I don’t love.

S27: Exposure was nice, but Johnny wanted to be more than talk show fodder.

S30: The frustration was he was hitting like a glass ceiling. But we believed in the music. We saw that it could be used in a lot of other areas than just in elevators. And that was the challenge. We had to get it out there and let the public decide.

S27: But what options did Johnny have? His music wasn’t really radio friendly and MTV wasn’t exactly making a lot of room for instrumental New Age composers. And then.

S33: HOZEY Klara’s placeto Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti performed their first concert together in 1990 as part of the World Cup in Italy.

S34: But the Three Tenors made their biggest mark during another major weeklong event.

S35: The March PBS pledge drive. Now’s your chance to do your part, as you call it, your support. It is very important to get all the telephones in the studio.

S36: A quick refresher on what the deal with PBS pledge drives is started in the early 70s.

S37: PBS stations needed money and they couldn’t make it the normal TV way because we couldn’t air commercials, commercials on commercial television. We were not allowed to do that.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S36: Pat Callahan is director of membership at Arizona Public Media. She’s been fund raising for PBS stations since before they really figured out the whole pledge drive thing in the old days. We just put a slide up after Masterpiece Theater and then sat there for five or 10 minutes while the announcer would be making a pitch over the slide. Soon enough, they adopted the familiar pledge drive format. The point was to get donations from people watching at home, which is to say from viewers like you. During a pledge drive stations block off a week or two where they periodically interrupt their programming to make direct appeals to their viewers.

S37: You just finished watching a marvelous program. Why wouldn’t she stand up? Call the number on your screen and then become a member.

S27: The problem is, unlike most public radio shows, normal PBS shows don’t actually work that well for raising money, in part because they’re hard to chop up for pledge breaks.

S38: Look at Frontline. You can interrupt that. Look at Nova. You can’t interrupt that. There’s a long story arc there. You can’t slice and dice it. But Plex shows successful pledge shows have little story arcs, show that they build for fifteen or twenty minutes. And then you go to a break for 15 to 20 minutes. Then you go to a break.

S27: That structure is perfect, though, for concert films. So PBS stations often fill their pledge drives with one off musical specials, even if they’re completely unrelated to their usual programming.

S39: Lawrence Welk, television’s music man.

S38: When you build a music pledge show, you come out on a high. I mean, I can remember big band specials where people would get up and dance in their own homes.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S27: They were telling us the Three Tenors concert special wasn’t made for PBS. ABC had actually aired it the year before. It just got repackaged for the March 91 pledge drive where it defied all expectations.

S40: Never seen anything like it. It was just amazing to be on the studio floor and watched those funds just keep ringing and ringing, and the Three Tenors concert promises to be one of the most popular events, public television.

S41: We’re going to send you the VHS copy and you can have that for, you guessed it, one hundred eighty dollars.

S33: Channel Tunnel, they made a ton of money and then it just spilled over and spilled out out into the main stream.

S27: The Three Tenors became household names. Johnny and his producer, George Barris, they saw what was happening. They saw the PBS pledge drive as a platform, or better yet, they saw it as a catapult, a catapult that they could really launch Yanni’s career from.

S30: We just knew that if we could get on public television, once you saw it, you would get absorbed by it and come back for more. We had nowhere else to go.

S42: We weren’t with a big record company. We weren’t with a big management team.

S43: We were the unknown guys on the block. Nobody believed in us. Nobody. So Johnny set out to prove everybody wrong by making his own concert special with George Barris as director.

S28: Johnny and Linda Evans personally footed much of the bill, which was somewhere around 2 million dollars, all with the specific purpose of licensing it to PBS pledge drives, even though they had no idea if it was actually going to get serious airtime.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S44: The question was how much and how many stations? That was a big risk. We didn’t have any guarantee on that money. That definitely was a big risk.

S28: If you’re gonna take a gamble.

S44: You might as well go all in. They concocted an audacious spectacle we needed to create something that would make what the bigness of his music was appropriate to the imagery on television.

S28: They hired the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to lend an unexpected majesty to Yanni’s keyboard compositions, and they booked an epic outdoor venue, the Acropolis, the apogee of all that is good and noble in Modern Man.

S27: And to be clear, Johnny was not already going to be performing at a second century Athenian theatre. This was not a big in Japan type situation. In fact, he’d grown up in Greece, but he had never played in Greece in his career. He wasn’t a superstar. There he wasn’t a superstar, period.

S29: But he played one on TV. Dressed head to toe in all white, snapping his fingers and punching the air to the music.

S45: It was like doing an Olympic opening ceremony. George various his background as a director was in sports, and that’s the approach he took to the concert. First of all, you need the spectacular scenes, a wide shot. We lift the Parthenon. We lift the audience. Not in white, but in while it grows a pastel coloring. It was like painting a picture.

S28: There weren’t even that many people at the concert, really. But George Barris made it all seem bigger with wide angle lenses and skillful camera work.

S44: What I call power shots, tight shots on the hands of the cello. Pan up to the face of the cello. Let’s find the faces that emote emotion. There’s an incredible overhead shot from a high angle jib that comes down the keyboards in a rush to the crescendo of the music. And now you’re getting finally TRT.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S46: garni at the Acropolis. I’ll never forget that I had never heard music like that. And the beauty of the production itself. I mean, it was glorious. The camera loves some people and, you know, they loved the guy.

S28: After PBS stations saw the finished product, they started airing it during their March 1994 pledge drive. And over the course of the drive, it just gathered more and more momentum. Stations scheduled it again and again and again, sometimes back to back in a single night.

S46: It just kept raking in money and being you had to just get up from your couch or your chair and go over the phone. It’s fascinating. Fabulous.

S28: Yanni’s good looks didn’t hurt either, considering the target demo of PBS pledge drives.

S46: 55 year old women had never seen anything like this.

S36: I think I may have been tempted by the seedy version of the concert was released at the same time within three weeks of the start of the pledge drive. It shot to number five on the Billboard album charts for an instrumental New Age live album.

S28: It was unheard of. Johnny had never come close to that before. Now even his back catalogue started to chart.

S44: You look at his tour numbers. They were just off the charts. I mean, he was worldwide.

S30: I don’t believe about the PBS special. It would have happened. Absolutely not.

S27: Yanni’s 2 million dollar bet paid off. The Three Tenors might have seemed like kind of a fluke. But Johnny’s meteoric rise showed that a PBS pledge drive of all things could launch a career. And one person who took notice was another struggling New Age composer.

S47: You could see what PBS was doing and that it was really to the Discovery Channel. Three Tenors and Johnny Wright. Nobody knew who these guys were.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S27: People actually did know who John Tesh was, but it wasn’t for his music.

S48: Hi, everybody. Welcome to Entertainment Tonight. I’m John Tesh along a, Macaulay Culkin, B, hottest child star today. Now, the Million Dollar Kid is starring in a new movie. It’s called My Girl.

S47: I was at Entertainment Tonight and I had been hosting for eight years. I was at that moment and had been for the last five or six years trying to get a record deal. And I could not get record companies interested in me.

S28: John Tesh did manage to get some of his compositions used in sports broadcasts.

S49: Is the NBA on NBC, but to the public, he was eternally the E.T. guy?

S47: Yeah, I was playing probably about 50 people at the time and basically back then. In fact, I remember getting hired by band that I asked for those.

S4: There was a special event at Nordstrom’s in the shoe section. We played background music, but they had to keep telling us to turn it down.

S47: I you know, I realized that if I was going to have a real full time music career, that it was going to have to be some, you know, some big event. What I needed was something like a PBS special to make a whole bunch of loud noise.

S27: But even after Yanni’s Acropolis success, John Tesh had to convince PBS.

S47: You know, I mean, they joked like we did know you’re a musician. What are you going to read? The celebrity birthdays with the orchestra?

S50: You know, celebrating a birthday is Thursday, July 28. Actress Elizabeth Berkley is 22.

S24: But I was I didn’t think was very funny at the time. So they basically said, well, we’ll take a look at it.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S47: Few recordable. We can’t guarantee it. We’ll put it on the air.

S27: So with no guarantee that anybody would ever see it. John Tesh ponied up his own money for a pledge drive special.

S47: And we basically took our savings and ended up having to take what amounted to a second about our house and invested in this thing. And we reached about 1.2 million went that by the time we were, you know, we were down, which was ridiculous.

S51: He followed Johnny’s Fake It Till You make it formula pretty closely. Instead of the Acropolis as a backdrop, he chose the ancient sandstone monoliths of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. And how do you go from annoying man Nordstrom Shoe Department to packing the seats at Red Rocks? You give away the tickets.

S52: We paid a company to give away the tickets and I was shocked that 12000 people showed up. You folks know it.

S53: But each and every one of you are just moments sitting right smack dab in the middle of my biggest dream.

S28: Being here, doing this and John Tesh made sure they got their non money’s worth by putting on a spectacle.

S52: Maybe, you know, some pyro at work here or let’s put Charlie, the violin player up on this precarious rock or let’s have a hydraulic chute, the guitar player up in the air.

S28: He even had Olympic gymnasts Nadia Commun each and Bart Conner onstage doing routines to the music.

S52: I just realized that I needed to pull out every stop I had for this special because I just didn’t have any guarantee that they were gonna take it.

S27: One programmer in Maryland did agree to test it out in the March 1995 pledge drive.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S47: She said, Well, I’ve got a slot at midnight on Sunday night and then, you know, her people stayed up and pledged it. And it was like, you’re doing better than Three Tenors. And so they all started faxing each other, PBS. And within a couple of days it was on the it was on the March schedule and it was on the March schedule. I mean, it was it was huge, if you like.

S54: Yonni in concert, you’ll love John Tesh live at Red Rock.

S24: I realize from watching the people who are hosting the pledge drives that it was really an infomercial.

S54: The music is lush. The setting is gorgeous.

S24: If you have a chance to have somebody evangelize about it, it’s so much better than just having a song played on the radio and just generating a lot of excitement from public television.

S50: That’s really why we’re here. If we don’t make the phones rang, then it’s going to somehow stop.

S24: I mean, I’ve heard them say anywhere between 15 or 20 million dollars, ultimately the raise for four PBS deliver Red Rocks special.

S47: It changed everything for me. I mean, it was Red Rocks cause that was that seminal change in my life for sure.

S27: Exactly. One year after live at the Acropolis, John Tesh proved that Yanni’s model for achieving stardom could be replicated. And so began the era of the unlikely blockbuster PBS pledge special.

S55: And you are watching River Dance, the show, the phenomenon that has swept the world. I remember when I first heard about that program. I mean, Irish clog dancing. My last name is Callahan. I couldn’t believe that they were gonna give us this pledge. Show. And I’m just blown away. I mean, nothing like I used to see it at my church. And there was Sarah Brightman, Andre but Shelly, Andre Ray, you.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S46: Yeah. Guess I’d have to say we were really rolling in 1998.

S24: They were inundated with ideas from people after things like The Three Tenors, Jani River Dance and certainly me, right. Because it was like, well, listen, if this guy can do it, I can definitely do this.

S27: Only now they weren’t all self-funded. Major labels caught on and started putting money behind pledge specials that managed to break new artists like Josh Groban and Charlotte Church.

S28: Celtic woman didn’t even exist as a group before they were assembled by a producer for the purpose of debuting on a pledge drive special.

S36: These shows were inescapable. PBS stations get the rights to air a special not just once, but in some cases six, seven, eight times a week.

S47: That adds up to a whole lot of potential eyeballs for about a year and a half, two years, you couldn’t get away from it and people would run it back to back.

S38: If you look at the role that pledge plays and how much money it needs to bring in, it was very difficult to not play that show over and over again.

S54: And something that you viewers of public television want to see our programs.

S38: A second and a third time, the regular heavy core viewers were very upset by this constant. But we brought in a lot of new audiences. I think that liked our music special. So, you know, it’s a tradeoff.

S27: Yes. The constant pledge drive airings had succeeded in turning Johnny and John Tesh into unlikely household names. But for a lot of people, those names became shorthand for bad music.

S35: You name one woman that you broke up with for an actual real reason. Maureen Rossella, because she doesn’t hate Jani is not a real reason.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S56: Disclaimer about the John Tesh album. He got that shirt not suitable for any living thing. That red rag thing is awful. Moving on.

S47: I think the reason never got to me and never will is that I’m just as surprised as anybody else that anything great has ever happened to me. When triumph the insult dog, what made front of me, it was like, Well, I feel like I’ve been recognized for all this crazy stuff and I like the Red Rocks.

S57: I listened to it last night, but I haven’t had so much fun since the doctor chopped. Why not?

S27: It still seems pretty crazy putting everything you have into a pledge drive special in the hopes that it’ll make you a star. And it’s probably even crazier today. There are some artists still trying to follow the self-produced Yonni model right down to the single name and the outdoor Greek venue nestled in the mountains of northern Greece.

S58: Historya comes alive with the sounds of Pablos Mediteranean guitar music.

S27: But crossover success on the magnitude of the Yonni phenomenon, that’s probably impossible today. The media landscape is just way more fractured than it was in 1994, and today aspiring musicians may have better, less risky platforms like YouTube. But Yonni and John Tesh, they didn’t have those opportunities at the time. Whatever you think of their music, their strategy was brilliant.

S51: They came across an ingenious quasi DIY way to find an audience and they were willing to gamble big to achieve their dreams.

S52: You know, CONAN O’BRIEN said if the guy who used to read the celebrity birth is on, Entertainment Tonight is now playing piano and millions of people are coming to see that we all need to go to our closet right now and get our clarinets out because anything can happen. And it’s true. So that’s why I think that I was sort of the poster boy for quit your job and follow your dream.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S12: John Tesh has a memoir coming out later this month. Yanni has gigs this spring in North Central and South America and Riverdance Dance is also in the middle of a 25th anniversary tour.

S8: And PBS is still on the air. Studio 360’s Evan Chung produced our story.

S59: I hate it being mad at you, Lizzie. It’s so unfair. You should have heard some of the awful things he said about you. She did.

S8: This is from the Audio Book of Secrets. The second novel in the wildly popular Y.A. series Sweet Valley High.

S59: Highly believe my ears.

S8: Yeah, I think she’s always been jealous of you is starting in 1983, the Sweet Valley High books followed the Wakefield twins Jessica and Elizabeth through the ups and downs of their high school career and a picturesque California town. Over the next 20 years, an astonishing number of those Sweet Valley novels were published more than 600. It also spawned spinoff series like Sweet Valley Twins and Team Sweet Valley and eventually a TV show.

S60: Scott’s a college guy loses sweater. But I like this sweater, obviously. It’s so you hear now all you need is a bit of makeup.

S61: I already put it on. As they say, practice makes perfect.

S8: They were literary junkfood. And you didn’t have to be a blonde California girl yourself to love Sweet Valley High Beam at a one me as a producer for This American Life. She also co-hosts the podcast First Aid Kit and at the All Girls boarding school she attended in Nigeria in the 90s. The Sweet Valley books were a very hot commodity.

S61: Why can’t you get it into your thick skull that Bruce likes me? It takes more than a few cases to prove that he’s arrogant and self-centered. He’ll hurt you. Don’t you dare say another bad word about Bruce in front of me, or you’ll regret it forever. You heard me, Elizabeth.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S62: The writing in Sweet Valley High is, in a word, feverish. I mean, there’s like a fog of like hormones just above the book. You open it up and there’s like a small cloud that kind of erupts. I was reading the stuff at boarding school, an all girls boarding school. So I just read it out on my bunk inside dramatically like a God. Imagine. Imagine the things I could do. I wasn’t trapped in this fortress. Then you get older, you think, and boys are terrible. And you.

S63: My name is Ben Adequately. I am a writer. I went to boarding school in a town in Nigeria called Shamoo. I went to a federal government girls college. And so there was at least a few, maybe a couple thousand at the very least of girls between the ages of about 9 or 10 to 15, 16. That’s a lot of girls to have in one place. And girls make their own fun. A good chunk of that fun was a sort of illicit library that kind of operated away from the main library. There were networks where at the beginning of term it would become apparent that somebody had a new set of books and then there would be a kind of weird signup system which was never written down what was very well understood. But that’s how Sweet Valley eventually emerged.

S62: It was a really great way to discover them as sort of the illicit drugs of the system, except they were not drugs at all.

S64: They were just really silly books.

S65: The Sweet Valley High books were written initially anyway by Francine Pascal, and she created this world in this fictional town in California called Sweet Valley.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S66: Welcome to Sweet Valley High, where you’ll meet identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. Both girls are blessed with spectacular good looks.

S67: It felt to me like an Archie comic, but a little bit more late stage capitalism. It felt very much like these people were social climbers and it was fine because everybody else was climbing around them. So why wouldn’t they?

S68: Jessica sighed and asked her sister if she didn’t wish they lived up on the hill like Bruce Patman and Lyla Fowler. Elizabeth knew her twin would like nothing better than to live on the hill, where Sweet Valley’s very rich lived in sprawling mansions.

S69: You know, there’s there’s obviously the very, very rich. So the Wakefield’s are very much kind of like the middle of the road. You know, they are solidly upper middle class, and that’s fine. Francine Pascal understands that you need to have things that rub up against each other with a little bit of friction in order to create some kind of conflict that will then be resolved. The central relationship between the twins, Elizabeth and Jessica, Jessica is the mischievous one and she is, you know, a little bit snobby and she is the one who was a little bit caught up on being the popular cool girl.

S70: Lizzie. Do you believe how absolutely horrendous I look today? How can I possibly go to school looking so awful today of all days?

S61: If you think you’re the grossest looking person in Sweet Valley, just what does that make me? Miss America?

S63: Elizabeth, on the other hand, is very bookish. You know, one of her favorite places to be is the library, because she’s a reader and we all understand that readers and nerds. And that’s a good.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S71: I got it for you. That’s nice now, but I’m Jessica Eliquis over there somewhere. Sorry you look so much alike.

S65: Wow, I never noticed your sister seems to have cornered the nerd that I know was a nerdy person who read books all the time. So Elizabeth felt to me like, oh, that’s clearly my avatar. But a part of me also wanted to be Jessica, who really? She’s a sociopath. I mean, so is Elizabeth. To a lesser, less obvious degree. But Jessica is terrible. She’s a snob. She’s rude. She is, by any measure, a bad person. But she’s also kind of cool. And so when you’re 13 years old, you kind of think, no, I’m absolutely Elizabeth. But also, wouldn’t it be great to be popular cheerleader? Jessica, before your comment says, pulls back foot in the moment, you think, God, hear that. What a great life she must be living.

S72: There was stuff about school and school politics and friendship groups, and mostly it was boys just do you know what time it is? Where have you been?

S70: I don’t have to give you my itinerary, Liz, but I think even you could figure out the answer to that one.

S61: Bruce, you’ve been with him all this time.

S70: Oh, yes. And it was wonderful. I was afraid of that.

S67: The two of them aren’t necessarily attracted to the same kinds of boys, but every so often they are. And that’s when things get really sticky. And, you know, Elizabeth often is the wounded party who kind of withdraws, you know, with sadness. And Jessica is gonna like ask her. I’ll do it. Which, again, is very attractive because you’re like, oh, my God, imagine if you have to care about people’s feelings. Amazing. And Jessica never bothered herself with anybody else’s feelings.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S73: Jessica. Elizabeth? Jessica, of course. Who’s this?

S74: Oh, hi, Jessica. This is Todd Wilkins. This whole.

S70: Oh, Todd, I’m so glad you called. I’ve been meaning to tell you at an absolutely fantastic jumpshot. You made him practice yesterday. I was really impressed.

S74: Jessica, thanks. I didn’t know you were watching. Thanks. Is Liz around?

S69: Todd Wilkins is Elizabeth’s on/off boyfriend. He was coded so clearly as solid but boring. He was a very non threatening version of masculinity.

S75: And on the other hand, you had Bruce Patman versus Aragón.

S76: And you can tell because Bruce has a push and the license plates of the push read one, the one, Bruce one, which again, even as a child, I thought to myself, oh, he’s rich like ballot’s. He plays. Yeah.

S68: He must be right there, said handsome, dark haired Bruce Packman, lounging arrogantly behind the wheel of his flashy sports car.

S75: And that was Bruce. But it’s very interesting to kind of present them as a viable of options, but also perfect because it matches the twins. One of them is kind of nerdy. The other one is not at all nerdy. So course going to match them accordingly.

S67: Essentially, what I did with this was me. What I did years later watching Sex and the City and identifying with one of the four. It’s very useful human habits to try and find the thing that most resembles you. You know, we talk a lot about representation mattering. And on the one hand, for sure, you want to see people who look like you, of course. But half the time what we’re looking for is something we can relate to. And that doesn’t necessarily mean, you know how they look. There were no blonde people in Nigeria my everyday life. And I would go to a bookshop and they would literally be a wall of blonde twins.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S65: But you look back and you think, my God, what serious message? You know that the only fictionalized worth reading about, you know, skinny blonde girls in California. Yeah, it’s not a great message.

S69: One of my favorite things about Sweet Valley High is for each imprint. And there were several, you know, that Sweet Valley High became Sweet Valley kids, became Sea Valley twins. Becames who Valley University became ordinary Sweet Valley. There were so many strands to the Sweet Valley universe long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

S62: Sweet Valley was doing it. They were all over the place. But for each strand the voice remained incredibly the same. I will say, though, that years later, when Francine wrote a sequel set in the future where the twins were grown ups and they had jobs and married and divorced and all this other stuff, I bought that book. I bought the book. And I have I have to know how it ends. I must know because I felt such a strong kinship. I. I grew up with these girls.

S77: Elizabeth had turned the key in the Fox lock when the phone in the apartment started to ring. But Elizabeth didn’t hurry, giving the internal anger and hurt time to shoot from zero to 100. It needed only seconds like the startup speed of a Maserati. Except it was never at zero. Not anymore. Hadn’t been for the last eight months.

S69: These are not the books that I will take to a desert island. But they were so important to me for like a brief, shimmering moment. These were the books that I wanted to kind of live inside of.

S2: At a one me as a producer for This American Life and co-host of First Aid Kit podcast about female desire and by the way, a Sweet Valley movie is supposed to be in development studio 360’s Morgan Flanary and Jocelyn Gonzalo’s produce that story for our Guilty Pleasures series. And that’s it for this week’s show. Studio 360 is a production of PR by Public Radio International in association with Slate. Our production team includes Jocelyn Gonzalez into Adam Nimon. Sandra Lopez onesided. Evan Chang, Lauren Hansen, Sam Kim, Zoe Saunders, Tommy Bezerra and Morgan Flannery. And I’m Kurt Andersen.

S69: He was coded so clearly as solid but boring. He was a very non threatening version of masculinity. Thanks very much for this.

S1: Ah, are Public Radio International.

S78: Next time on STUDIO 360, how Maya Angelou turned the brutal racism of her childhood into a beautiful book she identified with that caged bird with this tremendous impulse to fly, to be free of that cage.

S8: I know why the Caged Bird Sings next time on Studio 360.