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Just How It Sounds: Reading 'Playboy' To The Blind
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Just How It Sounds: Reading 'Playboy' To The Blind

Strange News

MIKE PESCA, host:

By day, Suzi Hanks works as a morning DJ on a classic rock station in Houston, Texas. But when all the Bachman Turner has shifted out of overdrive, and when the Foghat's been lifted, she donates her vocal talents to reading for the blind.

There is one particular publication she reads that caught our ear. Producer Brent Baughman picks up the story from there.

BRENT BAUGHMAN: The organization is called Taping for the Blind, and it works like this: Volunteers are recorded in a studio reading all kinds of different publications.

Ms. SUZI HANKS (Volunteer, Taping for the Blind): Every morning, they read the Houston Chronicle front to back, tabloids, People magazine...

BAUGHMAN: Those recordings are then aired on a special radio and frequency given to clients.

Ms. HANKS: So you can't hear it on your car radio.

BAUGHMAN: Suzi started volunteering there as a reader about three years ago.

Ms. HANKS: And the first thing they did was they had me on the pet show. I read Dog Fancy, Cat Fancy and Bird Talk. It was wonderful yet a little bit boring...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HANKS: ...to be honest.

BAUGHMAN: Taping for the blind does not discriminate in terms of what publications it reads for clients. And one day, Suzi got an interesting reading opportunity.

Ms. HANKS: Well, it's a funny story. The guy who did Playboy got married, and his wife told him that he couldn't do it anymore. So they came and asked me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HANKS: Now, I am a woman on a classic rock radio station in Houston, predominately male listeners, male fans following, and so they thought that that might be fun. So they asked me if I would give it a try.

BAUGHMAN: Suzi reads the articles, too, of course, but when she's describing the photos in Playboy, she has no script. She just describes the photos as she sees them.

Ms. HANKS: She has long dark hair, very dark eyebrows, chocolate brown eyes. Her hair appears to be maybe a little bit damp, kind of matted, stuck to the skin. She is rollerblading down the street, and she is looking back over her right shoulder with a great big grin on her face.

She's sitting kind of Indian style, cross-legged in the water. She's on a bed. There's some nautical sheets on it, sheets with pictures of sailboats.

Interestingly enough, in the centerfold, it looks as if the tattoos have been airbrushed out. The tattoos are gone. The tattoos are in the other pictures.

Basically, I'm their eyes. And all I'm doing is providing accessibility to what's there on the page. So I read it, or I tell it like I see it. I don't have to try to be sexy when I'm reading the pictures. I'm just a woman reading it, and it comes out sexy whether I want it to or not.

It's not just body parts. You know, body parts would get boring if I just talked about the body parts over and over and over again. You're painting a picture with your words. She's conveying something through her eyes, through her facial expressions and through her poses, and that's what I try to do.

(Soundbite of music)

There are a group of clients who come into Taping for the Blind. I'll walk in, and they know my voice. They can tell Suzi's here. They perk up and they ask me about an article that I read or tell me a joke that I told them, something like that.

My husband never really listened to it before, but the other day, I brought one home and I read it to him. And he really liked that. It was a lot of fun. He often tells people that I read Playboy, but he'd never actually listened. It was kind of eye-opening for him too. I was fully clothed when I read that to him, by the way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

PESCA: Suzi Hanks in Houston. She spoke to producer Brent Baughman. You can find out more about the Taping for the Blind service at npr.org.

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