A Love Of Acting Leads To A Career In Radio
LIANE HANSEN, host:
StoryCorps, the project that brings you the personal stories of everyday Americans, is encouraging you to take part in a new holiday tradition this year. It's called the National Day of Listening. It's the day after Thanksgiving. Set aside one hour on Friday, November 28, to record a conversation with someone you love. You can do it at home with recording equipment you own, borrow, or purchase in advance. There is no wrong way to do this. Just listen closely and ask the questions you've always wanted to ask. I'm going to be interviewed by my son, Connor Conan. He's 25 years old, he lives in Los Angeles, and he's in the studios of NPR West. Hi, Connor.
Mr. CONNOR CONAN: Hi. How are you?
HANSEN: I'm OK. Well, you know, now is your chance. What do you want to know?
Mr. CONAN: Growing up, who were your influences? Who helped you establish your voice?
Mr. CONAN: On the radio.
HANSEN: Interesting. My mentors here at NPR were Susan Stamberg and Noah Adams and Bob Edwards. Your father, Neal Conan, was a great influence. And I would say, you know, the person that encouraged me most to be whatever what I wanted to be - of course, she always told me she was praying for me - but was my grandmother, Nana Baldwin(ph). She was my cheerleader.
My whole life, I just thought, you know, if I could be as energetic and love life as much as she did when she was 91 that - that just kept me going through the bad times when I was, you know, working two secretarial jobs and then evening jobs selling blueberry muffins at Jordan Marsh and working in a screw machine factory - I swear they made screws - while I was doing community theater. And I would always think of her when I wasn't getting exactly what I wanted.
Mr. CONAN: How did your parents feel? Did they have a certain direction for you? Did they, you know - were they the type of parents that wanted you to be a doctor and study hard? Or were they the type of parents that, you know, pretty open-ended, you can be anything you want?
HANSEN: Yeah. That's really interesting. I mean, my dad was somebody who always encouraged me. I was the first-born, so I think he treated me like a boy and, you know, would buy me slide rules and things for my birthday. I think my mom had the idea that, you know, for me to get a job, it would only be a job until I got married. And so her ambitions for me never really extended beyond being a secretary.
But when I floated the idea of being an actress - well, no, that's a lot of fun. But if you're going to go to college, you have to have something - and the phrase was - "to fall back on." I think they were trying to protect me from, obviously, the vagaries of show business. But my Dad died before I got the job on the radio, but my Mom lived into her 80s, and it was kind of a gift I was able to give to her. She used to say, we never thought you'd amount to anything, but look what's happened to you.
(Soundbite of laughter)
HANSEN: She said that until the day she died.
Mr. CONAN: You have millions of listeners that have this connection to you. Is there anything that you would want them to know more about you that they perhaps don't?
HANSEN: I think they would be surprised to find out how shy I am. When I go to parties, it's very difficult for me to strike up a conversation with somebody, and I'm always afraid I'm going to slide back into, like, interview mode. It's interesting, I feel a connection to all of the people on Sunday mornings who are alone, and maybe I'm their friend that morning. And I think of them as my friends too.
(Soundbite of music)
HANSEN: Well, Connor, I want you to know how proud I am of you and that pioneer spirit that you have that got you to leave what's familiar in the East and stake your claim in the West. You've wanted to go to Hollywood since you were 10 years old. You also know that I love you very much, and I'm really grateful to have the opportunity to tell you those stories. Thank you.
Mr. CONAN: Yeah. Thank you. And I'm very proud of you too.
(Soundbite of music)
HANSEN: If you're interested in recording someone important to you, StoryCorps has all the resources you need to get started. Just go to nationaldayoflistening.org where you'll find a downloadable do-it-yourself guide, great questions, and an instructional video. It's a really inexpensive but very meaningful gift. And this has certainly been a gift, Connor, again. This is my son, Connor Conan. And he joined us from the studios of NPR West. Have a good day. Don't be late for work.
Mr. CONAN: Thanks for having me.
HANSEN: Morning Edition has more interviews like this one every day this week. Tomorrow Steve Inskeep talks to his mother, who was the first in her family to go to college.
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