Dr. Gene Sharp, sweetest man ever.
I got a call from the BBC on Thursday afternoon asking me to do a tape sync on Saturday morning. A tape sync, referred to as a mic hold in the UK, requires the technician (me, in this case) to go to the home or office of the interview subject and record a conversation so that the show isn't forced to broadcast crappy telephone audio.
The call was from Jastinder Khera, a producer for Broadcasting House, BBC Radio 4's Sunday morning news magazine programme*. I accepted, of course.
I got so much more than I bargained for! I knew I'd get some money and some experience, but I didn't know who I was going to record. Saturday morning I got the details... GENE SHARP! Among a million other texts, he wrote From Dictatorship to Democracy, a guide that inspired the recent batch of revolutionary folks in Egypt (as well as dissidents in Tunisia, Burma, Bosnia, etc.). If you want to read more on him, there was a great article on Dr. Sharp and his work in the New York Times called Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution.
Anyway, I arrived at Dr. Sharp's home in East Boston (which, as of 1983, moonlights as the Albert Einstein Institution). His assistant led me to a parlor and living room absolutely covered with books, newspapers, and academic journals. Every surface was covered with paper. We had to move a number of things to have space for my recording equipment (for context, my field recorder is about the size of a couple of Pop Tarts). Dr. Sharp came downstairs from his home on the second floor wearing the shirt seen here. Such a classy guy. At 83 years old, he had a hard time navigating the office and carried a white handkerchief for accidental drool spillovers. I wasn't sure how this interview was going to go, but as soon as we got on the line with the BBC, his frail voice was the only thing that would betray his age. At the end of the interview, I heard him ask his assistant for the spelling of my name. I turned around and he was signing a copy of From Dictatorship to Democracy for me. I was so honored.
The majority of the interview was included in the programme* and you can check it out at the following link, starting around minute 13: Broadcasting House, 20/02/11. Listening to the recording made me realize I need to purchase a pop screen for my vocal microphone and a better XLR cable (you can hear some pops and white noise). Practice makes perfect, you know.
*British spelling adds flair.