Video Killed the Radio Star
I have not shared a tribute piece on this blog yet and of course sharing one means someone wonderful has left my life. Len Mailloux was my radio college professor, mentor and friend. One of my favorite Len-isms was when he told us he had a “face for radio” and that’s how he became a producer. The phrase was of course a classic but it was the first time I heard it and it cracked me up. Anytime I would hear “Video Killed the Radio Star” I would think of him and chuckle to myself. While trying to decide how to properly feature him on the blog I was shuffling through my iTunes and found this songwhich was just SO perfectly Len.
I went to college for audio with the hopes of managing a record label, and continued on with a degree in TV broadcasting where I fell in love with post-production. Along the way I got involved with anything and everything on campus that I could, given that’s just who I am. My proudest college accomplishment came in 2002/2003 during the height of the Napster scandal. Suddenly just the ability to play popular music on our college radio station would cost us a fortune in fees (that weren't even recouped by the artist!). The faculty head of the station was our esteemed professor and one of my favorite people, Len. He decided we would combat the RIAA and their exorbitant fees to stream music by playing only independent artists. If you were unsigned, we wanted you!
In building this little “All Independent Radio” concept he needed a strong student leader who could sweet talk acts into sharing their music, track our library, keep everything organized and bring sanity to the chaos that is a radio station. When he nominated me I scoffed. I wasn’t a leader nevermind a radio major and I could not handle this. Of course, I was wrong. Len believed in me and saw something I didn’t recognize in myself in my ability to manage people and hectic situations. Our launch was a success and I was so proud of our group and our all-indie approach to college music. We had great times (and challenging ones navigating the world of BMI / ASCAP / SESAC. We joked we earned our law degrees reading the fine print of music copyrights). I learned so much during that project both about the business and about myself. Those Len life lessons still carry on over a decade later.
I had 2 classes with Len my last semester and they were my favorites by far. He encouraged us to tell our stories as broadcasters of the future. He forced us to focus on facts and then find the human interest piece inside the facts. He questioned our logic. He made us look at things outside of our normal purview and really examine them without adding our personal bias to the mix. He also helped us shape our “interview pitch” and form our resumes to best encapsulate our young lives on paper. I remember him reading my cover letter and cracking up laughing when I called myself a “people person”. He said (and I have never forgotten this) - “Well sweetheart, there are 6 billion people on the earth, you better be a “people person” and you better find some of your other great skills to market because that ain’t it”. So true!
He spoke at our graduation and it was the kind of speech where you can’t remember the exact words but you laughed, you cried and you felt like part of something extremely important. I still wish I had a copy, but he would never share. We kept in touch over the years; he would fill me in on teaching at Simmons (and the “Sam’s” he met there - overachieving, high-strung coffee addicts with big dreams, LOL) and his family and his garden. I would fill him in on my promotions, my travels and my life of storytelling. I had lunch with him a few times over the years and I always left feeling warm and fuzzy. Len was the kind of person who brought the best energy to a room and to your life.
Last week Len suffered a heart attack and sadly did not recover. He passed Wednesday morning and I spent most of the day randomly sobbing while thinking about him. My life and SO many lives are better for having known him - and that is the truest testament to a person’s character. In doing some cleaning over the weekend I came across this trophy awarded during our graduation banquet by Len to yours truly. I’ve moved it into my home office where I can be reminded of him and his encouragement often. Thank you for the life lessons, the guidance, the laughs and most of all for believing in me, Len. I’d like to think anytime I share a story and connect with someone you’re up there smiling (arms crossed, of course!). <3“And that’s another story and we’ll get back to it”.