A few weeks after sending my CV to our national broadcasting company, I received a letter inviting me to an audition. When I arrived at the radio station’s headquarters at the set date and time, I was given a text and led into a room to familiarize myself with it while I waited my turn to go into the studio and do my thing. Imagine my surprise when in that waiting room I found five former fellow students waiting to audition too. We were all pretty nervous. One by one we were called in.
Finally, it was my turn. I can assure you that walking into a recording studio can be pretty intimidating when you’re 23 and have no media experience! I sat down, put the headphones on and cleared my throat. From behind the window, a technician waved to attract my attention. I looked up from my text page and he said: “Whenever you are ready.”
How did I do? Lousy! I stumbled over my words, overlooked a sentence and therefore completely lost the sense of the story. Due to the increasing stress, I also forgot to breath and I ended up almost choking in the last part of a sentence. And most important of all; I didn’t pay attention to my vowels. Where I live we tend to pronounce our ‘i’s’’ and ‘u’s’ rather sharply, while people from Antwerp for instance, pronounce their ‘a’s’ like ‘ae’s (which is wrong too). And people who live in the coastal region systematically make a silent ‘h’ sound like a ‘g’, and so on. All these mispronunciations were unacceptable when you wanted to become a newsreader.
And then there was my guttural, rolling ‘RRR’, of course. In those days it was considered as a handicap, which was only tolerated and even applauded when you spoke French. Today, speaking Flemish with a rolling ‘RRR’ is fashionable.
My media career ended right there and then. A few weeks later I received a very formal letter announcing that I didn’t have ‘the right profile’ for the job and that another candidate had been offered a contract. Later I learned that it was one of my former schoolmates. He really worked his way up and became and remained the anchorman of the eight o’clock television news for several years.
He was held in high regard. However, he was banned from the screen and sent back to the newsroom after making the capital mistake of jumping in front of Pope John-Paul II in an attempt to obtain an impromptu interview while he was visiting the Jubilee Park in Brussels in 1995. He also made a spectacle of himself when, during a life television award ceremony, he tried to dance on stage with the flamboyant Dame Edna (Barry Humphries)!
Life in the spotlights can be tough, can’t it? Looking back, I’m glad my career in the media ended before it really started …