'Star Trek' creator Gene Roddenberry in 1974 and 1976

Thursday, November 7, 2019
You’d think if you’d met the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, in the flesh you’d remember it.

Especially if he told you the real reason he made Mr. Spock look a little … devilish (about 32:17 in).

Well, I did meet him, and he told me that—and I confess that I forgot all about it.

Only when a longtime friend and neighbor lent me a vintage reel-to-reel tape player and I opened a long-filed-away box labeled “Gene Roddenberry” did I recall that I was actually in a studio with Roddenberry at college radio station WPGU in 1974—a half-decade after the original TV show had been canceled and a half-decade before the first Star Trek movie was to debut in theaters. (Photo: Roddenberry in 1974 by Nolan Hester for The Daily Illini.)

Not only that, but I got him to autograph a book, which sat on my shelf forgotten and unloved for years.

Here’s how it sounded, Nov. 7, 1974: A long-unheard interview with the visionary Gene Roddenberry, hosted by Phil Robinson with help from Jim Gassel, Bill Taylor, a so-young-and-nerdy-you-could-plotz 19-year-old Charlie Meyerson and a bunch of call-in fans.

Bonus 1: Keep listening past the end of that show and you’ll hear my second Roddenberry encounter—raw audio of a phone interview followed by the finished feature that resulted: An episode of WPGU’s mini-documentary series, Probe.

Bonus 2: For completists, here’s the aircheck of the full 1974 hour—including ads and a newscast by WPGU anchor Maggi Pratt.

Related listening: My interviews with science fiction writers Ray Bradbury in 1999, Cory Doctorow in 2019, Greg Bear in 1994 and 1996, William Gibson in 1993 and Douglas Adams in 1997 and 1992.

Check out even more of my conversations with thought-leaders through the years on this website, in Apple Music, on Spotify, via your favorite podcast player, and at Chicago Public Square.

And thanks to Dave Mausner for lending me that tape player.


Wednesday, October 23, 2019
It’s an honor to see my name listed among those of so many actually talented people in the acknowledgments for A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee, a biography from Danny Fingeroth coming to bookstores Nov. 5.

Publishers Weekly calls it “a fittingly ebullient tribute to a man who never failed to add one more exclamation mark.”

My contribution? Sharing audio of my encounters with Lee over the decades—here, here and here.

You can hear more of my conversations with thought leaders on this website, in Apple Music, on Spotify, via your favorite podcast player and at Chicago Public Square.

Help wanted: Legal affairs writer

Friday, October 11, 2019
As I do from time to time, I'm sharing word of an interesting job opening—this one again with the American Bar Association, which I’ve been honored to consult on matters of audience engagement.

If you are, or know someone who is, a legal affairs writer, check it out here.

And tell ’em Charlie sent ya.

1988: Chaos in the Chicago City Council

Thursday, September 5, 2019
This week’s transformative Chicago City Council development—the historic livestream video presentation of a committee meeting—brings to mind a time when the council was maddeningly tough to follow.

In 1988, I was a newbie City Hall reporter for WXRT-FM. It was an assignment I relished not—partly because the council’s procedures were bewilderingly opaque and byzantine.

But I channeled my journalistic frustration into creation of a series that won a nationwide United Press International award for documentary radio reporting.

So, let’s return to the year 1988. Eugene Sawyer was briefly Chicago’s mayor, and a young journalist was pissed off at the difficulty navigating … Chaos in the Council.

Me, far more enthusiastic about covering City Hall in 2012.
Another award-winning WXRT News investigation from 1984.
And check out some of my interviews with thought-leaders through the years on this website, in Apple Music, on Spotify, via Alexa-powered speakers, through your favorite podcast player, and at Chicago Public Square.