I was sitting in my office at MTV in Los Angeles, wondering when the fallout of September 11th would finally end. Now there were many types of fallout, but to those of us who made our living as political satirists, questioning our government was still an unwelcome programming pitch, so we were a breed sort of lost in the wilderness.
I was producing work to pay the bills. The job I was working on for MTV was doing a spring break dating show. It was not very political.
I remember sitting in my office, looking through headshots of bikini clad twenty something's as I printed out Colin Powell's speech to the UN, wondering if anyone else in the building was doing this as well.
I guessed probably not.
I grabbed Powell's speech from the printer, and read it on the plane to South Padre Island, to shoot a show about drunken coeds trying to hook up.
When I returned, I decided I needed to take the summer off and reassess my whole life and career. I wanted to find a way to get back to New York. But how?
My phone rings in my West Hollywood apartment. It is a man with a beautiful baritone voice. The following dialogue is as close to as I can remember.
"Hi, I am looking for Lizz."
"You found her"
"My name is Jon Sinton, and I am launching a new progressive radio network in New York City and I got your number from Al Franken. He suggested we find a Lizz Winstead type for our team and though you might have some suggestions."
A Lizz Winstead type?
"How about Lizz Winstead?" I said.
God I was happy to be back in New York. Happy to eat meat on the street, happy to have a stranger pee on my shoes, happy to have cigarettes delivered to my house, but most important; happy to be back in the business of using my humor for good.
I had never worked in radio. I had never launched a network. I do have a pretty good knack for picking talent so I was gonna use my TV chops and my instincts to try and figure this out.
So began the task of weeding through piles of demo tapes with my partner in crime Shelley Lewis as we had the daunting task of finding talent to fill the 18 hours of programming. This was gonna be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
I open my mailbox and find a padded envelope postmarked Western Massachusetts. It was from my dear friend Paul who fled the city a decade ago to teach photography. He had been haranguing me to years to come and visit him and meet his amazing friends, but I am not one of those "Let's go apple picking and hiking" people so I never have made it up for a visit. I opened the package and inside was a CD and a note that read, " I have a friend who hosts a morning radio show here in Northampton, I know I have talked to you about her. She is great, and I think would be great for your network. Give it a listen. Now that you are back, you need to come up."
I bring the CD to work the next day and say to Shelley, "I got this from a friend. Let's listen and see if she's what we are looking for."
We both listened. She was smart, funny and engaging.
"I'll call her and see when she can come down to meet us." Shelley says and I go grab a cup of coffee.
I walk back into the office and Shelley says, "She is getting on a bus from Northampton right now and will be here this afternoon."
Wow. Is the fact that she is able to come now a good thing or a red flag?
I guess we will find out shortly.
Shelley and I gathered the rest of the team and that afternoon, and in walks Paul's friend. A charming woman who loves politics, music and dogs.
She was perfect. She was hired. She will be co-hosting with me.
April 2, 2004
It is the first full day of programming at Air America. The theme music of the midmorning show begins.
"Welcome to the premiere of Unfiltered here on Air America Radio. I'm Rachel Maddow here with my co-hosts Chuck D and Lizz Winstead.
Joining us today for our first broadcast is Arianna Huffington..."
Lizz Winstead will be performing at Comix in New York City from June 26th to the 27th. Tickets may be found at ComixNY.com.