A long time ago I was one of the executive producers for the Laura Ingraham Show. We were on more than 300 stations with a total audience of about 5 million, making us a top-five national show and the largest helmed by a woman.
As with any radio or TV show, we had a roster of guest hosts for those times when the host was absent for one reason or another. Laura had numerous successful interests including guest-hosting for Fox News back then, and frankly, running a live major national three-hour radio show every day is a stressful grind.
Tammy Bruce was one of our guest hosts, though I never got to meet her personally during those days. She was based on the West Coast, and our show was based in D.C., so we produced her shows remotely when she was our guest. She’s such a pro—shows with her always went smoothly like clockwork.
Dan Patrick and the late Edd Hendy of Texas were other guest hosts. Patrick is now the state’s lieutenant governor. Patrick generally helped us coordinate with Hendy, and like Bruce, we produced them remotely. Both are pros and shows with them always went well.
We had a couple of guest hosts who were based in Washington. Those guest hosts would come to our studio for the live broadcast, which was hosted in the offices of the Heritage Foundation at the time. Tucker Carlson was one. He was laid back, easy-going, pretty much always looking for the absurd to crack a joke about. Very likable.
We had this other guest host. He’d come in as an interview guest before, and he was well-known because he held political office. When he came in as a guest in his official capacity, he came wearing the customary dark Washington suit and was with his official team but he was always the nicest of the group. A friend reminded me on Facebook last night that when you met him, despite the high office he held, he’d always say, “Please call me Mike.” I only know of two other political officeholders who are similarly humble; one was the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was a guest on the show once, and the other is entrepreneur and Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton. Most others want you to use their title—commissioner, senator, governor, what have you—even if you work for them and see them every day. You hear so many stories about the egos of political officeholders, even ones at much lower levels.
But not Mike. With him it was just “Call me Mike.”
So Mike was our guest host a couple of times. He had a strong background in radio so it made sense. He had the voice, he had the presence, and he had the experience to slot in for a national show.
When he came in as a guest host, he came alone, no retinue, and no suit. He was dressed casually in jeans and a country-style button-down shirt. It was a long time ago, but I recall he was wearing boots.
Mike came into the studio about 30 or 35 minutes before airtime and worked with us producers on show prep. He went through the stories with us, we stacked them as a team for the first few segments. I was the technical producer, meaning I edited and injected soundbites and effects live during the show. It was nuts. Our show was the most complex production on live national radio at the time, so my job most days was like skydiving in a tornado for three hours a day, five days a week. During show prep, Mike hung out and worked on the show like one of the team. He always wanted to be prepared for what was next.
During breaks, Mike would joke with us, keep the mood light, but always professional, spending a minute or two in each break to stay organized for the next segment. He hit his marks, riffed, engaged with the callers, and was an ace throughout. He treated us producers like the bosses and experts, but on the air he was the leader. He was just great to work with when there were no cameras or aides, and just a small group of people producing a show with a massive audience and hundreds of stations depending on it. He could have been very different, given his office and all, but Mike was as cool as they came.
I wish I’d gotten a photo with Mike now. He was a congressman from Indiana at the time, but he’s Vice President Mike Pence now.
Bryan Preston is the author of Hubble’s Revelations: The Amazing Time Machine and Its Most Important Discoveries. He’s a writer, former NASA and talk radio producer, veteran, author, and Texan.