Early one morning in 1988, I was getting ready for school and listening to the morning show on Maine’s classic-rock station, WBLM, piped in through my Panasonic AM/FM cassette clock radio. I was 13, with a couple of months of seventh grade under my sweatpants’ elastic waistband.
The DJs had just announced that they would soon call Scot Schmidt in his room at Portland, Maine’s Hyatt hotel. Schmidt was in town with Greg Stump for the world premiere of The Blizzard of Aahhh’s, taking place that very evening. I already had a ticket, but this unexpected revelation of Schmidt’s exact physical coordinates had sweat beading on my hairless upper lip. I was utterly thrilled. Even then I thought rear-entry boots sucked, but because Schmidt wore them—and absolutely shredded in them—I wanted them. Before the interview began, I had the phone book open and the Hyatt’s number pinned under a trembling finger.
I heard the DJs talking to a groggy Schmidt, but not their words. I was preoccupied with my next move. The interview ended and I rotary-dialed the living hell out of that number. In a hormone-cracked voice I asked for “Mr. Scot Schmidt’s room, please.” It rang. A woman answered.
“Hi, could I, um, speak to Mr., er, Scot, please?”
“You’re not from that radio station, are you?” She asked. “They woke us up so early.”
“Oh no! I’m not. No! I’m just, um, I’m one of your husb—Mr. Schmidt’s biggest fans!”
“Hold on,” she said. And in the ensuing very pregnant silence I realized I hadn’t any idea what I would actually say.
“Hello?” A still-groggy male voice asked.
“Hi, uh, Mr. Schmidt? My name is Sam Bass and I’m one of your biggest fans!”
“Oh, uh, hi…”
“Yeah, so I think you’re really awesome!”
“Oh, thanks. Thanks. That’s really nice of you.”
“Yeah, um, I heard you on BLM and they said you were at the Hyatt, so I called, and…yeah.”
It went on a little longer. I told him I was going to the film and that he was really, really awesome a few more times. And he really was awesome: nice, not condescending or snobby-sounding. It was absolutely thrilling to speak with him, and I bragged about it for months at school, to anyone who would listen.
Fast-forward 21 years. I’m 34, married with two children, and an editor at Skiing Magazine, which shares office space with Warren Miller Entertainment. Stump and Schmidt visit the office to discuss a project with the Warren Miller folks. I hear they’re in the building and I get that same giddy feeling. Stump pokes his head into my office to say hello. I’ve never met either of them before. Before I know what’s happening, I’ve leapt up, introduced myself, and retold this story. Schmidt says he remembers being woken up by WBLM and then some kid calling him. Stump says he remembers Schmidt telling him about it. Maybe they’re just patronizing me. I don’t care. I apologize to Schmidt for calling so early.
“No problem,” he says. At that very moment, my whole life is validated.