My Favorite Interview, Ever
It recently dawned on me that I am now in my 30th year of radio. Overlooking a radio jingle I recorded as a kid, the first time I appeared on- air as an adult was in May of 1990 when I was the guest of a guest-host, Brian Tierney. That was on 96.5FM, WWDB. In the interim, I’ve been responsible for thousands of hours of live radio. Over the years, I have often been asked what is my favorite interview of the countless I have conducted? I’ve never had a fast answer. I was thinking about this recently while reading Howard Stern Comes Again in which Howard reveals that Conan O’Brien was his favorite guest.
Well, now I know my answer.
Today is the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion and in anticipation of commemorating the date on air, I recently listened to some interviews in my archives. In the process, I re-acquainted myself with one particular segment from October 3, 2007. As soon as I was reminded of the conversation, I knew, this is it - this is the interview of which I am most proud.
I was then hosting morning drive on 1210AM, WPHT in Philadelphia. That day, Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron, two quintessential South Philly guys turned world heroes, joined me in studio. They both were featured prominently in Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne: From Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest, which gave rise to the acclaimed television miniseries of the same name produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Robyn Post also told their story the book Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends. These World War II paratroopers were the embodiment of the Greatest Generation. Despite being born 18 days apart and raised in the same neighborhood, they didn’t know one another until they were stationed in England before D-Day. They went on to fight side by side in Holland and Belgium and each participated in some of the better known battles of the war. Heffron helped to liberate the Kaufering concentration camp and eventually infiltrated and seized Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. He fought in numerous battles, including Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge and died on December 1st, 2013. Guarnere jumped on D-Day and landed in St.Marie Iglesias and also fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He was granted the nickname “Wild Bill” for his heroism in fighting against the Germans and received a Silver Star after fighting in the Brecourt Manor Assault. He passed away on March 8th, 2014 just 14 weeks after Babe.
The day of the interview, “Wild Bill” came in on crutches, having long ago discarded the prosthetic leg he’d been provided after losing one of his own at the Battle of the Bulge. Babe was next to him the whole time, as they reflected on their friendship, distinguished by their 63-year streak of talking to each other every single day in person or on the phone. I’m grateful that I have a photograph of the three of us together even if it turned out a bit blurred.
I distinctly recall that both men had a fondness for TC, my producer. They were complimentary of her in a way that might not meet today’s #MeToo standards, but were never quite over the line. She told me was more than happy to let it slide when Wild Bill referred to her as “that Scornavacchi broad”.
Their friendship was a unique bond as evident with Bill’s reaffirming “You got it,” after Babe would answer one of my questions, or in Babe’s confidence in Bill's support (“And I know Bill. Billy he just concurs 100% with me. There is no doubt in my mind about that. I don’t even need to ask him.”)
Highlights from the interview include Wild Bill discussing the death of his brother, his jump on D-Day, the loss of his leg, and the thanks he gave for returning alive. He spoke about revisiting the site of where he landed on D-Day and said, “The first thing I do when I get back...Babe and I always go to the cemetery to see the soldiers that were killed in action.” He continued, “We never forget that we are not the only ones that one that war. Everyone won that war.”
Babe recounted the seizing of Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s secret command post and the poor treatment the Americans received when they arrived in Austria. We then spoke about his frustration with his perception of the lack of patriotism in America’s youth.
“One thing, we can’t stand, I know I don’t abide by it and I sure as hell know Bill Guarnere don’t, is the fact that people are not as patriotic as they should be. This is the greatest country in the world,” said Babe.
I was also struck by Babe’s recounting of what it was like when he first saw his father after returning from the war. You have to hear that.
One other thing. These two had seen so much hardship, but they liked to laugh. They shared with me a funny encounter upon their return to Baston after the war, where they had to pay to use the public bathroom. After they paid for themselves and a few others, Babe told the woman taking the money, “I’m gonna tell you something... well see those woods over there, I took 5,000 pisses over there and you never charged me a dime.” They both laughed after telling the story, and I couldn’t help but join in. Their spirit was contagious. And I was honored to host them.
I hope you will join me in commemorating D-Day by tuning in at 11 a.m. EST on SiriusXM POTUS channel 124 on the 75th anniversary of D-Day when I play this interview. But don’t worry if you miss it; I’ll make sure to distribute the audio via social media after my producer Dan makes it available On Demand for SiriusXM subscribers and published online for everyone to access.