Mr. Chatterbox

By staff June 1, 2008

Yes, those rumors about me and Matt Orr are true. We’re both appearing on ABC-7 TV! And to make matters even more interesting, he’s doing gossip and I’m doing real estate. This is strange because he’s a realtor and I’m a gossip. It just goes to show. In these times of economic downturn you have to re-invent yourself.

My own particular “show,” called Real Estate Junkie and based on my well-known blog of the same name (you can read it at, appears every Wednesday and comprises three minutes on the noon news. This means I have to talk real fast. They’ve giving me a wonderful time slot, though. I follow the stray cat that’s up for adoption and I serve as a lead-in to the cooking demonstration.

In the broadcast version of Real Estate Junkie, I try to adhere to the elements that made the original such a success. I highlight properties on the market that are special for one reason or another—price, location, uniqueness. My specialty is charm (not me, the properties). I’m always on the lookout for a house with that indefinable element that sets it apart, that certain thing that adds value but not price. And you want to know the lesson I’m learning? An awful lot of it has to do with mature landscaping.

Let me make clear that, strange as it seems, I have no financial interest in publicizing these homes. And no advertising is sold. True, I will not feature a home listed by a realtor I have a grudge against, nor will I knowingly mention any place that doesn’t allow pets, as I consider that a civil rights violation, plus a stupid move that lowers property values. But in general I am driven by altruistic values. A better name for my program might be Real Estate Saint.

The biggest problem about appearing on TV every week? Finding clothes that don’t make you look fat. I swear, that camera adds 40 pounds. You should see those ABC7 people in real life. John Scalzi, who looks so brawny on TV, is a veritable Clay Aiken, and Silke Rible and Wendy Ross are so thin they look like something you whipped up out of pipe cleaners.

After much trial and error, I’m settling on loose-fitting dark colors, preferably with some sort of camouflage pattern. It throws the eye off and you can’t tell where I end and the set begins. Tight-fitting pastels are a disaster. If I thought I could get away with it I would wear caftans, but I tried a couple on and Matt told me I was starting to look like that guy who does the horoscope on Telemundo. So it’s back to dark and loose.

I love the atmosphere over at ABC7. It’s so homey and relaxed. I generally arrive just before noon. First they put you in the Green Room, a tiny little waiting room, sort of like a dentist in Arcadia might have. (There’s no mirror, so bring your own.) I pass the time with Vicki Shannon from the Cat Depot and meet this week’s cat. We watch the headlines, the weather, the Bloomberg Market Report. Then, when it’s your turn, the microphone lady, Cindy Myers, darts in and has you thread a mic cord under your loose-fitting clothing. Then they take you onto the set, which is a big room divided into several areas. There’s the main news desk, there’s a conversational grouping around a coffee table, there’s another conversational grouping where they do me and the cat, there’s the cooking counter, and there are several other areas where the reporters stand and deliver stories. Oddly enough, there are no cameramen. All the cameras are operated by remote control and occasionally travel around by themselves, like those robots in Star Wars.

Sometimes I bring my dog, Pee Wee, but he tends to become overstimulated by the cat and the smell of the cooking and begins to frantically run around in great big circles, the way dogs do, which is not really a plus during a live newscast. The viewers at home really can’t see him, but they do hear the heavy panting and the squeals as he runs into things, and then there was the time he kept humping Ken Jefferson’s leg during the Entertainment Report. So I finally had to tell him, “This is for Daddy, Pee Wee. Get your own show.”

We’re doing all this as the first element of our new partnership with ABC 7. It’s a real win-win situation. ABC7 gets the in-depth content that only real old journalists who have been stuck here forever can provide, and we (the old journalists) get to be on TV. Not that the other Sarasota Magazine people are all that old. Associate food and wine editor  Judi Gallagher is a virtual child prodigy in the world of celebrity chefs, and Susan Burns, editor of our business magazine, Biz941, is much older than she looks. She has a son in college. (Susan’s husband Larry Eger is running for Public Defender, but I’m not allowed to say anything about it, in fairness to his opponent Adam Tebrugge. In fact, Larry and Adam are so fair and ethical that they both asked me not to mention them in my column. “Please,” Larry begged when I recently bumped into him. “Just pretend you don’t know me.”)

Needless to say, all this is making the competition crazy. I saw Linda Desmarais—she runs SNN—the other night at Fleming’s, and she was tearing her hair out. She could have had me years ago for half of what ABC is paying me. But I slipped through her fingers. I’ve noticed that she now has Michael Braga from the Herald-Tribune doing real estate— I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery—but everybody says the only thing he has over me is his body. Linda has him stand, in tight-fitting jeans, practically flaunting his six-pack abs. Talk about pandering to your audience. I’m so jealous I’m on a new diet, the one where you have six small meals a day. I’m speeding it up a little, though. As soon as I finish one small meal I start another.

Now, how does Matt Orr fit into all this, you ask. He has nothing to do with Sarasota Magazine. He runs, which has everything that’s going on in town of note, plus a lot of other interesting stuff, like Dining Divas. Matt comes on TV on Thursdays and delivers his picks for parties and events that are coming up over the weekend. He’s building up quite a fan base, I’m told. At least in my household. Pee Wee and I sit there and watch religiously. “Look, look,” I tell him. “There’s your Uncle Matt. He’s on TV.”

To see Real Estate Junkie, go to and click on the Real Estate Junkie icon.

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