Matt’s Text

Hosted by

Matt Holzman. Photo credit: KCRW.

KCRW's longtime producer, host and cheerleader, Matt Holzman, who died Sunday, only texted me once about my reviews.

But the time he did it was at 4:48 p.m. and it was in ALL CAPS.

The all caps part you probably get but 4:48 p.m. was important because it meant that Matt had listened to it live. My pieces are on air at 4:44 p.m. and usually last about three and a half minutes ... so 4:48 p.m. meant that something so struck Matt that he texted immediately.

That panicked me.

Matt Holzman is the reason I'm at KCRW.

It was his call out-of-the-blue that started this amazing journey.  Here was a guy I'd never met calling me and asking me if I wanted to be KCRW's theatre critic!?!  What did I know about radio?

Thanks to Matt, I was going to learn a lot.  Not just because of his call but because he was going to teach me.  Matt was going to produce my piece ..."produce" is probably the wrong verb for what Matt did.  Matt taught me to write, really write every single week an hour at a time.  Matt warned me about this in that same direct, wry tone you've heard him use to tell you about the latest Matt's movies or a KCRW podcast.  "Look, you'll come in every week and we'll work on it. Maybe 45 minutes? An hour tops ... then after a while you'll just come in and record. Easy"

That's what he said. That's what he meant.

Each week he sat with me. And every time I wrote a clever, theatre-guy sentence with a piece of jargon I'd picked up — Matt's head would move backwards and to the side just a bit, his brow and cheeks would scrunch up towards his eyes as if the world had become unintelligible for a second — and he'd say "What?? What does that mean?"

He knew what it meant but he also knew good radio copy — and that wasn't it. So he'd sit with me and make me make it better. That's what he did for a year.

I'd never worked in radio or with a producer so I didn't know how special this was. I thought this was just the way it was done. Matt made it seem so simple that I didn't really recognize what an extraordinary gift I was being given — every week.

So when I got Matt's text at 4:48 p.m., I panicked. 

There, in all caps, it read "DID YOU JUST TELL PEOPLE TO WALK OUT OF A PLAY AT INTERMISSION?"

Now, in my defense, I still think this was the right call. The play itself doesn't matter but just so you understand — act one was amazing and expansive asking all kinds of philosophical questions about the nature of language and love ... And act two? Act two was a mess. I didn't want people to miss act one but I didn't think they needed to suffer act two.  So that's what I said.

But that's not what I texted Matt because I was worried I'd broken some rule or made his face scrunch up again.  So I just texted back "yup" and waited while Matt typed out his response,

"THAT'S FUCKING AWESOME"

Matt, you're f-ing awesome. Thank you. I'm going to miss you.

Credits

Host:
Anthony Byrnes