We Blinded Him with Cupcakes: How KCRW Surprised Thomas Dolby on His Birthday

Written by
Eric j Lawerence and Thomas Dolby by Gregg Lewis

Working in the legendary KCRW basement studios, as I’ve had the pleasure of doing for the past 16 years, you get used to some pretty unusual moments.

One day you’re chatting with Anthony Bourdain about our mutual appreciation for the late guitarist Robert Quine, or singing along with Dave Davies of The Kinks on an impromptu version of “Death of a Clown”; the next a guy in a Batman costume delivers his demo CD (or was that the real Batman???), or the mailroom offers you a four-foot, fake plastic chocolate Easter bunny somebody sent to Joe Frank (which he declined to take himself).

That said, it was a memorably surreal moment this past Friday to join a gaggle of my coworkers in singing “Happy Birthday” to an unsuspecting Thomas Dolby, who was visiting the station that day.

Mr. Dolby and I had just finished recording a Guest DJ Project session to air sometime in the next few months.  We don’t usually have professional musicians as guests on the GDP, preferring to get people to talk about something other than their own chosen field.

But, as he has been working in the world of technology for the past couple of decades (including founding a company that helped develop polyphonic ringtones for cell phones), as well as serving as the music director for the acclaimed TED Conferences, he’s clearly a polymath, who are always welcome.

And I have a personal attachment to Thomas Dolby, as his show at the Greek Theatre in 1984 was the first real concert I ever attended.

I, along with some Junior High School buddies and my mom, had a great time (although my mom wasn’t terribly impressed with the guys smoking pot sitting in front of us).  That show basically started me on my way as a hardcore live music fan, and for that I am grateful.

So for that reason, knowing that Thomas would be stopping by the station on his birthday, I bought some cupcakes, gave the heads-up to some of my coworkers and succeeded in surprising him (and probably embarrassing the hell out of him too, but that’s often a side-effect of surprise birthday greetings).  All in a day’s work here in the KCRW basement!

(Thomas Dolby is in town this week concluding a mini-tour to celebrate his first studio album nearly 20 years, A Map of the Floating City.  He appears tonight, Monday, October 17, at the Grammy Museum.  And he hopes to return early next year with a full tour.)


an action shot as Thomas finishes his cupcake, via KCRW staffer Beth Topping (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)