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RADIO: THE HARSH MISTRESS

by Dan O'Day

It makes me feel so old to feel a nostalgia for "the radio I used to know."

When I first came to Los Angeles - eons ago - I used to eat the best hamburgers in town at Jack's...a tiny little place with four bar stools, run by a septegenarian named Jack Goodman.

Maybe they weren't the best hamburgers in the town. But I'm pretty sure they were the best on La Brea Avenue.

Jack did all the cooking. My first time there, he insisted I try the soup. I said no. He said I had to. I said no, thank you.

He sighed...turned back to the kitchen, and moments later plopped a bowl of soup down in front of me.

"Here, it's on the house. Just try it."

Good soup, good hamburgers, wonderful guy, wonderful place, quarter-of-a-century ago.

Jack is long gone, and so is Jack's.

And there's a McDonald's on every corner.

A lot of people seem to like McDonald's. A lot of people admire the company.

"No matter what McDonald's you go to," they say, "you'll get exactly the same thing you get at all the others."

And they mean that as something good.

I went to Jack's because it was the only place in the world where I could get Jack's burgers & Jack's soup, both simmered in his own distinctive personality.

So which is better? Jack's or McDonald's?

I know which I prefer, but I can't objectively "prove" mine is better. It's just what I happen to like.

But I think the parallel goes beyond creative issues.

Jack loved his diner, loved his customers; both were cherished parts of his life.

Do people who work at McDonald's love their customers? Do they love what they do?

To paraphrase an author I've never read, radio is a harsh mistress. And she grows harder and less forgiving with each passing year.

And McDonald's makes more and more money.

I've conducted seminars and consulted morning shows in 31 countries on four continents. And every new place I go, I check to see if they have a McDonald's.

So far, they always do.

I think I'll buy stock in McDonald's.

But I'll never eat there.

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