Off the Air with A.J. Giardina

A.J. Giardina has anchored WLOX sports for more than 25 years. But what does he do when he's not out catching a high school or college sporting event? We took him aside for Off the Air with A.J. Giardina.

I think everyone wants to know, where did you come up with the phrase "Hello Everybody?"
A.J.: Well, when I worked in Alexandria, Louisiana we didn't do any chit chat with the anchors, we went straight to sports. So I didn't want to start my sports with me saying "And the New Orleans Saints." I said, "Well, let me introduce myself." So I came up with "Hello Everybody." I thought that was a better intro than going directly into the sports cast.

So when you sign off for the last time are you going to say Goodbye Everybody?
A.J.: I probably will. Hopefully I'll be able to say that.

What sport can you not live without?
A.J.: College Football.

Would you ever want to coach college football?
A.J.: No. Sometimes you think it would be fun to be a coach, but I'd rather just broadcast the games and the scores, highlights and features. But not coaching because you have to be pretty good to be a coach. I'm not a good coach.

What college team is your favorite?
A.J.: I like LSU the best. I grew up in New Orleans, so obviously I'm an LSU fan. I listened to the games on WWL radio. I remember when I was a little boy around Halloween in 1963, we were trick or treating and we stopped and listened to the game. We all got down on our knees and prayed that LSU would score and get the conversion and win the game and they did. They beat Ole Miss 11-10 as time ran out. The quarterback then was Captain Billy Ezelle from Laurel, Mississippi.

What about indoor games... board games. Do you have a favorite?
A.J.: Scrabble and Pictionary. We'd take them with us on vacations when we went to Gulf Shores or Fort Walton and we'd play them at night. We used to get in really heated arguments with my nephews and my sister-in-law over the games.

Favorite national sports team?
A.J. : The New Orleans Saints. I went to the games when they started the first season. Back then we were little kids, I think it was like a dollar a game if you were under 17 years old. I was probably around 15 or something but I always looked older than I really was, so my brother and I always had to show our i-d's at the games to prove we were the right age.

If you coached the Saints what would you do?

(to help them win)
A.J.: Like the season when Aaron Brooks started having his downward trend, I would have played Jake Delone because I think they could have finally won a few of those last games and made the playoffs if they would have put him in. Because Aaron Brooks obviously wasn't 100 percent and he cost the Saints a birth in the playoffs.

So as many times as they've lost, how have you remained a loyal fan?
A.J.: I complain a lot about the coaches. I have always had my viewpoints about what the Saints could have done to be a better football team. But I'm always pulling for the team while I'm covering it.

When was the last time you talked with Tony Bologna? What's he up to?
A.J.: Years ago, Channel 13 (WLOX), around 1983/84 when I started, we had a consultant who said "You have to come up with something different" so I said "Ok I'll fix them. I'll come up with something different." So I dressed up as an Italian guy with a full mustache and a hat kinda like the Mafia hats they used to wear. And I used to do picks. I picked the teams I thought were going to win or lose against a point spread. And I had a funny side thing... kinda like a Saturday Night Live skit. And people loved it. We did it for about two or three years. In fact, Tony Bologna was more popular than me, so we had to get rid of Tony Bologna.

What's he up to now?
A.J.: He's waiting in the wings, just waiting for someone to say "bring him back."

What TV shows did you watch growing up?
A.J.: 'Twilight Zone'. I still watch it. In fact, they recently ran a whole slew of 'Twilight Zone' episodes. It's fun to look at some of those because many famous actors started off on them. Then, there was 'Bonanza' another one of my favorite shows. And believe it or not, when I was growing up as a kid, my dad used to watch, 'Sing Along with Mitch Miller'. And I used to whistle, I love to whistle. My dad loved the show so much he taped it on a tape recorder and in the background of the tape you could hear me whistling. You can hear me whistling and you hear my dad saying "Can you shut up I'm trying to listen to the show!" That was my dad's voice and he died when I was 11, and I always wanted to keep that tape, but unfortunately it was ruined in a flood.

What's your favorite TV show now?
A.J.: I like to watch the reruns of 'Seinfield'. But, I don't actually get to see those shows when they are actually on the air because I'm at work. My wife tapes them for me. I remember the first time I saw 'Seinfield' live and I said, "Well this show isn't that good." But I got hooked on the reruns. I also like 'Everybody Loves Raymond' and 'Survivor'.

So you like Survivor, is that your favorite Reality Show?
A.J.: Yeah I like 'Survivor' and 'Big Brother'. I got hooked on those during the summer.

If you were on survivor, what one item would you have to have?
A.J.: I'd have to bring a comb. I always bring a comb.

Which reality show would you most likely win? Survivor?
A.J.: I think I could go pretty far. I was even thinking about that, it would be fun to be a member of the staff. But, I don't think I could be away for that long.

Who is your favorite actor:
1) James Cagney
2) Humphrey Bogart
3) Al Pacino
4) Marlin Brando

A.J.: Probably Al Pacino. When I was a kid in college the movie 'Godfather' came out. And Al Pacino was one of the stars in the movie. I looked like Al Pacino growing up. And when I was a freshman or a sophomore in college, I took these girls to see the Godfather in the movie theater. When the lights came on at the end of the show, people were looking at me saying, "Oh that looks like Al Pacino." Not saying it was me, but saying he looked like me. The Godfather is one of my favorite movies!

I heard a story about some dye in your hair?
A.J.: Oh, it was that spray. Because I am losing my hair and I'm kinda conscious of it, so I try to cover it up with this spray. I don't use it anymore. But I was at an Ole Miss/Mississippi State football game and I was using it. I looked up and rain was coming down. I said, "uh-oh" because that spray does

(if it gets wet)
it drips. And I was really frantic and thinking, "What am I going to do now?" It starting to rain, no umbrella. But, luckily my jacket had one of those hood pullover things and that saved me.

What's the last movie you went to see?
A.J.: The last movie I went to the theater to see was 'Castaway' with Tom Hanks. I really don't go to movies that much anymore.

Mainly we just rent movies and watch them at home.

What's your favorite sports related movie? Why?
A.J.: I guess maybe 'Rudy', the movie from the famous little guy who played football at Notre Dame. That was always kinda heartwarming. And I like the old Babe Ruth movie too.

What's the last book you read?
A.J.: Believe it or not, the last book that I read is a book about improving one's eyesight. It's a book that was written in 1929. Not quite finished reading the book. It gives you certain techniques on how to improve your eyesight without glasses.

What magazine do you subscribe to?
A.J.: Fortune Magazine.

Have you ever fired a machine gun?
A.J.: No. I wasn't in the military.

Have you ever made anyone an offer they couldn't refuse?
A.J.: No but I had some relatives who did. I'm only kidding.

Is that the reference to the machine guns talking about my relatives in the past being in the Mafia? I have no comment.

What is your favorite food?
A.J.: Probably lasagna. My wife makes it from my mother's recipes. Then steak is a close second!

Is she Italian too?
A.J.: No, she's not. When we first got married her cooking was terrible, she'll admit it. So I said,"Ok, you gotta do something about that. Get my mother's recipes."

Do you cook?
A.J.: I don't cook, no. My wife does it all. I'll barbecue on weekends.

Do you use charcoal or gas?
A.J.: Charcoals. I don't like the gas grills. Actually I'm afraid of the gas grills.

Describe a funny practical joke you've played.
A.J.: For instance, I did this with Carrie (Duncan). When she did the weather, I called up to tell her that whoever did the weather is doing a terrible job. I knew I was talking to Carrie so I was impersonating my voice. I said, "The people at 13 just can't do the weather", and my husband wanted to put fertilizer out, wanted to make sure it was going to rain. And his lawn got all screwed up. Then I said, "By the way, that little girl that does the weekend weather, she should think about getting out of the business, she's just simply terrible." And believe it or not, Carrie was nice about it and said ,"Well mam,

(I was playing like I was a woman)
I am Carrie" and finally I started laughing and she yelled at me across the newsroom because she realized it was me.

What do you like to do on your time off?
A.J.: Cut the grass, rent movies. And every Saturday when it's not football season, we go to church at 6 o'clock mass and then we go out to eat with a big group of our friends.

Do you go to many concerts? Last one? Favorite one? Music?
A.J.: I think it was the last one I went to was Frank Sinatra. When they opened up the Super Dome he had a concert. I think that was 1975.

So you like that kind of music?
A.J.: I kinda like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. I'm an Old Fogie. Recently, I started to like Country music. I really like the people that are singing it now. It's not like the old type, it's more upbeat.

What technical gadget can you not live without?
A.J.: My remote control. I love my remote control, because I have to admit, I do flip around a lot.

Favorite Channel?
A.J.: I like Fox News. Especially during the most recent war we had, I was watching Fox News, almost like 24 hours. When I wasn't at work, I was watching it sometimes until 3 o'clock in the morning.

Have you played with Jeff Lawson in golf? Who won?
A.J.: I don't play golf. Believe it or not, I have never played golf in my life. Actually don't have the time to play it. But news people, they have a lot of time to play it. Unfortunately, I don't. The only thing I could play is Put Put anyways.

What game do you play?
A.J.: I'm pretty good at bowling. At one time, I wanted to be a professional bowler.

What's your dream job? Dream retirement?
A.J.: I think I have my dream job. I really enjoy what I'm doing. It's fun to cover young men and women who are amateurs who eventually can become professional players. I love covering high school sports, I don't care what sport it is. But football is my most favorite. But this is a fun job. It's a very hectic job because we put a lot of time in, a lot of work, a lot of weekends, but it's a chance to do something I've always wanted to do and that's cover sports and follow future stars of tomorrow like Bret Farve, Chris Jackson. You know we've had some great athletes that have played here on the coast.

What about your dream retirement? Will you ever retire?
A.J.: Hopefully I can continue working as long as I can because I enjoy what I'm doing. Eventually I think one day what I might do is let some younger person take over the sports so I could go over to the news side. I think I would enjoy covering it. I think I would still do something with television, maybe not on a full time basis, but on a part time basis, or even on radio. A radio sports show would be nice. But, I really have to work. When I'm not doing anything, when I'm on vacation, I get bored. I guess its because I started working at 12 to help my mom out after my dad died. So I'm used to it.

Where was your first job?
A.J.: Horseshoe Pickleworks. They made food products, bottled pickles, mustard, mayo.

Have you ever tricked anyone into thinking you were your twin brother Joe or he was you?A.J.: Once. We went to a private Parochial School in New Orleans. And we had Catechism Class Wednesday and Saturday. One day I went to his class and he went to mine. No one ever knew the difference. We've always looked similar, but we're not identical, we're fraternal.

Have you ever seen a ghost? Do you believe in ghosts?
A.J.: Yes. And here's why... I was leaving the station here July 15, 2002. I remember it was a hot muggy night. As I got close to the driveway exit, I saw a woman wearing a black coat across the street at Sun Herald. Then, I got a cold chill and every hair on my arm stood up. As I looked closer, I could tell this person was gliding, not walking. And it looked like it was wearing a wedding outfit with a veil around her face, maybe like a mourning gown from the Civil War. As I turned on Debuys, it started coming closer and I took off down Debuys. I said, "I wanna get away from this thing." I got half way down and I decided to turn around to see if I saw her again. I wanted to make sure I wasn't crazy. I went back and no one was anywhere on the street. I went back to the station and told Renee Johnson (WLOX Web Producer) and Mike Reader (WLOX CHIEF METEROLOGIST). At first, they thought I was just joking because I joke a lot. But then, they were like, "No you're white as a ghost." They could tell I was telling the truth. The next day I told Dave Vincent

(WLOX News Director / Station Manager)
. And he said, "Oh, now A.J. knows about the lady in the black wedding dress." A few days after that I was in a Seawolves meeting and things weren't going well so I told them the story to break the ice. And this guy said, "Well you know the ditch behind WLOX runs all the way to Beauvoir Cemetery. So that spirit was probably going back to the cemetery." Then, a little while after that, there was a hurricane or a tropical storm, and I heard on the scanner: "Beavoir Cemetery, lady in black wedding dress. Can someone go and check it out?" So I keep a look out now.
That's so freaky!Well, thanks for taking the time off for OFF THE AIR.
A.J.: Your welcome. It was fun.