Tommy Richards wakes you up with a smile every morning on Good Morning Mississippi. But do you remember his voice from somewhere else? And what is this about him having a green thumb? We pulled him aside to find out a little more about him in Off the Air with Tommy Richards.
What time do you have to get up in the morning?
TR: 1:35 AM
Wow! Well what time do you go to bed?
TR: Not early enough. Generally I go to bed about, or as we say in this trade "fade to black" at around 7:30PM. I've had people ask me, "Tommy, how do you go to bed at 7:30 at night?" and I say, "It's real simple you get up at 1:30 and it's kinda like you fall in to it."
What does the coast look like at 2:00 in the morning when you are driving to work?
TR: You know it's really quiet. You can do a lot... I love stargazing and stuff like that. I got to look at Mars this year when it was the closest ever to Earth. But, the first thing I do when I walk outside is obviously look to the skies, see what the cloud patterns look like, listen for any thunder that's distant or stuff like that, and basically check out whatever's out there. I love moon watching, stuff like that. I keep an old Farmer's almanac handy all the time. I just wanna know what's happening with Astronomy as well as Astrology.
So did you see Mars? Did you use a telescope or binoculars?
TR: Yeah. I have a telescope, but I also have binoculars which are far easier, more user friendly to use than a telescope. Because by the time you get it positioned over Mars or whatever you'd be looking at it 'oh we move' and then you have to move everything. So it takes too long, it's too cumbersome with a telescope, so I opted for the ole Bushnells. Binoculars worked fine. It was neat to be able to do that sort of thing, because it's a once in lifetime event to see a planet.
So you did commercials at one time, how many have you done?
TR: Literally thousands! I worked for literally every ad agency in Mobile, a number in Pensacola, Montgomery, Birmingham, New Orleans, as well as one in Atlanta. I did commercials for Peter J. Sullow and Sons Diamond Merchants in the late 1970's and produced more than 700 commercials for those guys. I was the spokesperson for Gayfers and a number of car dealerships and stuff like that for years before I came to work here.
Strangest one you had to do?
TR: I used to do a commercial for a place called ShoNuff Hardware. It was somewhere in the Mobile market area. But it was done in sort of a hokey, country kind of delivery. That was fun, I love to do voices and stuff.
What's your favorite commercial of all time?
TR: One that comes to mind, and I know a lot of people will know what I'm talking about, is the Mikey spot for Life cereal, because of it's longevity. It was one of the longest, if not the longest running spot in history. I liked it because it was simple, easy to remember.
Would that be an ideal retirement for you to run an ad agency?
TR: That is something I've thought about doing is running my own ad agency. Get my own studio, do my own writing! And I know a lot about it, so it would be a natural thing for me to do when I get tired of getting up at 1:30 in the morning!
Do you cook?
TR: You know if you can read, you can cook. And I have really gotten better at it, necessity being the mother of invention. In years past when I was a bachelor, I simply did not cook. You know it was me and bologna. I just didn't want to deal with it. But now I'm pretty good.
So what's your favorite food that you cook?
TR: I love Pasta Salad. I'm good at stuff that requires patience when you have the time to put stuff together. One of my favorite things to do is to get up one Saturday and make a big breakfast for everybody in the house complete with the usual stuff and then I'll do blueberry pancakes and stuff like that. If you really take the time, you can really throw down some good looking stuff.
Do you have a favorite local restaurant?
TR: I like variety. So I like places like Sicily's because they have such variety! Other places I like to go a lot are places that I call "Holes", which is just a little hole.. and there are two of them. One is the Shed in Jackson County and the other is over in Mobile near Dauphin Island. It's a place called Mary's. It's a hole, not very fancy, but it's southern seafood, in a way it's a seafood restaurant you know southern style cooking. Being a product of the South, I'm right at home there. So that's what I really like.. that high price stuff that's not really me. I can go there and I can have a good time, or I can go there anyway and fill the time, but I'm not necessarily comfortable.
You do the Lifestyle news everyday... how do you pick?
TR: Whatever is bizarre, what people will be talking about at the water cooler. If it creates an odd mental picture, I'd be happy to use it for sure, or anything out of the ordinary. For example, "Did you hear about the guy who had a handle bar mustache that ran 3 feet?"
What are your favorite types of plants?
TR: I have a number of tropical plants. I collect them and exotic palms. I have some moss, but not moss per say, more like air plants. I collect them. I have some property in South Florida and when I go down there occasionally I take things from there and bring them back here to see how well they do in this climate. And they're beautiful plants. I just need more time to devote to them as well as space.
What's the last book you read?
TR: I don't recall the title of it. I like political stuff. I like books that have to do with Politics, stuff on National trade. Names I don't recall, but I read one on Hillary Clinton's pursuit of the White House, another was on the Political Agenda or a certain lifestyle. I'm fascinated with books that are about famous people to see how they got to be whatever they are. I'm just intrigued by it.
Do you subscribe to any magazines?
TR: Discovery Magazine, Smithsonian.
What's the most unique place you've been on vacation. Tell me about it.
TR: Hawaii. Going up to the top of the mountain was amazing. Here we were in the Tropics, everyone's wearing shorts, except for me, because I know we're going high, we're at 11 thousand feet and everyone's freezing to death except me because I had the commonsense and forethought to wear some long clothes. You know a long sleeve shirt and some long pants. So it's freezing, the temperature is 34 degrees and probably at sea level, 85 so everybody was freezing. But it was amazing to go to Hana...which is purely a rain forest. I also had a good time once in Canada. I didn't get to see a lot, but I met a lot of people. And, I'm a big fan of Geography. You learn about people and why they live the way they do.
What TV shows did you watch growing up?
TR: "My Favorite Martian", "The Beverly Hillbillies", situation comedies of the sixties and a few of the fifties and stuff.
Favorite TV shows now?
TR: The shows that I watch now are more issue oriented to the day. I enjoy watching programs about economics, politics, government, international issues. If it doesn't inform me, then it better entertain me.
Well what about reality television shows? Are you a big fan of those?
TR: I've seen enough of one to say, "Okay! Click!"
What board games did you play growing up? Still play them now?
TR: No, I didn't play any... being an outdoor type. My brother and I were both just a couple of outdoor kids. Part of my growing up, maybe when I was around six-years old.... we lived on a farm! It was so neat because you didn't need any board games or TV, you just went outside and played!
Neat. What was that like? What kind of animals did you have?
TR: We had cows, we had chickens. And we had a big barn! It was life on a farm!
So what was your chore on the farm... picking up eggs from the chickens, milking the cows?TR: I always helped my dad feed the chickens in the morning and then I would help my mom around the house. My favorite thing was to help my mom around the kitchen. It was fun!
Do you play an instrument or sing?
TR: I'm OK with the piano, and I've picked up the guitar to learn how to play "On Top of Old Smokey." That's about as far as I got.
Are you one of those people that sings in the car?
TR: Yeah... and in the shower.
What songs are you good belting out?
TR: If it's a John Denver tune, I'm cool with that. Or if it's a good female vocalist, I'm OK with that. No specific titles or anything.
What's your favorite music to listen to?
TR: Jazz. Give me some Joe Sample and the Crusaders, give me some David Sanbourn, and I'm a happy camper.
What was your favorite music concert?
TR: Eagles Concert in Pensacola back in the 1980's.
Have you ever met anyone famous?
TR: Yes. You'll meet entertainers in this job here.
Who's your favorite entertainer you've met?
TR: I would say Elton John.
WOW! So you met him?
TR: Well just briefly. "Hey there! I'm a fan! Love ya!"
Have you ever skydived? Would you?
TR: No, but I want to bad! Every once in a while you hear about people in their 70's doing it. I could do that in a heartbeat! Just the idea! First of all, I love to take a look around from way up high. And if I could enjoy the ride on the way down, the freedom that obviously comes, because you're taking quite a jump. The idea that you're floating down from an airplane that's thousands of feet up in the sky, I mean that's gotta be an exhilarating experience.
What cartoon character do you most identify with?
TR: Daffy Duck! I love Daffy Duck!
What do you like about him?
TR: He's a little zany, a little goofy. Things don't always quite go his way.
What was your first pet?
TR: That would be a dog. His name was Rex.
Do you prefer dogs or cats?
TR: Dogs because I believe dogs are very loyal. Cats are fine for cat people.
First movie you ever saw in theater?
TR: I want to say "Love Me Tender" with Elvis Presley.
Last movie you saw?
TR: Lord of the Rings Part 2.
What was your first car?
TR: A 1959 Ford Galaxy 500. It was pink... my parents' car. I had that one for a while and then I got this ugly 1961 Mercury that was green but only in a few spots.
If you won a million dollars at a local casino, what would you buy?
What's your favorite season?
TR: It used to be Summer, but now it's Spring. That's when things come to life.
What is your favorite weather related song?
TR: Probably "Summertime" either version Billy Stewart did it in 1966, Doris Day and several other people have done it. I even like "Hot Fun in the Summertime".
Have you ever been in a snowstorm?
TR: I was in a bad ice storm in 1989. I had a girlfriend who lived in Cocoa Beach, Florida and I was working here in Biloxi. It was in December and we were having our rendezvous, and there was an ice storm in St. Augustine. We couldn't even get our car doors unlocked because they were frozen and nobody could get them unlocked. And I had to get from St. Augustine to Biloxi by Monday morning. We were able to borrow some spray chemical from one of the people staying at the hotel, so we finally got our doors unlocked. But there was thick ice on all the interstate n I-10 was closed, I-95 was closed, I-75 was closed, Highway 27 was closed. I went from St. Augustine and drove down to Daytona, then from Daytona to Ocala and stayed there. By the next day the roads were defrosted and I was able to get home. But it was like a Winter Wonderland. Palm Trees had icicles hanging on them.. it was just great!
If you were stranded on a desert island what item would you most like to have?
TR: Probably a knife if that would be all I could get. Because you could do a lot with a knife.
Would you ever be on a reality show like Survivor?
TR: I guess. If they wanted me to, sure I guess.
Do you prefer Pepsi or Coke?
It has to be Coke?
TR: Yes.. Coke.. I'm from the South!
Do you say Soda or Pop?
TR: Used to be it was coke..whether it was Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Mr. Pibb.. whatever.. it was a coke. Now I'm a soda guy. I say soda if I have to call it anything. When I was in the Army, they called it pop.
That's all I have! Thanks!