Off the Air With Steve Phillips

Steve Phillips is one of WLOX's senior reporters. He's been at WLOX for more than 14 years. He got his start in the radio end of broadcasting. But who's the man in front of the camera? We sat him down for the questions this time.. in this Off The Air interview.

What TV shows did you watch growing up?

SP: I watched Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Captain Kangaroo (laughs). If you go really far back... The Ed Sullivan Show. I'm dating myself now. That's the main ones that I remember.

3 favorite TV shows now?

SP:  I watch documentary type things. "Frontline" on PBS is my favorite show. I don't watch that much TV. I know that's terrible to say being in the business, but I really don't watch that much TV. I watch PBS a lot, I watch Discovery channel a lot. I like those nature shows. My wife can't stand to watch them, but I love those nature shows. The photography, the National Geographic stuff - I'm just fascinated by the photography. I like Seinfeld and it's on reruns on TNT or TBS or something so I'll sit down and watch the Seinfeld episodes. But other than that I flip around. I watch some sports, documentaries, some of the news magazines. I do watch Primetime, 20/20, and Dateline when I can. I was a fan of The West Wing, but I've kinda fallen off of that.

What's your most prized possession?

SP: I have an old photograph of my grandmother and she happened to pass away last year, so it's kinda special to me now. It's something my mother had given to me of my grandma when she was a young woman. She lived to be like 95 years old and it was a picture of her probably in her early 20's. That's pretty special I'd say.

What's in your attic?

SP: [Laughs] No dead bodies in the attic. I promise. No skeletons. There might be some geckos because I have a gecko in my garage so he might have a family in the attic. I've got a pile of old clothes in the attic that I should probably pull down and take to the thrift store. I know I've got a stack of clothes in an old clothing bag up there. Just old shirts and pants, jackets and things.

From the 70's?

SP: Yeah, I probably do have some 70's shirts. I probably have some disco shirts in the attic (laughs). I bet I do.

Were you a disco king?

SP: No, I wasn't a disco king. I did go to the disco. Everybody did so I do know some of the songs. I remember playing Space Invaders there.

What's in the bottom of your closet?

SP: Dust. A suitcase. Shoes. All my shoes are lined up at the bottom of my closet. That's probably about it.

Do you and your wife share a closet?

SP: No. We've have separate ones. She has taken over the entire closet space in the master bedroom and I have a much smaller closet in the guest bedroom. We need more closet space in our house because I have a teenage daughter and her closet is packed.

Do you play an instrument?

SP: I did when I was in grade school. I played the clarinet and then the bass clarinet. I was in band through grade school, but I didn't continue into high school. I think I would have been happier playing the trumpet because the clarinet is hard to play. It's nice, but you never hear of really any great clarinet players other than Benny Goodman. There's a lot of good trumpet players. I have a guitar that I bought as kind of a mid-life crisis thing when I turned 40, but I played it for about two weeks and now it's gathering dust ever since. We have an organ. I bought it at an estate sale for a hundred dollars. I can play by ear a little bit. I do sing, though. I sing at my church now in a group there. That's what I play - my voice.

What's your favorite kind of music?

SP: I like all sorts of music.


SP: I don't like rap. I did a story on rap just because I wanted to know more about it, but I've never really found an attraction to it. I don't care for it. And I don't care for opera. Anything else I like. I go through country phases and rock 'n roll phases. I grew up mostly listening to rock 'n roll. Album rock is what they called it. It's called classic rock now. Classic rock is kinda my hay day of growing up. I also listen to a lot of christian praise music.

Who were your favorite bands growing up?

SP: Van Halen, the Doobie Brothers, I like the Beatles a lot. I'm a big Doobie Brothers fan, I guess they were probably my favorite.

If you could have dinner with Elvis or The Beatles who would you choose and why?

SP: I'd choose Elvis because my wife's a huge Elvis fan and if I could have dinner maybe my wife could go and she'd like that.

What's in your CD player/case in your vehicle right now?

SP: In my truck right now in my CD case, I have several christian praise music CDs, Don Henley's new CD. I like that one a lot. I loved the Eagles. They were a big group when I was growing up. And I've got Bruce Spingsteen in the truck and George Strait. He's my favorite country guy. And singer wise, I like Josh Groban. He's the closest thing to opera that I like. My daughter has his CD and I swiped it from her. I have it in my truck and I've been listening to it. This will be embarrassing to admit, but I like his voice. I mean he's a great singer.

Do you sing in the car?

SP: Sometimes. I wear my sunglasses so people can't see who I am.

What was the first album you ever bought?

SP: That's a hard one. I can tell you a couple of the first eight track tapes that I bought. Elton John's Greatest Hits, Johnny Nash ("I Can See Clearly") , and another one-hit wonder Gilbert O'Sullivan. He sang a song "Alone Again Naturally" back in early 70's.

What's the most memorable concert you've seen?

SP: My favorite one was Linda Ronstadt. It was my favorite because I've always been a fan, and I camped out for tickets. We had excellent seats. We were probably in the second row. It was at Southern Illinois University where I went to school. We just had great seats and it was a phenomenal show.

What did she sing?

SP: "Blue Bayou" was a big ballad at that time that she sang. "Poor Pitiful Me", "Silver Threaded Golden Needles."

Would you ever skydive?

SP: No. I would never skydive. I've done stories up there, I've shot skydivers from the plane, but I just couldn't see myself doing it. It's not for me. The fear of heights or the fear of falling, is my parachute not opening? I've parasailed and that's high up in the air. But I would not bungee jump and I would not skydive.

Have you ever scuba dived?

SP: No, but I've snorkeled. That's about the closest I've come. We went on our honeymoon to the Bahamas, and I bought some snorkel gear and that was fun. I would scuba dive, I just have never had the opportunity.

Would you rather wrestle a bear cub or an alligator? Why?

SP: An alligator. Because I've done enough stories with the alligator guy that I kinda know how to handle them now. If you jump in there right away, especially if they're small, and you get your hands around their jaw to hold their mouth shut, you've got it. They don't have any power for opening their mouth. All the power is coming the other way. So if you can get them before they open their mouth and hold it shut, it's easy. You could hold a ten pound gator's mouth shut because they don't have any strength to open. But they have tremendous force once their mouth is open and is biting down. But once you get the jaw, you gotta watch out for the tail, though.

Have you ever climbed a mountain? Rock wall?

SP: That's something I wouldn't mind trying. I just would do it if I was younger. I think I'm too old to go rock climbing now. But no, I've never rock climbed and I've never climbed a mountain. Now I've been through the mountains and driven through them, but no climbing.

What is your favorite type of food?

SP: Mexican. And there's a lot of Mexican restaurants in our area not. I love Mexican food. My wife does too, so it works out nice.

Do you cook?

SP: No. We go out to eat a lot.

Why? Is your wife not a big fan of the kitchen?

SP: No, she's not and she works full time, too. She's a good cook, she kinda downplays her cooking skills. She's really quite an excellent cook, but she likes to go out and eat, and I do too. So does my daughter. That's really where my entertainment dollars go... eating out. We go at least twice every weekend, sometimes three times.

Do you grill?

SP: Yeah, I like to grill. She wishes I'd grill more. We have a gas grill, and actually I've grilled the last couple of Sundays. I enjoy that and it was good.

So why a gas grill, why not charcoal? That seems to be the big debate?

SP: That is the big debate. I was a charcoal man for years, and then I finally sold out to gas and it's just a lot easier. It's kind of a hassle getting the coals lit. Yeah, I was the whole pyro guy where you spray so much on and the flame would jump up about ten feet and threaten to burn the roof of the porch.Things like that. Gas is just much easier.

Any cooking disasters?

SP: Yeah, we did actually. It was when we were living in Jacksonville. You know Paul Prudhomme, , the big New Orleans Chef? Anyway, I was working in Jacksonville doing a radio talk show and he was doing a book tour. He was my guest. So he gave me one of his cookbooks, autographed it so forth. He also gave me some sample products. He's got his own product line of Cajun food. So we went home and we cooked. It was some kind of shrimp or crawfish jambalaya. My wife followed the directions to a "T", but it turned out so hot and it was just so spicey that we ended up throwing it away and went out and got ice cream instead.

Biggest pet peeve?

SP: I've got a lot of pet peeves with my teenage daughter but I won't get into that. She'll get mad at me. My biggest pet peeve I guess is just people who don't do their jobs, whoever it is. You know whether it's a photographer, co-worker, whatever. I expect people to do their jobs and to do it all and be responsible. So that's kinda a pet peeve for me when people don't do their jobs.

What's the last magazine/book you've read?

SP: Well I'm not a big magazine guy. but th book's easy because I just finished one called THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE SON. It's by Norman Mailer. It's a work of fiction, but it's related to the Bible. It was really neat. I also like to read Philip Yancey, he's a Christian author. I've read most of his books. I read a lot of Christian books because that's what I'm interested in and I teach Sunday school so it helps me with background and things like that.

What technical gadget can you not live without?

SP: My television remote zapper without a doubt. I mean I wear the batteries down. I've been through a couple of those. My wife hates it. I think it's really a gender thing. I mean I've found for the most part that women don't care for the zapper and men are just addicted to it. I could sit there and be watching four different shows at one time, flip around and it drives her absolutely nuts. She can't do that. I love doing it! And when the zapper doesn't work I get really aggravated.
   The microwave is a close second though.

Who would win in 3 legged race involving Rhonda Weidner and Tommy Richards on one team and David Elliott and Karen Abernathy on the other? Why?

SP: Well, part of it depends on what time of the day the race is. But if the race was sometime in the morning, I'd have to go with Rhonda and Tommy just because they get up so early and they've got all that energy going. So if you have the race at 9 AM, it's going to be Rhonda and Tommy hands down.

What is the last movie you watched?

SP: I saw the Passion of the Christ twice. I liked that a lot. I went once with my church group. Then, my daughter wasn't with us and she wanted to go, so she and I went and I saw it a second time. Other than that, the last one I watched was Sea Biscuit. It wasn't the greatest movie in the world.

Favorite movie of all times..

SP: The Godfather. The editing is just great. My all time favorite.

Last DVD you rented?

SP: Kill Bill. I thought it was good. You know Quentin Tarantino is just Mr. Bizzaro but he's a great film maker. I watch him more from like a technical eye... watching his edits. He's just superb. He really is. I'm not in love with the movie. It's a real violent movie and it's weird and creepy at times, but overall as a piece of movie making it was really good. I enjoyed it.

What cartoon character do you most identify with?

SP: Bugs Bunny. Because he's kind of a smart alec you know. I've got a good bit of smart alec in me. I guess some of Brad Kessie is rubbing off on me. (Laughs) Maybe that's the northern thing. Even though I'm from down state Illinois, not Chicago (Brad's hometown). I think we're a little bit nicer there.

Have you ever been to the top of the Biloxi Lighthouse?

SP: Yes, just recently actually. I did a story on a Heritage Film Festival at the Saenger and they took me up as part of my story promoting the festival. It was fascinating. That's something I've really always wanted to do. I had never gotten to go up before. I've lived here for like 14 years or so and I had never been to the top until then. I was a little shaky at first because it's a small space up there, but the view's beautiful.

Do you have any pets?

SP: No pets.Just my teenage daughter. (Laughs)

What's your dream job?

SP: I don't know if I have a dream job. I like my job a lot. I guess a cliche answer would be to anchor the network news, but I don't have any aspirations of doing that. I'm happy where I'm at. I don't have my eye on anything.

What will you do when you retire?

SP: I want to do a lot of traveling. I would like to do missionary type stuff. I got a chance to do a little bit of that when I did a story with the Mercy Ships down in Honduras. And I'd like to do that more on my own.

Bill Snyder wants to know this. Why didn't you hire him when you were the news director at K99FM? He says you hired a pretty girl instead.

SP: Well, I think Bill answered his own question!

It was the pretty girl? Do you remember interviewing him?

SP: Yeah, I do remember interviewing him. He was fine, but the pretty girl was better. (Laughs)

That's it! Thanks a lot!

SP: That was easy.