New Year’s Eve would be a different experience without him. Kelly would not have a Ryan to chat with every day for the foreseeable future. And that famous pregnant pause between “this” and “is American Idol” would probably not exist.
Year’s back, in Atlanta, a friend was producing a game show with this likable young local kid, Ryan, with a freakishly grown-up voice as the host. We ended up taking him out to some Buckhead bars. We were of age, he was not. I can’t remember if we knew the doorman or if we just had Ryan speak in his deep radio voice, but we had no trouble getting him in.
A few years later, I had moved to LA and my producer friend invited me to lunch with a small group of starving-artist types, one of them being Ryan. It was appropriately Mongolian BBQ. The type of place where you take a bowl and smash as many ingredients into it as you can. You then hand your stuffed bowl to a guy standing over what’s basically a big flat wok. The guy dumps all your ingredients onto the wok and grills up a giant heaping of hot food for you at one low price.
Ryan had moved out to LA about the same time as me, not long after that Atlanta game show. Judging from our overfilled bowls, I’d say we were both at the starving point. He did, however, have a gig at the local radio station. Not the best time-slot, but a start. He was talking about attending community college as some kind of backup, I guess.
When my girlfriend heard that Ryan worked at the radio station, she had me call him to see about recording a voice-over reel for her. You know, the kind of thing that gets you jobs reading copy for commercials and such? Well, Ryan, being the nice guy that he was, said “sure thing, come on over to the studio while I’m working and I’ll set you up.”
When we got to the station he had on his headphones, on-air. He was going a mile-a-minute: talking, pushing buttons, flipping switches, multi-tasking. This guy was in his element. He saw us and smiled and waved us in. He held up his finger like “just a sec,” pushed another button or two, put down his headphones and greeted us both warmly.
He had us follow him into an empty studio next to his and showed me how to run the recorder in there to do the demo reel. It was actually easier than I thought. Ryan then bolted to get back to his next radio segment and left us in this studio all alone with the door closed.
About 15 minutes later we were almost done with the demo-reel when I saw a face in the little window in the door to our room. The face had a scowl. I heard a knock and I opened the door. “Who gave you permission to be in here?” the face asked angrily. “Uh, Ryan” I answered. “Ryan!” the guy turned and went to confront Ryan. I rushed to the board and pushed record. “Hurry up,” I said to my girlfriend, “let’s finish this last take before we get kicked out of here!”
Ryan got scolded, not fired, and we kind of lost touch. I hoped it wasn’t for the recording incident.
A few years later, I was in an LA restaurant with another friend who was not in the business of show whatsoever. Up comes this well-dressed kid with the brightest smile, and frosty tipped hair. It was Ryan. He asked how things were and I did the same, though I knew he’d been bumped up to the best time-slot in radio: the afternoon drive. I introduced my friend to Ryan who regaled us with some Hollywood chatter. Later, my friend said presciently, “that kid’s either going to make it big, or crash even bigger.”
I haven’t seen Ryan since…. Well, except everywhere.