Still not the retiring sort

It’s taken me a while to get the hang of this retirement gig.
A year ago, when the La Crosse Tribune decided it was time for me to retire, I was not prepared to make the transition. Though forced furloughs, layoffs and belt tightening had led me to believe I wouldn’t make it to age 65, I was still not prepared to be among the ranks of the unemployed at age 58.
A year later, I have adjusted well, but it’s difficult to think of myself as a retiree. It’s great to hang out at auctions, work on yard projects, and finally clean out the basement. But a part of me still yearns for that first moment on the phone when I would say, “Hi, this is Geri Parlin. I’m a reporter for the La Crosse Tribune.”
From the moment I set foot in the Tribune newsroom, I never wanted to be a reporter anywhere else. It was everything I dreamed it would be and more.
Of course, nothing remains the same and life is not static, so my work life changed along with everyone else’s. Facebook and Twitter and bad business decisions have made life as a newspaper reporter — or any reporter — a difficult thing indeed.
Still, there are some things that feel unfinished. I had stories in an ideas folder that have never been written. I had followups I wanted to do on interesting topics.
And I wanted to interview Sandra Lee.
I first started pursuing Lee years ago when I discovered she attend the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. A hometown girl on the Food Network? She was mine.
Turns out, she was definitely not mine.
For a couple of years and through a couple of assistants and road blockers, I sent email after email imploring her to do an interview.
I knew why she didn’t want to chat with me. There was some bad family history with La Crosse. But for the sake of the interview, I would have let that be.
Certainly, I’ve interviewed much bigger names. Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary was a delight and so personable. Graham Nash was a vulgar disappointment. Norm Abram was as cool on the telephone as was on TV.
So why not Sandra Lee.
When I finally gave up pursuit, I wrote a column much like this one saying I was giving up. No more emails, no more phone calls, no more wasting time on someone who didn’t want to talk.
That’s when she reached out to me by email, supposedly horrified that I couldn’t get through to her.
Hope renewed, I was once more in talks with her staffers who assured me they would make this happen.
But it never did. After months and months of her unavailability, I gave up trying.
But she’s still on TV and I just saw her throwing a football with a nephew and mentioning her time spent in Wisconsin.
So I’m munching on sour grapes for lunch and promising myself that from now on I’ll flip the channel after the “Barefoot Contessa” finishes her food tips. I won’t let it slip into the next show, which features Lee.
I can’t make her do an interview, but I can turn her off. And that’s what I’m doing from now on.
This is Geri Parlin. I am not a reporter for the La Crosse Tribune. But I am consumer with a television and I just flipped the channel to HGTV.

5 thoughts on “Still not the retiring sort

    • George, I did not interview Andre the Giant. I believe Pat Moore did. Shucks. And Monte, thank you very much. I knew someone had injured her in print most severely but I didn’t realize it was our own Sweater Boy!

  1. Geri,

    I have theory on why Sandra Lee would never talk to you. She hates the La Crosse Tribune.

    Ben Wallace, who did a feature story on Sandra Lee that appeared in the March 27, 2011, issue of New York magazine, recounted the following incident:

    “In June 1982, nearly 16 and seeking a fresh start, Sandra went to live with Wayne, her birth father, in western Wisconsin. At Onalaska High, where she was called Sandy Waldroop once again, she felt like an outsider, and she missed her brothers and sisters. She became depressed; it was “the only time I ever considered taking my own life,” she writes. Things looked better for a time, but then, according to reports in the La Crosse Tribune, her father was arrested for raping his 25-year-old girlfriend. Sandra, returning home to find the two on her father’s bed, became a witness. After the Tribune repeatedly named her in its coverage of the case, she showed up at the newspaper’s offices to confront the reporter. Her father, 35, was convicted of second-degree sexual assault and sentenced to a year in prison.”

    Even though I don’t remember any of this, Sandra Lee told writer Ben Wallace that I was the reporter that she confronted and that I refused to apologize. Wallace called me a couple of years ago to ask if the story was true. I couldn’t confirm it, but he decided to use it anyway. I think she wrote about it in one of her books.

    So you can thank me for failing to get any interviews with Sandra Lee.


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