My next stop was a TV interview in Columbia, South Carolina to promote the talk I was to give at Fort Jackson the following week.
South Carolina in general and Columbia in particular got the full wrath of the Union Army of the Tennessee when it moved north after the March to the Sea. South Carolina was the ‘cradle of secession.’ Before the beginning of the Republic it had led the effort to provide an ideological and political legitimacy for the existence and defense of slavery while also promoting the right of states to leave the national government. Sherman burned the capitol of South Carolina, Columbia, to the ground.
My interviewer was a cheerful young woman who seemed genuinely excited to meet me and to talk about the book. She asked good questions and had this observation.
“It’s ironic you’re here today, given the nature, the point of your book,” she told me as we wrapped up.
“Why is that?”
“Do you know what day it is?”
“Yes, because of this interview – my first on TV, by the way! May 11th.”
“Did you notice that no one is working on the construction sites all around us? Or see the group gathered on the steps of the capitol building under the Confederate flag?”
I shook my head. “No, not really.”
“How could you? But today you couldn’t cash a check or pay a parking ticket. Today is Confederate Memorial Day. It’s a state holiday here as well as in eight other states of the old Confederacy.”
“Oh. Okay, Maybe I’ll be leaving now.” I left her laughing.
Once on the road for my next talk, my cell phone rang.
“You’ll never guess who just called me,” my publicist said.
“So I won’t. Who?”
“The woman who interviewed you. She was so excited, she had seen the footage, said you were terrific.”
“It’s more than great. It’s very unusual for an interviewer to reach out like that just to say how much she liked doing the interview. Whatever you did, you hit it out of the park.”
About two hours later, I got off cloud nine and pulled over to someplace that served food that resembled what I could eat – even the air in the South is deep-fried. (Hell, it’s not just the South, welcome to America.) Once seated I started reading my email.
“What? No way!”
The waitress was about to take my order. “I’ll give you a little more time.”
“No way!” was all I could say. I re-read the first sentence of the email from my TV interviewer, ‘I deeply regret to inform you…’ My first thought had been, shit, who died? Then I read on. I did, in Columbia. The station erased my interview.
We re-shot the interview a week later. After my talk.
Wise one suggests: Don’t do TV when Mercury’s in retrograde… If you want to see it, here’s the link.