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Behind the Mic

Jul 08, 2014 10:54AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds

By Cliff Rhys James

If time is a river that we travel through space, then a small number of baby boomers may have enjoyed smooth passage on the surface of quiet streams. But many more have hung on for dear life while shooting grade six rapids through the white water canyons of tumultuous lives. Still other boomers find more than a little truth in that Grateful Dead lyric, “Sometimes the light just shines on me….Other times I can barely see…..Lately it’s occurred to me…..What a long strange trip it’s been.” But despite our vastly different stories, the 2BoomerBabes, Kathy Bernard and Barbara Kline, insist that the best is yet to come if only baby boomers will accept time’s testament and embrace life’s possibilities. And these ladies, who count themselves among the nearly 80 million baby boomers, not only know of what they speak, they practice what they preach.

From their separate locations in Northern Virginia and Easton, Maryland, Barb and Kathy had been working back and forth all day on research and scheduling issues for their show. Then, stepping back from the swirl of activity, Kathy paused to view the latest e-mail from Barb which read, ‘Hey, you know that base camp interview? I think it will be a really good fit. But if the leach guy calls back, let’s book him. And oh yeah, that woman in the tower—let’s book her too!’ “And that’s when it hit me,” Kathy says. “I mean listen to this—base camps…leach guys…women in towers…can you believe it? This is our new normal.”

Baby boomers, empty nesters, poster babes for the “sandwich generation,” and friends for a lifetime; Kathy Bernard and Barbara Kline do a lot of laughing together. And as you might expect of two best friends who have been around each other since their kids attended pre-school, they sometimes anticipate each other’s thoughts and complete each other’s sentences. Self proclaimed official spokes babes for the boomer generation; these two pioneering boomer-babes, who live and thrive in the boomer moment, are “woo hoo” excited and proud. And why not; they’ve just launched their weekly talk program into national syndication over commercial and public radio. Kathy is quick to credit Barb with coming up with the name “2BoomerBabes” while Barb is equally quick to add, “The name is all very tongue in cheek. We don’t want anyone to think we’re serious and thank God most people get it.”

What most people get is a lively blend of informational, educational, and often inspirational talk radio that sparks honest, down to earth discussions on all things “boomer.” From aging parents and empty nesting to health and wellness; and from retirement and career re-invention to relationships and more; their weekly lifestyle program spotlights the major issues that matter most to the largest generation in our nation’s history as they travel the sometimes smooth sometimes rocky road of life. To do this, the “Babes” chat each week with a wide range of guests including authors, experts, and everyday people. “We try to look for something unusual with a different spin that might be a little quirky,” Kathy says. “And we do it from the boomer perspective; of why is it curious or interesting to us?” Barb adds.

Image titleMidwesterners by birth—Kathy from St. Louis and Barb from Chicago—the 2BoomerBabes first encountered each other as young suburban wives and mothers in search of day care facilities for their daughters in Northern Virginia. “We had both lived overseas,” Barb says. “I had been in Africa for six years with the Foreign Service and Kathy had spent eight years in the Dominican Republic with the Peace Corps, the Smithsonian, and then her own business.” Not only did the two women immediately connect with each other; their husbands hit it off and their daughters, who were the same age became fast friends. Even their mothers, both of whom later passed on, grew close. “We were like fish out of water,” Kathy adds with a wry laugh, “We’d been in coups, shot at, lived under dictators, and survived without electricity.”

But now back home in the United States, the two women would exhibit a talent for discovering unmet needs and their accompanying opportunities. A local cable TV show in the early nineties was their first collaboration. “Library programs, zoo openings, we missed them all,” Kathy says. “We were always a day late and a dollar short. There were no resources to help parents with younger children and so we pitched this show called ‘Our Kids.’ It ran for a year or so on local cable TV and actually won an ACE award.” “We stuffed the ballot box,” Barb says in a stage whisper from behind a cupped hand. “The premise was simple,” Kathy continues, “Things to do with your kids in the D.C. metro area; kids in restaurants, kids and pets, kids in sports. Our kids and us, we were the stars of the show.”

In the ensuing years Kathy and her husband would relocate to Easton while the teenage daughters of both families headed off to college, but the two women remained fast friends. “Then one day I’m sitting on my sofa at home trying to cope with the empty nester syndrome and mourning the loss of my mother when Kathy calls me with a hair-brained idea about a radio show,” Barb says with a chuckle, while shaking her head in mock disgust. “Kathy can be persuasive and persistent but at first I just wasn’t in the mood for anything like this. Then a so called expert told us that sponsors wouldn’t be interested in boomers and would only cater to 18–24 year olds. That made us determined. And then wham, the next thing I know we’re in meetings with an Easton radio station and a key sponsor, both of whom love the idea and they’re saying to us, ‘let’s do the show!’ Suddenly I’m kicking Kathy under the table thinking oh my God, what have we gotten ourselves into because we have no guests, no scripts, no background in radio, no nothing, and yet we’re sitting there saying, ‘okay, yeah sure, why not? It makes perfect sense. Let’s do the show.’”

And do the show they did. On March 16, 2009, just when area residents thought it was once again safe to tune that radio dial, 2BoomerBabes burst out upon the airways and into the lives of an unsuspecting but receptive listening audience. “We were on WCEI in Easton for about eight months,” Kathy says, “And then miracle of all miracles, we were picked up by the NPR affiliate and moved to Delmarva Public Radio.” And just a couple years later, with a little help from their friends like boomer-dude/manager Paul Berry, executive producer Angel Livas, and studio technical guru Ben Pizzutto, their show from AARP studios in D.C. went into National Syndication.

At a recent taping in the broadcast control room, the 2BoomerBabes go into action. They are locked and loaded and wired for sound. Headphones connect them to interview guests while their computer screens display Angel’s high speed bursts of suggestions, encouragement, and criticisms that help shape the show on the fly. Today’s taping leads to tomorrow’s production process, which will become a weekend broadcast. Some guests need cajoling, others controlling, as the five segments unfold. Brian Murphy, former commodities trader turned entrepreneur talks about Smith Island Baking Company’s scrumptiously delicious eight layer original recipe, boiled fudge icing gourmet cakes, and how they’ve helped transform the small island’s economy. With film maker and author Errol Morris, the babes discuss “A Wilderness of Error,” his latest book about the famous Jeffrey McDonald murder case. Next up, nutritionist and life coach Linda Mullins explains how she runs the full body workouts at her Florida based fitness boot-camp.

After the show tapes Barb says, “What I’ve learned is that everyone, no matter who they are, has a story to tell—if only someone is willing to listen.” Kathy nods and adds, “There are so many opportunities to start over and to embrace whatever life has to offer. The sky is the limit.”
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