Boston’s Cultural Guards
Legendary Beacon Hill residents host star-studded television show
Published: Thursday, February 11, 2010
Updated: Thursday, February 11, 2010 08:02
Nearly every tabletop in Smoki Bacon and Dick Concannon's elegant living room is filled with autographed pictures of the couple with authors, actors, politicians, poets and other famed literati. As the images suggest, the couple is well acquainted with some of New England's most cultured individuals. But, for Bacon and Concannon, these acquaintances extend beyond the Beacon Hill social circuit, of which they are legendary members.
For almost 30 years, the couple has shared the work of its remarkable friends and acquaintances with the New England area through a radio-turned-television show, "The Literati Scene with Smoki Bacon and Dick Concannon." In the weekly show, which is now aired on 16 public stations in New England, Bacon and Concannon take turns interviewing influential individuals in the literary, artistic and political worlds, though most of their interviewees are authors.
"Authors are like women who've just had babies. They have spent months, sometimes years, working on their book, so once it's published this is the birth, and they want to talk about it. They could bore you to death, but guess what: That's nirvana for the interviewer," Bacon said.
Legendary hosts for legendary guests
While Bacon and Concannon have interviewed some of the most influential names in contemporary literature and culture, they are very well known in their own right. Both hail from the Boston area, and have been actively involved with local charities and the arts for decades. They have also repeatedly been described as "fixtures" in the Beacon Hill and Back Bay social scenes by major New England publications like The Boston Globe.
Bacon (born Adelaide Ruth Ginepra), 82, is rarely seen without her emblematic, oversized glasses and has a very bubbly personality that translates into her interviews on the show. She graduated from the Jackson Von Ladau School of Design in Boston in 1951 and worked in public relations for many years.
Concannon, 80, is slightly more reserved than his wife, but his signature bowtie and understated intelligence bespeak the Beacon Street address for which both seem to have been destined. He graduated from Harvard in 1951 and worked in business real estate with several different companies.
When they were married in 1979, the couple decided to combine their interests in public relations and sales and founded Bacon-Concannon Associates, a firm that coordinates public relations and special events for local charities that cannot afford to do so themselves. In this line of work, the couple worked with some of Boston's most notably unique individuals. From these experiences came the idea for a radio show.
"A friend of mine was the head of special events at the [Boston] Park Plaza Hotel and said to me, ‘You're running across all these personalities; why don't you start a radio show?'" Bacon said. "So we found a couple of sponsors and we found a couple of radio stations, and basically what we started doing was interviewing people who raised the quality of life in New England. We [interviewed] politicians, musicians, artists, actresses," Bacon said.
Beginning in 1980, the show was recorded at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and was originally named "Celebrity Time." The guests came from very diverse backgrounds, but some were more talkative than others. Concannon reflected on one particularly quiet guest, the newly appointed director of a local theater.
Hoping to attract listeners to the theater for his guest, Concannon then asked the director how much parking was available. "He said, ‘Adequate.' Then I said, ‘Tell us about the theater. What do you see its description as?' He said, ‘Tudor,'" Concannon said.
"So what would happen when we got an interview like this," Bacon added, "Dick and I would start talking among ourselves and, hopefully, the person would come in and join us in the conversation."
Eventually, publishing houses started sending the couple books and, after inviting several authors to appear on their program, they quickly found that authors gave excellent interviews and would make for a perfect central focus of the show.
The Literati Scene
After Bacon and Concannon decided to primarily interview authors, they changed the name of the show from "Celebrity Time" to "The Literati Scene with Smoki Bacon and Dick Concannon." Following the name change, they decided to make the switch from radio to television and then from filming in a studio to filming the show themselves.
They acquired their own camera and editing equipment and began interviewing authors in the café of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, in their own painting-filled living room and wherever else their interests took them. "It suddenly became a Mom and Pop show," Concannon said. "The two of us could carry our own equipment."
With this freedom, the couple has been able to conduct interviews with a wide range of authors. "They can be waitresses; they can be doctors; they can be politicians. There's no particular professional group," Bacon said of the writers they've interviewed.
In each weekly show (airing on Channel 23 in Boston at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10:30 a.m. on Thursdays), the couple takes turns filming and interviewing authors or other guests. Bacon and Concannon tend to ask questions that allow authors to elaborate on their works themselves, but both are very well read. Their dynamic personalities make for interesting conversations that often carry over into the off-camera luncheons that Bacon and Concannon frequently hold for the authors following the tapings.
Over the years, guests have included authors ranging from President Kennedy's Press Secretary, Pierre Salinger, to Princess Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell. The couple has also interviewed such authors as Pablo Picasso's former muse and lover, Francoise Gilot, and Dan Brown, author of "The Da Vinci Code" (2003).