It’s at times like this week that I ask myself: What would Andy Travis think?
If you missed out on the 1970s, you likely have no idea who I’m talking about.
Andy Travis was the harried program director for the fictional radio station WKRP.
Many episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati, which ran from 1978 to 1982 on CBS, revolved around his attempts to maintain order at the wacky workplace, a task made more difficult by eccentric characters like disc jockey Dr. Johnny Fever, salesman Herb Tarlek and serious news guy Les Nessman.
Andy always struck me as a fellow with a reliable moral compass, since he seemed to have an innate sense of right and wrong.
Despite his penchant for tight jeans, Andy had a good head on his shoulders connected to a good heart.
In one episode in which Tarlek’s alcoholism fully flowers, Travis says something I’ve been turning over in my head the last few days: “I don’t care what people’s hobbies are, but I do care when it starts to affect their work.”
But here’s the thing: Andy Travis is not a real person. All of the qualities that I ascribe him, they are projections on my part. So he’s a safe hero to have.
The one time I interviewed Gary Sandy, the actor who played Travis back in the day, I suspect he was having a bad day.
He went on a harangue about how he didn’t get any money from things such as WKRP DVD releases. I didn’t quite know what to think. His bluntness unsettled me. I was disappointed.
And that’s the inherent danger of hero worship: Since they have feet of clay, real-life people are dangerous to idolize. They can only let you down.
That’s why they say you should never meet your personal heroes. Or learn too much about them.
When you put someone up on a pedestal, you are setting yourself up for a fall because it’s a mistake to believe our heroes are somehow better than us. I guess we fall into the trap of thinking they don’t have the same foibles as ordinary humans.
Surely our heroes know something the rest of us don’t know about the nature of life? Surely they don’t develop dandruff or bad breath? Surely they are moral paragons?
Maybe this is why we invented superheroes – so we could have a class of people who truly are perfect and beyond petty everyday concerns. Who always triumph in the end. Who never make mistakes or suffer the same flaws as your typical Joe Schmo.
If you’re feeling crestfallen this week, I don’t know what to tell you.
One of my bedrock beliefs as a journalist is that more information is always better than less, yet sometimes there are consequences to finding out you have placed your faith in the wrong hands.