Jeff Pearlman

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Roger Lodge

#227
You know him as the cool, sharp-witted host of "Blind Date." Or maybe you know him as Uncle Jesse's buddy from "Full House." Or perhaps he was your favorite maître d' on General Hospital; your favorite guest star on "Saved by the Bell: The New Class." Whatever the case, this acting veteran and sports talk host has thrived via versatility and a good guy's rep. POSTED October 6, 2015

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So a couple of years ago, while preparing to appear on Jim Rome’s daily TV show, I was told that there would be a substitute host for the afternoon. “It’ll be Roger Lodge,” a producer said. “Do you know Roger?”

Did I know Roger? Did I know Roger! Well, no, I didn’t know Roger. But I sure as hell knew of Roger, the former host of one of the staple shows of the late 1990s/early 2000s—”Blind Date.” It just so happens Roger has appeared in 1,001 TV shows, movies, game shows, sitcoms. He’s been anywhere and everywhere, and now is also known out here in Southern California for hosting The SportsLODGE every weekday afternoon. Roger happens to be one of the true good guys of the business—friendly, likable, open, smart. I know many people in this game, and nobody ever seems to have a bad word about the man.

Anyhow, one can follow Roger on Twitter here. He’s been on two soap operas and hosted the coolest dating show of all time. But now, at long last, Roger Lodge has made it.

He’s Quaz No. 227 …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Roger, it’s clear any interview with you must start with one question, and I feel compelled to ask it. What can you tell us about your memories of appearing on That’s So Raven, and have any ensuing accomplishments been mere gravy?

ROGER LODGE: I have been fortunate to experience some pretty amazing l things in my life. I was once on stage with the Beach Boys at the old Yankee Stadium. I played a charity basketball game at the old Boston Garden. The birth of my children … Wilt Chamberlain once hit on my girlfriend right in front of me. On and on and on …

But to actually star on That’s So Raven, as a dating show host, that was the pinnacle. Kind of my walk-off. My Joe Carter; my Bill Mazeroski if you will.

J.P.: When we first met my immediate reaction was an excited, “Blind Date!” Roger, I loved loved loved “Blind Date.” Funny, quirky, weird, terrific television. So I ask, A. How did you land that gig? B. What was it like? C. How do you feel about the show being your calling card? Are you comfortable with that? Were you hoping for The Godfather or Terms of Endearment?

R.L.: I was in the middle of a two-week hosting run on E! Entertainment’s Talk Soup, when my agent called with an audition for a new dating show called Blind Date. I walked into a room of about 300 people—men, women, little people. They had no idea what they wanted.

But there was a note on the board in the casting office that read, “We are looking for a Talk Soup-type mentality for this show.” Since I was in the middle of my run on Talk Soup, I left the audition without even auditioning, called my agent and said, “Just tell them to watch Talk Soup over the weekend.” Which they did, and they offered me Blind Date. Timing is everything! So to this day I’m grateful to E!, and it just goes to show you, in this town you never know who’s watching. Which is why you can never disrespect the craft and phone it in. George Karl, the Sacramento Kings coach, always tells his players, “Never disrespect the game!” It’s the same in showbiz. Plus, everybody needs a door opener. Blind Date was mine.

Oh, and I have no problem whatsoever with that show being my calling card. Sure, some of those dates got wild and crazy, but I never bought into the inappropriateness. I just saw it as joke opportunities. A dater running around naked in a restaurant was kind of like a 2-0 fastball down the middle to Mike Trout. I never set out to be a dating show host, but it just kind of worked out that way, so I ran with it.

J.P.: I know you’re from Fontana, Cal., I know you played hoops at Cerritos High, then at Whittier College. But how did this happen for you? Like, when did you get the acting bug? Why? When were you like, “I know what I want to do!”?

R.L.: I have always wanted to be the Johnny Carson or Jon Stewart of sports.

As far back as I can remember I was always interviewing people one way or another—whether it was at my little talk show desk as a kid, or in the dugout or locker room in high school or down in the bullpen at Whittier College. I was always doing my little make-believe shows.

I used to go to Hollywood Blvd. and interview tourists, or go to the old Forum, Dodger Stadium or the Coliseum and interview fans walking into game. I just always loved talking to people and getting reaction to the latest and hottest topics. When my parents would go out to dinner, I would write out a little sports report and put it on my step-dad’s pillow so he could read it when he got home. Needless to say, I got the performer bug at a really young age.

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J.P.: According to IMDB, your first noteworthy acting appearances came as “Albert Andrews” on Days of Our Lives and “James” on General Hospital. What’s it like acting on a soap? Like, do actors bring their A games, or is a filter of cheesiness that needs to be applied? A sorta wink-wink, “We know this is silly” nod to the viewer?

R.L.: Working on a soap is amazing training for any actor. My goodness, you have anywhere from 10 to 40 pages of dialogue to learn a day, you’re on a set every day, learning the nuts and bolts of your craft.

It’s the things like hitting your mark, knowing your lighting working off other actors. As long as you focus on the craft and don’t get seduced by the whole “being a soap star” thing, it is incredibly beneficial to any performer’s process. There is no way to recreate performing on an actual working set. I compare it to hitting live Big League pitching—you can do all your work in the cage, or down in the minors, but there is nothing like standing in a Major League batter’s box. Same thing in Hollywood. You can do all those scenes in acting class or in a play somewhere, but something happens when you are standing under all those lights and there are a bunch of crew members staring at you while you have to know your lines and bring it.

Ultimately, working as James the maître d’ at the Port Charles Grill on General Hospital was one of my favorite gigs ever. Nothing teaches you discipline like a lot of dialogue. You either respect the craft or look like a fool in front of your entire cast and crew.

With wife, Pamela.

With wife, Pamela.

J.P.: I had a talk with Jim Rome about this, and it really interests me. Namely, hanging on in Hollywood. It seems what came along in the 20s and 30s is significantly more elusive in the 40s and 50s. True? Not true? Is there a fight/battle to maintain relevancy? To keep your name in front of people who matter in the casting world? Do you even care?

R.L.: I would be lying if I said I never think about how long can I keep this going. I admit I color my gray … I think about my kids and say to myself, “Well, my oldest son is good, but my little ones are only 11 and 9 so I have to keep this rolling for another … what? Ten years at least …”

But I guess showbiz is like any other profession where the suits are always looking for someone younger and cheaper. But I hit it so hard, I rarely have time to think about that. And that’s all you can do. Just work hard, do what you do and don’t waste time and energy worrying about things you can’t control. Everybody has a last day. I just hope mine isn’t for a while. And, I have to say, once you start trying to do things just to get or keep your name out there, you’re in trouble.

I end my radio show everyday with, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift from God—go make the best of it!” I try to live by that because when you think about it, all we really have is today. So go make it great.

J.P.: I know you’re pals with John Stamos. How did that friendship come to be? And since we’re on it, it seems—whether people admit this or not—“Full House” somehow managed to stick in the psyches of viewers. Like, people mock it, but love it. Agree? Disagree? And how’d you end up on the show?

R.L.: Johnny and I grew up in the same neighborhood in Southern California, down near Orange County. We didn’t really start hanging out until we were late teens/early 20s when he was a teen idol on General Hospital. Then we got an apartment together and stayed roommates for 11 years. He is an absolutely amazing cat and the best friend you could ever ask for.

It’s so funny when you see guys like Justin Bieber and, in sports, guys like Johnny Manziel … all they attention they get. But when John was doing Full House, we couldn’t go down the street for breakfast without him having a crowd of people around. It was craziest thing you’ve ever seen. And he was—and still is—cool to everyone who approaches him. I learned a lot about show business from him. Most important, I learned how to treat people with respect.

As for Full House—that was his calling card, and it is amazing how that show has remained so popular. But it’s one of the few shows that kids can watch without their parents having to worry about it. It’s good clean fun, with a message every episode. Call it corny, but it works. And as far as how I ended up on Full House, well, I had to audition like everybody else. But, just being honest, being Kato to Uncle Jesse didn’t hurt …

And come on—when you think about the great moments in television history, the final episode of M*A*S*H“Who shot J.R.?”the final episode of Cheers … you have to admit, my character Roger firing Uncle Jesse from The Rippers on Full House has got to be right up there.

Rocking out with Uncle Jesse and The Rippers during Full House dominance.

Rocking out with Uncle Jesse and The Rippers during Full House dominance.

J.P.: Back when I was in elementary school a classmate named Larry Brown one day just showed up as Larry Glover. It was always this great unspoken mystery, and I never dare asked about it. You were born Roger Chavez, then changed your last name after your mom married Robert Lodge. Perhaps a dumb question—but why? When? And do you remember it being an awkward or difficult or cumbersome experience?

R.L.: I was born Roger Chavez. When I was 3-years old, my real father went to work one day and never came back, walking out on my mom and four kids. Never to return. No contact. Nothing. Crickets.

My stepdad came along when I was about 5 and he was amazing to me in so many ways. He came to all my games, taught me how to shoot a jumper, came to all the plays I did, was always there for me and my two brothers and my sister. I was the youngest of the four and really don’t remember my real father. In fact, the only two memories I have of him are not good: One was walking in on him smacking my mother—my beautiful mother—around; the other was the fact that he a deserted us. (Wow, I’ve never, ever told anybody that),

I grew very close to my stepfather, who was amazingly loving and supportive. So, to honor him, I took on his name, Lodge, to honor our relationship. He was the true father figure in my life and one of my best friends.

We lost him two years ago and I miss him every day. There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t use the principles and ethics he taught me about business and life.

J.P.: So you’re the host of The SportsLODGE every afternoon out here in Southern Cal. I’ve done a ton of sports radio … it’s a medium that fascinates me. I wonder, how do you tolerate the morons? I’m being serious—the, “The Angels should trade their backup second baseman to the Mets for Matt Harvey and Daniel Murphy! Obviously!” Because you know they’re coming … every … single … day.

R.L.: I honestly enjoy every call I take. There is no such thing as a bad call or a bad guest. If they are bad, that’s on me as a host. I really feel that way.

There’s always something I can do to make a phone call interesting or entertaining. But if you call my show to rip somebody, you better have a reason why you are ripping him. You can’t just call and say, “That manager sucks! He should be fired!” Give me a reason or I will rip into you. Bad phone calls are like bad singers on American Idol. But they’re bad in an entertaining way, and it’s up to me to make it entertaining in some way.

Plus, if a caller calls to suggest the Angels should trade Albert Pujols for Clayton Kershaw, I will actually take the time to explain why that would never happen, because there are folks who aren’t fully versed on contracts and there are kids who listen who aren’t aware of the intricacies of sports business. So I explain andmove on to the next,”First time caller, long time listener …”

One more thing: Why would I, as a host, want to make anyone feel bad about themselves for not knowing something? It’s hard enough growing an audience these days with all the other ways of gathering information.

With Billy Eppler, the new Angels' general manager.

With Billy Eppler, the new Angels’ general manager.

J.P.: OK, I’m gonna throw a weird one at you. Your wife is Pamela Paulshock, an actress/model who—if one Googles her—appears in many slinky outfits, seductive poses, etc. I’ve seen the spouses of actors be asked how it feels to watch a husband/wife be kissed on screen, but I wonder what it’s like to have a wife who is obviously admired by men for her physical appearance. Is it weird? Did you have to get used to the idea? Do you never think about it?

R.L.: I have so much respect and admiration for my wife Pammy. The girl leaves Perry Hall, Maryland for L.A., works her tail off, meets a buffoon like me, we have two kids together and she is now the most incredible, loving, nurturing mother our children could ever ask for. As far as her in bikinis … she did all that stuff in her teens and 20s. She traveled the world, experienced amazing things, met some incredible folks in the process.

Sure, I know there are a lot of guys who love to look at her stuff, but I also know that when we put the kids down after a long hard day, we are together. And she is a wonderful person with a kind and loving soul. I absolutely out-punted my coverage with her.

J.P.: So you spent some time hosting The Price Is Right Live! stage productions in Las Vegas. Which sounds … I’m not sure. Fun? Maddening? Electric? Exhausting? I don’t know. What was it like? And how’d you land the gig?

R.L.: I had to audition, and I hosted the show in New Jersey, Las Vegas and at Foxwoods in Connecticut. I love, love, love, game shows, have hosted game shows and my partner and I just sold a game show to Sony called Pure Luck! Hosting Price Live was fun, electric and the most energy I have ever felt from an audience. Plus, I got to meet Bob Barker. Now that’s a plus.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH ROGER LODGE:

• Six adjectives to describe your socks at the end of a pickup basketball game: sweaty, stinky, salty, tired, floppy (like Pistol Pete’s) and often victorious!

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Jim Rome, Rob Wilfong, Buster Douglas, tapatio hot sauce, Jennifer Hudson, beige cats, the first name Glen, Ruben Amaro, Jr., Beverly Hills Ninja: Rome (without Jimmy, there’s no Sportslodge on L.A. radio); Rob Wilfong (he was a Halo); Buster Douglas (even though he cost me and Stamos a grand when he laid down against Holyfield—knocking out Tyson was epic!); Jennifer Hudson (what a talent!); The first name Glen (Glenn Ford was one of my favorite actors ever! Go watch Blackboard Jungle. Amazing performance); Tapatio (I like spicy); Ruben Amaro, Jr., Beverly Hills Ninja; beige cats.

• Three memories from playing “Rick” on Saved By the Bell: The New Class.: 1. The dude who played Screetch standing off the set and trying to make me laugh during my scenes; 2. How bad the writing was; 3. My agent at the time telling me not to do it.

• One question you would ask Gabriela Sabatini were she here right now?: Sabatini? What kind of conditioner do you use?

• The next president will be …: Anyone but Trump. He’s a joke, a clown and a complete and utter boob, who has never said anything remotely interesting or compelling.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I used to fly into New Mexico to shoot a late-night show for ReelzChannel that nobody watched. I must have flown through 15 thunderstorms. One particular time in lightening and thunderstorm our little United Express plane was bouncing around everywhere. People were screaming and praying. If I remember correctly, when I asked for a ginger ale, the stewardess who brought it to me was wearing a parachute. I’ve never been so happy to sit in traffic on the 405 in my life …

• Celine Dion calls. She offers $100 million for you to spend one year starring as Bitch Boy 6 in her new Las Vegas production of “Bitch Boy: The Musical.” Your job is the walk around the stage naked while repeatedly muttering, “I love apple sauce, but only if it’s grape.” You in?: Celine? I’d do it for $10 million.

• What do you remember from your first date?: My first date? How I didn’t have enough money for the check and having to explain to my date and the waiter that I couldn’t leave a tip because of religious reasons.

• Why do you think the world repeatedly rejects leftover sushi?: Because even the first time around, sushi is dangerous!

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life