Off-Ramp host John Rabe talks with Petros Papadakis, former singing waiter, captain of the USC football team, English major, color commentator and co-host of "The Petros and Money Show" on AM 570 KLAC.
Culture shock (noun): a sense of confusion and uncertainty, sometimes with feelings of anxiety, that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation. - Merriam Webster
After spending four hours in the KLAC studio in Burbank a couple weeks ago with Petros Papadakis and Matt "Money" Smith, I'm surprised I didn't wake up talking to myself at the Smokehouse, with three or four martinis drained on the table in front of me. It was that weird. Loud, fast, stream-of-consciousness, sound effects, people talking in the studio when the mike is on. If KPCC is a Prius, the Petros and Money Show is a Camaro clown car.
For all these reasons, the Petros and Money Show, nationally syndicated and heard weekdays on AM570 KLAC, is the opposite of public radio — but in others, it's a kindred spirit. Because when you strip out the focus on sports, and the frenetic pace, it's actually two smart guys who seem to like each other talking about an astounding array of topics in a smart way. The 41-year old Matt "Money" Smith, a Kevin & Bean alum, is more your standard radio host, playing straight man so 37-year old Petros Papadakis can do his stuff.
Papadakis grew up in his family's Greek restaurant in San Pedro, where he still lives. Duties included being a singing waiter (listen to the interview to hear his version of "Rags to Riches"), and he says working in a restaurant taught him how to deal with people. Then, he got a scholarship to USC where he became captain of the football team while earning an English degree.
He was lousy at math and science, he says, "but I always was a reader of literary fiction and real books, you know. And because of that it saved me in my career, in my life, made me able to communicate and impress people I probably shouldn't have."
That shows up in the show, which he regularly starts with a quote like, "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools because they have to say something." (That's Plato, another Greek.) But so do his other widely varied interests: Frogman Friday celebrates the show "Sea Hunt."
"I live by the ocean," he says, "and I love water people but I'm afraid of the water." They do "The Bachelorette Report" to review the latest episode of the show. They spent five minutes talking about Ettore Bugatti the day I was there, including an excursion into high fashion. And just yesterday Papadakis closed the show by reading song titles from a new K-pop album; I don't think they even played any music from it. They were just funny titles.
And yes, they do sports. Probably 60-70 percent of the show is sports related, but even that stays smart. When I visited, they had an expert on who could actually explain NFL rules in a way a non-football fan could understand. That's good radio on the public or commercial dial.
I ask if they've ever focus-grouped the show, and Papadakis reacts in horror. "No, no. And frankly I don't care. I really don't. I do a show that we enjoy. We all put the show together, we make it, then we leave. Whatever it is, that's what it is."
When we're debriefing about my culture shock, and I say how different "Petros and Money" is from public radio, Papadakis laughs and says, "I'd like to think the show is different from anything out there. And that makes me good because so much has been done a thousand times. The kind of show we do, we do because we can. We're comfortable with each other to be kinda joyful."