A Mash Note To Nina Totenberg, My Favorite NPR Crush

You’re the only one for me, Nina, even though I know you don’t feel the same way.

Apr 10, 2012 at 6:00pm | Leave a comment

Oh, Nina. Do you have any idea how much I tremble with anticipation when I hear the “All Things Considered” theme song, wondering if today is going to be one of those magical, mystical, wonderful days when I will hear your dry, wry voice rumbling out from my speakers? Have you any conception of how tragic it is when I turn the radio off at the end of the hour without having heard from you? If this isn’t a crush, I don’t know what is.

You’re the only one for me, Nina, even though I know you don’t feel the same way. That’s OK. Just hearing your voice is enough for me. It’s your big delicious juicy brain that I adore, and I'm content admiring it from afar, even though I know it solely in the form of a voice coming out of my radio, but oh, what a lovely voice it is, Nina. It conveys the most sharp and incisive commentary in the most beautiful of ways; so understated and mild, yet so cutting underneath.

It’s like biting into a brownie only to discover that some charming soul has seasoned it heavily with chilies, and then there’s a faint hint of nutmeg, and possibly an elusive sense of citrus as well. A whole sensory explosion happens in my ears when you’re on the radio, Nina.

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Really, it’s no wonder you win awards. Lots and lots of awards. Nina, someday I want to visit your office so you can show me all your awards, and that is not a euphemism. If there’s time, we can look at your honorary degrees too, but I know you are a very busy woman. You are a media icon for me; you’ve broken some of the most important legal stories of my lifetime and you went toe to toe with J. Edgar Hoover and you’ve done it with so much panache and style.

There is no one else I want to hear legal reporting from, Nina, and I start to resent your lesser competitors when I hear them fumbling on the air, though I know it’s an unfair comparison, because not everyone can be Nina Totenberg.

It’s like complaining when I hear someone other than Maria Callas singing Tosca. How can you top La Divina? May I call you that, Nina? Because it’s not just your speaking voice that sends glissades of delight down my spine; your singing voice is equally delightful. Were we living in a less enlightened era, some might accuse you of witchcraft, with your ability to mesmerize the listener in just a few syllables. You are like the legal news whisperer, Nina, able to tame even the most snarly of stories.

Supreme Court Justices listening to your rendition of court proceedings wish they sounded half as good.

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Us lesser mortals can only hope to scatter roses at your feet and hope that someday, we get seated next to you on an airplane. I’d totally let you use my tray table if you needed more space to work on a story and you could have my complimentary soft drink if you felt thirsty. Nina, I once thought of working for a call center just on the off chance that you might need to sign up for Internet services or resolve a problem with your cable bill.

“Route all calls from Nina directly to me,” I would have said. I never would have missed a day of work.

I think of going to hear you speak someday, but I fear being in close proximity to you might cause me to faint, especially once you opened your mouth.  

Sometimes I imagine what dinner table conversations at your house must be like. I confess, I get a bit envious thinking about you reporting the antics of a grocery clerk or an intern in the mail room with your characteristic saucy but irreproachable tones. Do the people who hear your voice every day appreciate it as much as I do? Do they know what a rare gift that is, to be in the presence of Nina Totenberg on a casual basis?

I know radio personalities don’t all use their radio voices when they’re off the air, but I like to think that you do; when you are pulled over for a moving violation, Nina, wearing your classic pearls, does the police officer blush at the realization that none other than the fabulous Nina Totenberg is sitting in the driver’s seat? Is there a brief apology and an “as you were” as you zoom off to the next scoop?

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You’ve battled sexism on your way to the top, you cover Lady Gaga, and you’re famous for being quite the journalistic diva. But, La Divina, who can blame you? You are merely asserting your rightful place in the order of things as the queen of legal reporting, and we both know that the only reason you don’t wear your tiara in the courtroom is because headgear is forbidden and you don’t want to cause a scene at the metal detector.

But really, don’t you think they’d make an exception for you?