The Danettes got a make-over on Friday.
It forced Dan Patrick to start his show flying solo. A pilot without an air traffic controller.
Awkward. On several levels. Especially after the four finally appeared, and their new stylists admitted to “Googling them” before sizing them up.
They cleaned up well, but the nitty gritty of it all, watching and listening to the show daily and observing the way they interact as a sounding board for Patrick, characters in a reality show, plus having to be functional member for Dan Patrick on his morning sports-talk show (6-to-9 a.m. on KLAC-AM 570, simulcast on DirecTV’s Audience Network and NBCSN), the thoughts do occur:
A) It doesn’t look that taxing.
B) How much does it pay?
“They make it look a whole lot easier than what it is,” Patrick warns. “I think that’s sort of the novelty of what we do. You want it to sound great, look great, feel great. It’s a job you want.”
So, why not us as a “Danette” in training?
Set up not so much as an intervention, but an invitation to shed more light on the process, we gathered executive directors Paul Pabst and Todd Fritz, director of operations Patrick “Seton” O’Connor and blogger/Sports Illustrated writer Andrew “McLovin” Perloff after Thursday’s show at the DirecTV studios in Marina del Rey.
They could have easily gone back to their hotel to take a quick nap before submitting themselves to the “Sports Jeopardy!” appearance they had later that day.
Instead, they did a bigger reveal, one they probably hadn’t done much of since they last were asked to do a thing called “The Box Score” post-show breakdown.
For the record, the Danettes have been together since Perloff was the last addition in the fall of 2007. When Patrick left ESPN earlier that year, he recruited Pabst and Fritz, whom he had worked with at the network going back to 2002, and then hired O’Connor.
In their ninth year together, the bond continues to strengthen. There’s no weak links.
Take notes, my friends. Pretend you’re me (asking the questions in boldface italic), and read between the lines (noting a condensed version of this appears in the Sunday print editions and online at dailynews.com)
Does age work against me? I probably skew closer to Dan’s age than yours?
(For the record, all four are married and with at least one child. Pabst and Fritz are 46, Perloff is 44 and O’Connor is 37).
Pabst: I actually think being too young might hurt. You need some knowledge of sports history, and you’ve got to have some skeletons in your closet. Some baggage on your person, your psyche. A 22-year-old, what we might do to him would not be fair …
Fritz: To have a strong sense of humor you need a certain amount of live experience and observations to be able to …
Pabst (to Fritz): When is yours going to hit?
Do I need a nickname? Is that given to me organically? Do I need to bring my own? Who assigns them?
Pabst: I don’t have one.
Pabst: That’s my name, Paulie.
Fritzy? Seems kind of …
O’Connor: Mine started with Dan as we were going to be put on the air. We thought Dan Patrick and Patrick O’Connor were too confusing, so Dan said, What’s your middle name? It’s Seton, for Seton Hall, because my dad went to Seton Hall. All right, cool, we’re going to call you Seton now. Aw, all right, and it stuck.
Pabst: If his middle name was Tim, though … And the natural thing is he’s from New Jersey, so the question is: You went to Seton Hall?
O’Connor: No, I didn’t.
Fritz: Dan could have come up with a nickname based over a period of time …
O’Connor: It’s usually a profanity.
Pabst (to Perloff): His is the most interesting one…
Perloff: There are many versions of the story. So, there’s apparently another person named McLovin out there (laughing).
O’Connor: He stole that from you.
Perloff: Actually I think there was a user comment where someone called me “McLovin’s uncle.” And Paulie said: Oh, yeah, that’s the guy who looks like McLovin’s uncle. And then “uncle” fell off. I was “McLovin’s uncle” for about a week and then just “McLovin.” That’s how I remember it.
Pabst: Dan remembers having a meeting at Sports Illustrated and he was interviewing editors for his (weekly column) page and Andrew was one of them. Dan’s not good with names. They asked Dan which one he liked. “The guy who looks like McLovin’s uncle from ‘Super Bad.’
O’Connor (to me): So, what’s your middle name?
Mine is Leon. Does that work?
No, not the Elton John song.
Perloff: Woo, Leon’s a great name.
O’Connor: You could be Leon the Danette.
Do i need an agent? Are you responsible for your own branding/marketing/networking?
Pabst: What agent wants 10 percent of this?
Work schedule and time of day is an issue. I’m not a morning guy. You guys need to roll out pretty early, especially on these L.A. stops. How do you adjust?
O’Connor: I’m not a morning person at all. Not one bit. Naturally, my clock just goes late. That’s a struggle. I try to fall asleep but it’s really just coffee that works now. That’s the salvation.
Fritz: I’m a late night person, always. That’ is tough. At ESPN we used to do the show from 1-4 in the afternoon so we had extra time to wake up and get going as we’re putting stories together and topics. But now with commutes involved we’re getting up at a 5, 5:30 in the morning (for a 9 a.m. EDT start).
Pabst: But one thing about Dan — no whining about that kind of stuff, in all seriousness. First time I worked with him at the World Series in 2002 and I went out one night, pretty hard, was younger and single. The next day I was complaining being a little hung over and Dan said: If you have to complain now, you can’t go out at night. If you go out all night I don’t want to hear it the next day. He said it to me once and never again in 14 years. We all go through that. Maybe there’s a good event we have to go but to, but…
Fritz: And with Dan’s mantra, “Every day is the Super Bowl,” we have to make sure we have our A game. We can’t be tired. We’re prepared and today’s the day that matters more than the day before and the day after. Be in the moment and make this the best show ever.
If you came in dragging, would that disappoint him?
Fritz: Oh, yeah, he’s at the highest level every day and he expects that …
O’Connor: Unless he could use that against you.
Perloff: Oh, yeah, he would use it.
O’Connor: He’d make it part of the show.
Perloff: Three minutes in, he could say, “Fritzy’s mailing it in today.” The purpose of a Danette is … Dan doesn’t always want excellence.
Pabst: It’s entertainment.
Perloff: Excellence would be nice, but he’s realistic.
Now it sounds like you’re giving me bad advice. Throwing me off the scent … That’s good.
So you each have a functional duty on the show. Producer, booking guests, working the sound, Internet and social media. It’s like you each get assigned a superpower, like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, that combined makes the team a success. I guess my strength would be as a writer ..
Perloff: Ohhh …
How do you choose your expertise and making that work into the show?
Perloff: Well, mine … Sex appeal is obvious for me. You know, the focus groups, market testing …
O’Connor: We did this ‘editor’ thing, it was really just purely sex.
Perloff: Yah, yah, yah … I’m eye candy. .. Now, Leon, I don’t know if … (laughing)
O’Connor: Look, he’s not totally threatened.
Pabst: Apparently you fit in already …
Perloff: We all equalize and balance each other, but you’re a writer so …
Pabst: It’s an interesting question. You can’t say I have an expertise in this. If I can only do one thing a day, it’s to be there for Dan to set him up to be great. If an HR person asks me for a job description? It’s to help Dan put on the show. And that’s it. There’s a lot of ancillary things but I, and we, all can feed him ideas, sometimes I’m the mouth piece for the other three guys. I could hear Fritzy say this or Seton say, “Dan should ask a guest about this …” and get it out there. It’s like an air traffic controller, giving the pilot everything he needs.
Fritz: And Paulie is the best at selling Dan on the rest of our ideas, so not only is it a conglomeration, he’s so used to having Paulie in his ear that and he’s the lead guy and something we might not necessarily be able to sell as far as a topic or a guest, if it comes from Paulie, he sometimes has that extra weight or he knows how to word it a certain way…
Pabst: But Dan takes things from everybody. Dan’s biggest strength as a host that not everyone’s going to talk about — he’s open-minded to every single person in the room. He just wants the best idea. He doesn’t care if it’s the new intern whose name he doesn’t know or one of us who have been there for years. If you have too much ego, sometimes you think you can do it yourself. That’s dangerous for a host. Dan doesn’t have that much ego. I’ve worked with guys who … they do a good show but they don’t do a great show.
O’Connor: Those guys who call you ‘the help’ …
Fritz: And not only does Dan embrace and encourage that, that’s part of our job duty whether it’s stated or not in some human resources file about our responsibilities. You book the guest, you handle technical things … It’s not about that. If we all don’t have something to share on the air and in the hours leading up, he’s disappointed we’re not fully in the moment.
Do you then have to create tension with the other guys? Make alliances behind the scenes?
O’Connor: Well, Leon, I can tell you right now that things are going to be rough with you and McLovin. Both writers. You’ll tread on each other’s …
Perloff: I’m watching you.
O’Connor: That’s just built in naturally right there.
Perloff: Thankfully the four of us are different enough. We all have niches. If there was another swashbuckling handsome writer type who came in with a weird name …
Pabst: One thing about tension … it’s not creating tension, it’s identifying tension. More like if Seton comes in and I hear him say something and I can go: That’s gold for the show. I may not even tell him and just hand it to Dan. And vice versa. if Fritzy sees me do something, he may go to Dan. It’s making sure Dan has access to it secretly or publicly. There’s no perfect way. That’s all we do. I’m always surveying them up and down every morning. Fritzy could have a certain red shirt on that he never wore. That could be five great minutes. Back in the day when we first started, Seton would come in with three bar stamps on his hand. I don’t even have to say anything. “Dan, ask Seton what the did last night.”
Fritz: We all instigate certain things with each other, push buttons without being malicious. Ultimately, we’re all in this together. We don’t want to top each other. We’re communicating all hours of the day and night. It’s a 24/7 gig. No one’s looking to totally humiliate the other person — maybe in the moment but ultimately we like to stir it up but it’s ultimately in good fun.
Do you really have to raise your hand every time you want to speak?
O’Connor: Yes, you would.
Even outside the studio?
O’Connor: For your 90 day trial period, you’re a hand raiser.
Perloff: I’m about to raise my hand even now.
If any of us were to run into Colin Cowherd, would we have to be nice to him?
O’Connor: You wouldn’t have to be … When he still lived on the East Coast I used to see him at Whole Foods or going to buy wine and he was always nice. Always had a million questions.
Pabst: We ran into him at a party at the Super Bowl in Dallas a good five years ago and we all chatted it up. I don’t think any on-air stuff spills out. Maybe it does with other people. I don’t know.
He’s been on the West Coast now so you might actually run into him again this week or soon …
Fritz: We’ve been in this long enough to where we all have relationships directly or indirectly with a lot of people. Some may call them competitors. But there’s no ill will. There’s a respect there.
Pabst: Plus, we could take the “Collin-ettes.” We would smoke them. And I don’t even know what that means.
Perloff: I don’t know. I’ve seen his new sidekick .. she kills.
O’Connor: Kristine Leahy could take all four of us.
Fritz: I can speak for the rest of the guys: Ultimately …
Perloff: You don’t speak for Leon …
Fritz: We want this show to be the voice of record and we want all the top level guests and the news makers … it’s great when we can get ’em … and …
Pabst: So what was the question again that started this?
Fritz: About Colin Cowherd. … we take a lot of pride …
O’Connor (to Perloff): Is this your job interview? You’re speaking for Leon?
Perloff: He’s not an official Danette yet. We’ll see if he makes it.
Well then, would an opening have to occur for someone else, me or anyone, to break into this foursome. Can it go five?
Perloff: What do you know?
Pabst: It has more to do with the physical space of the office.
O’Connor: We’re maxed out.
Pabst: The show could end up looking like an episode of “Hoarders.”
The back row already looks pretty limited.
Fritz: We were almost up against the back wall where the jerseys are.
Perloff: You must know something. Are you a plant?
Then to get an opening, someone has to go. How long does this group stay together? Sure, it’s a nice run, but sometime may come up … another network comes calling. Someone always is bound to try a solo gig. Are you a package deal?
Pabst: It’s hard to imagine the five (including Dan Patrick) of us not ending the show together. I don’t think 10 years from now there’ll be a ‘Dan Patrick Show,’ but three years there will be, I’m confident. Dan’s having a lot of fun, more than he’s ever had. We’re having more fun. It would be an incident that caused him to leave: the industry, health, personal… things are going too well now. I look at Gary Dell’Abate from the Howard Stern show. He’s been there since 1982. He’s producing a radio show at age 55. Do I want to be doing that at 55? I think more about it as I get closer to 50. But what would be better than doing that? Some other job?
O’Connor: If you’re talking about the most important job of the Danettes, it’s making sure Dan’s having fun every day. It’s a blast. Why would we not want to keep doing it? We always have different milestones we’re trying to hit. We got the radio show up. Then it’s on TV. Then we took it on the road. Then we got a New York studio, an L.A. studio. Now we want to go on the road more. You always want to do something bigger and better to keep making it fun.
Pabst: Dan doesn’t like to be stagnant, in any sense.
O’Connor: What’s the new thing we’re going to try to conquer? Then we all go after it.
Fritz: The lack of predictability with spontaneity. Whether it’s chasing stories as it breaks or right during the show he talks rock and roll or culture or finding creative ways to draw something into sports that may not be there at first glance. He gets excited about that every morning. Not just Xs and Os or analyzing a game to death. There’s a lot of other humor and entertainment than just the scores from the night before, which we all enjoy.
What has become the biggest upside to being a Danette? Does it feel like an episode of “Entourage” when you come out here?
Perloff: This isn’t the biggest upside by any means, but we do get recognized in whatever market where we’re on life. L.A. is a good spot for us. Bend, Oregon. Tucson.
Pabst: You can’t walk the streets in Tucson.
O’Connor: That’s McLovin’ country.
Perloff: You want to get into a restaurant in Halifax, Virginia?
Fritz: It’s flattering how people say we’re part of their routine, the listen when they’re working out, they can tell us parts of the show that shows they’re really paying attention.
Pabst: I love all the experiences we’ve had.
O’Connor: Same with me.
Pabst: If you told me 20 years ago just this week I’d hold a football for Will Ferrell to kick, there’s no chance. Or we’d have Ron Artest on the set and he might reenact the Malice at the Palace. John Fogerty comes to a (birthday dinner Saturday for Patrick) and he calls us by our names. Because he watches the show.
O’Connor: “Dudes!” It’s John Fogerty!
Pabst: It’s not just about fame but people who are accomplished. I wouldn’t want to meet a Kardashian but I’d want to meet Jerry West. You get to experience that with Dan . He knows them.
Fritz: Dan goes out of his way to include us in special experience. Ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Adam Sandler movies. …
Perloff: When you get to argue about something on national TV and radio with Dan Patrick, That’s pretty amazing. I hope we don’t take that for granted.
Perloff: I remember back in 1991 trying to get Dan to come to our fraternity house. And now …
Fritz: And with all the years he’s been in this business in the sports world, he picked us, after leaving ESPN after 18 years, to be his little All-Star team together, the four of us, out of all the people he knows. He saw something in all of us that, for him to be successful, I need these guys. That’s extremely flattering.
Pabst: Another thing is to see how he acts around us. He’s a first-class goofball. He’s a fun-loving dude.
But then, why wouldn’t you guys also bring out the best in him? Doesn’t it work both ways?
Fritz: In his other TV gigs, maybe there’s more things constricting in some ways on “Football Night in America,” he shows his personality with Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, but it’s a totally different level here.
O’Connor: No one’s getting hit in the nuts on that show.
Fritz: That’s why we like the silly interaction on TNT with Barkley and Kenny and Shaq and those guys. We do it three hours a day.
And you’re all good with the name “Danettes”? No desire to rebrand?
Fritz: I didn’t love it initially. It had some kind of feminine connotation, like we should be at Radio City kicking our legs like Rockettes.
Pabst: The fact it was created by Reggie Miller is cool. If it was given by someone less cool than Reggie … He was making a comparison to Michael Jordan and the Jordanaires. You remember Jordan had what was called “The Jordanaires”? At least there’s a Jordan comparison in there somewhere. We may be Bill Wennington or Will Perdue, but ..
O’Connor: I’m down with it.
Perloff: It’s been awhile since we’ve even thought about that (name). It’s established at this point.
Pabst: It’s funny when you hear it yelled. In L.A. I think people have their radar up for famous people on a day-to-day basis. (To Perloff) You and I were outside a Mexican restaurant and someone comes around the corner and goes “McLovin! The Danettes!” We jumped out of the way because we thought we were in some kind of danger. It’s weird.
So, after all this, what sort of chance might I have a chance to be a “Danette”?
Pabst: We gotta see you have some beers.
Fritz: We’ve already turned down supermodels who’ve personally asked to be a fifth “Danette.” Brooklyn Decker and Chrissy Teigen.
Pabst: Maybe we should be considering someone like Danny Bonaduce.
Perloff: I don’t know if it’s real or fake, but you can laugh.
O’Connor: So this is the tension coming already.
Fritz: The battle of the two writers. …
Pabst: How do you feel about the movie “Point Break”?
(Long silence). Not really a big fan, but …
O’Connor: Well, then, hey, good luck to you in your future job search and …