Part 46: They could've been journalists

Part 46: They could've been journalists

With the UI celebrating birthday No. 150 this year, we caught up with hundreds of graduates who've gone on to big things. Every Tuesday throughout 2017, Editor JEFF D'ALESSIO will tell their tales. Today, in Part 46: When the road to journalism takes a detour.

Fifty-plus years later, he still doesn't know what he did wrong. But getting fired from his part-time gig at WILL Radio might just be the best thing that ever happened to ROGER YOUNG ('65, right).

The Emmy-winning, Urbana-born, Mahomet-raised director of the "Magnum P.I." pilot takes it from here.

"WILL Radio used to be on the top floor of Gregory Hall. I used to work there while preparing for a journalism career. One day, I came to work, and the head of the station met me in the hallway and fired me. He gave no reason. Just 'You're fired!'

"Maybe he should have run for president.

"So, as I'm walking out of the building, head down, wondering how I was going to eat all next week, I met a friend who asked me what was wrong. I told her and she said: 'Well, they are looking for a floor manager at WILL-TV.'

"'What's a floor manager?' I asked. She shrugged her soldiers and walked away.

"I looked all over campus and finally found WILL-TV. I applied for the floor manager job. Got it. Floor manager is the guy who counts down 3-2-1 ... You're on. In a month, I was directing the news. A few months later, I was directing the news at WCIA, the CBS affiliate, and the news at WILL. Then, producing and directing a morning show at CIA, then on to Chicago, then Hollywood.

"That guy fired me into a career directing" episodes of "Lou Grant," "Knots Landing" and "Law & Order," among others, Young says.

"So I love that hallway on the top floor of Gregory Hall."

* * * * *

TERRY LAVIN (right) was destined to write for a living. He had his career path all planned out — get a bachelor's in journalism (he did, in 1977) and go on to critique music at Rolling Stone.

But a funny thing happened on his way to becoming the kid from "Almost Famous."

Lavin — or should we say, his honor — tells it:

"My first assignment in Journalism 101 was to rewrite a game story for the historic six-touchdown game of the Galloping Ghost. My professor, LYNN SLOVONSKY, grabbed me for a quick chat after he had graded the submissions.

"'This is always my first assignment, and your article is one of the best I've seen. You're going to be a great writer but have to promise me that you won't go to law school. We lose some of our best that way.'

"With my long hair secured in a tight ponytail, I shook my head and reassured him that my career goal was to work at Rolling Stone.

"I did my stint as a rock critic at the Daily Illini and eventually betrayed my mentor's advice, as I spent 27 years practicing law. I do write for a living now — as a judge in the Illinois Appellate Court.

"Sorry, Professor Slovonsky."

Looking back now, Judge Lavin can't say he doesn't miss those days, especially all the nights he spent at one particular former concert venue in Champaign.

"I had a number of great evenings at the Ruby Gulch, where I saw acts as diverse as McCoy Tyner, Asleep at the Wheel and JIMMY BUFFETT," he says. "The room held about 180 spectators, many of whom were pretty well baked.

"The aroma of pot clung to the paneled walls, which caused the legendary saxophonist RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK to threaten to cancel his performance because 'this place smells like a joint, and I don't play joints anymore.'"