As Robert Feder reported, Carla Leonardo died yesterday of acute myeloid leukemia.
When I started my internship at Q101, my 40-hour week was split between working in the Programming department and helping Carla with her local music show (then called “The Local Music Showcase”).
Carla was the best mentor I could’ve asked for; she let me take on as much responsibility as my very-green self could handle. She had no problem with letting me edit her interviews, screen music submissions, and “cart songs up” for air. I felt like I hit the jackpot when she let me help out with in-studio hospitality, and hang out with her as she recorded interviews with some of Chicago’s coolest artists (my mind was blown when I got to sit on the other side of the glass as Chris Connelly sang “What’s Left But Solid Gold”).
She was always supportive of me, and I’ve always felt that support helped me get my first paid job in radio when the Programming Assistant job went vacant in October, 1993. Less than two years after I got that job, she left Q101 to move to the East Coast. Before she left, she encouraged me to try out for her job of hosting the Local Music Showcase. I had no on-air experience, and was totally intimidated. She helped me to get over myself. I think she said something at the time like, “What? Like they’re going to give it to (Steve) Fisher?” (For the record, Steve’s a very talented jock and a friend. Carla’s point was that local music wasn’t Steve’s thing.)
Carla had a knack for cutting through bullshit with a white-hot knife. She also had an appealing cynical streak that was less mean-spirited than it was the result of being too smart for her chosen vocation. I’ll never forget, after a round of firings and jock shufflings at the station, she introduced me to the apocryphal Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Every time things around me go berserk, I think about her smiling as she said those words.
I fell out of touch over the years, but always enjoyed the brief encounters we had since our Q101 overlap. When I interviewed her in 2011 for my oral history book about Q101, it was like we’d never stopped communicating. She wanted to know everything that was going on with me, from what my kids were doing to where my career was going. We talked for a solid hour…and that was the last time we spoke.
I owe an immeasurable amount to Carla, and can’t begin to thank her enough. I miss her dearly, and offer my condolences to her family, friends, colleagues, and fans.