Ladyfingers: An ode to Jim Philips

By : Sabrina Ambra
Comments: 4

Mind if we take a drive down “Let Me Get Real With Ya” Boulevard real quick? Sometimes I find myself scrambling for topics when it’s time for me to write my next Ladyfingers entry (#giggidy).

I’m an expert in over analyzation, procrastination, and self-deprecation. Am I an artist? Debatable. Did I miss my deadline? Absolutely. However, instead of my “occasional” scrambling (I’m sorry; I love you; thank you for your patience), I’m a day late for a completely different reason. As a matter of fact, this time I had no doubt in what, or in this case, who I wanted to write about: Jim Philips.

My introduction to Jim wasn’t like those of most people in here in Central Florida. Growing up in Miami, the only “talk” I ever heard on the radio was cheesy, shock-jock bullshit. The type that ranks celebrity cleavage on “The Mellon Meter” and holds hotdog eating contests for single chicks who want concert tickets. So when I started my radio internship in 2013, it was with the station that I call home now, but initially with a show that reminded me of home.

I got my list of the “do’s and don’ts” and the grand tour, of course. My notepad was filled with bullet points and chicken scratch as the senior intern dictated the day-to-day and all the ways I can fuck it up. Nothing screams “motivation” quite like the feeling of an oncoming panic attack, especially for a college gal with one year left of school and zero plans for the future. So you bet your bottom dollar I was hanging on to this opportunity while internally losing my shit. A roller coaster of emotions that included and was not limited to: anxiety, paranoia, fear, and indigestion.

“That’s Jim Philips. You have to call him Mr. Philips. And do not look him in the eyes.” Unlike most Central Floridians, my first introduction to the radio legend himself was in the hallways of Real Radio. Like a good little intern that does what she’s told, my second interaction with Jimmy P. consisted of me awkwardly mumbling “Good morning” at 3 p.m. with my eyes dead-locked on his shoes. Because that’s how you make an impression, my friends. Aside from the occasional hallway passing, that was the extent of my interactions with Mr. Philips during my internship.

The last day of my internship started out bittersweet and ended mostly bitter. Nothing screams “determination” quite like being told you will never make it in the industry you just dedicated an entire year of free labor to, especially if it’s coming from the mouth of the person you did said labor for. It was a roundhouse kick to the gut, followed by the sound of a sad trombone.

Well my gut bounced back and several months later, I begin my career in radio. And I am scared shitless. Things are changing; people are confused and turning that confusion into anger and I am dead-locked on the floor again. Maybe this isn’t for me.

“Hey! You know, you’re very funny. And you’re doing a fantastic job.” Do my eyes and ears deceive me, or did Mr. Philips just say he’s picking up what I’m putting down? I was elated. Jim Philips – the man that’s been behind the microphone longer than I’ve been alive – enjoys listening to ME? Now that screams “motivation,” the real kind and no hints on sarcasm.

I will never, ever forget that day. Nor will I forget the four years following that day and the opportunity that time has given me to get to know the man that is Jim Philips. With the recent announcement of his retirement, I would like to take this opportunity to not only fangirl, but also share my admiration for someone I can easily call a friend and whose eyes I can comfortably stare directly into. (Is that creepy? Don’t answer that.)

Some quick and fun facts: Jim taught me how to tie a bowline knot over the phone and sat in the audience during my very first stand-up set. On my 24th birthday, Jimjamboree (*new nickname alert*) and the rest of the Phile sang to me with a carrot cake in hand and it was his idea. He doesn’t take shit from anyone, yet has shown me nothing but kindness and encouragement. Jim Philips is an institution when it comes to talk radio and I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are times I have found myself discouraged and unsure of my impact on those listening. I’ll be completely honest: radio can be brutal and my thick skin still has some layers to grow. During that growing process, it is rewarding and very encouraging to know that I have gained the respect and friendship of a person who has impacted so many for so long. You’re my boy, Jim. Thank you for having my back.

It’s funny how talking about someone’s retirement can sound so much like a eulogy. For the record, JIM PHILIPS IS NOT DEAD. He is more alive than ever, and after dedicating most of his life to such a wonderful, yet fickle industry, there’s no person who deserves retirement more than this man. I am truly honored to know him and I thank him for inspiring me to do great and to not take shit from anybody. Thank you, Jim Philips. May you truly enjoy your next grand adventure, “ya old poop.” (That was my line from the On Golden Pond reading we did last year; I would never call you poop.)

Sabrina Ambra is a co-host of Real Radio 104.1’s “News Junkie” program.

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