MICHAEL SMERCONISH IS on the toilet.
It should be noted here that Michael Smerconish is not actually on the toilet, as in sitting on the john, but rather is on the topic of the toilet. More specifically, the one he recently bought, for $500, from one of the sponsors of his Philly-based syndicated radio program. He’s talked about the toilet on his show — he does that sort of thing — and it’s now installed in all its porcelain glory inside the stately Villanova Tudor he shares with his wife, the glamorous real estate maven Lavinia, and their four kids. But he has yet to use it properly. Meaning, he hasn’t utilized what makes the toilet worth talking about on the radio, its “Washlet” function, which is sort of a fancier bidet that precisely aims the water shooting up your heinie. “I haven’t taken the time to read the manual and understand what I’m supposed to do with it,” he says with a bemused shrug. “It looks complicated. It’s like a computer keypad.”
T.C. Scornavacchi, who with her shiny raven hair and husky voice evokes the image of a more voluptuous Angie Harmon, is the official executive producer and unofficial mother hen of The Michael Smerconish Program. She comes in shuffling papers, has caught the tail end of all of this. “Oh, you must be talking about the toilet,” she says.
We’re sitting in a Bala Cynwyd studio at WPHT 1210 AM, “The Big Talker,” where every morning from 6 to 9 (the 5-to-6-a.m. hour features highlights from the previous day’s show), Michael Smerconish sits behind a microphone and holds forth on toilets and anything else he feels like to listeners in Philly — and now, thanks to a new syndication deal, a dozen other markets, ranging from Youngstown, Ohio, to Biloxi, Mississippi. Another 14 mainly “conservative” talk stations — in more cosmopolitan locales like New York, Boston and Portland — broadcast a new afternoon version of his show, which Smerconish does from a studio inside his home. “It also has a drying component,” he’s saying, still talking toilet. “Now when I finally use that and discuss it, people will be totally into it.”
The toilet has swirled into discussion, if you will, because Smerconish just finished a segment, replete with interview with an expert, on how ultra-soft toilet paper is decimating rainforests. This has led to a lively jousting match with the three staff people who also get up at an ungodly hour each day to make this show happen, basically polling who would sacrifice his or her rear to save a tree. And, as an aside, of which there are many on The Michael Smerconish Program, whether it’s prudent to install a urinal in your bathroom.
“When people tune into these stations that are carrying me, they’re anticipating that they’re going to hear somebody kick the shit out of Obama,” Smerconish will tell me later. Instead, they’re getting … toilets, among other ephemera. “I would have never discussed any of that — the Washlet, the urinal, or a lot of the things that come up here — when I was practicing law and I was juggling both careers,” he says, peeling back a banana. “I think I would have been embarrassed that I was going to have to go in front of a jury or judge or clients afterward.” The first night of his solo talk-radio show on WWDB, back in 1992, when his day job was still attorney, his topic was the latest papal encyclical. “I can’t even listen to that now,” he says. “Not even for laughs.”