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Remembering 'Fresh Air' Creator David Karpoff

David Karpoff created <em>Fresh Air</em> (and came up with the show's name) when he was the program director of WHYY in 1973.
Jon Karpoff
David Karpoff created Fresh Air (and came up with the show's name) when he was the program director of WHYY in 1973.

David Karpoff, who died Oct. 27, was very important in my life and in the life of Fresh Air. In fact, he created the show, and came up with the name, when he was the program director of WHYY, back in 1973.

Fresh Air was very different then. It was a free-form, interview and music show, broadcast only in the Philadelphia area, every weekday afternoon from 2 until 5. There was at least one other host before me, and David had sometimes hosted the show himself.

David hired me 40 years ago, in 1975, after Fresh Air host, Judy Blanc, moved to New York for a job. David took a big chance on me. Although I was already co-hosting a similar program at WBFO in Buffalo, where David had formerly been the program director, I was only 24, and I was pretty inexperienced.

When I came to Philadelphia, David gave me the freedom to do what I wanted with Fresh Air, and he offered his support and friendship at a time when I really needed it. I had a daily 3-hour show to fill, in a city I was unfamiliar with, far away from old friends and family.

David only stayed a couple of more years at the station, then left to study at the American Film Institute. Over the years, we eventually fell out of touch, except for occasional phone calls. But when he got sick, a mutual friend, Janice, who lives in Pennsylvania, brought him to Philly, so he could have a weekend getaway, and we could spend time with him.

David loved opera, so we took him to a movie theater to see the Metropolitan Opera's live-in-HD theater-cast of La Boheme. He spent part of the opera in tears; La Boheme was the first opera he was taken to as a child, and I can only imagine what he was going through his mind.

That weekend, a year and a half ago, was the last time I saw him. He died last Tuesday.

I'm grateful for that visit, for his friendship and for how he hired me, and gave me a career, at a time when I was unsure if I'd ever be able to make a living doing what I loved to do. Thank you, David.

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.