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This week's Chicagoan: Mia Park, kids' show host

"Vanilla Ice was afraid of our puppet, Ratso. Lemmy from Motörhead wouldn't talk to the puppet."

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A first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford.

"Chic-A-Go-Go started in '96. Two years later, they needed a new host, and I called [producer] Jake Austen; I knew him from the music scene. As soon as I walked in, he handed me a box of foam-core stars and safety pins, and he was like, 'Here, hang these up.' Someone was doing a student film on Chic-A-Go-Go, and he pointed to me and said, 'You can interview her. She's the new host.'

"The tagline is that it's a dance show for kids of all ages. I open the show; I introduce every song. It's kid wrangling, too: 'Kids, can you be polite, please? They're talking." And I interview the band. Sometimes I have to really perk them up. A lot of these guys are indie rockers who graduated from the school of shoe-gazing. We've had the Cramps, Neko Case, Yo La Tengo, TV on the Radio, Flaming Lips.

"Vanilla Ice was afraid of our puppet, Ratso. Lemmy from Motörhead wouldn't talk to the puppet. I tried to interview Lady Sovereign when she was here, and when I told her it was a puppet, she said, 'I can't do it,' and walked away. It was around the time that that mean dog puppet was on TV. I was like, 'No, this isn't a dog, it's a rat.'

"Ratso, oh man, he needs some TLC. He's falling apart. Guy [Picciotto] from Fugazi cut his finger playing bass, and he got blood on the puppet. It wore off, eventually. When Ratso's not on, he's slumped under the table, and children are fascinated. If they're really young, they're like, 'What happened to Ratso?' I'm like, 'Ratso's sleeping.'

"Ninety-nine percent of the bands have been awesome. One band came on drunk. It really hurt my heart. The singer was in this scary mask, and one of the kids hugged me and said, 'Make him stop!' And the singer chased him off camera. I said, 'Stop scaring the kids!' I was livid. When I interviewed them, I was a little bit mean. I said, 'You call that 'music,' right?' I did air quotes.

"I was supposed to interview Duran Duran. That morning, their press person called and said they had gotten called in early to do a longer sound check and they had to cancel all but the national interviews. I had everything lined up. I had the puppet, I had a camera person, and the camera person is as big a Duran Duran fan as me. We wept.

"I did meet Simon Le Bon though. We found out where the afterparty was, and we were hanging out outside. All of a sudden the door opened, and Simon Le Bon walked out. I walked right up to him, and I just gazed in his big blue British eyes. He just looked at me and smiled and was like, 'All right then. All right.' He jumped into a big black SUV, and he was gone."

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