John Rice with hosts Tonya Francisco and Amy Rutledge.

We’re all entitled to 15 minutes of fame but I’ll settle for five. On Jan. 27, I was interviewed by Tonya Francisco and Amy Rutledge on their Daytime Chicago show (on WGN). During the five-minute segment, we discussed Edmonia Lewis and my book The Ghost of Cleopatra: Edmonia Lewis and Her Lost Masterpiece. The masterpiece was her statue, “The Death of Cleopatra,” which languished in Forest Park for over 70 years.

My TV appearance came about thanks to a phone call from my sister, Julie Reyes, who watches Daytime Chicago religiously. On their Jan. 24 show, Tonya and Amy discussed the commemorative stamp honoring Edmonia Lewis. They admitted to not knowing much about the sculptor. Julie suggested I contact WGN-TV immediately.

I sent an email and left a voicemail for Tonya and she called me a half-hour later. We had a pleasant talk about Edmonia, and she invited me to be on their show. Tonya sent me a Booking Sheet that specified where and when I should go for the live show. It also specified what I should wear. Based on the instructions, I did not wear my long necklace and applied more makeup than usual.

I also had to list five talking points on the Booking Sheet and supply a visual for each. As you can imagine, my visuals provided free publicity for the Edmonia stamp, the Forest Park Review and my book. On my way to WGN Studios, I traveled down honorary streets bearing the names of Bob Bell (Bozo) and Frazier Thomas (Garfield Goose). They reminded me that I’ve been watching and listening to WGN my entire life.

When I arrived, an assistant led me to the Green Room. A mother and daughter were already sitting there, going on the show after me. Aicha Sharif and her 7½-year-old daughter, Cyrine, were going to talk about their involvement with Rocket Club Academy, an after-school program that teaches kids entrepreneurship and cutting-edge technology.

I showed them my book and talked about Edmonia and her statue. Cyrine suddenly took out her laptop and started writing her own children’s book. It’s titled, The Pug Who Thought He Was a Goose. Cyrine completed the first chapter and read it to us. It was brilliant and funny about a dog who thinks he can fly but falls flat on his face.

I was hoping not to fall flat on my face during the interview. Tonya and Amy were warm and welcoming before we went on the air. I was completely relaxed and vowed not to over-answer their questions. I didn’t know what they were going to ask and over-answered Tonya’s first question. After that, I gave brief relevant responses.

They were intrigued by Edmonia’s incredible story and curious about my book. They were impressed that I had a role in the Smithsonian Institute’s rescue and restoration of the statue. That I was a character in my own book. We had a few laughs and the interview went smoothly. A friend later told me I didn’t say “uh” or “um” and there were no “you knows” or “I means.”

After my segment, I watched the interview with Aicha and Cyrine. Cyrine was confident and well-spoken as she talked about a company she recently started. Then Aicha mentioned meeting me in the Green Room and talking about my book. This conversation inspired Cyrine to start writing her book. Cyrine even told them the title of her book. And I thought I was the only author appearing on the show to shamelessly plug their book!

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.