"I'm not going to lie to you — I'm terrified," Caroline Manzo confessed to radio listeners after an awkward moment of dead air during her debut at the microphone this season on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. "I've never done this before; if I stumble please forgive me." But by last week's episode, her jitters were gone and Caroline sounded like a seasoned pro. But is she that good?
"She was a natural," says Eric Johnson, the amiable New Jersey 101.5 program director who helped shepherd Caroline through her guest stint as the station's resident relationships talk show host. "To be a good radio talk host, you have to be a good listener," Johnson tells Dish. "When she interacted with callers, she was awesome; she has a genuine ability to listen to them and to relate to them and to help them out."
Johnson is just confirming something Caroline's, family, friends and fans have known all along. As host of Caroline Rules, the self-described "49 year old Italian mommy" listens to her callers, relates to their problems and offers the same kind of loving, level-headed and no nonsense advice that she spreads among the feuding members of the endlessly squabbling extended RHONJ family. "The other thing that makes her successful," says Johnson, "is that she has strong opinions; you can't really be a good talk host without them. She has them and she can express them very well."
Johnson, a former deejay who has been program director at 101.5 for 12 years, says he and other station executives didn't think putting Caroline on the air was a gamble. "She was already an established relationship advice talent... And obviously she had a lot of experience with different media and felt comfortable in the spotlight. We knew she was not shy and that she had something to say." But at the same time, Johnson adds, "She had never stepped foot in a radio station until she came in for an initial interview. That she was able to learn as quickly as she did and to perform as well as she did was very impressive.
"We had to teach her how to handle some of the transitions between commercials and station breaks and things like that ," Johnson notes, "but she's a very fast learner."
The show may have wrapped up its limited run on 101.5 last November, but Caroline still seems to be serving up advice at every turn, including in her Ask Caroline column here at Bravotv.com. With everything on her plate, will there be time for a return to radio? "She's so busy with so many other things, she doesn't really have time to do a radio show on a regular basis," Johnson says. "But if she is ever interested in returning to the air with Caroline Rules in the future, she is more than welcome.
"We would love to have her back."
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