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If the Guinness Book of World Records has a category for Shortest Radio Talk-Show Appearance, I'm a shoo-in to make the next edition.

In my role as New Times/KTAR-AM radio film critic, I was all set to go on Michael Dixon's midday program to chat about the previous night's Oscar-doling. Ten minutes before air time, I called my wife. Her due date was still three days away, but for the past week her, um, baby portal had been dilated at 3.5 centimeters--a point most mothers-to-be reach about one third of the way through hard labor. At ten centimeters, the pregnant female body tends to function like a Polaroid camera. A grunting, screaming, sweating, cursing Polaroid camera that decides then and there never to take another photograph ever again.

Anyway, I called my wife.
"Are we parents, yet?"
"No, nothing's happening," she replied. "Just these damned Braxton-Hicks contractions."

For those outside multiplying circles, Braxton-Hicks contractions amount to a little practical joke Mother Nature likes to play on expectant mothers. Translated into words, the gag goes something like this: "You're going to have the baby . . . You're going to have the baby . . . YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE THE BABY!!!!! . . . Ha-ha! Just kidding!"

I could tell by my bride's weary tone that, in her opinion, this cruel prank had been run so deeply into the ground it could surface in China at any minute. I promised to call her directly after the show.

Sitting at a nearby desk during this phone call was Bud Wilkinson, entertainment reviewer for Channel 10 and KTAR-AM's television critic. He kidded that, if my wife were to enter reproduction mode during the course of the Dixon show, he'd be there to pinch-hit for me. We laughed, ha-ha, and I entered the studio to talk Oscars.

If clouded memory serves, it was about two minutes into the sixty-minute program that someone raced into the studio with a hurriedly scribbled sign that read, "Michael, your wife is in labor."

My first thought was to say to Dixon, "Michael! Your wife is in labor!" Fortunately, before I opened my mouth, I remembered that my name was Michael, too, and that, more important, I was the one with a pregnant wife.

My second thought took me back to April 1, 1985, less than one month before my son's due date. My wife called me at work to say that delivery was imminent, and that I'd better hightail it to the hospital. She waited until I was numb with panic to chirp, "April Fool's!" Could this be another so-called "joke"?

My third thought was, if nobody's kidding, what do I do? Everyone knows the ol' entertainment-world axiom, The Show Must Go On. And besides, my wife was in labor twelve-and-a-half hours with our son. If she was indeed preparing to pop, I could probably finish the show and have eleven-and-a-half hours left over for a leisurely drive to the hospital.

After some hemming and hawing from both of us, Dixon (who didn't know I had a pregnant wife and seemed to presume he was being filmed for an episode of Totally Hidden Videos) said, "Uh, well, are you going to leave?" By this time, as promised, Bud Wilkinson was at the other guest microphone. And moments later, I was on my way to Desert Samaritan Hospital, listening to Bud and Michael and very calmly wondering, "What day is this? Is this April first? This had better not be April first! Hey, brains! C'mon! What day is this?"

It wasn't April first.
My wife arrived at the hospital at 2:45 p.m. I got there around 2:50 p.m. The perfect, fully inventoried Jessica Leigh Burkett--weighing in at a hefty eight pounds, fourteen ounces--showed up at 3:16 p.m. Obviously, having experienced one twelve-and-a-half-hour labor, my wife chose not to do that again. She had mastered the art of power-birthing.

KTAR-AM aired regular updates for the rest of the afternoon, I am told, and the next morning, Bill Heywood and Pat McMahon made a formal birth announcement. Concluded Pat: "KTAR-AM, once again, adding to its listeners."

Approximately fifteen minutes after Jessica made her speedy debut, I remembered there were people to call--starting with Betsy Lueders of Scottsdale, who aced out hundreds of competitors to win $100 and a $25 Smitty's gift certificate in the New Times/Dad Zone Name-the-Baby Sweepstakes.

That conversation, of course, was followed by calls to relatives, close friends--and my neighborhood vasectomy clinic.

About two minutes into the sixty-minute program, someone raced into the studio with a hurriedly scribbled sign: "Michael, your wife is in labor."

She waited until I was numb with panic to chirp, "April Fool's!

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Michael Burkett