What distinguished Joy Browne most of all was she wasn’t nuts. A little kooky, maybe, but definitely sane unlike many of her fellow psychologists, especially some other radio shrinks.
As of this writing, we’re still waiting to learn what killed her at what today is not terribly old… 71. It was one of those out of the blue deaths discovered by her sister when their phone call disconnected.
Joy was a psychologist first and a radio personality second. Caller after caller asked her about relationships, bad habits, the behavior of spouses, the behavior of children.
You get nervous when you call. You get flustered when you’re told “you’re next.” It makes you ramble and babble and tough to get to the point when you call a call-in shrink. Joy had a firm but sympathetic way of getting her “patients” on point. “Okay, cookie, you have troubles. We all do. But is there a question you’d like to ask?” Or “What’s your question for me?”
She just kept at the callers until they abandoned their verbal selfies, long and winding explanations and got to the point. It was good radio.
But it was also good therapy. Joy never lost sight of the dictum that you couldn’t really treat a person on the phone. But what you could do and what she did was put them on a useful path.
Relatively slim, she still managed to fill a room. Authority without authoritarianism. Sympathy without fawning or judgment. Graceful. Unpretentious.
In recent years, her program aired live from noon to 3 pm eastern. That put her in a head to head ratings competition with Rush Limbaugh and other right wing steam pipe explosions. At last there was something useful on the air if you wanted to listen but not to some blowhard dissing President Obama, welfare cheats, and conspirators working to destroy America.
She also gave you the chance to realize that your problems were no worse than others’ which was therapy as one way street.
Circumstances change, but people usually don’t. So if her syndicator plans to keep airing her old shows, it probably can retain much of the audience. Her advice was timeless, even though she wasn’t.
Rest in peace, Dr. Joy. You did good.
Readers note: Dr. Joy and I started at WOR radio at about the same time. She was a delight to work with, an impressive intellect and she carried herself with dignity but not without humor.
--Continuing this most unpleasant theme we should mention the death this past weekend of Fred Hellerman, 89. Hellerman was the last surviving member of The Weavers, the quartet that drove the folk music revival of the 1950s. Hellerman was the baritone whose voice blended with tenor Pete Seeger, Soprano Ronnie Gilbert and bass Lee Hays.
--Labor Day 2016 finds us still wondering where the unions went. Organized labor was the key builder of America’s middle class. And we’re also wondering where that went.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016