Some of my radio colleagues have urged me to say a few words about the now defunct Imus show. OK. Here they are. Imus influenced many of us in the business and he made possible the saying of things on air that weren’t sayable previously.
He was one of a kind, though in his later years, he kind of phoned it in. Actually, he really did phone it in. From his ranch in Texas. Being away from his cast and staff in New York didn’t help the show any. A guy like that needs live bodies to bounce off.
I think after nearly 50 years, some people listened to him for the same reason they watched Dan Rather or Jack Paar or any other loose cannon. They were waiting for the trainwreck. And it came often enough.
Everyone in this business gets fired. If you don’t -- quoting someone, but I can’t remember who -- you aren’t doing your job.
Don Imus was better at it than most.
During his first New York run he was exiled to Cleveland for a couple of years. Bad behavior. But he bounced back. And he returned to WNBC radio, a dog of a station that had no idea what to do with it’s amazing 50-thousand watt signal. Imus knew. And he did it.
When WNBC was sold and became WFAN sports radio, Imus was the only holdover. And he managed to build an audience there which probably wouldn’t have happened without him, at least not nearly as fast as it did.
Then came the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball Moment of Infamy. He used a racial slur in describing the team and he was out on the street, pronto.
When WABC picked him up, he was kind of past his prime. But even past his prime there was something about him that made him occasionally top shelf and mostly mid shelf, but never the “well” or bottom row of bottles at the bar.
The funny bits left with McCord’s departure, or at least many of them did. Most of his humor in recent years was kind of Don Rickles-ish but where Rickles went for the laugh, Imus seemed to mean it. I suppose if you agreed with his assessment you thought it was funny.
Billy Sol Hargis, the McDonald’s order, that kind of thing was truly funny. The political interviews in the Tim Russert era bordered on brilliant.
We will miss Don Imus. But he will miss us all the more. He’s a hard habit to break. But so are we.
His hard to swallow, self aggrandizing farewell was an emotional arm wrestle. Listen, Don, you were on the radio. That’s all. It was not the Second Coming or any other major event.
We liked you. Some of us loved you. Some of us tried to be like you. But as another Wizard of the Airwaves, Howard Cosell said, “it’s only radio.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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