Tomorrow, March 29th, the sun will set on the career of Don Imus. I’ve been a Don Imus fan since the day he first cracked the mic on WNBC in New York in 1971. My buddy Fred and I used to listen to the I-Man on 66-WNBC during our morning commute to New York Tech in ’73. With sun shining bright and the top down in Fred’s MG, there was nothing more enjoyable than the irreverence and pure comedy genius that Imus was cranking out at that time.
When Imus was firing on all cylinders, the mighty and powerful lined up to be his on-air guests. Donald Trump, former senators Chris Dodd, John Kerry, Bob Dole, Bill Bradley, John McCain and Alfonse D’Amato were all regulars or returning guests. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was an Imus target and guest, as were a seemingly endless list of news correspondents, anchors and authors like Jeff Greenfield, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Tom Friedman, Pete Hamill, Laura Ingraham, Howard Kurtz, Jim Lehrer, Mike Lupica, Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell, Andy Rooney, Mike Wallace and Dan Rather.
The 70’s cast of characters on Imus in the Morning included John Cardinal O’Connor (my favorite Imus character,) the Right Reverend Billy Sol Hargus, Blind Mississippi White Boy Pig Feets Dupree, Senator Edward Kennedy, Scott Muni, and many more figments conjured up in the warped imaginations of Don Imus and his best sidekick ever, Charles McCord.
The Imus alumni includes McCord, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Warner Wolf, Fred Imus (his brother), Rob Bartlett, his wife Deidre Imus – aka The Green Ho (his words, not mine,) Bo Dietl, Dagen McDowell, Alan Colmes, Kinky Friedman, Lou Rufino and gobs more.
In 1992, Imus worked a deal out with Gov. Lowell Weicker of CT, one of Imus’ first guests, where the two would switch jobs for a day. At 8:00, Imus was sworn in as Gov.of CT. He said he planned to ” fry a couple of people while I’m in office”. However, nothing happened, except for major protests from Connecticut DJ’s who protested the Governor’s support of an out of state radio program. At the time, though, Imus ranked in the top 5 in the state.
Those days are gone. The Imus show is a shadow if its former self. There are still sparks of genius, but not as many as there were when Imus was in his heyday. Maybe I still listen hoping for one of those sparks, and at times he delivers.
Cumulus has announced that Imus regulars and WABC 10am-12pm hosts Bernie McGuirk and Sid Rosenberg will take over mornings from 6-10am starting Monday, April 2. WABC says “Bernie and Sid in The Morning” features the on-air duo’s passionate conversation about the biggest topics in New York and across the nation, with high-profile guests and interaction with great New York listeners. ” McGuirk served as Executive Producer of the “Imus in The Morning Show” since 1987.
Scott Fybush of fybush.com offers his perspective on the Imus departure:
There are two ways to look at Don Imus, who announced his impending exit from New York’s WABC (770) last week, and they’re both true.
First truth: The 77-year-old Imus is undoubtedly a radio legend. There was nobody like him when he came to WNBC (660) in 1971, an irreverent young voice on what had long been a stodgy network-owned competitor. You know the story from there: his exile to Cleveland, his return to WNBC two years later, his rivalry with Howard Stern, his survival on 660 as WFAN replaced WNBC in 1988, his ouster in 2007 over comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team, and his return to the air later that year on WABC.
Second truth: Imus almost certainly outstayed his relevance not long into his WABC run. Even in his last years at WFAN, his attentions were straying – his piece of the show often originated from his Texas ranch instead of New York, his fundraisers sometimes overshadowed the meat of the daily broadcast, his sidekicks sometimes seemed to be carrying the show in his absence. For those who’ve taken the trouble to listen in the last few years, it’s often been a hard listen. Imus’ voice is a rough shell of what it once was, he’s working with a smaller staff these days, and he’s not getting the must-listen interviews that used to make his show hard to ignore.
There’s a third truth as well: Cumulus remains in dire financial straits, which is why the company made the decision to pull the plug on “Imus in the Morning” ahead of Imus’ own schedule, which would have wrapped up the show in December.
“They informed me last week, last Tuesday that they weren’t going to pay me past a certain date. Sometime around the end of March. I signed some agreement agreeing to that. I guess they were going to do it earlier but waited a couple of months,” Imus told listeners last week, revealing that March 29 will be his final show.
Imus deserves to be cursed and praised. Cursed for his comments about the womens basketball team at Rutgers University, and praised for his dedication to helping kids with cancer at his Imus Ranch, a working cattle ranch for kids with cancer. Love him or hate him, no one has had a radio career like Don Imus. He is indeed a radio legend. If you missed the Imus segment on CBS Sunday Morning this past weekend, you can (and should) check it out here. You can stream his final show on WABC here.
Bob Abbate is the President and Creative Director of Bob Abbate Marketing. During his career, Bob has worked with national brands like Nissan, Sony, Bosch, McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch, Snapple, and Planet Fitness, as well as hundreds of the best branded local companies.
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