Radios have played a part in my life since I was born. My parents didn’t buy a TV until I went off to college, but we always had audio entertainment, pretty much one in every room. We were blessed to live in a spot where multiple New York City stations came in as if we lived blocks from the broadcast towers.
My dad listened to his New York sports teams – the baseball Giants before they turned traitor and left the city, then the Yankees, and the football Giants. After the TV arrived, my mother’s version of hell was strolling into the living room where Daddy was watching football with the radio tuned to a baseball game. I’m sort of glad that they both passed over before the split screen arrived.
My mother tended to avoid the radio until she needed company in the wee hours of the night. Then she would listen to Pegeen Fitzgerald, Josh Logan, plus others who sounded like some of the wackos on air today. I don’t remember their names.
I recall listening to Jack Sterling on WCBS in New York when Daddy fixed my breakfast before I went off to school. Sterling had a live studio band, which included the host on drums. The rest was a sort of variety show with talk — maybe interviews? — breaks for news and weather.
My parents gave me my very own radio when I was about eight. Of course I listened to Cousin Brucie and the top forties stations. My favorite through my middle kid years was Jean Shepherd. His show broadcast at 10 p.m. on a weeknight, so at the beginning I’d turn off the light and sneak the radio under the covers. Most people know and begin to revile Shepherd for “A Christmas Story.” I bought and loved In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, which included a great number of the stories he told on the air. One show made me laugh so hard I cried. That was the second time. The first occurred years before when I read Winnie the Pooh out loud. Mother took the book away from me. Shepherd remained a favorite until he made some racist comments.
Much later I listened to Don Imus before he gave up vodka, went on TV, and displayed his racism. (What’s with you guys?) My favorite was “1,200 Hamburgers To Go.” Imus posed as the commander of a National Guard platoon and called a McDonald’s. (On Long Island?) He ordered the 1,200 hamburgers — 300 without pickles, 400 with extra sauce, etc., etc. That bit may have been his first foray into real trouble. He’d been dissing his sponsors, but they were paying to get disrespected. That time, the station had to pay.
Radio still fulfills my need for stories and diversion, plus news and music. These days I listen online: classical music when I’m writing; a variety of jazz, R&B, etc. when I’m not. Much of the spoken word I used to listen on the radio now rests on the iPod — all on public radio –that ‘casts during workouts, housecleaning, etc. Programs lined up in the queue in no particular order:
- This American Life
- Car Talk
- The Moth
- Wait, Wait …
- On the Media
- Science Friday
- TED Radio Hour