ONE OF THE ORIGINAL INNOVATORS of talk radio, Don Imus, signed off this week, after 50 years on the air. One of the first “shock-jocks,” Imus was a provocateur, a flamethrower, and an influence. Acidic, sarcastic, often mean-spirited, but mostly very funny, he was also called a bigot, and a whole lot more. Ultimately, he was entertaining. Before Howard Stern was Howard Stern there was Don Imus. Fact.
During the late 80’s and early 90’s I was a HUGE fan of the I-Man. When I moved to Minnesota I went thru withdrawal – there was nobody even close to what he was doing. I followed him and listened to him when he was syndicated, and on MSNBC. I had shirts, bought his brother Fred’s book and salsa, his 1970’s comedy album, 1200 Hamburgers to Go…I was a big fan. Before I moved to Minnesota from NY in 1994 I taped a slew of shows off the radio; I went thru such withdrawal a year after moving I bought a dozen or so aircheck cassettes of prior shows. When he was first syndicated in Minnesota I set my alarm for 4:00 a.m. that first morning he was on, and I even called in and got on the air – and the I-Man ripped on me and the station. I was in heaven.
And while overall my tastes didn’t change, I just somehow lost track and interest and stopped listening, after he got dropped from MSNBC, thanks to the infamous Rutgers women’s basketball remarks/controversy. The show was changing a bit, took a turn a bit too far to the right, and, worst of all, his long-time sidekick, Charles McCord, left. Nothing stays the same or lasts forever, of course, but for the longest time, The Imus In the Morning Show did, and that’s one of the reasons why I loved it so much. Every morning I knew I would be entertained as well as informed and I knew I’d laugh out loud. Sometimes you just lose track of the things that used to interest you, and that’s largely why I nearly missed this story – he originally announced in January that he would be retiring!
“I know in my heart there’s been nobody ever better on the radio than me. I mean that. I’m telling you how it is.”
For more on Don Imus and his career, CBS Sunday Morning recently ran a great piece.