Thursday, August 17, 2006

Today's Fired Radio Personality News Today: The Colickiest of Them All

It seems like anymore, when I wake up, the classic old-man-type question is coming to my mind more and more: Who died? Earlier this week, the first email I opened alerted me that Bruno Kirby had gone to the great Character Actor Stable in the sky. But if nobody died, the next question is: Which veteran Chicago radio personality has been fired?

Today, Robert Feder reports, it's Larry Lujack's number that came up.

This came as no surprise, as it was well documented that his most recent station, WRLL-AM 1690, was strongly considering changing from its oldies format, which had been a pretty resounding failure. The station's weak signal was no help, either.

"I really think that [oldies] format could have worked and could have been very profitable," Lujack said Wednesday. "But as long as we were on a signal that went nowhere, it never really had a chance."

Lujack had been in (and briefly out of) retirement for several years before getting hired by WRLL to revive his ancient partnership with Tommy Edwards (who, by the way, claims to be the guy who started the trend of playing Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part 2" at sporting events, but that's perhaps another blog item for another time). They set him up with a studio in his home in Santa Fe because, as Lujack explained to Bob Sirott in a slightly bizarre interview a year or two ago, he hated every minute he spent in Chicago.

Yeah, he's a cranky bastard. He's the crankiest bastard in radio, in fact -- Don Imus notwithstanding. As his Wikipedia bio puts it, Lujack was "known for his world-weary sarcastic style." That's a pretty severe understatement. Lujack was gloom on a microphone. He left no doubt that he hated radio, hated you, and hated himself.

In fact, I think Larry Lujack is partly responsible for influencing me to become the colicky baby I am. I was a radio freak pretty much from birth, and I followed "Superjock" around the dial (well, back and forth between WCFL and WLS) all through the '70s and '80s. He was my morning wake-up voice on the clock radio all through high school, giving me that first dose of "I hate the world and everybody in it" that I needed for another hard day of surliness and pessimism.

By the end of his primary tenure in Chicago radio, Lujack's attitude had soured to the point where, in 1985, he actually broke into the studio during Steve Dahl and Garry Meier's afternoon show and threatened to "punch out" Steve and "break Garry's other leg." (Garry -- who, with Steve, had been mocking Lujack pretty hard for a long time, had a broken leg from a motorcycle accident or something.) I probably have a tape of that somewhere -- that was one of the most remarkable on-air breakdowns I've heard. Unfortunately, Dahl and Meier fled the studio like little pussies, or else it could have been something truly memorable. (There's audio of this available on the web, but you have to pay for it. So, forget it.)

By that time, Lujack was not just "world-weary" and "sarcastic" -- he was pretty full-blown nuts. He was kind of like Emil Cioran meets Doctor Johnny Fever. The general gist of his show was grumbling "This sucks" repeatedly. Daily, he would threaten to walk off the job and become a forest ranger in Idaho. He had also taken to pronouncing his first name "Lorry" ... which is one for the psychologists out there, I guess.

In 1987, WLS canned him. He was off the air until 2000, when he was hired by WUBT until 2001, and then off again until 2003, when he started his latest, and probably last gig. Somehow, I don't think he'll miss it.

Link to Larry Lujack's Radio Hall of Fame page here. Includes aircheck audio.

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