Saturday, February 28, 2009

RIP - Paul Harvey 1918-2009

"Hello Americans, this is Paul Harvey. Stand by for news."

I don't go off-the-format too much with this blog, but I feel I need to note the passing of radio legend Paul Harvey, who completed his earthly duties today at the age of 90. For those of us who lived in rural America, Paul Harvey was a voice of reason that entered our homes and vehicles as he read the national news interspersed with small town values. For those like me who grew up on our Pacific coast and listened to AM radio, his voice was one that you could count on finding anywhere. And I do mean anywhere--whether it be on the 50,000 watt powerhouse stations like KOMO in Seattle, KGO out of San Francisco or KMJ out of Fresno, or the countless small 1,000 watt stations like KPRL in Paso Robles, California where I was privileged to work for about a year. You knew first thing in the morning and at lunch time you could hear the news as he saw it.

He never pretended that his broadcast was straight news--there was always a comment or two seemingly on each story to give his perspective and often to prod you into thinking about the topics of the day. Add to that a small dose of humor at the end with For What It is Worth (more on this later), and he'd knock out 12-15 minutes of the most engaging AM radio of the last few decades.

That was his gig for just short of 58 years, minus a couple brief and not so brief absences as health issues kept him away from the microphone. And a gig that reportedly he was paid $100 Million for in a 10 year contract signed in 1990. Not bad for 30 minutes of airtime 6 days a week.

The part of his show that I loved and hated the most was his For What it Was Worth segment at the very end of the broadcast. It always featured a news oddity that was making the rounds that day off of one of the wire services, often with him delivering a pregnant pause at the end right before he got to the punchline. I hated it often because I was listening to it on Armed Forces Radio on my way into work and listening to it meant that I was going to be a minute or two late reporting to duty (and undoubtedly would catch hell for it). But favorite because it was the little dose of humor that we needed no matter where "where" was to get our day started in the proper perspective.

My favorite of these stories was when he noted that in some small town while the police were out at a call somebody had come in and stolen all of the porcelain bathroom fixtures at the police station. Something to the effect that the police were baffled for at this point they had nothing to go on.

My father also speaks of a time when his local sheriff's office in rural California was highlighted on the show because they had seized what in the day were called stag films (probably at best soft core pornography today) and to ensure that indeed the movies were obscene the entirety of the department watched the films multiple times.

And the classic Paul Harvey quote, which melts it down to the essence of humanity and male egos, "Gonads are useful for their intended purpose, but they are no substitute for brains."

He reported the news, highlighted the idiotic, and did so always with a bit of a spin towards his politics but never in the blow-hard style that we come to expect from both sides of the political spectrum.

My nightly guilty pleasure during my short stint in commercial radio was wrapping up my show, moving the satellite feed to Mutual Broadcasting and Larry King's overnight radio show, and then stepping into the production room to pop in the lunch time version of the show while I bulk erased the tape cartridges that the morning guy would use for his show. His words made the time fly by--thank God we hardly ever had any local commercials for Larry King--they never would have gotten played on time if we did.

Mr. Harvey, you will be missed but undoubtedly you've reached Page 5 and have been reunited with the Angel that you married 60+ years ago and left this world for Page 5 just 9 months ago. We'll continue to stand by for news, but for now Mr. Harvey, Good-day.

Other accounts:
ABC News coverage

1 comment:

Allan Davis said...

Excellent post...hear hear...