I found out about the passing of Jerry Doyle from his neighbor and close friend – fans of the show know him as “Famous Neighbor Bill” – since that call I’ve been numb, struggling to come to terms with the fact that I’ve lost one of my closest friends, a man that has become like an older brother to me over the past 5 years.
I’d say “like a father to me” but Jerry would hate that analogy (I’m 42).
In 1997, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune by the name of Mary Schmich wrote a hypothetical commencement speech titled; “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young,” it became the lyrics for the 1999 Baz Luhrmann song; “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”. There is a line in that piece that has been running over and over in my head since I got the sad news:
Don’t worry about the future. Or worry that know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday
I got the news at 5 p.m. on an idle Wednesday. I was blindsided, and knocked into an insensibility I have not yet recovered from.
Everyday for 5 years (including many weekends) Jerry and I would talk on the phone. At first it was all business, guests to book, audio to pull, topics to cover and so on. But as the years went on our phone calls became longer and, at least for the past couple of years, were far more personal in nature. The business was still there but we knew each other so well that we didn’t really need to discuss it.
“For guests tonight: Gillespie on Gary Johnson, Ebeling has a new piece on EpicTimes and a round-table with Ross?” I’d ask.
“Make it happen. Did you watch BrainDead last night?” Jerry would answer, and the business was concluded.
We talked about his Mom’s passing, my family, our favorite TV shows (CBS’ BrainDead was one of them – he called it the “perfect kind of screwed up”) or a great meal we had. Interwoven into all this personal chit-chat would be angles that Jerry could pull out and apply to his radio show’s topics of the day.
I looked forward to my daily 7:30AM call with Jerry, I still find myself seeing something and thinking “I’ve got to tell Jerry about this!”
He treated his support staff like equals, not subordinates. He valued our input and our opinions. That’s what made him such a pleasure to work with.
It was impossible to work with Jerry Doyle on a daily basis and NOT like the man on a deeply personal level. Ask Jesse, Charles, Don, Patrice, Jose or anyone else who worked on his show and they’ll tell you the same thing.
Jerry’s show was the one everyone at the network wanted to work on because most of the time it wasn’t like a job, it was like a bunch of friends hanging out and talking about everything from presidential elections to the economy to Jerry’s dislike for “select-a-size” paper towels (“I have enough decisions to make in a day, what size paper towel I need shouldn’t be one of them”).
Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of talk show hosts and most of them needed to get in “character” before they went on the air. Sometimes the shift between the off-air and on-air personality was great, sometimes it was subtle, but with Jerry, the professional actor, he never needed to get into character. The Jerry you heard on the air is exactly the Jerry you would hear off the air.
Jerry never took himself too seriously, either. Longtime listeners of the show will recall the reoccurring “Flubs of the Week” segment. We’d make a note of any of his slips of the tongue and compile them in a montage.
This was one of our favorites – it followed a disastrous interview with Gregg Allman. It was an interview that a program director said “sounded like Jerry was interviewing a mime”.
Please enjoy this, it brought me much needed joy to listen to it again.
Jerry was a great radio host and employer, but he was an even better friend. And at the end of the day, that’s how I’ll remember him.
My friend, Jerry Doyle.
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