Famed Radio DJ Don Imus Dies At Age 79
By: Mike Fleming Jr.
Don Imus , 79, one of the iconic radio morning DJs in New York radio history, passed away this morning at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in College Station, Texas. He had been being hospitalized there on Christmas Eve. Deirdre, his wife of 25 years, and his son Wyatt, 21, were at his side, and his son Lt Zachary Don Cates is returning from military service overseas. He is also survived by his four daughters Nadine, Ashley, Elizabeth, and Toni.
For many years, Imus was a towering presence in New York, where he started in 1971 when he was hired away from Cleveland where it was clear he was onto something big. In his heyday, he spearheaded WNBC and was a thorn in the side of Howard Stern , who put his reminiscences of the bitterness between them in the autobiographical film Private Parts . Imus defined the “shock jock” period, where certain irascible personalities flourished on the air. Imus developed a coterie of characters he played, including the Right Reverend Billy Sol Hargus, Blind Mississippi White Boy, Pig Feets Dupree, Senator Edward Kennedy, Scott Muni and others. Imus appealed to the right audience and his show drew blue chip advertisers for his strong demos, and did interviews with the likes of Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, John McCain and many others in the political sphere. His mainstay crew consisted of newsman Charles McCord and Bernard McGuirk, the latter a producer armed with a quick wit and a coterie of impressions. Imus continued to drive the radio station even as it embraced an all sports format.Along the way, Imus had substance abuse problems he eventually overcame, and I recall once he didn’t show up for his shift. While his star faded, Imus cooked his own goose in 2007 when he referred to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “nappy headed ho’s, when the team lost in the NCAA finals. He was roundly condemned for his comments, and lost it all, shortly after Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton met with ex-CBS chief Les Moonves (whose own career would eventually be ended for allegations that were much worse) and it was decided Imus had to go. Imus was making $10 million a year at the time. While he and his cohorts straddled the line between satire and bad taste, and though he made an emotional apology, his comments about college athletes was too much. His career never recovered, though he would resurface on WABC.