Many of you are probably looking at the name Bob Lassiter with a slightly puzzled look. Truth is, I’ve been wanting to put together a post on talk radio for a while now, and since it’s Saturday night, and I’m doing nothing but drinking tea, today appears to be that day.
From an early age, I have been fascinated with radio. First, it was my parent’s furniture-type radio with turntable, followed by my 80’s jam box, and then the Technics stereo system I won from radio station B96 when I was fourteen. I wanted to be a DJ when I grew up, and even used to create radio shows and tape them.
I grew up in Indiana, but was only an hour from Chicago. We received all the Chicago TV and radio stations. Chicago had two main talk radio stations back then. WLS (890am), and WGN (720am). Both radio stations are still strong today. My dad was a talk radio junkie. He never listened to music in the car, and we often listened to talk radio, usually WGN.
One late summer Saturday night, when I was maybe sixteen years old, I was lying in bed and turned on my Sony walkman. I somehow stumbled upon a talk radio show on WLS. The host (Bob Lassiter) was getting lit up - one prank call after another. He took the calls as the came, and made the most of it. It was highly entertaining, and quite funny.
Below is an audio clip, and an example of a few of the calls he might receive on a Saturday night.
Turns out that Mr. Lassiter had a radio show during the week in the early evening hours. It was your typical talk radio show, dealing with current events, opinions, or anything callers wanted to bring to the table. However, Bob was a unique personality. He was well informed, had strong opinions, and challenged his callers. I may not have agreed with everything he said, but he made you think. And at the end of the day, he was highly entertaining.
Over the next few years, I listened to Bob often, but those Saturday night shows were quite special. I taped several of them, and still have the tapes today.
Bob left WLS in 1991. He ended up going back to Tampa, where he continued his talk radio career until 1999 when he retired. Below is a classic call that Bob received back in April of 1987. Enjoy.
Radio call “Mr. Airstream” WPLP - April 1, 1987 (click the play button on the left)
After Bob left Chicago, I got my talk radio fix by listening to other Chicago talk personalities like Jonathon Brandmeier, Steve Dahl, Nick Digilio, and even Mancow in the mornings.
Bob started a blog in the summer of 2005. In February of 2006, his kidneys were failing. He passed seven months later.
I learned a lot from listening to Bob. I learned the importance of having an opinion (and sticking to it), the need to be informed, challenge people, and laugh. I wish I could still listen to him tonight.
Below are his last few blog entries. I will warn you that these are not words of laughter, as these are entries from a dying man.
Bob Lassiter’s Blog 2006
I spent my 27th birthday in a Times Square motel room, with not one, but two 17 year old girls – that was interesting. I bought myself a new Jeep for my 30th birthday, and hit the sand dunes on the Outer Banks – just between you and I, it was more fun than frolicking with the 17 year olds. My friends threw a “Roast” for my 31st. The point being that birthdays were once memorable affairs.
Recently, the passing of the years have been low-key – the celebrations quiet and uneventful. But not so this birthday – this year will see a return of the expensive gift – a never to be forgotten event. Later this very day, my 61st birthday gift will be installed – my very own, personal chairlift!
If all goes as planned, I have climbed the steps for the last time. So like maybe that doesn’t seem like such a big deal to you – but that’s because you are not old and decrepit, like I am. This is just about the best gift this boy could have wished for.
Of course it means that I have thrown in the towel, that I am admitting that there is no turning back – and I could really get depressed about it – but anything that will keep me from dragging my poor old body up those stairs is welcomed…
It is hard to imagine feeling much worse than I do now – the constant foul taste that makes me sick to my stomach, the back pain as the neuropathy eats away at nerves and muscle tissue, the inability to eat solid food, the resignation that my illness brings on. In short, I am miserable, consumed with, overwhelmed by it all.
I have chosen to keep what amounts to a diary that you will not see until the end. I am no longer able to function in the world you live in – I am no longer able to pretend that I have anything in common with everyday people. I am dying – I know it, am not at all happy about it, and have retreated into my own world – a world that has no escape.
I always thought that I would live until I died – I did not realize that it could take so long, be so hard. In some respects, it’s amazing how a body that clearly is failing clings on to life – fighting a losing battle, refusing to give in to the inevitable.
It’s one thing to sit in a doctor’s office, and be told that you are going to die – and having no real sense of what that means – and quite another experiencing the actual agonizing process. You ask what to expect, what it will feel like – you are told, but the words ring hollow until the sensation begins to kick in. The day comes where you hope that you simply fail to wake up – when life is no longer desirable – where the morning is a bitter disappointment as yet another day dawns.
As I have mentioned previously, my universe grows smaller by the day – in part because I allow it, in part beyond my control. Yesterday I had coffee with one of the few genuinely decent people I ever worked with – Sharon Taylor. It was good to see her – it had been almost two tears since we last got together – and yet it was sad. Sad because I have declined so much.
I’ve kept myself out of view for so long – I could not help but notice Sharon’s concern and shock at seeing me struggle with the simplest of tasks. It actually caused me to realize how feeble I’ve become. The Muffin does virtually everything for me – even down to fixing my coffee. Yesterday I had to struggle with shaking hands to put sugar and creamer in a cup – a simple task, but one I’ve not done for a year or more.
But it was good to see my old friend – it was good to do something different other than sit by myself in what has become my prison…
My 61st year began with anything other than good news. My legs – my knees in particular – are increasingly unable to hold me upright. Last night I fell, today I ache and am fearful of walking. How close am I to being bedridden? How much lower can I sink?
The only thing I wanted for my birthday was to go to our favorite restaurant with my best girl – but when it came time to go, I was afraid – afraid of doing something as common as going out for lunch. I hate what has become of me.
So yesterday I discovered that my good, close, personal friends at WFLA are hard at work preparing my obituary. It’s reported that my “many friends” at the station are worried about me. Of course, in the past seven years I’ve only seen one of my “many friends”, and spoken briefly with another on the phone.
Overall, I’m amused that the bastards who threw me out in the gutter, now want to “honor” me with a fancy obit. I’m sure that it will be a warm and fuzzy thing, praising me to the hilt – why must the world be so phony?
Those were the last words Bob wrote …
Words from his wife Mary Lassiter
As his body failed him, I doubt he could find the strength to continue his entries. On Wednesday, October 11 he became too weak to get out of bed and remained in a sleep-like condition until he was gone at 9:15 am on Friday, October 13. He was not in pain … his life just stopped. His long struggle is finally at an end … much quicker than he or I anticipated.
The sorrow and sadness that fill me now are overwhelming. I have lost the love of my life and my best friend.
My thanks to those of you who have followed and shared his struggle over the past months, lending support and encouragement.
Bob lived his life in the manner he chose, he died in the manner he chose, and I am respecting his wishes that there be no visitation or memorial service. Should you like to make a memorial contribution in his name (and Bob was not expecting anyone to), it was his wish that these be made to:
Robert Lassiter Fund
c/o Collingswood Recreation Dept.
Attn: Holly Mannel
678 Haddon Ave.
Collingswood NJ 08108
Bob’s legacy will be a special memory or moment that he left with each of you. Hold it dear in your heart.