Sunday, March 1, 2009

Memories of Paul Harvey

I woke up this fine, chilly but sunny Sunday morning to hear that broadcast legend Paul Harvey had passed away last night at age 90.

For those of us of an age, Paul Harvey was probably someone who had been on the radio before it was invented and likely would continue to be on the radio for all eternity, he had been around that long, it seemed.

I can recall hearing his morning updates at 8:30 a.m. and his noontime 15 minute broadcast on WTVN prior to my teenage years. His style was quirky, a rapid-fire staccato delivery with pauses at the strangest places, and his news items were filled with a few notable topics of the day, but mostly with amusing items about everyday people going about their everyday lives.

I knew he was married and totally devoted to his wife, Angel, who I did not know until a couple years ago was actually named Lynne. It also turns out that Lynne was a broadcast pioneer in her own right, being a producer and co-writer of his shows in the 50's and onward, at a time when women were scarce in those areas of broadcasting. The two of them have been inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. They sired a son, Pail Harvey, Jr., who did many of the fill-ins for his dad for years on The Rest of the Story programs, as well as being the chief researcher for those shows.

Paul Harvey was a very conservative man of whom it was said he was hopelessly out of touch with America after the sixties. It would appear that he was out of touch only with those who did not like his point of view, as he consistently had the most popular radio programs for years. I made it a point at work to tune into his noontime show even if it meant switching stations from something else.

There were times when he gave a vignette that just screamed "Urban Legend, Paul!", but it was amusing anyway. He once told us about a "Paul Harvey Dance" to be held in Hawaii; a "Paul Harvey Dance" being one in which "the band and the dancers can stop and start at any time they wish". He claimed to be puzzled by this, but everyone caught the glint of humor in his eye, even though he was on the radio.

Forty years on, I can still hear him do commercials for Kava: "The old-fashioned word for coffee was java, the new-fashioned word for coffee is Kava!" He was one of the few broadcasters who did commercial testimonials only for those products that he tested and used, and stood by those products for years.

Ill health forced him off the air temporarily a couple years ago, and he was off for several months as his wife ailed and passed away. When he returned recently, it was clear how devastated he was, but he rallied with his usual optimism and had resumed a part-time schedule, with fill-ins from a number of people. Unfortunately, a number of stations, WTVN included, had dropped his programs, citing the lack of his presence on them. I was not pleased with that, but understood the reasoning behind it, so I found and began to listen on the internet.

To me, Paul Harvey was an iconic figure, a legend, and a warm and considerate man, from everything I have heard and read over the years. He will be sorely missed by me.

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