It was a cold, nasty winter Saturday morning, probably in 1969 or 1970. Dennis Quinn, who went on to a long and successful run at WPIX FM and CD 101.9 in NY City, was on the air at WGBB in Merrick NY and the sun wasn’t up yet. In those days, Dennis called himself Jim Quinn. Yes, GBB is licensed to Freeport, but the studios were just north of the Long Island Railroad Station in Merrick. I want to say it was around 4:00 AM, but it might have been a little later.
I walked into the studio. Dennis announced to the audience that I had arrived and asked, “Tom, how cold is it?” Who’s listening to a station pumping out 250 watts on a winter Saturday morning before the sun comes up? So, I stole a line from legendary broadcaster Jean Shepherd and said, “It’s colder than a well digger’s…No, it’s colder than a witch’s…No, it’s colder than a brass monkey’s….” Dennis played a record and laughed at what I’d just done. By the broadcast standards of 40 years ago, it was a little racy and I guess Dennis thought it was original.
The studio hotline rang. Who’s listening to a 250 watt station at something like 4:30 AM on a cold, nasty Saturday morning? The program director was listening. Bob Lawrence was listening. Dennis picked up the phone and listened to the sound of Bob laughing his head off. Bob thought it was one of the funniest things he had heard in a long time.
Whew! Program directors held the power of life and death over at-will employees like deejays and newscasters and Bob thought it was funny too. I didn’t work directly for him and we weren’t close friends outside of work, but I knew Bob as an easy-going, upbeat man with a lot of energy and a radiant smile. If he ever screamed at people, I wasn’t one of them. He was a talented and versatile broadcaster too. He pulled various air shifts at the station, but mostly 9 AM to noon. He was the PD and for a time after I left, the station manager too. And in his spare time, he was a voice of the NY Islanders hockey team when they were going around winning all those Stanley Cups.
Why am I reminded of this today? Bob passed away this afternoon around 1:30. I didn’t know Bob had cancer until yesterday. He didn’t mention it at the WGBB reunion in April. I don’t think Bob burdened a lot of people with his troubles. Bob Lawrence is dead and the world is a poorer place for it. Damn it!