Murphy’s Law – Geronimo!
As a child, I spent an absurd amount of time in my bedroom recording my own “radio shows.” I would sit there with a tape recorder and perform bits or introduce songs with my high-pitched, prepubescent voice. Sometimes, I would try to get my brother to be a guest, since he could do impressions (his Goofy and Marge Simpson were both killer), but most of the time I was by myself, filling up countless cassette tapes with “The Joe Show.”
In high school, my best friend Justin Foster and I started a “radio station” at our school (which in reality consisted of us broadcasting through the school’s PA system on Friday mornings before the bell rang for homeroom). Justin and I co-hosted a show, with our friend Mike Adams doing the news.
My interest in radio continues to this day. Now, my brother and I co-host the Hobo Radio podcast, which is a nice bit of symmetry considering how much I had to beg my brother to be on a part of my shows when we were kids. Unfortunately, I can’t get him to do his Marge Simpson impression anymore.
I tell you all of that to tell you this …
My interest in radio and my desire to have my own show can be credited to one man – Michael Sorce, or as he’s known in the radio world, Don Geronimo. While many of you out there spent your formative years listening to Howard Stern, I grew up listening to The Don and Mike Show. Tomorrow, Don Geronimo will broadcast his final show. So today, I wanted to pay tribute to a man who has been a big influence on my life.
My mom got me hooked on The Don and Mike Show as a kid. She would play their show in the car in the morning when they were still broadcasting on WAVA (my mom even won one of their on-air contests when I was a kid – she won a set of Don and Mike pillowcases for winning a photo caption contest). Even though many of their jokes were over my head when I was younger, I always enjoyed listening to them. (It helped that, like me, Don is a big fan of Batman.) I followed them from WAVA to WJFK and listened as they became a nationally syndicated show. I followed them through countless producers and general managers and even through the brief stint where Leah Remini from The King of Queens co-hosted the show with them. Every “radio show” that I’ve ever done has been heavily inspired by their show and by Don especially.
Everyone else from the show (Mike, Buzz Burbank and Robb Spewak) will continue on doing The Mike O’Meara Show, but it will never be the same. Don Geronimo was the heart of the show and his willingness to bare his soul on the air on a daily basis is what made the show so intriguing. While many DJs attempt to share their personal life on the air, often times it seems contrived or disingenuous, but Don had a way of sharing his life that made you feel like he was an old friend catching you up on things over a few beers.
He made his wife Freda and his son Bart a part of the show – but not as characters, just as themselves. Don pulled back the curtain and talked about the behind the scenes aspects of the radio business. While Howard Stern tries to make it seem like he invented radio and pretends that everything he does is 100 percent original, Don was open about the segments and bits he lifted from other shows, often saying, “If you steal a bit from me, you’re stealing it twice.”
Don’s wife Freda was killed in a car accident in 2005. The love he had for her always came shining through over the air and I think that attempting to come back and do the show after such a tragic event took a toll on him. He had always talked about retiring from the radio business and moving to Ocean City, Maryland with Freda. This year, he finally decided to follow through on those plans, even though he is doing it without her.
It’s hard to put his retirement into perspective. On the one hand, I don’t really know Mike Sorce. I’ve never met the man (although I did buy tickets to the show’s Donkey Basketball game years ago and saw Don in person outside of FedEx Field when he was doing a live pregame show before a Redskins game). I have no idea what he is like off the air.
But, the odd thing about the intimacy of radio is that in a way, I do feel like I know him. I know more about Don’s personal life than I know about members of my extended family. I’ve grown up listening to the man. Like I said, he always made you feel like he was a friend sharing stories with you over a beer, so in a way, his retirement makes me feel like I’m losing a good friend.
For completely selfish reasons, I wish Don wasn’t leaving the show. When I moved to Boston, two things helped me to feel less homesick about leaving Maryland – crab chips and The Don and Mike Show. The show isn’t actually syndicated in Boston, but I’ve been downloading the podcasts and listening to them on my iPod. It makes me feel like I’m back in Maryland, listening to their show as a kid while playing my Super Nintendo.
Deep down, I know that moving on with his life and stepping away from the spotlight is probably the best thing for a man still dealing with the grief over losing the love of his life. I sincerely hope that he is able to find happiness away from the radio business. He deserves it; he’s given so much happiness to the rest of us over the years.
So, even though you will probably never read this, I wish you the best, Don Geronimo. I’ll miss hearing about your life. I’ll miss your conversations with your son Bart and your “earth-dog” brother Jim. I’ll miss you busting Robb’s chops and interrupting Buzz as he tries to get through the news. I’ll miss your stories about the glory days of radio. Thank you for being a part of my life for this long. Thanks for the inspiration you’ve given me to be open and sincere in our podcasts and this column.
I barely listen to the radio these days. Most of the on-air personalities are annoying, loud douchebags who think they are funnier and more charming than they actually are. They all play the same carefully-selected sets of songs and tell the same carefully-selected jokes and stories. Don Geronimo was a throwback to an older generation of radio and I’m quite sure there will never be anyone quite like him on the radio again.
I wish you all the best, Don Geronimo. I’ll be listening to your farewell broadcast tomorrow afternoon. And I’ll be stealing all of your best bits and using them on our next Hobo Radio podcast.
Random Thought of the Week:
Paris Hilton was recently in Africa with her boyfriend Benji Madden and asked the locals how much it would cost to buy a cheetah. Dear God, please let this all end with Paris Hilton and the Madden brothers getting eaten by a cheetah. Please.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at email@example.com.
I have been in Salt Lake City since 2007 and the 2 things I missed the most were the same you missed. I remember listening to the Morning Zoo with my mom and then when my brother started to drive I remember listening to them in the afternoons. I used to call them on my birthday and they would ask how old I was and I wouldn’t lie and tell them 16 (the first birthday I called.) they would tell me to call when I turn 18. So I turned 18 and called them, and they remembered and they told me to call them when I turn 21. I will miss them together, but I am happy for him to be where he wanted to be. Thank you for writing this blog even though I found it months later.
Great tribute! do you have any old shows on tape? we’ve been reliving the gool old days sharing tapes and are looking for more. Feel free to e-mail me. Thanks!
This is so well written and summarizes exactly how I feel. In fact, I do have quite a few shows on cassette, that I would record and listen to – just like you do with podcasts today. The interview with Buzz was phenomenal.
Great story. Trying to listen to the remnants of his show with Mike at the helm makes me miss Don even more. They try but they just don’t have the heart that Don has. Although he had political views he kept them in check and never let them take over the show. He had equal respect and disdain for all of his potential audience and was and equal opportunity offender to all. If you got the show, you were never insulted even when you disagreed with him. Genius!
Good read. We miss him. Looking forward to Mike O’Merra’s anniversary show with with special guest…the original “Fat Bastard”-Don Geronimo!!
Just listened to part of the final show again for the first time since it aired– I still got a little misty. It was that much sadder knowing that the Mike O’Meara show is gone along with the mighty WJFK. I’m glad to know those two shows were as important to others as they were to me. I’d been listening to WJFK since I was in middle school (13 years ago) and to have to lose Don, and then Mike in less than two years has been heart-wrenching. Call me obsessive, but I still haven’t gotten over the format change. Don, Mike, Buzz, and Robb felt like old friends. I was glued to the radio from 3-7 every week day for years, and to have such a big part of your daily routine pulled out from under you is no easy thing to get used to.
I guess after all that, I just want to say: I’m glad you “get” it.
PS. I found HoboTrashCan through your interview with Buzz; I read it often, so thanks for that!
I’m still surprised that people are still commenting on this column. Thanks everyone for the feedback.
ignoramus – It was definitely tough losing the Mike O’Meara Show after losing Don. It’s a move that I will never really understand.
And I’m glad you enjoyed the Buzz interview so much. I’m really pleased with how that turned out.
I realized after I posted that it sounds like I read the Buzz interview often. What I meant was I read HoboTrashCan often, but yeah lol. Great site!
I check Don’s blog all the time, eagerly awaiting October 2010 when he (and maybe even mike!) will return to the air. Meanwhile i get my fix checking out the wiki page in case any new news is there. I found this article and it reminded me again, how much I miss Don & Mike and an afternoon two years ago I spent laughing and crying and feeling like I was losing close friends. Hurry up October!!!
Mike, Buzz and Robb are back (along with Oscar Santana from Big O and Dukes) through podcast!