After more than 45 years on New York radio, the final broadcast Thursday of the “Imus in the Morning Program” on Cumulus Media talk WABC (770) was capped by an emotional, at times boastful and combative—and appreciative—Don Imus. His closing 15 minutes was also marked by lengthy silences where the typically gruff on-air personality was seemingly choking back tears. He also got in a final dig at legendary foe Howard Stern.
In January, Imus announced that his run was set to end, as Inside Radio reported. The 77-year-old host told listeners over the air and on Twitter, “Turn out the lights… the party’s over.” The move was not his choice: Imus planned to retire in December, when his contract was set to expire, but Cumulus, as part of its Chapter 11 restructuring, approached him to leave early.
On Thursday morning, Imus wrapped with what began as a slow-moving unscripted soliloquy: “I don’t know if I can get through this or not, I’m going to do the best I can. I thought I was going to have more time to think about what this meant, stopping doing this, but I didn’t—and it’s good because somebody said, are you going to miss it and I didn’t have an answer. But I do now. I’m not going to miss doing the ‘Imus in the Morning’ program. It’s been a lot of fun but it’s hard to do.”
He then explained that what he will miss is the audience, “because… it is great to get all excited about something like a record or a book or some event and come in here and tell you about it.” Imus also noted that on the air, he always felt like he was communicating with one person. “I never decided who that person was, male or female or how old you were or what, but I just knew that there was one person there that I was talking to and that was listening to me.”
Then there was the more typical Imus, as he stressed, “I know this in my heart, I’ve always thought this: There’s been nobody on the radio better than me and I mean that. I’m not patting myself on the back. I’m telling you how it is. Nobody ever did this, nobody.”
Countering the boast, Imus then slowly, haltingly, emotionally added, “I’m going to miss you and talking to you. And what you did for me. I know you’re going to miss me.” There was then 14 seconds of silence… “You have no idea how much I’m going to miss you.”
Imus’ final WABC broadcast wrapped with a wickedly bookish statement in which he took a swat at those who have tried to bring him down in the past: “I wrote this down and I want you to remember this (16 seconds of silence, then voice breaking). We were neither dissuaded nor diminished by the intellectually, morally and ethically crippled losers, the likes of a racist bigoted civil rights charlatan, or the insecure, envious shock jock all howlin’ in a chorus of like-minded yappin’ mutts lost in the dust of the caravan, rolling by on the road to greatness… rolling by on the road to greatness. We did that. You did that (crying). I did that. That’s what we did. You goddamned right, that’s what we did.”
Imus’s final 15 minutes can be heard and downloaded on the WABC website.