Farewell To a Mentor and Friend: RIP Lee Rodgers
I was having a really good day yesterday when it call came crashing down when I read a post on a friend and colleague’s Facebook page.
We had lost a mutual friend and colleague.
Lee Rodgers died early yesterday morning after many long hours of heart surgery and attempts to save his life.
I immediately began to shake and then the tears flowed and flowed as I buried my face in my hands.
He was not only a friend of mine and a former co-worker.
Lee was instrumental in my pursuit of talk radio as a career.
He and fellow talker Jim Eason led me to my love affair of talk radio. They IGNITED the passion within me. Their voices boomed over my radio growing up and I thought “WOW!! How amazing is that?? Having a job where my voice drifts into people’s homes and cars and souls! And being able to talk to more people in a month than I’ve ever met my whole life! People sharing stories! Sharing passions and politics and dreams and fears! I WANT TO DO THAT, TOO!!”
And of course, the rest is history.
I DID end up following my childhood dream of being a talk radio voice.
But the real story involves my internship during which I met my radio idols and mentors.
I will never forget the first time I shook the hand of Lee Rodgers.
It was at the old ABC Headquarters in San Francisco. I remember the shirt he was wearing. That’s how influential that moment was to me.
Meeting him that night just before he went on the air was worth more to me than shaking the hands of every athlete and movie star out there.
This was THE VOICE!
It was the first time I remember meeting a radio personality and thinking, he doesn’t LOOK the way he SOUNDS! HAHA. I mean that in a good way. People now say that about me, which is funny I think.
I went on to work on his show as an occasional producer, call screener, and tech producer.
Eventually I realized a dream by actually sharing a talk show lineup on the same station with my mentor!! In the 4th biggest radio market in America!
Lee was the king of show prep. He’d be at his desk hours and hours before showtime. Even though his show wasn’t until 7pm in those days, it wasn’t odd to see Lee at all hours of the day, sitting at his desk and prepping on an old monochrome computer screen, scanning “the wires” for his topics of the day.
I learned the importance of reading and prepping for my job. Lee always taught me that 90% of the job was READING, READING, and more READING.
Then he’d “play a little radio” as he’d say and make it all look so EASY.
But it isn’t easy at all. Hosts like Lee just MADE it look effortless. What you heard was the tip of the iceberg. All the show prep and research was the 90% of the iceberg submerged from view.
Lee taught me the wonders of radio, but also the warts. He was the consummate REALIST. I could sense his disenchantment in later years with what had become of the industry we both adored. He always taught me to keep my guard up, and I have.
As serious as he could be, he always had a killer sense of humor, one of the greatest straight men out there, a pure genius on the air.
I am so lucky to be able to say I was a friend of his. He was the Leader of the Band for so many of us starry eyed lovers of talk radio. Very few of us get to learn our skills from the BEST in our profession. I can say I did that.
I will always remember him as I “open” my microphone and take a caller on my show. All the wonderful memories and lessons learned will stay with me forever and ever.
My condolences to his wife of more than 30 years, Susie. And to his family, friends, and colleagues.
As Lee would always say: “And now, if you’ll excuse me.”
Those were his final words at the end of each show.
I will never forget you my friend. Thanks for teaching me such invaluable lessons about life and radio.
You will always be in my heart and I will do what I can to continue the legacy and love of talk radio that you instilled in me so many years ago.
I’m confident one day we’ll broadcast together from that great big studio in the sky. And what a radio show that will be.