Older, wiser and still opinionated, John Lanigan is back where he belongs — on the air.
One of the most recognizable personalities in Cleveland’s rich radio history, he’s had stints at almost a dozen stations from Ogallala, Nebraska, to Denver over his 57-year career. Lanigan retired from his popular Majic 105.7 morning show in 2014, but returned to the airwaves two years ago to team up with antagonist Mike Trivisonno on WTAM 1100’s The Spew.
“I don’t have any hobbies,” says the 75-year-old National Radio Hall of Famer from his home in Clearwater, Florida, where he does the 9 a.m. show remotely. “This makes me get up in the morning and read the newspapers. It keeps me alert, alive and involved.”
For years, Lanigan was pressed to do a book on his life, an idea that left him unmoved. He finally capitulated, teaming up with Peter Jedick and Mike Olszewski for the newly released Lanigan in the Morning: My Life in Radio (Gray & Co. Publishers, $14.95). The book chronicles the life and times of one of radio’s first shock jocks, who talks with us about his amazing career.
It’s the best time slot with the most listeners and it paid more money. Getting up at 4 a.m. was just what you did. Jack Thayer, the general manager at WGAR, needed someone to replace Don Imus. I was at a big station in Dallas when Jack called me to come to Cleveland. I was scared to death about replacing Imus, but by the end of the year we had increased the ratings.
ON HOSTING PRIZE MOVIE
I did a silly audition for WUAB-TV, and they asked if I could start the next day. We didn’t have 180 channels then. Other than soap operas, it was the only thing on. That show was like an early cable station. It went all over the place … Canada, New York and Pennsylvania. People like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Don Rickles came on the show. I was walking around in Moscow once and somebody from across the street yelled “What’s the Prize Movie today?”
ON CRAZY RADIO PROMOTIONS
One year, I was parasailing on Lake Erie to promote the opening of the Cleveland Air Show. The guy who was driving the boat didn’t know what he was doing and I almost hit the damn breakwall, which probably would have killed me. I ended up hurting my leg very badly.
ON POLITICAL INTERVIEWS
We did shows from Washington, D.C., for 10 years. We interviewed politicians but didn’t talk politics. They knew we weren’t going to go after them. Hillary Clinton once came up from behind and tickled me. Ted Kennedy became one of my favorite guests. We interviewed Barack Obama when he was a senator, but that was a bad fit because he was so guarded.