Photos of Rich Conaty courtesy of WFUV.
I am hijacking the usual YouTube Theater for a tribute to Rich Conaty, who hosted The Big Broadcast radio show—playing hits of the 1920s and ’30s—since 1973. He died of cancer on Dec. 30, aged 62; one last kick in the ass from a year that has been farkakte drek from beginning to end, as my grandmother would have said.
I’d been listening to his show since 1980, and was actually voted Miss Big Broadcast of 1982 (thus having the dubious honor of winning a radio beauty contest). Rich had me on as a guest when my book on Vernon and Irene Castle came out, and he gallantly backtracked to the 1910s so we could play and discuss some James Reese Europe ragtime. I’m still moderately surprised I survived, as I had to walk alone through Fordham University in the Bronx around 10:00 on a Sunday night to get the train back to Grand Central.
Rich was a big, boisterous, cheerful Irish-Catholic New Yorker of the Jimmy Cagney/Pat O’Brien school (yes, I know Pat O’Brien was not a New Yorker, but you get my drift). He’ll be missed from a personal standpoint, and certainly a professional one. I can’t imagine anyone taking up the reins, and somehow YouTube is not the same as a weekly radio show.
Here is WFUV’s tribute to Rich:
Here is a link to Soundcloud.com, where you can click on some of his recordings.