OFFBEAT

OFFBEAT: Chicago DJ Larry Lujack living the quiet life, with few regrets after leaving Windy City

2010-07-08T00:00:00Z 2010-07-08T00:00:02Z OFFBEAT: Chicago DJ Larry Lujack living the quiet life, with few regrets after leaving Windy CityBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, 219.852.4327 nwitimes.com

The last time I chatted with legendary Chicago radio DJ Larry Lujack was in November 2008 when he was back in town as a black-tie presenter at the annual Radio Hall of Fame induction dinner.

Of course, Lujack had previously been inducted with the same honor back in 2004 at that year's event, which I also attended as a guest at the table of the late Walter Winchell's family, since the gossip columnist great was also being inducted that same year.

I've been thinking about Lujack ever since last month, when I noticed his name in the Celebrity Birthdays column and the distinction that he is now 70-years-old. This is the same man I grew up listening to almost every morning in the late 1970s hearing him on WLS while riding the school bus. His "Animal Stories" on-air segment was always a favorite for all ages.

On Wednesday, Chicago broadcaster Bob Sirott filled in for the WGN radio morning show and featured Lujack via telephone for some banter and an update for listeners.

He, along with his wife Judy, are retired and living in New Mexico, and apparently, not missing too much about Chicago since his retirement from WLS in 1987.

"I'm originally from Iowa, and so I've always been more about fields and open space," he told Sirott.

"I was never all that crazy about all of the people, the high-rise buildings and the traffic of Chicago."

And of course, there's also always the politics, not just of the City, but of the cut-throat business of radio and television, which Lujack hinted to, but didn't address.

He did say, despite his trademark sarcastic tone and sharp wit, he was "scared to death" after he was first hired to come to work in the Windy City, simply because of the sheer size of the listening audience and the market's demographics.

Of his few regrets in life, he told Sirott he made a bad decision when he agreed to be part of a 200-page authorized book about his radio life called "Superjock: The Loud, Frantic, Non-Stop World of a Rock Radio DJ" (1975 H. Regnery Co. Publishing) credited as being co-written with "author Daniel J. Jenlika."

"If I could somehow buy back every copy of that book that was ever published, I would," Lujack said.

"I tried everything to stop the book from ever going to print. First of all, it was very poorly written. And I think the very first sentence printed has a four-letter word in it, and then with every next page, there seems to be more and more of them."

As Sirott reminded Lujack, by today's standards, such a book would be considered mild, as would many of his one-time controversial on-air moments.

Such as, in February 1974 when Lujack responded to a fan's letter on-air by stating "he'd play more Jim Croce records when Croce goes back into the studio and makes some more." Since Croce had died in a Louisiana plane crash just five months earlier, the resulting protests from Croce fans led to an apology and an on-air admission by Lujack a few days later that such a statement was inappropriate.

Lujack has also had his own personal tragedies and sadness before the public's eye and ear.

In May 1986, his 22-year-old son John S. Lujack from his first marriage to wife Gina , died of injuries after a fall from the roof of a motel in Boise, Idaho. At the time, he had been a student at Boise State University.

He has two other children: Anthony Lujack and Linda Lujack-Shirley.

As for how he spends his time now, Lujack also hinted he misses some of his radio moments.

"Doing a radio show gives you purpose to wake up in the morning," he told Sirott.

"I'm lacking that purpose right now."

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or 219.852.4327.

 

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