OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: WLS Radio's Larry Lujack dead at age 73

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-12-19T23:24:00Z 2013-12-20T14:37:06Z OFFBEAT: WLS Radio's Larry Lujack dead at age 73By Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Chicago famed radio name Larry Lujack has died at age 73.

Lujack, the self-proclaimed "superjock" who dominated Chicago radio airwaves for 20 years, had been retired and in later years, remained private about his life.

Lujack's wife, Judith, said her husband died Wednesday evening at their home in Santa Fe, N.M., of esophageal cancer.

Lujack came to WLS AM 89 in 1967 and quickly established himself as the top disc jockey in the city. His deep, raspy voice, sarcasm and connection to listeners with whom he often sparred live via phone on the air were among his trademarks.

Regular bits like Lujack's "Cheap Trashy Show Biz Report" were must-listen radio and daily water cooler topics.

But it was his "Animal Stories" routine as "charming and delightful old Uncle Lar" with sidekick Tommy Edwards as "Little Snot-Nosed Tommy" that were most memorable. During the bits, Lujack read funny, animal-related stories from newspapers and magazines.

Edwards would ask if the animal would be OK.

"Nooo, Little Tommy ..." Lujack would growl.

The "Animal Stories" bits were sold as compilation albums at the holidays, with the proceeds going to children's charities.

Lujack retired to New Mexico in 1987. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2004.

I would sometimes see Lujack back in Chicago at the annual Radio Hall of Fame induction dinner held in November. And readers would still often write or call me asking how to reach Lujack with their fan mail.

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 later retirement years, spent with his wife and grandchildren, seemed like a happy transition.

"I'm originally from Iowa, and so I've always been more about fields and open space," Lujack said in a previous interview.

"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.

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 your best way to pass along memorials and tributes, I would suggest directing such communication and donations to Bruce DuMont, founder and president of the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, which operates the National Radio Hall of Fame. Just send it to Bruce DuMont c/o of Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 North State St., Chicago, Ill. 60654.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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