Jim Healy, longtime Los Angeles broadcast personality, died Friday morning of complications of liver cancer. He was 70.
Although Healy had lost weight in the last year, he had told only his closest friends of his illness, which was diagnosed about a year ago.
He was hospitalized last Sunday at Cedars Sinai and died there. According to family members, his illness had not taken a turn for the worse until about a month ago.
Healy’s last live show, after 43 years on the Los Angeles airwaves, was heard on April 29. His station, KMPC, under new ownership, dropped its all-sports format that week. At the time, Healy said he was working on other broadcast possibilities. In recent months, however, he spent most of his time with Pat, his wife of 45 years, at their second home in Coeur d’Alene, Ida.
After his last show at KMPC, he assumed a low profile, and despite frequent inquiries about his broadcast career from listeners and reporters, he generally avoided contact with the public. He left a voice-mail message a couple of weeks after he went off the air, saying only that he had probably done his last show. After that, no phone calls were returned.
He is survived by Pat, and his son, Patrick, a reporter for KNBC-TV, Channel 4.
Healy created a new lexicon for his listeners. His show was as unique as it was entertaining, and he produced it like nothing ever seen or done before in radio.
Over time, he had compiled more than 500 tapes, all filed and easily accessible. He would use as many as 50 on a half-hour show. And Healy did everything himself. He had no researchers, producers, engineers, writers or even a secretary. When he was on the air, he ran the show himself, right down to punching the buttons that triggered the tapes.
Some of the more popular Healy-isms, some from actual tapes of sports personalities, included:
--"Who goofed? I’ve got to know.”
--"He’s gone the Leonard Tose route.”
--"Bad, team, man. Bad . . . team.”
--"I don’t give a . . . about the fans.”
--"Goldberg would love to do it.”
--"Jim Raveling, George Raveling.”
--"The USC brain surgeons.”
Of all Healy’s frequently used tapes, perhaps the most memorable was from May 14, 1978, the day the Dodgers and Chicago Cubs played a 15-inning game.
It was a hot Sunday afternoon and the game went 5 hours 2 minutes. The Cubs won, 10-7, as Dave Kingman hit three home runs and drove in eight runs. His three-run homer in the 15th was the game winner.
After the game, Paul Olden, then a young news assistant for radio station KLAC, set his tape recorder on Manager Tom Lasorda’s desk and asked: “What’s your opinion of Kingman’s performance?” The next day, an edited version of the 1-minute 35-second response was played on Healy’s show, which was then on KLAC:
“What the . . . do you think is my opinion of his performance. I thought it was . . . horse . . . .” And Lasorda was off and running.
Actually, that was mild compared to other Lasorda tirades that found their way onto Healy’s shows over the years.
In July, 1982, Dodger pitcher Tom Niedenfuer was fined for beaning Joe Lefebvre of the San Diego Padres. The next day, Kurt Bevacqua, Lefebvre’s teammate, was quoted in the papers as saying, “The guy they should have fined was the guy who ordered Niedenfuer to throw at Joe, that fat little Italian.”
Reporters asked Lasorda about Bevacqua’s comment. The edited response:
“I have never, ever, told a pitcher to throw at anybody, nor will I ever. But I especially would never have a pitcher throw at a . . . .130 hitter like Lefebvre, or a guy like Bevacqua. Bevacqua couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a . . . boat. I’ll guarantee you one thing. When I was pitching, if . . . guys like Lefebvre and Bevacqua were in the lineup, I’d send a limousine to make sure they made it to the park.”
The Lasorda response that required the most bleeps was uttered in 1987, when former Times writer Sam McManis asked why Mike Scioscia had been sent home from third on a hard-hit ball to first. Lasorda was the acting third-base coach at the time. By sending Scioscia, who didn’t have a chance of scoring, Lasorda reasoned that he had prevented an inning-ending double play.
After the game, which the Dodgers won, McManis, somewhat facetiously, asked, “Are you going to fire the third-base coach for sending Scioscia?” Lasorda’s reply to McManis, in which he told the writer several times to “learn the . . . game,” lasted 1 minute 40 seconds. The tape included 27 bleeps.
But Lasorda was hardly Healy’s only target. And it was fairly well understood by all that Healy, for the most part, was simply striving to entertain.
Dan Dierdorf, a.k.a. Dan “Dierdork,” or simply “the Dorkster,” was in Los Angeles recently and inquired about Healy. Told that Healy was not well, Dierdorf said, “You know, he’s beaten me up pretty good, but I’m sorry to hear that. I really am. I understand radio, because I’ve done it.”
Although Healy ended his long broadcasting career where he started it--at KMPC--he took some side trips along the way.
A native of Spokane, Wash., Healy moved to Beverly Hills with his family when he was 6. He attended Beverly Hills High and UCLA. At UCLA, he was the sports editor of the Daily Bruin. The newspaper’s editor was Pat Campbell. They married in 1949.
Healy’s first job after college was as assistant sports editor of the old Hollywood Citizen-News. He also did some spotting work on Ram broadcasts for KMPC. The play-by-play announcer, the late Bob Kelley, ended up hiring Healy in 1951 as his writer, for $75 a week. It wasn’t long before Kelley had Healy occasionally filling in on the air.
Healy worked for Kelly and KMPC for 10 years, until 1961, when he left for KLAC, where he replaced Sam Balter.
Healy began working two jobs in 1962, also doing the nightly sports for Channel 7. He was fired by KLAC in 1965 because station management, as is often the case in broadcasting, wanted a change. Healy was replaced by Chuck Benedict.
In 1966, while still at Channel 7, Healy, for nine months, did a sports talk show for radio station KABC. Leo Durocher and Jimmy Piersall had preceded him. Healy quit the KABC job, even though it paid more than $800 a week. “I couldn’t stand the idiots who call those kind of shows,” Healy often said.
In 1969, Healy was replaced at Channel 7 by Stu Nahan, who later went to Channel 4 before eventually landing at Channel 5. Healy went back to KLAC, then returned to KMPC in 1985, where he continued to be a 5:30 listening habit for many.
The family will hold private services Monday at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills. Those wishing to make donations in Healy’s name are asked to do so to the charities of their choice.
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