Toni Grant dies at 73; controversial L.A. radio psychologist, author
Toni Grant, a Los Angeles-based radio psychologist who reminded listeners in the 1980s that “life is not a dress rehearsal” and inspired a movie called “Choose Me,” died March 27 in Beverly Hills, said her daughter Kimberly Warneke. She was 73.
The cause was not disclosed.
Grant was among the early voices in radio psychology. Her on-air debut in 1975 on the KABC-AM graveyard shift followed the path blazed by Dr. Joyce Brothers, who was already a household name by then.
Grant said she was inspired by a show on a San Francisco radio station then seeking to capitalize on the popularity of airwave therapy. Her L.A. version of the call-in genre quickly moved to prime time, and by 1981, it was nationally syndicated, reaching more than 180 stations at its peak.
On her KABC show, which later moved to KFI-AM, Grant tackled social issues of the day, such as the proliferation of divorce and the shifting dating scene.
Her advice to troubled callers was sometimes controversial but won her a large following. Critics labeled her anti-feminist for her criticisms of uncommitted intimacy and her emphasis on the importance of femininity and charm for women.
Grant insisted that that she considered herself a feminist and she spoke on behalf of women. She argued that many women wanted marriage but were afraid to say so, and were too easily lulled into protracted dating relationships that did not prove fulfilling.
“The reason that women have been disappointed so many times in love is that the giving of a woman’s body is the ultimate commitment while for a man it is marriage. So by postponing sexual relations, a woman is holding onto her feelings and her heart,” she told The Times in 1988.
She also tackled non-romantic issues. “She was able to connect with people and help them, and she was tough,” her daughter said. “She found a way to balance empathy with personal responsibility.”
In the 1984 movie “Choose Me,” Genevieve Bujold plays a radio psychologist modeled on Grant.
Toni Gale Grant was born in New York City on April 3, 1942, and grew up in Bayport, Long Island. Her father was a dentist and her mother a teacher. She told The Times in the 1980s that her childhood home was large and sumptuous.
She studied English at Vassar College, then clinical psychology at Syracuse University, where she received her doctorate. She went into private practice in Pasadena. She had two daughters with her first husband. After they divorced, she married John Bell, who survives her.
She was on the air from 1975 to 1990, made a comeback in 1997, and wrote a bestselling book, “Being a Woman: Fulfilling Your Femininity and Finding Love.”
Grant eventually found herself jostling with such competitors as Ruth Westheimer and Laura Schlessinger. She was back in a late-night slot in 2001 when KABC-AM took her show off the air.
In addition to her daughter and Bell, she is survived by her other daughter, Courtney Raspin, and four grandchildren.
FOR THE RECORD
April 5, 9:45 a.m.: An earlier version of this obituary stated that Toni Grant was 72 when she died. She was 73.
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