Today is the first day since the Coolidge administration that New Yorkers will wake up without a John Gambling show on the radio.
In a business where many careers can be measured by egg timers, his farewell on WOR yesterday marked the end of a run that will not be equaled: three generations, 75 years.
It also marks the continuing erosion of something else: morning talk shows that wake up listeners with civil conversation — not loud and raunchy jokes, insults and arguments.
Gambling covered the same topics — politics, TV shows, popular culture and so on — but without the anatomical references, sex chatter and elbow-in-the-ribs attitude.
All three John Gamblings — John B., 1925-59; John A., 1959-90, and then John R. — tried to deliver information in an entertaining way, rather than primarily to entertain.
But — rightly or wrongly — many in radio think that style now primarily appeals to old folks, and that young people want their talk faster-paced and rougher-edged.
That's apparently the main reason WOR decided to push into the 21st century without its anchor from the 20th — despite the high-risk factor.
Gambling's show has been WOR's most popular and ranks in the city's top 10 — not something to blow off lightly.
"He'll be very hard to replace," says Phil Boyce, program director of rival WABC. "It's a heritage show at a heritage station where listeners don't like change."
"WOR clearly wants to change," says Tom Taylor of the trade sheet M Street Journal. "They want younger listeners. But it's hard to replace an institution, and it takes a long time to establish a morning show."
WOR knows this. It still pulled the trigger.
"We felt a new direction and refocus of the show" would help the station better compete for ad dollars," says WOR vice president Bob Bruno. The trick is to get those younger listeners without losing older ones — many of whom are furious that Gambling was sacked.
"I know there's a place on the radio for the show I've been doing," says Gambling, adding with a laugh that he's available to begin one immediately. "There's a great opportunity on FM. I'd love to be the centerpiece of a station there."
Ironically, a "Rambling With Gambling" would be real alternative programming — a refuge for people who consider much of radio an assault.
"There aren't many of us left," Gambling mused yesterday. "And now, there's one less."
Original Publication Date: 9/12/00 NY Daily News
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