Iconic radio host John Lanigan to retire - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Iconic radio host John Lanigan to retire

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John Lanigan John Lanigan
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -

There's a changing of the guard in Cleveland morning radio. John Lanigan is retiring at the end of the month.

He is a Cleveland legend. John Lanigan. But the word legend suggests something well worn, routine and comfortable. As he retires from WMJI John Lanigan is anything but comfortable.

John Lanigan is the voice, the direction and the dean of WMJI's top rated morning show. In fact, the dean of Cleveland morning radio. He is at times like a lion tamer. Molding strong personalities in studio and on the phone into a must listen to ratings grabber.

His interviews are probing, often with authors, but comedians are his favorites. He has an old Cleveland comedy club billing where Jerry Seinfeld was his opening act. His love of comedy continues today.

"I absolutely love it," Lanigan said. "Because too many times comedians get into situations where people try to interview them. You don't interview a comedian."

He says his job is to bring the humor out. That sells tickets. No one cares about where they are from or how many brothers and sisters they had. Make the audience laugh.

It all began in 1970 when Lanigan replaced legendary morning man Don Imus on WGAR. A tough act to follow, and with tough competition, as evidenced by a Cleveland Magazine cover featuring him and fierce competitor Gary Dee, but through public charity events and then the addition of Channel 43's prize movie, Lanigan won and a star was born. But the prize movie came in an odd way. Former channel 43 General Manager Jack Moffet stopped Lanigan as he rode his bike.

"He said, hey you're new in town and we're looking for somebody to do the prize movie. And so I went down and I auditioned and he said, OK good audition. Can you start tomorrow?"

The prize movie was as seat of the pants as you can imagine. But it brought out Lanigan's uncanny ability to deal with any situation. It also brought some of Hollywood's biggest celebrities to Lanigan or him to them. Steve Allen, Jimmy Stewart, Sid Caesar, Clint Eastwood, Henry Fonda and many more. But on the radio side, things were changing. The spin the records DJ's were being phased out so Lanigan re-invented himself.

"A lot of us who survived for a long time learned that by giving up on some of the things that you do and try to get better at other things, and that's what we did."

The change also brought radio's most coveted award, induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame. So how does Lanigan view the audience he has commanded for so many years?

"They should be totally surprised by what you're doing, but you should catch 'em off guard with some of the things you talk about. Entertain em, that's all you're trying to do."

The countdown is on for the last time the on air light goes off. While it is retirement for him, it signals a change in Cleveland radio, and in reality the end of an era.

"All right, we're outta here."

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