I was pondering what my first blog post would be about when fate intervened with the sad news that Tim Conway had died.
Being on the radio has its “perks”, not the least of which is the chance to meet lots of people, famous and otherwise. And if you’re really lucky, as I most certainly have been, you get to talk to one of your idols, someone who’s entertained you and inspired you your whole life.
It was 1994 and Tim Conway had written a play called “Just for Laughs: A Day with Gates and Mills”, co-starring his friend Tom Poston (another comedy giant). He was touring the country with it, including a scheduled run at Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall and a morning show interview had been arranged for a Monday at 8:15.
Needless to say, I was thrilled.
The day arrived and promptly at 8:15 our studio hotline rang and, lo and behold, it was Tim Conway. Not Tim Conway’s assistant or Tim Conway’s publicist or Tim Conway’s manager but the ACTUAL Tim Conway. After a little too much of me gushing and “it’s-so-wonderful-to-meet-you-I’m-your-biggest-fan”-ing, we (Dick Lamb and the rest of “The Breakfast Bunch”) began the interview.
I’m sure at some point we talked about his show, what it was about, the dates and times and so forth but by far the highlight of our conversation was about Tim’s early days in radio (ALL comedy legends started in radio) and television in Cleveland, Ohio.
I wish I could pass on the story Tim told of being the floor director for what had to be the WORST live commercial in local TV history but there is NO WAY I could do it justice. (It involved a city council candidate on crutches, his family and a freshly-waxed studio floor.) I will tell you that, and I’m using the word “literally” literally, it was LITERALLY the SINGLE FUNNIEST THING I HAVE EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE. By the time he was done none of us could BREATHE, we were laughing so hard. Once we regained our collective composures we thanked him profusely for being a such a great guest and wished him luck with the show.
The next morning, at exactly 8:15, the studio hotline rang. Not expecting a call, I answered with a quizzical “Hello?”, thinking it was most likely a wrong number. “Hi!”, the cheery voice on the other end exclaimed, “It’s Tim Conway!”. Startled, I fumbled my way through a response, again thanking him for the interview the day before and suggesting to him that he had called us by mistake. “No, I know.”, he said. “I’m just sitting here in my hotel room and felt like calling.”.
So we interviewed him. Again.
And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that he called us at 8:15 . . . every day that week.
If I hadn’t already been a fan . . .
That the star of “McHale’s Navy”, “The Carol Burnett Show” and a half-dozen Disney movies would spend this much time with us speaks volumes to his generosity as a performer and his devotion to his audience and his craft.
Gracious. Charming. Inventive. Effortlessly funny. And as nice as he could be. That was Tim Conway.
Another nice “perk” of being on the radio as long as I have is that you acquire a lot of “stories”. I’ve had the good fortune to talk to a good number of famous people and I’m happy to report that almost all of them were generous with their time and a pleasure to chat with.
But I’m most grateful that my collection of stories includes one with Tim Conway and how he made me laugh my whole life but especially for one amazing week in 1994.