Jeff Smulyan has done it all. He’s pioneered multiple radio formats, employed broadcasting legends, and even owned a baseball team. Now, he sits down with WTMJ’s Libby Collins to discuss his new memoir and a few of the stories within on today’s edition of WTMJ Conversations. Listen in the player above.
A partial transcript is provided below, courtesy of eCourt Reporters.
JEFF SMULYAN: I ended up managing a station that was news talk and largely famous for the fact that David Letterman was our first midday guy.
LIBBY COLLINS: We gotta talk about that.
JEFF SMULYAN: David was terrific, and David said I’m going to do this for a year, then I’m going to go to Hollywood and see if I can become a writer and a comedian. And the rest is history.
LIBBY COLLINS: All right. So, you bring up David Letterman, so we definitely have to talk about him. And for individuals who aren’t familiar, in Indiana, he grew up and went to school at Ball State in Muncie —
JEFF SMULYAN: Right.
LIBBY COLLINS: — and was on TV as a weatherman.
JEFF SMULYAN: Right.
LIBBY COLLINS: Yes.
JEFF SMULYAN: David was a weatherman, and we gave him a talk show.
LIBBY COLLINS: So, why — what was it about him that you saw him on TV and you said, okay, this guy can do talk radio?
JEFF SMULYAN: Well, David is just one of the quickest, funniest human beings of all time, and even though the station really was a talk station, it was really — really targeted towards older people. And
David and I, we’re both the same, exact age, we’re five days apart. He was a 25-year-old guy talking to older people, so it wasn’t a perfect fit, but it was hilarious, absolutely hilarious.
LIBBY COLLINS: You used to get some complaints about him, didn’t you?
JEFF SMULYAN: Yeah, I had — my favorite one was one day I came back from lunch and a listener called and said, “You know, Letterman is a communist.”
And I said, “Well, why do you think he’s a communist?”
And he said, “Well, I would say there’s a lot of communists in the suburb of Carmel, and you know what he said?”
I said, “No, what did he say?”
And he said, “Well, I think you gotta give the communists Carmel,” He said, “The schools are overcrowded, the football team is lousy, you can never find a parking space. Let’s give the communists Carmel and hold the line at the next suburb.” And that was David.
I’m sitting here in downtown Indianapolis looking at our monument, and one day David said, “Well, the City of Indianapolis has sold its monument to Guam, and Guam is giving us a 300-foot celery stalk.”
And listeners were calling, they were just furious, “How could we get rid of the monument?”
And David said, “Well, you know, 300 feet of celery in downtown Indianapolis will really make it much greener, much more attractive.”
So, David did all sorts of crazy things.