Cover image for Everything Imus : all you ever wanted to know about Don Imus
Everything Imus : all you ever wanted to know about Don Imus
Reed, Jim, 1964-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Secaucus, N.J. : Carol Publishing Group, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 211 pages : color illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
"A Birch Lane Press book."

Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1991.4.I48 R44 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Shock jock. Curmudgeon. New York's Dirty Little Secret.Morning Mouth. Radio's first bad boy. All of these have been used to describe John Donald Imus Jr. -- and all of them are squarely on target. For over twenty-five years, Don Imus has been spewing his own antic brand of venom over the nation's airwaves, at times entertaining nearly fifteen million listeners a week.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

If it's facts you want about curmudgeonly radio personality Don Imus, this book will suffice--if you don't mind a writing style that's so clunky you can hear it even after you close the cover. Reed may be an Imus fan, but he's no writer. Still, he has assembled his material in an orderly enough manner; he traces Imus' life chronologically, focusing on the radio persona and accentuating the positive, though he can hardly avoid mentioning the star's drinking and drug-taking period and his outrageous speech at a press dinner bashing President Clinton (with Clinton on the dais). Reed also gets into the Howard Stern^-Don Imus rivalry, with Stern, according to Reed, coming out on the short end. This undistinguished biography has its uses, but only if information about Imus is in considerable demand. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this fan's tribute to the "I-Man," the legendary radio shock jock Don Imus, Reed lovingly recapitulates every tasteless detail of Imus's rise to media infamy. Acknowledgments to "listeners who are as crazy about Imus as I am" and to anonymous members of Imus newsgroups on the Net who "helped me dig a little deeper into Imus history" may give a sense of Reed's research methods and partiality to his subject. After glancing at Imus's childhood as a bad seed on his family's Arizona ranch, and his brief stint in the Marines, Reed tracks his hero's airwave ascendance, beginning with his 1970 "Disk Jockey of the Year" award and ending with his unceremonious 1977 firing from NBC. Even the news that Imus's mid-career struggles with cocaine and alcohol addiction were largely to blame for the firing doesn't put a damper on Reed's celebratory tone. About half the book chronicles the rivalry that has dominated Imus's career since 1982, when brash upstart Howard Stern arrived at New York's WNBC. Timelines chronicle the fight, while charts compare the virtues of Imus to those of his nemesis (Imus wins every time). Stern may currently be ahead in the ratings, but Reed never gives up hope. Reed also includes lists of Imus's philanthropic acts, on-air characters and "Disgruntled Sponsors." A doting, awkward tribute to the man who once said, "The two most important things that happened in radio were Marconi invented it and I decided to talk on it," this book is brain candy for hardcore loyalists, but will prove a turnoff for the unconverted. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Don's Life, Now "It's six o'clock, WFAN--New York" declares the radio newsman as a tall, lanky figure walks into the basement studio. Anchor Charles McCord rattles off the New York headlines while "the I-Man" gets settled in. He sets his personal microphone in place, the one with the silvery shine, pops a piece of Nicorette gum into his mouth, and begins to chew. He places the headphones to his ears. They resemble what you might use to watch a movie on an airplane, instead of large, clunky ones, a concession to the television cameras dangling from the ceiling. Five days a week the routine barely varies. It's the morning constitutional of an American icon, Don Imus.     For those who haven't seen him, the man may best be described as an aging cowboy, barely on the good side of sixty: cowboy boots, denim jeans, a shirt from his brother's store, and a denim jacket, meticulously embroidered with the four corners of the Southwest, are all part of his usual outfit. On occasion, a cowboy hat perched on some dusty silver hair completes the look. At other times he may wear a baseball cap with the glaring logo of Dreamworks or some other company he wants to plug. One particular morning, not long after the 1997 Super Bowl, he even wore a Wisconsin cheesehead to pacify NBC newsman Tim Russert. If someone were making the Imus story, maybe even this book, into a movie, Jack Palance would have the right stuff in the looks department, if not quite the right voice. Knowing Don, though, he would want to play himself so no one else screws up.     During the commercial break, he chats with McCord. Topics usually center on what Don has read or seen the night before or, with any luck, a breaking scandal. These are rarely in-depth conversations. Those are reserved for when the on-air light blinks its red eye. Once his engineer, Lou, flips the switch, the light goes on, the program begins, and the heat is on. "It's five minutes after the hour (quack-quack), and I am Imus in the morning. You know, Charles ..."     Don Imus begins four hours of what has been called the most influential radio show in America. When his voice is carried over the airwaves of 100 radio stations nationwide, from Bangor, Maine, to Los Angeles, California, he's not just a laugh on the way to work or while shaving. His comments will be scrutinized, ridiculed, debated, and talked about over water coolers, lunch tables, and in the halls of power, usually by people with a chuckle in their voice or a smile on their faces. Longtime fans of the show include the current governors of Georgia and Arkansas, to name just two. Imus was even named governor of Connecticut for a day, thanks to former governor Lowell Weicker. At one time, the list of Imus fans included President Bill Clinton. That admiration for the I-Man was lost after they had a falling out that will take a chapter of its own to tell. They are listening in the halls of the Capitol, though Don won't usually have a guest on who's only a lowly representative. Imus wants guests with "juice." He gets them, too; senators like Dodd, Kerry, Lieberman, and McCain.     The networks listen, too. NBC's Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, as well as CBS's Mike Wallace and Dan Rather, are all on the Imus frequent-guest list, along with CNN's Jeff Greenfield. Opinion writers like the Washington Post 's Howard Kurtz and the New York Times 's Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich are big fans and drop his name occasionally. Jeffrey Katzenberg, from Dreamworks (a partnership he shares with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen), is a longtime associate of the I-Man's. Sports figures like Super Bowl champion coach Bill Parcells, rockers like Ted Nugent, authors such as Sam Tanenhaus, and Wall Street mavens like Dick Grasso (who runs the New York Stock Exchange) tune in to Don. If you sing the blues, you may find yourself on the Imus show, too. Don has played host to such legendary singers as James Taylor, Paul Simon, and B. B. King. None of them are safe, however. Clout and power have little effect on Don Imus. This is the man who once said, "The two most important things that happened in radio were Marconi invented it and I decided to talk on it."     Through the years he's announced several credos for his show. "We like to revel in the agony of others" (though this sounds like the royal "we," he does appear to be speaking for his crew as well) and "This show is about what I like and what I want to talk about."     The second statement usually comes back to support the first, reveling in the agony of others. One morning in early 1998, a little after seven, producer Bernard McGuirk cuts in to tell Imus that UN ambassador Bill Richardson canceled his appearance on the Imus show in order to appear on NBC's Today show. The rant is on, and Imus turns both barrels straight at the ambassador. "Here's our threat to Ambassador Richardson: Because you lied to us, we're going to attack you professionally and personally! Mostly personally!" The next day, he did just that, airing a scathing sketch attacking Richardson while the ambassador was on hold for the rescheduled interview. No mistake about it; this was vintage Imus.     However, guests who meet their obligation to appear on the show may still be subjected to the fury of an Imus assault. After ABC's Diane Sawyer appeared to promote a special, she was grilled about the then month-old Clinton "Interngate" scandal. It took just one commercial break for the tables to turn after she appeared. Her voice was still "echoing in the studio," as Bernard put it, while Don spent almost nine minutes attacking the journalist, (Yes, I timed it.) At the very least he called her a phony; at the most extreme, he attacked her journalistic integrity. Don, who does not suffer fools at all, let alone lightly, ranted on and on, saying she went easy on the president, possibly because she did not want to jeopardize White House access for herself and her husband, film director Mike Nichols.     One aspect of this radio-television morning show Don is true about is that he fills the program with things that interest him. A case in point is that of the Whittaker Chambers/Alger Hiss story of their long-running feud. For weeks Don became obsessed with the tale, reliving the Cuban Missile Crisis and the legends surrounding the two men. Den's young wife, Deirdre, even bought him a Hiss-style typewriter for Christmas. I-Man fans revolted. Hiss and Chambers were the last subject listeners wanted to hear discussed every morning on their way to work. The weeks-long ordeal came to a head one winter morning. Watching on MSNBC, you could see the anguish in Charles McCord's eyes as Imus went on and on with another interview of author Sam Tanenhaus, even after Chuck begged him to keep it to two questions and outright verbally attacked him when he asked his fourth. Once Don finished quizzing the scribe, Charles turned on Don like a wounded animal. "The Case is OVER! Alger Hiss is DEAD! Whittaker Chambers is DEAD! I wish I were DEAD!" While the Chambers story still surfaces occasionally, McCord seems to have put a cork in that bottle for a while.     Imus hasn't always toyed with the power players. However, politics has played a large role in his show from its beginning. When Don's radio career started, in California in 1968, one of his first gags was to run for Congress. By the end of 1971, he would become Major Market Radio Personality of the Year and be entering one of the sacred halls of broadcasting, NBC Headquarters, at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York. Over-the-top portrayals of a preacher by the name of Billy Sol Hargus would laugh New Yorkers awake every morning, if the screaming "WAKE UP!" didn't rattle them first. Billy Sol still shows up occasionally, though rarely now. Imus's NBC ride would last over fifteen years as a DJ, spinning records. He has made the road smooth for current "shock jocks." Howard Stern, to name one, owes much of his success to the path Imus paved for him, whether he acknowledges it or not.     In 1988, Imus began a metamorphasis. Part of the change came about as a natural extension of what was happening around him. After all, he was moving to sports radio, and records don't have much of a place there. Finally giving up drugs and booze helped. Imus abandoned the turntable and decided to go all talk, not that he was playing many records toward the end, anyway. A revived, new-style Imus in the Morning program began. By mid-1993 his show was syndicated out of New York into places like Boston and Washington, D.C.     With national reach comes national attention. Three times before the 1992 presidential election, the democratic hopeful, Bill Clinton, appeared on the Imus program and had a laugh with the host. After Clinton's win, Imus was truly "in the loop." Don was even privileged to get some White House exclusives. Of course, that was before he was invited to be the speaker at the White House Radio-Television Correspondents Association's dinner. After that debacle, the pipeline to the Oval Office dried up, but Imus experienced a major growth spurt of new radio affiliates.     In 1997, Time magazine, for the second year in a row, came out with its list of the 25 Most Influential People in America, supposedly those with the most influence over society. That year, Imus made the list. Time, to accompany the one-page story, chose a photograph that was not the most flattering of Imus. It showed him in an orange jumpsuit that made him look like a member of the punk band DEVO. Being named to this list, though, seemed to mean more to Imus than his Marconi Awards for Broadcasting Excellence or his induction into the Emerson Radio Hall for Fame. This was power. Now the I-Man had "the juice." A few days after the issue came out, Imus dropped in on his friend Larry King's CNN show and proceeded to berate King over the fact that HE was on the list but King wasn't. King's lame comeback was that he "belonged on the international list."     Imus has always incorporated tongue-in-cheek humor into his show. Today, though, his cast of characters makes politics a little easier on the ear for the average American. Unlike the Sunday-morning news shows, Imus makes politics funny. His team has no problem coming up with song parodies, like Bill and Hillary Clinton singing the song "I Got a Pew Babes" to the tune of Sonny and Cher's "I've Got You Babe." As long as there are people in power, Imus will have someone to attack, such as billionaire Bill Gates. Imus likes to remind listeners that he makes more money from MSNBC than the Microsoft chairman does.     Imus brings people back from the dead to tell his tales. This isn't as sick as it sounds. In taped pieces for the show, usually written by Charles McCord and performed by the talented Larry Kenney and Rob Bartlett, former president Richard Nixon provides commentary, looking through the "Dick Scope," if you will. Or Gen. George S. Patton might elaborate on the latest military options in the Imus wars. Of course, Don is not above having a few living voices created for the show, too. In addition to hearing things like the "Bill Clinton Diaries," with Bill narrating his daily whine into his journal, Paul Harvey, Rush Limbaugh, and even New York disc jockey Scott Muni (the sixth Beatle?) will offer their opinions on the air, parody style. In a bow to religion, John Cardinal O'Connor is relegated to reading the New York State Lotto numbers.     Imus has branched out, though. In 1997 he published a bestselling book, coauthored by his brother, Fred. Two Guys, Four Corners had people lining up for, as it is described on the show, "a hideous picture book full of rocks." All right, so it had some dirty captions. A lot of dirty captions. The pictures were still beautiful-Southwest photographs in the tradition of Ansel Adams with beautiful painted deserts. This "kind of autobiographical" coffee-table book will have a sequel. It deserves to, having reached the Top Twenty on Publishers Weekly 's bestseller list. At last check it reportedly had undergone three printings, for a total of 130,000 copies. The Imus brothers did a major autograph tour to promote the book, signing their names thirty thousand times. You could tell that the book tour was taking its toll on the brothers when their crankier-than-usual attitude was directed toward the fans in line. After waiting in line over an hour, one patron had to goad the brothers into inscribing a short birthday wish in a copy. It was nice of mom.     Imus has even played the role of proud papa. He added a baby brother to the four daughters from his first marriage in mid-1998 when second wife, Deirdre, gave birth. Fredric Wyatt Imus is over thirty years younger than his closest sister, and Don is experiencing the "joys" of having a young child in his house all over again. Though he may not remember the first era very well, he's having a lot of fun now.     After thirty years, the Imus in the Morning program has become must-listen radio for over 15 million people. Now sit back and try to understand how a former U.S. Marine and uranium miner got the ear of a U.S. president. Find out what a toll drugs took on his career and personal life and what battles he would have to fight along the way. Meet the people who helped make him a star, and those who help keep him fresh and funny every morning. It's more information on Imus than was ever gathered in one place before. Try not to be overwhelmed. Copyright © 1999 James L. Reed. All rights reserved.