Johnny Holliday on Howard Cosell –
“He takes my headset, puts it on, “Angel, let’s go. Let’s go.” He goes, “3, 2, 1. Hello, everyone. Howard Cosell, the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Time to talk about the American … Back in a moment.” Takes a break, comes back, does the second half. Now we’re going to do the show for National. Does the same thing, takes his headset off, throws it down in front of me, picks up the cigar, looks at me and says, “That’s how you do a show” and walks away. He had no stopwatch. He was right on time.”
A Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town. I was just singing the song about, “Oh, Johnny, oh, Johnny.” I don’t know. It’s an old song but I’m an old song too. Johnny Holliday is one of the most favorite, favorite wonderful people in the world and a very dear friend of mine and of WMAL. I followed his career even before he didn’t even know it because he hopped around the country. Johnny, thank you for being with us. This is Our Town, Johnny. This is College Park, Vienna.
Johnny Holliday: This is your town basically.
A Ockershausen: At one time it was.
Johnny Holliday: But still is. Believe me.
A Ockershausen: This has been yours but when you came to WMAL you lit a light on us that never went out and all the things you did here for us and what you did for the University of Maryland. Remember we started with this broadcast and I even recall Johnny Holliday in something called the Washington Federal.
Johnny Holliday: I do remember that. Yes. The now defunct Washington Federal. That was a good experience, though.
A Ockershausen: You know what, Johnny? We went first class with that if you remember. There were three of you.
Johnny Holliday: That’s right.
A Ockershausen: Pete Wysocki worked with you and you did the play by play and you had one of the extra Redskins…
Johnny Holliday: I think, didn’t Kim McQuilken was the guy?
A Ockershausen: He was the quarterback.
Johnny Holliday: He was one of the analysts, yeah.
A Ockershausen: Kim McQuilken. Son of a gun.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, back-up quarterback with the Redskins.
A Ockershausen: Who else was on the broadcast? His son became a Redskin later. The football player. He played for the Cardinals. He was traded to the Redskins.
Johnny Holliday: Oh, that would have been … Was it Terry Metcalf?
A Ockershausen: Terry Metcalf. Yeah. He was a sideline reporter.
Johnny Holliday: Right. Exactly.
A Ockershausen: With Jack Scarbath. We’ve had some great people work at WMAL, but Johnny, not as great as you. Everybody knows you from the University of Maryland. They don’t know about you as I do because I found out many years ago your talents are so many. One that particularly impressed me is the radio disc jockey. The days are gone, Johnny. I don’t know of any disc jockeys.
Top 40 Disc Jockey – WHK – Cleveland
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, I tell young guys today that it’s too bad that they couldn’t have been in yet back in the ’60s, late ’50s, ’60s, ’70s before the broadcast whole industry changed.
A Ockershausen: World changed. Absolutely.
Johnny Holliday: In those days the disc jockeys were like pied pipers. The kids could connect, the young adults could connect with the guys. The recording artists could connect with them as well. It was a whole different atmosphere as compared to what it is today. I’ll never forget in Cleveland I had two record hops every weekend to supplement my income.
A Ockershausen: You always did that, Johnny. Have you ever worked anywhere when you weren’t supplementing your income?
Johnny Holliday: I’m still doing it today after all these years. In Cleveland I had a dance on a Friday night and a dance on a Saturday night sponsored by Coca-Cola. We had WHK color channel 14 …
A Ockershausen: Powerhouse radio station.
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. We had the Metro media broadcasting. We had these red jackets on with WHK in colors. I’d go out to a high school on Friday and, for an example, I’d get a call from the local promotion guy and he says, “I’ve got Neil Sedaka in town. Can you use him Friday night?” I said, “Yeah, sure.” He said, “See if they have a piano. He’d like to do some stuff live.” I called the high school and I said, “Can you get a piano out?” Neil Sedaka? He had all the big hits, Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen.
A Ockershausen: Oh my God. Huge.
Johnny Holliday: No charge. You don’t pay anything for that. All you do is they’d come out, a thousand kids are dancing, and Neil Sedaka is the headliner. Johnny Tillotson comes to town. Big hit song. It Keeps Right On-A-Hurtin’. Poetry in Motion. I said, “Where are you staying tonight?” He said, “I’m staying at a motel up here.” I said, “What are you going to pay?” “$35.” I said, “Why don’t you stay with Mary Clare and I?” “Oh, okay.” He saved $35. Today you’d never see that happen. It was amazing. Everything you did on the air in those days you did nothing off-color. Like Frank and Jack.
A Ockershausen: Straight.
Johnny Holliday: Straight. Nothing suggestive, nothing even close to being on that edge. It was all having a good time. Can’t wait to get back to work the next day. We had seven guys in our station. Everybody as strong as the previous guy and the next guy on the air. Jack Thayer, you may remember the name?
A Ockershausen: Oh, very well.
Johnny Holliday: Jack Thayer was my boss. I go on vacation to Florida. He gets the ratings and he calls and he says, “I got …
A Ockershausen: You did PM Drive?
Johnny Holliday: I did three to seven and Platter Heaven. Yes, three to seven.
A Ockershausen: Platter Heaven.
Johnny Holliday: We owned the market. We had more audience than the other eight stations combined in Cleveland three to seven. I’m on vacation and Jack Thayer calls, “I’ve got some good news. We got the numbers.” I said, “How did it work out?” He said, “Well, three o’clock to seven you have more audience than all other stations combined. You have 53% of the audience in Cleveland.” Wow. He said, “Congratulations, but Carl Reese after you has 64% of the audience.” That’s how dominant the station was.
A Ockershausen: Oh, I know. Carl was so famous, John. You had been a disc jockey before Cleveland, correct?
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I owned Perry, Georgia. That was my first job.
A Ockershausen: Your first was you started in Miami, of course.
Johnny Holliday: Well, actually I started my first job was Perry because when I was in Miami I was working for a Chevrolet dealership. Working in the parts department. Just out of high school. Couldn’t go to college. Had to save the money. I’m working in the parts department. I’d been entered into a disc jockey contest by my best buddy. Sends my name in as a joke.
A Ockershausen: Not Sal?
Johnny Holliday: No, no. It was Don Lewis. You know Sal?
A Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Johnny Holliday: All the fights every week, we had Sal.
A Ockershausen: Oh, Sal. Record guy.
Johnny Holliday: Record guy. I get this call and I get this letter saying, “Thank you for your interest in our disc jockey contest. Your night will be on Wednesday.” I went down to the station, 30 minute show, and you play the records.
A Ockershausen: Talk about the music.
Johnny Holliday: People would send in postcards to vote for you. I didn’t win. I’m not even 18 years old yet. My grandfather in Unadilla, Georgia calls me … Yeah, I know. Population, those days, about 2000. Population today 2000. Maybe. My grandfather says, “Why don’t you come up here, work in my drugstore. We have a small semi-pro baseball league of all these small little Georgia cities. You can pitch for this Unadilla team.” I said, “Great.”
I go up there and I’m there for maybe a month. The local owner of the radio station in Perry is trying to sell my grandfather some airtime.
A Ockershausen: What was his business? Your grandfather’s.
Johnny Holliday: He was a druggist. Only drugstore in Unadilla. The only one. The roof has caved in now but it’s still there. Right there by the railroad tracks. He said, “Mr. Evans. I want you to meet my grandson. He’s a disc jockey.” I don’t say anything. Mr. Evans says, “Really, well, I’m looking for somebody for my station. You want to come up tomorrow?” I said, “Yes, sir. Let me finish stocking the shelves over here and I’ll come up tomorrow.”
I went up and he takes me and he says, “Now you’ve probably never seen this equipment. This is all new equipment.” I’m thinking, “If he takes me in a control room I don’t know anything about a control room.” I dodged that bullet. I go in the control room and he says, “We’ll teach you how to do this.” That was my first job. $32 a week. I signed the station on, I came back, and midday into the show, The Stumpis Family, and I was Little Johnny Stumpis.
A Ockershausen: Little Johnny Stumper.
Johnny Holliday: Little Johnny Stumpis. Then I came back and played Lawrence Welk for 15 minutes.
A Ockershausen: Big in Georgia.
Johnny Holliday: Oh, it was. The Lawrence Welk Show and then I did a rock show for like 30 minutes. Then I did Dream A While. Then we signed off.
A Ockershausen: Wow.
Johnny Holliday: I thought it was the greatest thing in the world but I figured I probably should get out of … I don’t think I can make it long in Perry, Georgia. I see an ad in Broadcasting magazine that Westinghouse …
A Ockershausen: Where did you get the magazine? The boss is probably reading it.
Johnny Holliday Applies to Westinghouse Broadcasting New York
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. There’s an ad in there. Westinghouse is looking for bright, new, energetic, young, talent. I said, “Man, this thing is screaming at me. This has got my name …”
A Ockershausen: Written for you.
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. I sign off the air and I make a tape. I send the tape to Richard Pack, the vice president of Westinghouse Broadcasting New York. I send it on Monday. I get the package back on Friday. I’m sure they never listened to it. They saw the postmark and there’s a note inside from Richard Pack saying, “Dear Johnny, thank you very much for your interest. At this time, you’re not exactly what we’re looking for but good luck with your career.” Now for some reason, Andy, I just threw the letter into a box and saved it.
A Ockershausen: It was a nice letdown.
Johnny Holliday: I was crushed basically because I thought I could … I’m in Perry, Georgia. It wasn’t a major market. I’m not going to go to New York.
A Ockershausen: The Big Apple!
Perry, Georgia to Miami, Florida to Rochester, New York
Johnny Holliday: I know. I’m there for four months and I decide I’m ready to go back to Miami. I go to Miami and I make the rounds of all the stations. I can’t get past the receptionist. Of any of them.
A Ockershausen: Not unusual.
Johnny Holliday: No, no. One station left. That’s the Rhythm and Blues. It’s the all African-American station. My father says, “Did you go by that station?” I said, “Well, no. They’re not going to …” He said, “You’ve got nothing to lose.” I go in, the receptionist says, “What’s up, kid?” I said, “Can I talk to the program director?” She says, “How old are you?” I said, “Well, I’m 18.” She says, “You may be in luck. He’s 20.” 20 years old.
Out comes Arnie Shore was the guy’s name. “Come on back, kid. What you got?” I said, “I got this tape.” He says, “Let me hear it.” He put the tape on and Arnie says, “How old are you?” I said, “I just turned 18.” “Let me bring my father in.” He brings his father in. Father listens, he says, “Let me bring my partner in.” The partner comes in, Harry Trinner and Herb Shore and they said, “Are you willing to relocate?” I said, “Yeah, what you got in mind?” He says, “We bought a station in Rochester, New York. We’re going to take over in July. We think you would be perfect for the morning show six to nine. In the meantime, we’ll put you on here two hours a day to give you more experience.”
That’s how it all started. I did that from April, May, June. July I went to Rochester, New York.
A Ockershausen: Right for winter.
Johnny Holliday: Right. I had never seen snow.
A Ockershausen: I was going to say. From Miami to Rochester.
Johnny Holliday: You knew who my roommate was. The late Dave Abramson.
A Ockershausen: Oh my God.
Johnny Holliday: Abramson-Himmelfarb.
A Ockershausen: David? I never knew that.
Johnny Holliday: He was just out of Boston University. He was the roommate. We roomed together in a rooming house. Things were tough. In a rooming house.
A Ockershausen: In Rochester.
Johnny Holliday: In Rochester, New York. The first snowfall I said, “Dave, I’ve never seen snow. Would you wake me up?” “I’ll be glad to.” He wakes me up and he says, “You want to see snow?” “Yeah, let me see snow.” I said, “Where’s my car?” It’s down here somewhere.
A Ockershausen: Rochester.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, Rochester, New York.
A Ockershausen: That’s a great story about David.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, David was there.
A Ockershausen: He worked for ABC for a while. He moved onto that.
Johnny Holliday: I know.
A Ockershausen: A very dear friend.
Johnny Holliday: Great guy. Great guy.
A Ockershausen: Great guy. Johnny, that started you in a career. What were you doing in Rochester? Were you doing rock and roll then?
Johnny Holliday: What we did is Arnie Shore was a young guy. His father owned the station. We had tapes sent up from Miami. WQAM was the big top 40 station. A friend of his would tape WQAM. Everything they did we did.
A Ockershausen: Smart.
Johnny Holliday: It was a daytime station. It took us six months to become number one because nobody was doing that kind of format. It was number one for the year and a half that I was there. I did six to nine.
A Ockershausen: Specials?
Johnny Holliday: Yeah.
A Ockershausen: Did you do your dance parties then too?
Johnny Holliday: No, didn’t do … I did a roller rink. A roller rink. Yeah, I got $25 to go over there. It was rough.
A Ockershausen: You’ve always had more than one job, Johnny. We know that.
Johnny Holliday: That’s true. Not as many as you but I’ve had a couple.
A Ockershausen: Wait a minute. Then where did you go from Rochester? To the west coast?
WKBW Buffalo New York
Johnny Holliday: No, I got an offer to go to WKBW in Buffalo.
A Ockershausen: Warm weather.
Johnny Holliday: 50,000 watts. I’m at Rochester. They’re going to change the format on the Fourth of July 1958. Mary Clare and I drive over. We sit down with Clint Churchill who owned the station. They offered me the afternoon drive. Three to six. I said, “Well, I really like where I am. I love the Shores. A mom and pop operation.” I turned it down. I said, “No, I’m going to stay in Rochester.” I was only making $75 a week. I think they offered me $125 to go to Buffalo. I said to Mary Clare, “The money doesn’t interest me. I like where I am.” She says, “Let’s turn it down. Let’s stayright here.”
We did. On the Fourth of July I turned the radio on to listen to what they’re doing and I’m thinking, “What the heck did I do? This is going to be dynamite. They’re going to own the country.” Well, they owned seven states. They covered seven states. They had Joey Reynolds.
A Ockershausen: Big stick.
WKNH Cleveland, Ohio Harvey Glascock and John Kluge
Johnny Holliday: Big stick. A 50,000 watts and I’m thinking, “Oh my God.” About three or fourth months later WKNH calls and a guy named Harvey Glascock was the general manager.
A Ockershausen: High Harvey.
Johnny Holliday: Harvey. I went over to Cleveland, I visited with him, and I started there in February of ’59.
A Ockershausen: Metro Media.
Johnny Holliday: Metro Media.
A Ockershausen: With John Kluge.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah. Exactly.
A Ockershausen: And Harvey.
Johnny Holliday: I stayed until I went to New York City in 1964. You mentioned John Kluge, every time Mr. Kluge came to town, we kind of eliminated certain songs we were playing because he wasn’t a big fan of rock and roll.
A Ockershausen: I’m sure. But he was a fan of money.
Johnny Holliday: WNEW was a big powerhouse. He’d come to town and we’d get the note from the program director Jerry Spin, “Okay, these songs please do not play for the next two days.” Then Mr. Kluge would leave and we’d put them right back in the rotation again.
A Ockershausen: What a character, though, Harvey and then where does KYA come in? Is it San Francisco?
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, KYA was San Francisco.
A Ockershausen: Another powerhouse station.
From Cleveland, Ohio to San Francisco, California via New York
Johnny Holliday: After New York. When I went to New York in February of 1964 the Beatles had just arrived. I started off doing ten to one for three months and then they put me afternoon drive two to six after that. I was up against like Dan Ingram on WABC.
A Ockershausen: That’s when 77 had all the powerhouses.
Johnny Holliday: All powerhouse.
A Ockershausen: In those days.
Johnny Holliday: There was three top 40 stations. MCA was 570 on the dial, WABC was 77, and 1010 WINS was 1010. We were the more soft of the three, more personalities, Jack Lacy, Murray the K, Mad Daddy Pete Myers, and Westinghouse. Yeah, Westinghouse. My second week there I said to Harvey, my boss Joel Chaseman, I said …
A Ockershausen: Who came here at channel nine, remember that?
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. I have lunch with Joel like once a month. He’s still here.
A Ockershausen: He used to play cards with people all the time.Johnny Holliday: Yeah, in fact, the last time I had lunch with him he said, “Why don’t you get Andy to come? Maybe he can pick up the check.”
A Ockershausen: He’s a smart man. I’d pick it up and hand it to you.
Johnny Holliday: Very smart. The funny thing, I saved the letter when I applied to Westinghouse when I was in Perry. That guy is still there. I say to Mr. Chaseman, “Is Richard Pack still …” “Oh, yeah.” “I’d love to say hello.”
A Ockershausen: What a surprise.
Johnny Holliday: He brings him down, he comes in, he’s got the three button suit on, the vest, “Johnny, great to have you in New York, my boy. Hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy having you here.” I said, “Mr. Pack, this is wonderful. I’m 25 years old. This is great. Oh, by the way” I bring the letter out, “Do you remember this?” He puts his glasses on, looks at me and says, “Same guy?” I said, “Yeah, I was making $32 a week then. You could have got me a lot cheaper than you got me right now.” Now what are the chances of that happening?
A Ockershausen: It’s unbelievable. Years later. John, that’s when the radio had taken over the country. Rock and roll and everything to do with it. You were a part of it. The Cleveland thing comes to mind for me because I know how important it was to the people of Cleveland because we got involved with Milton Maltz or whoever it was and a bunch from Cleveland when they bought the Washington Federal.
Johnny Holliday: Milton Maltz. Yeah.
A Ockershausen: They knew you, of course, because of WHK and the radio business. They were so happy. We were broadcasting the game when you were being the lead broadcaster. They said, “This is big time.” I said, “We think the Federals are going to be big time.” Little did we know, they were going to be put out of business by George Allen. He cheated. That’s our George. What the hell.
John, your career has been so great. Now tell me more about the San Francisco days. You weren’t there very long. KYA.
Johnny Holliday: I was there five years.
A Ockershausen: In San Francisco?
Johnny Holliday: Yeah.
A Ockershausen: Why would you ever leave?
KYA, San Francisco and WWDC, Washington DC
Johnny Holliday: To come here to WWDC.
A Ockershausen: Oh, is that right?
Johnny Holliday: Same company. Avco Broadcast.
A Ockershausen: I thought New York was involved in that too.
Johnny Holliday: No, no, no. At WINS I was only there for a year and a half and then they decide … They just renewed my contract in February of 1965 for another year. Then they decide in April they’re going to go all news.
A Ockershausen: They did. All their stations.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, exactly.
A Ockershausen: 1010 in New York was the bellwether but WIND in Chicago, they all changed the formats. Almost like overnight they went all news. They were on the cusp of the all news business. They owned the all news one.
Johnny Holliday: Funny thing. Mr. Chaseman was against it. He said, “No, we’re doing so well in these numbers. We’re like third in New York.”
A Ockershausen: Making big bucks.
Johnny Holliday: Big bucks. He got shot down. I remember I was home with the flu when he called and said, “How are you feeling?” I said, “Pretty good.” He said, “Well, let me give you some news. We’re going to change this thing to all news.” I said, “What?” He said, “Yeah, but I renewed your contract. You have 11 months coming. You’re getting every dime we owe you. This is not my idea.”
A Ockershausen: What a class guy.
Johnny Holliday: Everybody else got paid off whatever their contract was. I was the announcer for Hullabaloo on NBC at that time as well as doing afternoon drive. I called Gary Smith who was producing Hullabaloo and I said, “Well, I’m going to have to give up this job.” He says, “Why?” I said, “I took a job in San Francisco.” The guy that called me from San Francisco was Clint Churchill who was in Buffalo.
A Ockershausen: Wow, small world.
Johnny Holliday: He said, “I think I got you now.” I said, “I think you’re correct. I don’t have a job.”
A Ockershausen: Little better than Buffalo. KYA.
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. I went out there and then I flew back once a week for Hullabaloo for NBC on TWA. They had a trade deal. Gary Smith says, “Well, we’ll just work a trade deal if you want to do it.”
A Ockershausen: Did they have jets then?
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Yes, they did.
A Ockershausen: Open cockpit.
Johnny Holliday: The flight attendants had little things in their head that they wore.
A Ockershausen: TWA. That was great, John.
Johnny Holliday: It was great.
A Ockershausen: You flew right over Cleveland, of course. You came right back to the big time.
Johnny Holliday: I’d do it in one day. I would leave San Francisco, eight o’clock in the morning, land at Kennedy at four thirty, they’d pick me up in a car, take me to NBC Rockefeller Center or NBC Brooklyn and they would do two shows. They would have two different audiences and take the best and put it together for the hour. Then take me back to Kennedy for an 11:30 flight landing at San Francisco at 2 am.
A Ockershausen: You didn’t have to sleep in New York.
Johnny Holliday: 37 weeks I did that.
A Ockershausen: Wow. That’s almost like these guys do that on the Sunday talk shows.
Johnny Holliday: I know.
A Ockershausen: Back and forth like nothing. Do you remember Hullabaloo, Jan?
Jan: Yes, I do.
A Ockershausen: That was a little too young for me. I remember Johnny Holliday. On the first day he went on the air here I knew he was going to be a big success. We want to talk about that, John, but we’ll be right back here on Our Town and we’re going to start talking more about Our Town and with your illustrious career. Johnny Holliday, this is Andy Ockershausen. Our Town.
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Announcer: Our Town with Andy Ockershausen.
A Ockershausen: Johnny Holiday, he’s talking about his entrance into Washington, DC.
Johnny Holliday: It’s interesting. When I was in San Francisco and the station was number one, KYA, I was doing afternoon drive three to six. I was doing the Oakland Raiders public address announcing. The San Francisco Warriors public address announcing, the pregame show for the Giants on television, Cal basketball, Stanford football. I got not tired but I think I ran my course of playing the bang, bang, bang music and wanted to do more than that and wanted to expand. Everybody talks about you want to be more of a personality.
I said, “I’m just going to give this up and just do television.” They said, “Why don’t we fly you back and talk to the people in WWDC in Washington? Our sister station.” I fly back, Bill Sanders, the general manager at that time, picks me up. On the way in from the airport they said, “We want you to listen to your competition.” They flick on Frank Harden and Jackson Weaver in the car on the way from the airport. They’re talking about a lost dog and there’s a cat that has a cough and there’s a benefit for some … I’m saying, “Really?” They said, “These guys own the market.” I said, “Not for long. No, no, no.” This is probably six months to a year. Really? I said, “Oh, yeah.”
A Ockershausen: I believe you.
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. Little did I realize the impact that they had. I said, “Okay, I’ll come in.” You do six to ten at WWDC, you’ll do the Bullets with Tony Roberts. We got the Bullets. The Washington Senators you’ll do the pregame with Ted Williams. It was great. It was a wonderful opportunity. Every time we got the ratings, Frank and Jack kept going higher and higher and higher. Institution. I would go a little bit up, a little bit up, and never could beat them.
The Good Old Days – WMAL
Johnny Holliday: I always told the story that I never got the full impact until I came with you guys to work and do sports on their show. Then I understood. The thing that got me the most was when I was in a plane crash in 1975 and I was out of work for a month. I didn’t work.
A Ockershausen: I remember that, Johnny.
Johnny Holliday: We went back and the first day back we broadcast from the Shoreham Hotel. It was pretty emotional. I had been off, I had lost a lot of weight. It was whistles and bells and everything. We come out of a news break and here’s Frank and Jack saying, “Hey, Johnny. It’s Frank Harden and Jackson Weaver. We are so happy you are back again. We thought about you, we prayed for you, we know your listeners are so glad.” That said something right there.
A Ockershausen: They care.
Johnny Holliday: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
A Ockershausen: That always came through. You were not alone. People would say, “We listened to that. What in the hell was that? Is this radio? What are you guys doing?”
Johnny Holliday: It was radio. It was something that is so sorely missed today.
A Ockershausen: There’s no warmth.
Johnny Holliday: I’ve got to watch what I say but when I worked here this was the greatest time of my life. The greatest staff. To see what’s happened in this town and around the country?
A Ockershausen: Our Town, Johnny.
Johnny Holliday: Our Town. It’s disappointing. Very disappointing.
A Ockershausen: Your impact on the station was far beyond the morning show. You did everything. I love the fact that you got your basketball team back here and all around the …
Johnny Holliday: Started that in Cleveland.
A Ockershausen: Oh, I know you did. You had taken that but here it was so important to us. You did a great job with that. Then when did you get into the musical comedy business? The theater? When you were on the road or when you got back here?
The Theater and Acting Career
Johnny Holliday: Cleveland.
A Ockershausen: Oh, you were in Cleveland?
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. First show, I was at a party one night.
A Ockershausen: The dance party?
Johnny Holliday: No, this was a regular … It was a cocktail party for an agency. The guy who owned Cain Park Theater in Cleveland is there and he says, “Did you ever do any acting?” I said, “Only in high school. That’s all.” He said, “I think you would be perfect. We’re going to do a whole summer series of shows. We’re going to bring in these big names to take the lead roles. I think you’d be perfect for Og the Leprechaun in Finian’s Rainbow.” Typecasting.
I said, “Okay, sure.” I went over and he said, “Let’s go through a couple songs.” Now I sang in chorus but …
A Ockershausen: You weren’t a single.
Johnny Holliday: Exactly. Exactly. I did the show. They brought in a girl named Jennie Smith from the Steve Allen Show in Los Angeles.
A Ockershausen: Big time.
Johnny Holliday: The Tonight Show. She was a little blonde singer. They bring her in to play the lead role of Sharon. I’m doing Og the Leprechaun. This theater held probably maybe 3000 people.
A Ockershausen: Wow.
Johnny Holliday: We packed them in every single night. Most of the people that came to the theater had no idea I was on WHK every afternoon. We would cross-promote it, you know?
A Ockershausen: Oh, boy.
Johnny Holliday: We did that. Then Bobby Vinton was the next star that came and he did Music Man. Then Paul Peterson came in for Best Foot Forward. Dion came in for Guys and Dolls. Then I came back and did Oklahoma.
A Ockershausen: What role did you play in Oklahoma?
Johnny Holliday: Ali Hakim. The peddler.
A Ockershausen: Oh, yeah.
Johnny Holliday: It’s a scandal. It’s an outright. . .that guy. I realized this is terrific exposure, theater, so if I can do it halfway decently you’re going to get a whole new audience out there that may tune in the next day and listen to you. When I went to New York I didn’t do anything except Hullabaloo. My first national commercial I did was Dixie Peach Hair Cream which ran in the Phil Rizzuto sports show.
A Ockershausen: In New York?
Johnny Holliday: It was big time. Big time in New York. Then when I went to San Francisco I started doing more. I did How To Succeed in Business out there.
A Ockershausen: That looks like it was written for you How To Succeed.
Johnny Holliday: That was the first show. When I saw that in New York…
A Ockershausen: Robert Morris, right?
Johnny Holliday: When I saw it in New York with Dwayne Hickman …
A Ockershausen: Before Morris?
Johnny Holliday: After Morris. I said, “Man, I could do that role my eyes closed.”
A Ockershausen: It’s you.
Johnny Holliday: I did it like four times. Now I’d be a little too old to do the role today. The funny thing about Cleveland in the cast was a lady named Dee Hoty. When Mamma Mia came to Washington, Our Town, some years ago …
A Ockershausen: At the Kennedy Center.
Johnny Holliday: I’m looking at the playbill and it says Dee Hoty who is one of the … She’s the original mother on Broadway in Mamma Mia. Started in Cleveland. I’m thinking, “Wait a minute. Is this the same person?” I send a note backstage and I said, “Dee, I don’t know if you were in Finian’s Rainbow in Cleveland with me in 1962. It’s Johnny Holliday.” The note comes back. “Absolutely. Call me tomorrow. We got to catch up.”
I did. I go home. I don’t know who Dee Hoty is outside of she’s playing the mother in Mamma Mia. I go to Google her name. She’d won Tony’s for Will Roger’s Follies. She’d won Tony’s for Follies. I mean, all these different shows. Huge. You never know. You never know.
Mary Clare Holliday
A Ockershausen: While you’re doing all this Mary Clare is sitting home having babies?
Johnny Holliday: Had two of them in Cleveland. Yeah. Two of them.
A Ockershausen: She pushed you into this. Obviously this would be a huge support for you because she spent a lot of time in dinner theater when you were in Washington. I know that. Less than what you spent in sports. Really took a lot of your time on the road and you did it all seasons. The only time you had off was baseball. Oh, not anymore.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, not anymore. She was so protective of me in Cleveland. We’d have these charity basketball games. We’re raising thousands of dollars for schools. Now I shot a lot when we’re playing because I played high school ball. I was a fairly decent high school player. I would lead the team in scoring every game. She’d be in the stands and somebody would start yelling things at me, “Hey, take another shot, Holliday. Maybe you can make one.” She would turn and say, “Knock it off. He’s making $3000 for your school, all right? Knock it off. That’s my husband.” “Oh, okay.”
A Ockershausen: She’s feisty. We should also add that Mary Clare is your wife of how many years? 64 years?
Johnny Holliday: 58.
A Ockershausen: 58 years. That’s incredible, Johnny.
Johnny Holliday: A brilliant artist.
A Ockershausen: Most people don’t live that long.
Johnny Holliday: I know. Exactly. Exactly.
A Ockershausen: She’s always been your biggest supporter.
Johnny Holliday: She’s a wonderful artist. Sculpture. Oh, yeah.
Jan: Wow. Didn’t know that.
A Ockershausen: And all your children. In spite of all this traveling you still had a lot of children.
Johnny Holliday: We had two girls. Kellie was born in Cleveland. Tracie was born in Cleveland. Moira was born here. 17 years after Tracie.
A Ockershausen: That’s right. That was your second family almost.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, exactly.
Seven Days of Prayer or How Johnny Holliday Got to WMAL
A Ockershausen: When you first came over from WWDC you brought so much oomph to … We always had a sports department. The guys doing sports were always a part of it. Steve Gilmartin.
Johnny Holliday: Tim Brant.
A Ockershausen: Tim Brant. We were always onto sports but Johnny you brought such oomph to it. It was great. Frank and Jack really appreciated that. That’s why they were so happy for you. Not as a competitor but as a talent. You had enormous talent. They knew that.
Johnny Holliday: You know, it’s funny. I’ve told this story many times. Maybe not to you. When I got to WWDC I knew that eventually I had to get over here at WMAL. I had to go to WMAL. That was the epitome of being successful and if I could land a job there that would top everything. I’ll never forget. I think I went to lunch with you and Jim Gallant.
A Ockershausen: Probably.
Johnny Holliday: More than one occasion. Things just didn’t work out that way.
A Ockershausen: Timing is everything.
Johnny Holliday: Timing. Timing. Exactly. I don’t know what happened. I left WWDC, spent a cup of coffee at WJMD. They gave you the old bait and switch routine. Biggest mistake of my life was going over there.
A Ockershausen: Yeah, but it was a good thing you did.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, so I’m in Pittsburgh and I’m going to do a George Washington basketball game. I go to Mass in the morning with a guy named Bernie Swainn who is the athletic director at GW. I see in the pew there’s this piece of paper folded up. I open the paper it says, “If you say this prayer once a day for seven days something good is going to happen to you on that seventh day.” Okay.
A Ockershausen: In Pittsburgh!
Johnny Holliday: I said, “I got nothing to lose.” I got nothing to lose by saying this thing. I say this prayer every day for seven days. On the seventh day, you called or Jim Gallant called and said, “Let’s talk. We can maybe work out something.” That’s how I wound up at … I gave that same prayer to Tim Strachan who is still doing the games with me.
A Ockershausen: Oh, yes, your guy.
Johnny Holliday: When Tim had the terrible accident and paralyzed him from the waist down. His mom and dad were looking for any kind of … I said, “Have him say this prayer.” Seventh day, this is a true story, on the seventh day he’s on a treadmill. They’re trying to get him to stimulate his legs. It worked on the seventh day. “May the sacred heart of Jesus and the immaculate heart of Mary be praised and glorified this day and forever Saint Theresa of the infant Jesu who pray for us. Saint Jude pray for us and obtain our prayer.” Followed by, please, please.
A Ockershausen: That’s right. Johnny, that’s a wonderful, wonderful story.
Johnny Holliday: I know.
A Ockershausen: That all started … That was so important because you came here in the glory years. The Redskins were winning Super Bowls.
Johnny Holliday: Well, the Capitals were winning.
A Ockershausen: The Capitals were winning.
Johnny Holliday: Maryland was winning.
A Ockershausen: Maryland was winning.
Johnny Holliday: Nobody could touch WMAL with a flamethrower. Nobody could even get close to us.
A Ockershausen: It was a fun place. We had our drama with the crashes and everything. We had the Muslims and the fighting and so forth but everybody was a part of this thing. It was always such a pleasure to make it. Everybody loved to come to work. We never had a problem. Especially with our talent. Talent never took off. I would call Felix Grant and would say, “Would you mind working a little late?” “No, no” May would say. “Don’t ask him that. He’ll get mad at me.” No, no, you can’t do that. May was funny.
Johnny Holliday: I know. With Frank and Jack I’ll never forget. I always tell people this story. When I was doing 42nd Street at Harlequin and we did it for like six months. I’d be here every morning the next day doing sports.
A Ockershausen: Were you living in Kensington then?
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. I’m still at the same house. Somewhere between six and ten we’d come out of a sportscast and Jackson would say, “You know, Mr. Holliday” or, “Mr. Hollandaise”. “Yes?” “I enjoyed you so much last night in 38th Street. You were wonderful.” It would break me up. Absolutely break me up.
Johnny Holliday: Then when Jackson was starting to slip a little bit with the kidney problems I went to see him over at Holy Cross Hospital. He just had a kidney treatment.
A Ockershausen: Dialysis.
Johnny Holliday: Dialysis. I walk in. Here the poor guy is fighting for his life. I hadn’t seen him since I left here and went with the University of Maryland. I walk in, and he’s laying up in the bed with the tubes, and his wife says, “Look who’s here.” I walked in and he said, “I thought you were dead.” That was his line. Here’s a guy fighting for his life. Those guys, nobody could touch him. Nobody could touch him.
A Ockershausen: Well, and John, you were such a big, big important part of that. Now I don’t want to be a diversion but I am. The whirl the United States Football League and I had a problem because I knew that the Cookes were not happy with the football league. I went to somebody at the organization and said, “We’d like to bid on these teams and have the game.” He said, “I don’t see no problem in the spring.” Nobody checked the old man. I didn’t. I get a call one day when we’re doing the games.
Johnny Holliday: “Andy!”
A Ockershausen: Yeah. “I want you to come out …”
Johnny Holliday: “For God’s sake, Andy. Dear, Andy.”
A Ockershausen: “Dear Andrew, would you mind coming and sipping some red wine with me at my place” or estate. Whatever he said. I said, “Yes, Mr. Cooke. I’ll be out.” Now that’s going to be a story. I’m going to take a break here, Johnny, so make sure I do it. This is Johnny Holliday. This is Our Town. Andy Ockershausen.
[Commercial]Sonny: This is Sonny Jurgensen. I’ve got a confession to make. I let my wife drag me to one of those Mike Collins estate planning seminars. Like I don’t have enough on my plate with a certain football team.
Actually, it wasn’t too bad. In fact, we both learned a whole lot about how to protect our kids and grandkids down the road and to take care of ourselves right now. If you get one of Mike’s invitations in the mail, go. I’m glad I did. Get all the information and register online at Mikecollins.com. That’s Mikecollins.com. [End Commercial]
Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen. Brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
On Meetings with Jack Kent Cooke
A Ockershausen: I got the page from Mr. Cooke so I drove out. He sat down in the room and Johnny Cakes was there.
Johnny Holliday: Johnny Cakes.
A Ockershausen: That’s what he called him.
Johnny Holliday: That’s right.
A Ockershausen: “Johnny, get dear Andy a glass of wine.” I said, “I’m in trouble here.” I don’t drink wine but I’m sipping it real quick. I said, “What is it, Mr. Cooke?” He said, “This United States Football League, the Washington Federals …”
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah.
A Ockershausen: “How did you get involved in that? Did Lenny make you do it?”
Johnny Holliday: Uh oh.
A Ockershausen: “Or are you stupid?”
Johnny Holliday: Really? Oh my God.
A Ockershausen: Meaning Leonard Goldstein head of NBC.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, right. Exactly.
A Ockershausen: I said, “No, Mr. Cooke. It was my idea.” He said, “Couldn’t have been. You’re not that stupid.” I said, “Mr. Cooke. We do. We have a contract.” He said, “Contracts are made to be broken. You break this contract. We don’t want those games on our station.” Calling WMAL our station which I thought was great.
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. Sure.
A Ockershausen: I said, “Thank you very much, Mr. Cooke. We’ll look into that and see what we can do.” That was it.
Johnny Holliday: “I’ll get back to you.” When Joe Gibbs was hired as the head coach I wanted to go down. For some reason, I always had a good relationship with him.
A Ockershausen: I’m sure you did, Johnny.
Johnny Holliday: Never had any problem.
A Ockershausen: He didn’t intimidate you.
Johnny Holliday: No, not at all. I said, “Mr. Cooke?” “Yes?” I said, “I wonder could I come down to do a piece with you about the new coach and the coaching staff?” “Absolutely, Johnny. Be at my apartment at the Watergate at 5:20. Don’t be late.” I said, “Okay, Mr. Cooke.” I go down and traffic has got me slowed up. I get there. I pull into the Watergate about 15 minutes after five. The doorman says, “You’ve got five minutes to get in there and get up there. He’s waiting for you.” I go down the hallway and I go to his suite. Bing, hit the doorbell. “Is that you, Johnny?” “Yes, it is, Mr. Cooke.” “All right, lad. I’m on the way.” He can’t open the door. “For God’s sake. The door is stuck here. Could you help me open the door?” He couldn’t open it. He finally hits the door open.
We go inside. He’s got a bowl of fruit sitting there. We got the bowl of fruit. This soft music is playing in the background. He sits down next to the couch. “Have some fruit.” I said, “Okay, Mr. Cooke.” “All right, lad. Let’s go.” I said, “Mr. Cooke. You’ve got a new coach Joe Gibbs. Great coaching staff.” I’m really nervous talking to him because this is the big guy. He starts talking about Joe Gibbs. Somewhere in the middle of the first part of the interview I was thinking about my next question and not listening to what he was saying.
A Ockershausen: Not unusual.
Johnny Holliday: I said, “Mr. Cooke, let me ask you about the assistant coaches.” “Are you listening to what I said, Johnny? We just covered that for God’s sake.” His wife, was it Barbara? I can’t think of her name.
Jani: Barbara was Johnny Cakes’ wife.
Johnny Holliday: Okay, well, anyway, his wife…
Janice Ockershausen: Marlena or Suzanne.
A Ockershausen: Marlena was Cooke and Suzanne Cooke.
Johnny Holliday: Suzanne. He says, “Suzanne, do you remember …” Right in the middle of the interview. “Listen to the song on the box. We danced to that at the Waldorf for God’s sake. It had to be 40 years ago.” Then he says, “We can edit that out.” He goes, “3, 2, 1” and he points to me. We continued the interview.
A Ockershausen: He’s directing the show.
Johnny Holliday: Oh my God. Yeah. I go to Redskin Park and he’s sitting out there. I said, “Mr. Cooke, I’m doing a show at the Harlequin Dinner Theater called Me and My Girl.” “Saw it on Broadway, Johnny.” I said, “Oh.” He says, “Are you playing the role of William Snibson?” I said, “Yes.” “Typecasting. You’d be marvelous in the role.” I said, “I know you can’t come but I just want to extend the invitation.” He knew everything because he was a song and dance guy.
A Ockershausen: I know that.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, exactly.
A Ockershausen: He was a musician. Definitely a Renaissance man. He was a scratch golfer.
Johnny Holliday: I know. I know.
A Ockershausen: Everything he did was superb. He had the wine cellar. He would tell me stories about Siegel and his wine cellar and Siegel knew nothing about wine. He didn’t know about beer. He said, “Morrie, you’re such a peasant.” He called him a peasant.
Johnny Holliday: I know. One time we were going to go to the Super Bowl and we did a phone interview with him looking ahead to the Super Bowl. I said, “Mr. Cooke, let’s go out there and let’s win this whole thing and bring the championship back to Washington and I’ll buy you a drink after the game.” He said, “Very nice, Johnny. I can buy my own drink. Thank you, lad.”
A Ockershausen: That’s like saying to me, he didn’t say I wasn’t stupid. He said, “I know you’re stupid but you’re not that stupid.”
Johnny Holliday: I know. I know. I know.
A Ockershausen: That was Mr. Cooke. What a character. He was in our life here.
Johnny Holliday: Well, the first time I met him I was doing the PA announcing for the Warriors. A buddy of mine on WHK named Johnny Walters had worked for his station in Toronto.
A Ockershausen: Wow. Before he came to the US.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, before. He had always talked about this … He called Mr. Cooke, “We had a rather eccentric owner of the station Jack Kent Cooke.” I remembered that. The Warriors are playing the Lakers in San Francisco. Here’s Mr. Cooke sitting behind me. First row. At half-time I get up and I’m the PA guy and I walk over and I say, “Mr. Cooke?” “Yes?” I said, “My name is Johnny Holliday.” “Hello, Johnny. How are you?” I said, “Do you remember the name Johnny Walters?” “Oh, for God’s sake. Of course I do. Wonderful lad.” I said, “Yeah, I worked with Johnny in Cleveland.” “Oh, did you now? What are you doing now?” I said, “Well, I work here in San Francisco and I’m the public address announcer.”
A Ockershausen: For the Warriors.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, and he says, “You’re the man I’m hearing on the box throughout the game?” I said, “Yes, I am.” “Well, how about giving us some credit, huh? Don’t be such a cheerleader for the Warriors, lad.” Oh, my God. He was a piece of work.
A Ockershausen: Of all the characters that you’ve met he’s got to be in the top three, right?
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Absolutely. A sweetheart of a guy.
A Ockershausen: Oh, yes.
Johnny Holliday: So many people were intimidated by him but if you got on his right side …
A Ockershausen: He called one day and said, “Dear, darling, Andrew.” I said, “Oh, something’s wrong here.” “Yes, Mr. Cooke. What is it? What can I do?” He said, “I wanted to tell you that Sam Huff is going to do the color on the television show.”
Johnny Holliday: Oh, he’s telling you?
A Ockershausen: Yes. I said, “Mr. Cooke, you know he works with Sonny and Frank. They do the broadcast.” “You’re not listening.” I said, “Mr. Cooke, we need Sam. He’s a part of the broadcast.” He said, “I don’t think you’re listening. You don’t understand. I’m telling you he’s going to work with Chick …” What’s the guy’s name? His old time announcer from the Lakers?
Johnny Holliday: Chick Hearn.
A Ockershausen: Chick Hearn. “He’s going to be Chick Hearn’s color man this weekend.” I said, “Oh, well, Mr. Cooke. Okay. Thank you for telling me.”
Johnny Holliday: Case closed.
A Ockershausen: He didn’t ask for permission.
Johnny Holliday: Oh my God.
A Ockershausen: He just said that’s it. I said, “You’re welcome, Mr. Cooke.” “I knew you’d understand.”
Johnny Holliday: You mention Sonny, Sam, and Frank. There’s never been a broadcast team in my estimation as good as those guys. As soon as they were no longer together it’s been …
A Ockershausen: It fell apart.
Johnny Holliday: It fell apart. Right now no chemistry whatsoever.
A Ockershausen: God, remember the Super Bowls you went to with us?
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
A Ockershausen: I remember your career at ABC Radio Sports with Shelby Whitfield. That was big shot in the arm for you, wasn’t it?
Johnny Holliday: Big shot. I did them from here. Did the shows out of WMAL every morning. Yeah, myself, Fred Manford, Dan Levitt. Great times.
A Ockershausen: I remember going to the Olympics with you in Los Angeles in what was it? ’84?
Johnny Holliday: ’84.
A Ockershausen: Great. Then the fights, of course, and that was Sal. That’s when I met your friend.
Remembering Howard Cosell
Johnny Holliday: The boxing with Ken Norton. Great story about Cosell because Cosell loved you.
A Ockershausen: Oh, I know.
Johnny Holliday: Cosell, I’m getting ready to do my show out in Los Angeles and the engineer in New York, Angel Barbone says, “Have you seen Howard Cosell?” I said, “Let me see. In fact, here he comes now.” Here comes Coach Sal walking in with his blue blazer on. He comes up to me and said, “Hello, Johnny. How are you my friend? How’s Andy Ockershausen? A man over his head. Has absolutely no idea what he’s up to. Still running that station into the ground.” I said, “New York wants to know if you can do your show right now.” “Geeze, all right. All right. Hello.”
He takes my headset, puts it on, “Angel, let’s go. Let’s go.” He goes, “3, 2, 1. Hello, everyone. Howard Cosell, the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Time to talk about the American … Back in a moment.” Takes a break, comes back, does the second half. Now we’re going to do the show for national. Does the same thing, takes his headset off, throws it down in front of me, picks up the cigar, looks at me and says, “That’s how you do a show” and walks away. He had no stopwatch. He was right on time.
Every time I’d see him I’d say, “Howard, how are you doing?” “Hello, Johnny. How are you? How’s Andy O? For God’s sake. Unbelievable. A man with absolutely no talent and able to run a radio station the way he does. Thank God the people like you.” He was incredible.
Johnny Holliday: When he was down at emceed The NFL Player’s Association Banquet to benefit muscular dystrophy and he’s the guest speaker. I go over to him and I say, “Howie.” “Hello, Johnny.” I said, “Would you mind if I introduce you as you?” “If you want to make a total ass of yourself, go ahead. Doesn’t matter.” I get up there and I do a little Cosell and he comes up and he says, “The diminutive one.” Called me the diminutive one. “That was less than impressive.”
He looks out in the audience and he says, “You know, tonight we’re raising a lot of money for muscular dystrophy. I’m looking out there and there is number 29 out there. Mark Murphy. Mark Murphy, terrific defensive back, who moments ago made a move for my wife Emmy at the cocktail party until I suddenly appeared out of the shadows flashing these fists of stone. Number 29, wisely backed away.”
Then he sees Brig Owens. “Brig Owens,” Big puff of the cigar, “Unbelievable. Tomorrow he will take the bar examination. Tonight here for this wonderful event. Tomorrow he will fail the bar examination.” I mean, the guy was brilliant.
A Ockershausen: He just beat up everybody like that.
Johnny Holliday: He was brilliant. Brilliant.
A Ockershausen: So insecure, Johnny, as you know. He was totally insecure.
Johnny Holliday: Well, you know they basically pushed him out the door at ABC because he got so cutting with his commentaries. One morning his wife had just passed away and I had sent him a card.
A Ockershausen: Emmy.
Johnny Holliday: Emmy. I sent him a card and maybe three weeks later the phone rings in the newsroom. Larry Matthews picks it up and he says, “Guy says he’s Howard Cosell. Wants to talk to you.” I think it’s somebody putting me on, right? I said, “Hello.” He said, “Hello, Johnny. How are you?” I said, “I’m doing fine, Howard. How are you?” “Not well. I got your card. You never knew Emmy, did you?” I said, “No, I didn’t.” He said, “The love of my life. I’ve lost everything and you took the time to send her a card. I can’t thank you enough.” I said, “How are you doing?” He was very honest. “I can feel they’re trying to kick me out but I’m still here.” Totally different side that I never saw of him before.
A Ockershausen: Very mellow when she died.
Johnny Holliday: I felt so bad for him.
A Ockershausen: That was the light of his life.
Johnny Holliday: I know.
A Ockershausen: Emmy.
Johnny Holliday: Then one of the funniest things, Fred Manfra and I we go to Tavern On The Green up in New York. There’s a big event. We’re walking in and I said to Fred, “Let’s stay a few minutes and say hello to Howard and we’ll get out of here.” As we’re walking across the floor here comes Cosell. He’s walking. I said to Fred, “Well, here he comes.”
He comes up to me and he goes, “Hello, John. How are you, my friend?” I reach out to shake his hand and he goes right past me for Mayor John Lindsay. Lindsay is behind. Fred Manfra collapses on the floor laughing. I’m standing there with my hand stuck out.
A Ockershausen: It wasn’t intentional. Lindsay was more important.
Johnny Holliday: Exactly. Exactly.
A Ockershausen: Johnny, great story. There are a lot more. I want to talk to you more about our experience with the Federals and all the great things that have happened to our school at the University of Maryland. Which is Our Town, Johnny. Even though it’s in College Park.
Johnny Holliday: It is Our Town. No question.
A Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen with Johnny Holliday.
[Commercial]This is Andy Ockershausen talking to Tommy Jacomo and bragging about his restaurant The Palm.
Tommy: Him, I’m Tommy Jacomo. I want you to come down and see me at The Palm restaurant. I’ve been there for 43 years. We have great steaks, great lobsters, great food. Carry the cheers on the wall. It’s just a fun place to eat and drink. We’re located at 19th and N just below Dupont Circle. For reservations call 202-293-9091. That’s 202-293-9091. www.ThePalm.com [End Commercial]
University of Maryland Sportscaster
A Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town with Johnny Holliday. We were beginning to talk about his career which really took off in many ways with his association with the University of Maryland. Johnny, you’ve done national championships, you’ve done Bowl game. It’s incredible the impression you’ve made in Our Town with University of Maryland. It all started here.
Johnny Holliday: Yes, exactly. The association with them. In fact, the first year that I did Maryland I had done George Washington basketball. I had done Navy football. The station decided to part ways with Maryland and so I stayed along with the University of Maryland.
A Ockershausen: I was gone by then.
Johnny Holliday: Exactly. That’s exactly right.
A Ockershausen: I would never lose Maryland.
Johnny Holliday: It was stupid.
A Ockershausen: They were part of us.
Johnny Holliday: I talked to the powers that be. I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Nothing against the Naval Academy. I did them for one year and I enjoyed it very much but Maryland …
A Ockershausen: Did Feinstein do those with you?
Johnny Holliday: No, he did not.
A Ockershausen: He did them later.
Johnny Holliday: Pete …
Janice Ockershausen: Wysocki?
Johnny Holliday: No, I can’t think of his last …
Remembering Pete Wysocki
A Ockershausen: Pete did USFL with you.
Johnny Holliday: He did USFL. Yeah.
A Ockershausen: Pete was a big part of us as you know. Sad, sad thing. We talk about Pete almost every day. A great character. Important to WMAL. Important to Janice and I personally. And to you!
Johnny Holliday: Terrific guy. Just a terrific guy. That’s why when one of these days they’ll find a cure for cancer. Hopefully in our lifetime.
A Ockershausen: Hopefully.
Johnny Holliday: It’s terrible.
A Ockershausen: He was very devout too. I knew that about Pete.
Johnny Holliday: Exactly.
A Ockershausen: I hear about his school. Somebody said, “That Western Michigan? He went to Eastern Michigan.”
Johnny Holliday: That’s right. That’s right. The thing with Maryland it started in 1979. Tim Brant was the first analyst. Tim and I did the games. We had Jack Scarbath. We had Brig Owens. We had Ziz Abdur-Ra’oof. We had you name it. We had a lot of analysts.
A Ockershausen: So great. Same thing with the baskets. I’d be with you at the tournaments and they were great. Maryland basketball was on the ascendancy then.
Johnny Holliday: Starting with Lefty.
A Ockershausen: Starting with Lefty. Character days, right? They’ll never be replaced.
Johnny Holliday: People may not realize Sonny Jurgenson did basketball for you guys.
A Ockershausen: Yes, he did.
Johnny Holliday: Sonny and Hathaway and Steve Gilmartin.
A Ockershausen: Right. We were all over Maryland because we believed that they were going places and they did.
Johnny Holliday: They did.
A Ockershausen: That was a decision … Although, like you say, Navy was a great coup I think.
Johnny Holliday: Oh my gosh.
Johnny Holliday Featured in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
A Ockershausen: It would be today. I don’t know why people don’t do it as much with Navy as they do. Johnny, the great thing about all your career you were in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There’s something that happened in Cleveland that they called me. You were doing a broadcast. They said, “Holliday can’t do the broadcast.” I said, “Why?” They said, “We want him in Cleveland to do the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” They said, “We’ll fly him out. We’ll send a plane to pick him up and take him to Cleveland.”
Johnny Holliday: They did. Yeah.
A Ockershausen: Wasn’t that great?
Johnny Holliday: Jim Welch is a very, very strong popular person in Cleveland. I think Jim Welch might have been behind the fact that he got the plane. Chartered a plane. We had a game in Virginia in Charlottesville. We played the game. They drove me to an airport outside of Charlottesville. The plane was waiting. I thought maybe Jim Welch would be behind the control but he wasn’t flying the plane.
A Ockershausen: Too short.
A Visit With Dorothy Fuldheim
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, too short. They fly me to Cleveland and we land in Cleveland. Then the guy says to me that picks me up, “Jim Welch says hello.” I say, “I remember Jim from east Cleveland” or west Cleveland. Something like that. When I was a disc jockey there when I was serving up the Cream of the Top Pop Crop Elbow Deep in the Ballad Bowl. Others were startin’ ‘em and we were chartin’ ‘em. All that kind of stuff. Jim was a big, big fan. That’s another story for another time. We go by this nursing home and they said, “We want you to see Dorothy Fuldheim.” I said, “Dorothy Fuldheim?” Dorothy Fuldheim was the oldest anchorwoman on television. She was still anchoring newscasts at like close to 90 years of age in Cleveland.
A Ockershausen: Wow.
Johnny Holliday: My oldest daughter Kellie was a flower girl. They used to have a show called the One O’Clock Club on channel five in Cleveland. Dorothy Fuldheim and Bill Gordon were the two people. They had this wedding show one day and my little daughter Kellie was maybe two years old and she was a bridesmaid. I go by and Dorothy Fuldheim is in this assisted living home.
I walk in and they said, “Look who’s here, Mrs. Fuldheim.” She was a tough, tough, tough lady. She looks up and she’s doing her nails. She’s got flaming red hair. She’s painting her nails red. She looks up and she says, “Hello.” She goes back to filing her nails. I said, “Mrs. Fuldheim, what a pleasure to see you again. It’s been a long time.” She says, “It has.” Continues doing her nails. I said, “My daughter Kellie was in one of your shows when you had a wedding show on the One O’Clock Club. She was two years old. Now she’s twenty-something years old.” “Oh, really?” “Okay, Mrs. Fuldheim. It’s great to see you.” How are you doing? Thanks for coming by. One of those type things, you know?
The Cleveland thing was very interesting.
A Ockershausen: That was the introduction to the Hall of Fame. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Johnny Holliday: Right.
A Ockershausen: Which is now a world class destination.
Johnny Holliday: That’s right.
A Ockershausen: Are you in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland? As a disc jockey?
Johnny Holliday: If you go in there’s a big map of the United States and you can pick out whatever city you’re from. You hit the button, up will come the top disc jockeys in that city. Up will come Johnny Holliday.
A Ockershausen: We got to go there.
Johnny Holliday: You hit the button and then it will come on air check and a bio of what I was like on WHK and what I’ve done. Pretty nice.
A Ockershausen: Oh my god. They’ve got the old tapes? Oh, I’ll bet that is.
Johnny Holliday: These are actual tapes.
A Ockershausen: Of the station?
Johnny Holliday: WHK, yeah.
A Ockershausen: Is it still in business now? It’s not the Rock and Roll of course…
Johnny Holliday: I think it’s an all sports station now. Yeah, they’ve all changed.
A Ockershausen: Somebody’s calling me, Johnny. You know what they’re saying?
Johnny Holliday: “Could be Mr. …” No, it couldn’t be Mr. Cooke.
A Ockershausen: It’s Jim Welch.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, it’s probably Jim Welch calling from Cleveland.
A Ockershausen: Johnny, what a wonderful, wonderful career. You don’t do the dinner theater like you used to?
Johnny Holliday: Well, the last show I did because baseball and baseball started but the last show I did was Follies up at Toby’s. I miss it.
A Ockershausen: Where, in Olney?
Johnny Holliday: In the Columbia.
A Ockershausen: Oh, Columbia.
Johnny Holliday: I did Follies. I did 42nd Street. Then I did 18 shows at Harlequin and one show at Burnbrae. One at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.
A Ockershausen: How long ago was that?
Johnny Holliday: Oh, the last show was 11 years ago. The best shows were Christmas Eve at the Kennedy Center.
Jan: With Moira.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, with little Moira would come out.
A Ockershausen: They were all Janice’s productions.
Johnny Holliday: I know. Janice Ockershausen did a wonderful job.
A Ockershausen: Janice tried to bring that back. She had Father John.
Johnny Holliday: We talked about the same thing. Yeah, why can’t you do something like that? Maybe this year it’s too late but next year? Free for the people to come in.
A Ockershausen: That previous management here was very interested in assisting us and promoting that and getting it done. Then they left. It’s a different world now, Johnny. Management is different. They’re not even here in town.
Johnny Holliday: They’re missing the boat on a great service.
A Ockershausen: Great for everybody. Loved it. Loved it. People still talk about it. It was not a commercial venture. It was just to say Merry Christmas to the community and the world.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, that’s right. Great time.
A Ockershausen: Janice is the one that pushes me along and you’ve got your wife pushing you. Thank God. What is your plan now? Are you going to do Maryland again? Of course.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, this is my 38th year with Maryland. This will be our 11th year with the Nationals.
A Ockershausen: I can’t believe the Nationals have been here 11 years. Did you work with them when they went to Stadium?
Johnny Holliday: No. Well, yeah, we did.
A Ockershausen: The first year?
Johnny Holliday: First year. I think that was the second year they were in town too. I got a great partner in Ray Knight.
A Ockershausen: That’s a great, great show you guys do. It’s from the heart.
Johnny Holliday: He’s the best.
A Ockershausen: You had to have your fingers crossed this year that this team looked like it was going to be such a threat but it didn’t happen.
Johnny Holliday: I think when Mike Rizzo and with Dusty Baker and the Lerner Family it’s going to get there. They just need a couple pieces here or there.
A Ockershausen: I would hope when we see Mark and Mark Lerner and he’s very optimistic.
Johnny Holliday: Great guy. Great guy.
A Ockershausen: It’s a wonderful thing that the Lerner family is running this organization.
Johnny Holliday: You’re not kidding. Yeah. Yeah.
A Ockershausen: Many years ago Bowie Kuhn, who you should remember and Bowie Kuhn told Siegel and Siegel told me, I’ll never forget it, Bowie Kuhn said if Major League Baseball gives a teach to Washington they want a family and it’ll be the Lerners. He said that 20 years ago.
Johnny Holliday: Really?
A Ockershausen: He knew that Ted Lerner was interested.
Johnny Holliday: They got the best ownership possible.
A Ockershausen: They got everything. Johnny, you’re the best ownership. We’ll keep listening and watching.
Johnny Holliday: Thank you, Andy.
A Ockershausen: Boy, I’d like to see you in another show if we can recreate something. If I can get Janice to pull it off.
Johnny Holliday: The only problem would be if you guys come to the dinner theater, Toby’s, is just don’t throw the mashed potatoes. I keep moving up there so nobody gets a good shot at me.
A Ockershausen: Johnny, you’re so talented and so wonderful. I just hope and pray that this market appreciates you as much as we do. They’re will never be another situation we all were involved in but it’s a great life, Johnny.
Johnny Holliday: It was the best. When you were leading this radio station, WMAL, everybody wanted to work here, everybody wanted to be a part of it. The success story of WMAL speaks for itself. It’s too bad nobody could duplicate what we had.
A Ockershausen: Impossible.
Johnny Holliday: Nobody. You had the people. You had the community behind you. You had sports, news, involvement, creativity.
A Ockershausen: Great signal, Johnny.
Johnny Holliday: Great signal. You’re exactly right.
A Ockershausen: 630. You can hear them all over.
Johnny Holliday: You think about that all … I run into more people saying, “My goodness. What in the world has happened? If only we could bring that back.”
A Ockershausen: Right, they do that to me all the time.
Johnny Holliday: I’m sure.
A Ockershausen: The fact is we can’t, John. We can’t bring back your best character of all the voices of Johnny Holliday who is it Johnny?
Jan: Jack Kent Cooke?
A Ockershausen: No.
Johnny Holliday: Paul Lynde.
A Ockershausen: You do the best Paul Lynde of anybody that ever lived. Do you guys ever watch TV?
Speaker 8: Oh, yeah. Paul Lynde. He was in the middle of the square.
A Ockershausen: That’s exactly right.
Jan: Hollywood Squares.
A Ockershausen: He was the squares.
Johnny Holliday: He was the squares. That’s right. He was great.
A Ockershausen: Johnny Holliday. John, thank you so much. Good luck to you in everything you’re doing.
Johnny Holliday: Andy, thank you. This has been a treat.
A Ockershausen: Every time we go by at the stadium we’ll yell. Every time I come to your booth at the Maryland games I’ll yell. I don’t come as much as I should.
Johnny Holliday: Well, you should.
A Ockershausen: Well, I should. You’re absolutely right. I keep hoping the Terps are going to turn the corner. It’s all about getting the people, Johnny.
Johnny Holliday: I know. I know. I think they’ve got the right coach in Durkin and certainly the right coach in Mark Turgeon.
A Ockershausen: They got the right people and they’ve got to get the bodies.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, you’re right.
A Ockershausen: Did you do the basketball game last night in Pittsburgh?
Johnny Holliday: I did. Tough loss. Here, they played here last night.
A Ockershausen: Oh, they did? I thought they were in Pittsburgh.
Johnny Holliday: No. They were here last night.
A Ockershausen: That’s awful to lose at home.
Johnny Holliday: Tough loss. They’re very good. It’s a very good team.
A Ockershausen: Pittsburgh is too.
Johnny Holliday: Very good. I know. I know.
A Ockershausen: That’s good for our guy. Johnny, thank you so much. God bless you.
Johnny Holliday: Thank you.
A Ockershausen: I’ll remember your story about seven days.
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah.
A Ockershausen: That’s a great, great story and I believe it.
Johnny Holliday: Take a shot sometime. It can’t hurt.
A Ockershausen: That’s exactly right.
Johnny Holliday: Worked for me.
A Ockershausen: We tell people that, Johnny. Go to church sometime. Just sit in there and think. It’ll work for you. We turn people on through Father John that you know very well.
Johnny Holliday: Oh, the best. He married Moira. Our youngest daughter Moira.
A Ockershausen: Is that right?
Johnny Holliday: Oh, yeah.
A Ockershausen: He reads great. Janice and I. He’s big with us with Don Bosco. Janice is on the board of course. We support Father John. I think you did some Catholic charities as a matter of fact, Johnny?
Johnny Holliday: Yup. Mm-hmm (affirmative)
A Ockershausen: Let’s bring that back.
Johnny Holliday: He’s the best.
A Ockershausen: They need the money.
Johnny Holliday: Yeah, bring that back and WMAL Christmas Eve at the Kennedy Center.
Jan: There you go.
A Ockershausen: Johnny Holliday, we love you. This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town.
Speaker 1: You’ve been listening to Our Town season one with your host Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town podcast episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. We welcome your comments and suggestions on how you liked the show or who you’d like to hear from next. Catch us on Facebook at Our Town DC or visit our website at Our Town DC dot com. Our special thanks to WMAL Radio in Washington, DC for hosting our podcasts.
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