For the second time, in way too short a period, I’m writing a blog about the death of a friend. This friend has been in our lives for close to 33 years. A little more than a year ago, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer, and as he has said, from that point on, his life had an expiration date! Sadly, that date came on Wednesday, February 17, 2021.
I first met him in the late spring of 1988, when he was assigned a desk in the hall of the 8th floor of the ABC Building, right outside my studio. He had just moved to New York from California for a new radio gig, and sadly, within weeks of the move, his wife left him. I really liked him and knew he was a real radio guy, and Susie and I tried to involve him in lots of things we had going on in our life. The first fall that he was at WABC we started a bar hopping Saturday around Long Island, and included him. For that first bar hopping experience, we made him take the Long Island Rail Road to Mineola, and then traveled around from bar to bar in our Ford van…in subsequent years, he rented a limo to drive us around in style!
He took us out to dinner at his favorite Italian Restaurant, Patsy’s, on West 56th Street in NYC. We took him to dinner at our favorite Italian Restaurant, Piccolos, on Jericho Turnpike in Mineola. He was a mainstay at our annual Post Holiday Parties in early January, where we crammed 70 or 80 people into our house. He good naturedly complained about the fact the house was crowded and our AC wasn’t on, and about the size of our small bathroom off the kitchen! We had him over to our house for dinner and we were guests for dinner at his apartment in NYC overlooking Central Park. We were guests on two luxury dinner cruises around Manhattan for the staff of WABC, including the first one when we were an hour and a half late, because of NY Marathon traffic, and he said the boat wasn’t leaving till we got there, because we were the main reason for the cruise!
Then there was the weekend when Susie and I were his guests on a trip to Chicago to see Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas Concert at the Chicago theater! We flew out of LaGuardia, stayed in a fancy hotel, had a great pre-show dinner, and then partied with Mannheim Steamroller after the show. It was also on that trip that we got to meet his Mom and his brother, and it was an incredible weekend! We’ve been to multiple parties at the 21 Club, the River Club, and some other incredible venues we would have never been to without his friendship!
Of course, if you talk about incredible experiences with him, I cannot leave out being invited to his fabulous wedding to Kathryn 10+ years ago. What an incredible weekend at the Breakers in Palm Beach, and I cannot talk about that wedding without mentioning being 50 feet away from Elton John in a post-reception concert! Speaking of that wedding, let me tell you a story from that weekend that I’ve used many times when people ask me what he was like. The Rehearsal Dinner was supposed to be outside, but a rain storm forced it to move inside. At one point, Susie and I are standing at a tall table, eating some appetizers, when this other couple we didn’t know came up and asked if they could share the table with us. Talk got around to who we were a guest of, and I said we were friends of the groom, having worked with him when he started his radio show and was unknown in New York. When we asked them, they said they too were from the grooms side, and when I asked how they knew him, the man said, “I used to cut his grass.” This is the kind of man our friend was…he didn’t forget people!
I remember going to meetings before he arrived in New York, talking about his show, but strangely, have absolutely no memory of the first time we met. It’s almost like we had always been friends, and even though he was from the mid-west, and I was born in a borough of New York City, we seemed to have so much in common. We were both Capricorns, having been born in January, ten days, and one year apart (1950 for me, 1951 for him). He grew up with a brother and I grew up as an only child, but we were both children of the 50s, teenagers in the 60s, and became adults in the early 70s. We had a lot of common memories growing up, and talked about our shared Baby Boomer history a lot…and talk we did!
Every morning at the ABC Building, I’d stop by his desk, and we’d chat. When WABC and WPLJ moved to 2 Penn Plaza, above Penn Station, his desk was in a small bullpen area about halfway around the floor, and I was disappointed that he was no longer right outside my studio! I’d still stop by his desk early in the day, before the station started getting populated, and when he moved into an office, our morning chats continued. Although we had differing political views, politics was a subject that was never brought up anytime we ever spoke! It was not the basis of our friendship. One of my favorite memories, concerns the day I stuck my head in his office, and he said, “Come on in!” As I sat down, he told me, “I’m always happy to see your face at my office door, because I know that unlike most of the other people that come into my office, you don’t want anything from me.” I replied, “Just your friendship,” to which he replied, “You know you’ve got that!”
I remember one morning when they were re-building the plaza around 2 Penn, and he told me the following story. Construction had been going on for several weeks, and everyday there was a different way into the building. He’d gotten dropped off on the 7th Avenue side of the building, but couldn’t figure out how to gain entrance to the building. He approached a construction worker and asked, “How the hell do I get in today?” In typical NY Construction Worker fashion, his answer was, “Around the corner fatso!” I couldn’t help myself, and laughed at the story, even though he was kind of put off by the encounter. I encouraged him to tell the story on the air, and he did, pointing out to his listeners that he suffered through the same BS that the rest of us did in our lives!
For many years, I played the character Moe Thacker on his show. Moe was the head of the United Screeners of America, and he described Moe as “Union Thug Moe Thacker.” Usually I’d get a call to come around to Studio 17B when he wanted to talk on the air about something his call screener (the first person you talk to when you want to get on a radio show) had done wrong, and we’d go back and forth while I defended Mr. Snerdly (his made-up name for his screener, James Golden) against his charges. It was always fun and I know he got a kick out of my portrayal!
The last time we saw him, was when we went to dinner at a local Italian restaurant in Palm Beach, Florida in February of 2019. It was a great night, and even though we hadn’t seen him in the flesh in a couple of years, we fell right back into the casual easy relationship we’d always enjoyed. We were honored when he told Susie and I that we were the first people in New York who had opened our home to him, and we told him he was always welcome to our new home in Ocean City.
We knew him before he was anybody. We suffered along with his growing pains, we tried to help with his loneliness in New York City, but then we also celebrated along with him when ultimately, success came his way. He was a good friend, who loved sharing his success with those around him, and one who really got more of a kick out of giving, then receiving! He was one of a kind, and Susie and I count ourselves among the very lucky to have the kind of relationship with him we did!
Frankly, I think I was more shocked on February 3rd of last year, when his wife texted us the news of his Stage 4 cancer diagnosis, then when I found out that the inevitable had happened. Back in a text to me in the middle of March last year, he said, “Frank, it’s Stage 4 Lung Cancer. It’s months – a year if the treatment works.” He knew his time was limited, and that nothing he was going to do was going to change that. He knew his expiration date!
Yes, Rush Hudson Limbaugh III was a good friend of ours, and Susie and my lives were better for having him in it. We have always loved you Rush, and will continue to, and we will cherish the memories we made over the years!
Our sympathies to his wife Kathryn, his brother David and his family, and all that loved him. I’m so sad today that he’s no longer a text away! God speed my friend…
Rush and Moe Thacker