Former WIND, WGN, and WLUP radio host Ed Schwartz died yesterday at the age of 62 after a long struggle with kidney disease. Noah Isackson wrote an extensive profile of Schwartz in Chicago Magazine, and Eric Zorn has written quite a bit about Schwartz’s health and financial problems. WGN host Dean Edwards did a long interview with Schwartz in 2006 when the local journalism community was rallying around him (the woman who calls in to sing his WGN theme song at about 11 minutes in kills me). Update: Eric Zorn files his obit: “They remember how Schwartz birddogged breaking news, interviewed celebrities and public officials, mounted crusades and started a major annual food drive for the poor–as though no one had told him that overnight radio was supposed to be soothing and intimate.”
In 1996, Michael Miner profiled Schwartz after he had been laid off from WLUP and had returned to his first form of journalistic expression: letters to the editor. I found this part impossibly moving:
“When Schwartz was about ten years old his grandparents gave him a $75 Zenith Royal 500 portable radio. He’s never been without a radio since. ‘My living room looks like the radio shack on a U.S. Navy destroyer,’ he said. ‘I have shortwave antennae slung across the ceiling, and at the command post in my living room I have a half dozen radios, all on, and all tuned to various channels and frequencies–police departments, fire departments, coast guard. I’ll show you how crazy I am. I have my living room outfitted like that, and in my bedroom I have a mini version of the same thing. When I’m lying in bed I can turn to the left where I will find a scanner on quietly tuned to the various frequencies I like to listen to.’
“Schwartz falls asleep and wakes to the sound of this scanner. He lives alone.
“His home is the top of a high-rise overlooking Lake Michigan. It’s like living on top of a radio antenna, he says. ‘I’m 600 feet in the air. I can pick up shortwave radio signals from Saudi Arabia. The night the TWA flight went down and everybody turned on CNN to see what was going on, I turned on the shortwave and listened to the coast guard rescue effort at the scene.'”