The Critical List – 8 Things I’ve Learned from Working with Walt Bodine

Local legend Walt Bodine is retiring on April 27th, finally taking a break at the age of 91.  I’ve been a regular guest on his KCUR-FM show since about 1998, and it’s been a terrific education.  Working with Walt is truly learning at the feet of the master.  Check out the station’s tribute page here.  Mine begins below…..

8 Things I’ve Learned from Working with Walt Bodine

1. Keep it moving, keep it interesting.  The last thing you want on your broadcast is dead air.  The second-to-last is boring drivel.  Walt never let anything slow down the momentum of a show, and when he wasn’t as quick himself anymore, he let others take the lead.  He also had a real knack for shutting down Chatty Cathys without insulting them.  Even when they deserved it.

2. Perspective is everything.  That calm, no-nonsense radio presence was not an act.  Walt simply has one of the best attitudes of anyone I’ve ever met.  The vagaries of the business – and the world in general – just don’t rattle him the way they do most people.  That’s why his career and his life have both lasted so long.

3. Lack of professionalism is the 8th deadly sin.  The only times I’ve ever known Walt to lose his cool was when someone didn’t seem to care about the program as much as he did.  Major outbursts aren’t his style, but you can usually tell if he’s unhappy.  Mess up the show, there won’t be any doubt.

4. The “kids” are not your enemies.  Instead of feeling threatened by the presence of younger talent, Walt nurtured it, mentoring countless fellow broadcasters throughout his career.  He didn’t care who you were or where you came from – if you deserved his support, you had it.

5. You can appreciate the past without trying to live in it.  Walt loves local history (he is local history), but he understands the fallacy of “good old days” thinking.  Even while sharing tales of KC’s past, which he does better than anyone, he remains engaged with the present and sanguine about the future.

6. Just because your name is in the title doesn’t mean the show is all about you.  I’ve chatted with Walt about meeting celebrities, the evolution of the Plaza, our favorite Winstead’s orders……yet I have only a vague idea of his politics, and no clue what he thinks about religion.  He rarely talks about his personal life, and gets embarrassed if you make a fuss over him.  That seems almost quaint in this age of over-sharing and endless pontification, but it’s the mark of a true class act.

7. There are few greater pleasures than sharing a nice meal with your friends.  By the time I got to know him, Walt could barely see or walk.  Now, he can’t do either, but that hasn’t stopped him from indulging his love of good food and great conversation.  He has one hell of an eclectic social circle, so even if the cuisine doesn’t measure up, lunch with Walt is still a guaranteed event.

8. Kansas City is a great place, and don’t you forget it.  Walt could have gone national, like fellow KC broadcaster Walter Cronkite, but he remains devoted to his hometown.  I’ve never heard him lament that decision.  His affection is not uncritical, but he knows what this city can be.  He loves it, and it loves him back.

So, enjoy your permanent vacation, my friend.  You’ve earned every minute of it!


– Loey Lockerby

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