Monday, January 11, 2010

Picturing Pat

The only person who scared me worse than George J. Jennings was Pat Walsh. Jennings was an imposing figure, over six feet tall, dark-haired and stentorian of voice. He looked—and sounded—like a full grown Orson Welles. He carried himself like Patton and did not suffer fools, gladly or otherwise. Pat Walsh had no refinements that I was ever able to determine.

“Don’t you think he looks like a big old Razorback hog?” Phil North asked me early on. Yeah, I did!

Describing Pat reminds me of the fable of the six blind men who went to look at an elephant. One touched the side of the beast and said the elephant was like a wall. Another grabbed its tail and said the elephant was like a rope. The one who felt its trunk said the elephant was like a python, and so on. They each had a little piece, but none of ‘em had the whole picture. That’s how it was (and will probably always be) with Pat.

His exterior was not a pretty sight—I wrestled with the word “ugly” but it lost on points. Let’s just say he was scary-looking. To the point where a kid from Friendship decided that George wasn’t so bad after all.

Pat was HUGE. He’d have gone 300 pounds easy. Like George, he was over six feet (it occurs to me now that 1971 was a good year for tall idols) and belted his pants halfway up a beer belly gone wild. He never wore a tie at work, probably because there was no off-the-rack shirt in this world that would button around such a neck as he had.

His dishwater-blond hair, the line of which started way up his forehead, was somewhere between a crew cut and a flat top. It was never longer than three-quarters of an inch and it laid in every possible direction. He had jowls like Jabba The Hutt and the upper right portion of his forehead was adorned with what they told me was a whiskey knot.

His voice was the opposite of Jennings’—nasal and shrill and LOUD. When he was chewing somebody’s butt to bloody shreds in his office up front, you could hear it VERY clearly all the way to the back door. I ran outside more than a few times, fearing the roof would blow right off from one of his tirades.

His desk was legendary. How it did not collapse from the weight of the papers stacked on it I will never know. It was a monument to clutter, a doctoral thesis of apparent disorganization. Yet you could ask Pat for Pulse ratings numbers from 1964 and he could whip ‘em out in under three seconds. Once, during one of his rare vacations, Eloise Copeland, Celeste Dozier and Eula Mae Caldwell (three of the great women without whom KAAY would NOT have functioned) had the temerity to clean off his desk and carefully file every document away. When Pat returned, the fecal matter immediately struck the blades of the rotating ventilation device. I was not there, but I am told the air turned purple before it went black. Pat said it took him nearly a month before he could find anything again.

Lest I leave you with the impression that Pat Walsh was the cigar-chomping evil twin of Lou Grant on steroids (with none of Mr. Grant’s charm), let me point out that Pat was the greatest General Manager that KAAY ever had. You can’t find anybody to refute that. Nobody who came after him was worthy of polishing his Buick station wagon. He was the first—and probably only—GM in the history of Lin Broadcasting who ever billed a million dollars from a stand-alone AM station in a calendar year. The decline of KAAY can be placed squarely at the feet of whatever idiot it was at Multimedia (to whom Lin sold the station in 1976) who thought it would be a good idea to replace Pat. KAAY began to lose its mojo on the day when I watched Pat clean out his office.

Here is the essence of Pat Walsh: in the early summer of 1971, I had moved to Little Rock to fill in for vacationing DJs. My status went from part-time to full-time and I worked for fully a month without a day off. The payroll at Lin lagged a week or so behind, and the paycheck I got wouldn’t even cover my rent. I went to Pat about it and he pulled a roll of twenty-dollar bills out of his pocket that staggered me. He peeled off a hundred dollars—which was some MONEY back then—and told me to let him know if I needed more.

Years later, when I reminded him of the incident and thanked him again, HE DIDN’T EVEN REMEMBER IT! Eloise Copeland summed it up for me: “Oh, that’s just Pat. He’d have done that for anybody.”

Pat Walsh raised me from a pup. He didn’t have to give me the time of day, but I guess he saw something in me that was worth cultivating. He would never answer my questions directly, preferring to make me think for myself—to figure things out the way he had always done. He PUSHED me into what I am today and I thank his splendid memory for it.

I have only one big regret about our long relationship. I never did tell him that I loved him.

But I think he knew.

David B. Treadway
Doc Holiday VII


  1. Pat Walsh reminds me of Robert Hyland. Hyland ran KMOX (CBS Radio) from 1960 until his death in 1992. He pioneered the "At Your Service" format which put KMOX in double digit ratings and annual sales figures in the millions. Hyland was ruthless, but had a keen sense of sales and programming talent--something one doesn't see very often.

    Perhaps it takes a certain degree of ruthlessness to make things work, as long as its backed with intelligence, integrity, and an ability to see the big picture. It sounds like Pat Walsh had all of those qualities.

  2. As always, I enjoyed the post from David B. I have great memories too of Pat Walsh. My impressions of Pat run close to his. Anyone who knew Pat, I am sure, will have stories of his rough, gruff, exterior that he was very proud of. Not everyone got to see the other side. A comment that paints a great picture of Pat in the "compassion department" is this: As a young Sonny Martin, newly married, and feeling rather grown up, I arranged to buy a house. I wanted to take care of all the details of the buy without involving my financial consultant (my dad). When it came time to close on the house the mortgage company called with details of time and place. They also told me the amount of money I would need for closing. I had never known of anything called "closing costs" I was in a heap of trouble having used all the money I could come up with for a down payment.

    I was too embarrassed to talk to my dad about the money. I went to Pat and asked if it was possible to get an advance on my pay. He listened to my story and told me that it was a policy of Lin Broadcasting to never advance anyone pay. I turned to leave Pat's office when I heard him say...."but that doesn't keep me from giving you the money personally." "Just keep it between us." That was Pat. I feel free now to let y'all know. He was my boss and my friend.

    Also on hearing the stories of the famous, loud butt chewings.....Funny, but Pat never said anything cross or otherwise to me about my time on the air. Also, not much from A.J.either. Mostly just good or constructive. (like how to say K A A Y without running the two A's together...and they had stopped us from using K- Double- A- Y) The other character in David B's post, G.J.J., a great radio newsman, was not my boss. We got along when we needed to.

    Jerry Sims..The Middle....Sonny Martin