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Gary Burbank Left Airwaves In 2007

Gary Burbank
Gary Burbank

I must be off!

Doesn't seem like it, but Gary Burbank broadcast his final WLW-AM show nine years ago today, on Dec. 21, 2007. So what's he up to today?

Burbank, now 75, was the creative genius and wicked satirist who produced more original comedy material in a week than most late-night TV hosts. He came to WLW-AM in 1981 for what he thought would be a year, and ended up staying 26 years and winning two prestigious national Marconi Awards as best large-market personality of the year. 

Gary filled the airwaves with a crazy cast of characters: redneck commentator Earl Pitts; the Synonymous Bengal; newsman Dan Buckles; former Reds owner Marge "Saint CEO" Schott; Bengals owner Mikey Brown in the daily "All My Bengals" soap opera; blues player Howlin' Blind Muddy Slim; Rev. Deuteronomy Skaggs; The Big Fat Balding Guy With A Stubby Cigar In His Mouth pitching products and promising that "This time I'm being honest with you";  and the hopelessly befuddled Gilbert G-N-A-R-L-E-Y from the St. Pia Zadora Golden Buckeye Retirement Community in Pisgah.

Gary Burbank in his WLW-AM studio days before his retirement in 2007.
Credit John Kiesewetter
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Gary Burbank in his WLW-AM studio days before his retirement in 2007.

In retirement, he enjoys fishing and golf, "doing all the stuff an old guy does." He plays and composes music. And he's still doing nationally syndicated daily Earl Pitts commentaries (which WLW-AM buries at 5:22 a.m. to keep it off a competing station, like WGRR-FM or WUBE-FM).

But his favorite role is Grandpa.

"I've got five granddaughters. All girls, all the time," told me over lunch last week at Frisch's. "The oldest is 18. She goes to Purdue and wants to be vet. The youngest is 10. They're all beautiful – of course I'd say that – but they are!"

Burbank and his wife split their time between homes in Dunellon, Fla., and Northern Kentucky, where his granddaughters live. He's also converting the studio in his Florida home "from radio into more of a music studio."

He doesn't miss radio – except when he thinks of a funny idea that would better fit Dan Buckles or "Big Fat" than Earl. (You know what make him sick...)

"Earl was never my favorite character, but he was the one that became the most popular," Burbank says. When he makes public appearances to talk about Earl Pitts – as he did recently in Tampa –he forgets how arch-conservative Pitts' fans can be.

"Earl is bigger in Tampa than he is anywhere.  And they (fans) are all hard-core conservative, and I'm not. I didn't realize they were that far right! I did a little joke or two about Trump, they didn't laugh," he says.

"I consider myself a knee-jerk, reactionary, raging moderate," he says.

My selfie with Gary at the Highland Heights Frisch's.
Credit John Kiesewetter
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My selfie with Gary at the Highland Heights Frisch's.

"Do I miss it (radio)? No. I do miss being 10 years younger," he says. "There are times when I think of a really funny piece, but it might not fit Earl. I'd much rather be Dan Buckles or Big Fat."

Where is Gary Burbank when we so desperately need a laugh? Where's the Big Fat Bald Guy With The Stubby Cigar In His Mouth hawking Trump steaks, Trump shirts, Trump Vodka, Trump Natural Spring Water, Trump ties, Trump resorts, Trump hats or the outstanding results of Trump University?

And this time I'm being honest with you…

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