At the end of last week there'd been a report that the decision had been made to stop Paul's cancer treatments and leave him in the hands of hospice care, so while the news isn't particularly surprising to hear if you'd noticed the story, it still is incredibly sad and one of those cases where we did lose a great talent way too early.
Paul Sullivan's show on WBZ was always entertaining. He was a true New Englander, from the voice to the cynical-but-jovial attitude commonplace around here -- you know, where you chuckle and shake your head as you relate your woes. The cynic says "Well, what can you do?" and the jovian replies "The only thing we can at this point: We laugh about it."
He was one of those hosts who was outspoken but still took the time to honor other callers' points of view, up to a point. He could get good and riled up about a disagreement, but was never dogmatic or pigheaded about it. His talking style contrasted greatly with that of David Brudnoy's, whose show preceded Sullivan's for several years until Mr. Brudnoy's death from cancer in 2004 (my god, has it been that long?)
Where the genteel and erudite Brudnoy took on callers with his scholarly attitude and professorial approach (for the longest time the sound clips on his show intro included John Houseman's famous "Socratic method" speech from The Paper Chase), Sully talked to his callers as if they were all down at the bah enjoying a spirited discussion about those jerks in City Hall or that stuff you saw on TV last night while flippin thru the channels, can you believe what they're puttin on the air these days? Sheesh! (Though I gotta admit those girls weren't so hard on the eyes and now, I gotta tell ya...) In the early portion of this decade I often drove home from my later-than-usual job listening to the last half hour of Brudnoy's show and the first of Sullivan's, and always loved the contrast.
However, both were consummate professionals, always courteous to their callers but always ready to argue, respectfully. And even the times when they really got worked up, the conversation never degenerated into an out-and-out rhetorical jingofest.
After Brudnoy's passing, Sullivan took over his 8:00 pm time slot and flourished, even when the cancer and its treatments started to take their toll on him. His last show was at the end of this June, and Mumbles and other politicos showed up to bid him farewell. Sully was able to go out with a upbeat yet bittersweet goodbye; David Brudnoy's last "broadcast" was recorded, quite literally, on his deathbed.
And now cancer's taken both of them. Now we're down two of the best radio men Boston's had in decades. They knew how to make a talk show entertaining without forcing it into ad hoc hostility, strawmen arguments, dittohead parroting, or just outright bashing and in an industry where notoriety and public exposure seems to be mostly based on how annoying one can be, they were class acts. WBZ knows how to pick their on-air personalities, for sure, but we're all the worse for the loss of Paul Sullivan.