From the editor: In writing and researching a recent article on “World Famous” Tom Murphy’s time at KJR-Seattle (read it here), I came across a 50-year-old aircheck and a couple fascinating facts about Pat O’Day. I decided to write a story, so here you go. Steven L. Smith
In the annals of Seattle radio history, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone more influential than Pat O’Day in his role at KJR in the 1960s into the ’70s. He was Mr. KJR — a top jock with instant name recognition, a nationally known program director and one of the leading dance and concert promoters in the country.
None of the above information is news to anyone who was raised in the Pacific Northwest in the last half of the 20th Century. O’Day, prior to becoming a general manager and radio station owner, was a likable DJ with a cast of humorous on-air characters including “Granny Peters,” “Wonder Mother,” “The Real Santa Claus” and an annoying kid named “Gary Finster.” O’Day’s telephone conversations with Finster were corny but memorable. In a recording made several years after they’d left KJR, Larry Lujack and Jerry Kaye can be heard joking around about the O’Day/Finster bit.
In introducing Gary Finster, O’Day would describe the precocious youth as a “7-year-old Bellevue school dropout, a smart aleck, a problem child, and a juvenile delinquent.” There wasn’t much left to the imagination. Here’s a not so closely guarded secret, although it’s probably not widely known either — Gary Finster was in reality Pat’s second oldest son, Garry O’Day. (Pat has three sons and a daughter).
That revelation is not the end of our story, there is more. Pat O’Day’s influence in the entertainment business could make things happen. As an example, the O’Day family memorabilia collection includes a coveted photo of Pat, along with his KJR buddy Lan Roberts, posing with Elvis at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.
A dad with clout can also make exciting things happen for his kids. Imagine the hoopla when Micky Dolenz of “The Monkees” dropped by Bellevue’s Ringdall Junior High School in the early ’70s. “The Monkees” TV show had ended in 1968, but Dolenz was still a teen idol — recording solo, appearing on TV and in movies, and by 1975 he would be back performing his hits as part of “Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart” and their act “The Great Golden Hits of The Monkees.”
On that autumn day, when the pop star visited the school, Dolenz ostensibly dropped by to watch a Junior Varsity football game. His arrival was a surprise for almost everybody at the school. He showed up early, just in time for lunch with the awestruck students. One adolescent blond kid, who sat next to Micky Dolenz in the cafeteria that day, was known to KJR listeners as Gary Finster.
It’s not difficult to guess the identity of the adult with the connections necessary to talk a Monkee into attending a JV football game at a school where Pat O’Day’s boys happened to be students. Ringdall Junior High’s 1971/’72 yearbook captured the moment: Dolenz is seated next to that purported “juvenile delinquent” Gary Finster (glasses).
That’s the background information, now let’s listen to a ’60s aircheck of Pat O’Day attempting to have a pleasant telephone conversation with “smart aleck” Gary Finster. Sure, it’s camp and silly, but it’s also very 1960s. The personal dynamics between dad and son are pretty funny. You have to wonder if Pat went home after his show and wrung his kid’s neck. Of course, Garry’s real-life mother might have beat Pat to it when she heard the “my mom’s on a diet” joke.
O’Day & Finster: Nov. 1966 aircheck, edited. (Run time 4:40)
Addendum to original article, about a week later: Thanks to fellow blogger Mike Barer helping out, Gary Finster that former “juvenile delinquent” from Bellevue commented on this post. He is all grown up now and probably still a “smart aleck,” but Garry O’Day shared some of the inside scoop that helps flesh out the story. He explained why a star such as Micky Dolenz would drop by a Junior High School:
“It was for a photo shoot. Micky wanted photo ops around his target audience. He was at the time a ‘Tiger beat’ Magazine teen dream icon. The Ringdall shoot was arranged to boost his reputation among the teenyboppers. We (the participants in the event) reviewed the details of the whole thing the night before over a prime rib dinner at the Butcher Restaurant. Bigger Butcher with horseradish side for me…Big fat yum-o!
“I know from that photo with Micky that it was a JV football day cuz the coach always made the guys on the team wear neckties at school on game days. I was the first string fullback and scored the game winning touchdown on a dive off right tackle during the last minute of the game. All in all it was a big day for me.”
Garry also verified the truth of another exciting rumor this editor had heard, although apparently no photos were shot to document the day.
“Yes, it’s true. On the very same day Micky visited Ringdall Junior High, my big brother, Jerry, toured Davy Jones (another heart-throb Monkee), around Bellevue’s Newport High School. It was for a similar purpose, but Jones wanted slightly older demographics (pics for his upcoming promotional tour). You now know the entire O’Day/Monkees’ scheme; I was told to never divulge it with the threat of death. My days are numbered.” Garry O’Day (son of Pat O’Day) AKA Gary Finster
In future posts, Puget Sound Media will feature stories and audio memories of some of Pat’s other humorous characters including “Granny Peters,” “Wonder Mother,” and “The Real Santa Claus.”
Credits: Facebook pages of Pat O’Day, Garry O’Day, Jerry O’Day, “KJR Seattle Channel 95,” and “I went to Ringdall Jr. High”