Veteran radio host Lynn Samuels has died. Former 77 WABC colleague and friend, Mark Simone confirms to FishbowlNY that Samuels, uncharacteristically, missed her weekend Sirius XM show. Simone says the NYPD was called to her Manhattan home Saturday where Samuels’ body was discovered. She was 69.
While no cause of death has been determined, Simone points out that she was a heavy smoker.
At the height of her WABC popularity, Simone recalls, Samuels shared a desk with Rush Limbaugh. She was his lead-in for a time from 10 a.m. to noon.
But before she blossomed on the radio, Simone got to know the opinionated Samuels in the early 1980s–and actually helped her forge a new career path.
“She used to sell the New York Post on the corner of 57th [Street] and Fifth [Avenue],” Simone tells FishbowlNY. “I would tape the man on the street interview there a few times a week. She had such a distinct voice.”
Eventually, Samuels took that distinct voice to WBAI. That led to a tryout at WOR.
“But she was a little too much for them,” Simone says.
However, WABC was listening as well. Samuels, the quintessential New Yorker, was given a weekend show in 1987. Samuels had a 15-year run at WABC. She was hired by former program director John Mainelli.
“She was technically ‘a liberal’ but, unlike so many of today’s talk show hosts, she couldn’t be counted on to toe the approved political line,” Mainelli tells FishbowlNY. “That’s why Sirius XM booted her off Sirius Left and put her on Sirius Stars. She was funny, human and honest before she was anything else and listeners picked up on that right away.”
Simone, who remained good friends with Samuels, says was a trailblazing talker.
“She was a big liberal, which is unusual in radio,” Simone says. “She was actually a liberal that had real success in mainstream radio.”
Even though Samuels could roll up her sleeves and talk politics, she was at her best as a female version of Andy Rooney, waxing poetic on life’s everyday foibles.
“She was candid, outspoken and rabble-rousing to the max. I heard the following at least two-hundred times at WABC, phrased exactly this way: ‘I don’t agree with everything/anything she says but I like her,’” Mainelli admits. ”Sadly, subsequent management couldn’t handle her multi-faceted, non-Limbaugh/[Sean] Hannity/[Mark] Levin ways and demoted her, then fired her.”
The Samuels on-air style was unique, with a sound that was unmistakenly Samuels.
“She was only New York,” Simone says. “I think they tried syndicating her once, and it didn’t work out.”