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General information  

  • Date of birth : 09/12/1933
  • Date of death : 12/03/2001

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  • Jr. Downey Morton

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Morton Downey Jr. (1933)

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  Summary  

Morton Downey, Jr. (December 9, 1932 — March 12, 2001) was an American singer, songwriter and later a television talk show host of the 1980s who pioneered the "trash TV" format on his program The Morton Downey Jr. Show.

Legally named Sean Morton Downey, Jr., he dropped "Sean" from his stage name, as his father, Morton Downey had.

  Biography  

 career
Downey attended New York University. He was a program director and announcer at a radio station in Connecticut in the 1950s, and later worked in various markets around the U.S., including Phoenix , Miami and Seattle . Like his father, Downey pursued a career in music, recording in both pop and country styles. He sang on a few records and then began to write songs, several of which were popular in the 1950s and 1960s. He joined ASCAP as a result. In 1958, he recorded "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams", which he sang on national television on a set that resembled a dark street with one street light. In 1981, "Green Eyed Girl" charted on Billboard Magazine country chart, peaking at #95.

In the 1980s, Downey was a talk show host at KFBK-AM in Sacramento, California, where he established his abrasive and much imitated right wing, populist style, relentlessly deriding anyone who disagreed with him or had a liberal point of view. Downey's success laid the groundwork for more aggressive, opinion-based talk radio.

Downey was fired in 1983 for cracking "an ethnic joke about a member of the city council out there who was of Asian descent, and he refused to apologize ;" he was replaced on KFBK by Rush Limbaugh, who has held the time slot ever since, later via his national syndication. Downey also had a stint on WMAQ-AM in Chicago where he unsuccessfully tried to get other on air radio personalities to submit to drug testing. Downey's largest effect on American culture came from his popular, yet short-lived, syndicated late 1980s television talk show, The Morton Downey Jr Show.

 later career
In 1990, Downey resurfaced on CNBC with an interview program called Showdown, which was followed by three attempted talk radio comebacks: first in 1992 on Washington, D.C. radio station WWRC; then in 1993 on Dallas radio station KGBS, where he would scream insults at his callers. He was also hired as the station's VP of Operations. The following year he returned to CNBC with a short-lived television show, Downey, that was similar in theme to his earlier, more popular show. In one episode, Downey claimed to have had a psychic communication with O.J. Simpson's murdered ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.

His third - and final - attempt at a talk radio comeback occurred in 1997 on Cleveland radio station WTAM in a late evening time slot. It marked his return to the Cleveland market, where Downey had been a host for crosstown radio station WERE in the early 1980s prior to joining KFBK. This stint came shortly after the surgery for lung cancer that removed one of his lungs.

On August 30, 1997, Downey quit his WTAM radio talk show to focus on pursuing legal action against Howard Stern. Downey had accused Stern of spreading rumors that he resumed his smoking habits, to which publicist Les Schecter retorted, "He hasn't picked up a cigarette." His replacement was former WERE host Rick Gilmour.

Following his death, news reports and obituaries incorrectly credited him as the composer of "Wipe Out." As of 2008, Downey's official website continue to make this claim. Prior to Downey's death, Spin in April 1989 had identified the "Wipe Out" authorship as a myth.

 personal life
Morton Downey Jr's parents were also in show business; his father, Morton Downey, was a popular singer, and his mother, Barbara Bennett, was a singer and dancer. His aunts included Hollywood film stars Constance and Joan Bennett, from whom he was estranged, and his maternal grandfather was the celebrated matinée idol Richard Bennett. Born into a life of luxury, he was raised next door to the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. He is not related to actor Robert Downey, Jr or to journalist Leonard Downie, Jr..

Downey was married four times and had four children from three of those marriages. With wife Helen he had Melissa, with Joan he had daughters Tracey and Kelli, and with fourth wife and widow Lori he had a daughter. He and Lori met when she appeared as a dancer in a show he attended in Atlantic City.

According to Terry Pluto's book, Loose Balls, Downey was one of the owners of the New Orleans Buccaneers basketball team in the American Basketball Association in the late 1960s.

Downey was also president and co-founder of the proposed World Baseball Association in 1974. The WBA proposed a number of rule changes, including the use of five designated hitters to replace defensive players who would remain in the game; the use of one designated runner per game; the pitcher would be required to throw a pitch within 20 seconds; a walk would be on three balls instead of the usual four; and stealing home after the sixth inning would count as two runs. The WBA never played a game.

In the Super Mario Bros. video game series, the character, Morton Koopa, Jr. was named after him.

 death
In 1996, Downey was diagnosed with lung cancer and had one of his lungs removed. He did a complete about-face on the issue of tobacco use, going from a one-time member of the National Smokers Alliance to a staunch anti-smoking activist. He continued to speak against smoking until his death from lung cancer in 2001.

After being diagnosed with lung cancer, he commented, "I had spawned a generation of kids to think it was cool to smoke a cigarette. Kids walked up to me until a matter of weeks ago, they'd have a cigarette in their hand and they'd say, 'Hey, Mort,' or, 'Hey, Mouth, autograph my cigarette.' And I'd do it." He also blamed tobacco companies for lying to consumers about cigarettes, although congressman Ron Paul had advised him, in 1988, while on his show, that smoking was highly unhealthy and responsible for a huge number of deaths every year.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Morton Downey Jr.", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.