By Doug McIntyre
KABC, Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES — The great talk radio host Ray Briem died yesterday (12/12/12) at age 82. For nearly 30-years Ray owned overnights in Southern California. Ray was heard weeknights from Midnight to 5:00 am and his show was mandatory listening for the night people. Ray was one of the principle architects of the Prop 13 movement in California, providing Howard Jarvis a regular platform to pitch his historic tax reform measure.
Years before anyone was talking about immigration, Ray did a broadcast from a helicopter over the Mexican border to report on the then-rarely discussed but emerging issue.
He was a passionate supporter of big band music and the great American Songbook and regularly featured interviews with music legends including folks like Les Paul and Artie Shaw and going back in time, Louis Armstrong. He was invited to Sinatra recording sessions and was in the studio when Sinatra recorded “Come Fly With Me.”
While this might seem like nothing today, in the pre-internet days, Ray had an AP wire service machine installed in his house. He was
always on top of the latest breaking news.
A ham radio enthusiast, Ray regularly monitored North Korean radio and played propaganda broadcasts from behind the iron curtain. He was the first American broadcaster to simulcast with the Soviet Union doing regular features with Vladamir Posner, who eventually dropped the segment under pressure from the KGB.
Ray was so beloved, a spinster listener left him her house in her will.
He was also passionate about aviation and owned two airplanes.
Ray was nationally syndicated by the ABC Radio Networks for a number of years, but it was his career at KABC in Los Angeles that earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Ray Briem was born and raised in Ogden, Utah and his first broadcast was on VJ Day in 1945 when the local newsman ran out of the studio and got drunk and the news director told 15-year-old Ray Briem to read the news.
On a personal note, Ray Briem had me on his show as a guest to talk about a piece I had written about the Wright Brothers. It was that appearance that led to my own radio career and, amazingly, inheriting overnights on KABC after Ray retired. A lot of what I did on Red Eye Radio (including using Come Fly With Me as the theme song) came from Ray Briem.
I stayed in touch with him over the years since his retirement and he remained a never-ending source of sage advice, especially to an overnight guy. He was a great professional, a single dad who raised two sons alone, and a man of impeccable integrity.
Doug McIntyre is host of the morning show on KABC, Los Angeles.