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Imus draws crowd before dawn

The caustic talk show celebrity hosts his radio show from the Westin Innisbrook Resort.


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2001

PALM HARBOR -- A radio show isn't much to look at, just a bunch of folks wearing earphones, talking into microphones about whatever amuses them.

[Times photo: Scott Keeler]
Radio personality Don Imus broadcasts his Imus in the Morning show early Thursday from the Westin Innisbrook Resort. More than 200 fans showed up to watch.
It's not as if you're watching a play or something.

Yet, to the more than 200 fans who showed up at 5 a.m. Thursday for the live remote of the Imus in the Morning show at the Westin Innisbrook Resort, the radio program was a pageant of the highest order.

It wasn't boring at all, said Tampa resident Scott Buckingham, who was at the radio show with his wife, Cyndie.

"Besides being informative on current and national issues, I like the humor and sarcasm," Scott Buckingham said. "We listen to him on a regular basis."

More than 2.5-million people listen to Don Imus weekly on 85 stations across the country, including Clearwater's WTAN-AM 1340, where the talk show has aired since April.

Imus in the Morning also is broadcast live on cable's MSNBC. The TV channel traveled to Palm Harbor for Thursday's and today's live remotes.

An unshaven Imus arrived at Innisbrook's Edinburgh conference center at 5:15 a.m. Thursday wearing his ever-present cowboy hat.

After settling into the chair flown to Florida specifically for his use, Imus never left it during the 6 to 10 a.m. broadcast and the autograph signing that followed.

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On stage, the broadcaster was flanked by the Imus in the Morning crew: Charles McCord, Bernard McGuirk, Larry Kenney and Rob Bartlett.

CBS sports commentator Jim Nance, who's in town to do CBS's Super Bowl pre-game show, reported sports.

Imus kicked the show off with praise for Innisbrook, calling it a first-class resort. His suite was the size of his New York apartment, he said.

To the audience, made up mostly of people 40 and older, Imus said for laughs: "I'd like to say that I appreciate you all coming, but it makes little or no difference," likening the group to people "who look like they couldn't get into Denny's."

Not too long into the show, Imus spied Warren Stewart in the audience. Stewart had covered his clothes with about 25 pins made from Fred Imus Southwest Salsa lids and was carrying a paper chain made from the salsa labels.

(Fred, Don Imus' brother and frequent caller to the show, sells clothing, coffee, mugs and salsa through a company called Auto Body Express.)

Stewart, who lives in Venice and makes puppets for a living, said he made the lid accoutrements in hopes of getting on TV or at least getting noticed by Imus.

Stewart got his wish. Imus called him a "mental patient" and said: "It won't be funny when he takes out an AK-47."

During the show, former NFL stars Mike Ditka, Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms -- all in town for Super Bowl -- stopped by to chat.

Except for a comically mean exchange with Esiason, Imus had his surly meter set on low.

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