A public radio legend in Kansas City, Mo., is retiring at the end of the month. Walt Bodine, 91, has spent 72 years in the news business, and generations of listeners grew up hearing his trademark tagline, “What do you say to that?” His Walt Bodine Show dates to 1978, and has aired on KCUR since the early 1980s. He launched a late-night talk show, Night Beat, on a local AM station in the 1960s.
His son Tom Bodine told the Kansas City Star that his father was on the air on July 17, 1981, after two skywalks collapsed during a dance at the Hyatt Regency hotel near downtown, killing 114 persons and injuring 216 more. “The night of the Hyatt skywalk collapse, he stayed on the air all night and into the morning so the show could be a place for people to express their feelings and to get up-to-the-minute information,” Tom Bodine said. “It was a place where people could gather.”
Bodine’s interview talk show ran daily until two years ago, when it went to Friday broadcasts. Former KCUR staffer Gina Kaufmann assisted Bodine on and off air for his daily show. “He often said, ‘Let’s not get too exotic,’ ” Kaufmann told the Star. “The local aspect of the show was dear to him. If a show idea seemed to be getting too big for our britches, he would remind us what we were there to do. And he was right.”
He began in radio in 1940 in Sedalia, Mo. After military service in World War II, he continued his broadcast career in Kansas City into the 1970s, and also worked in public relations. He wrote newspaper columns and appeared on local television. Bodine also wrote several books, including What Do You Say to That? and My Times, My Town.
He interviewed hundreds of national and local figures, including Robert F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman
The final Walt Bodine Show, a celebration of its host, will air on April 27. Two specials will look back at Bodine’s decades in journalism through archived recordings on KCUR’s Central Standard program, April 24 and 26.
Starting May 4, in Bodine’s timeslot, KCUR will launch a new program, Central Standard Fridays, focusing on history, food and film.