My phone rang this morning and a close friend, a long time broadcaster like myself, said, "I have news." She read me the headline that Bill Heywood and his wife Susan had been found dead in a Scottsdale hotel. Scottsdale Police, a department I know and respect through my work as a crime author, say the evidence is clear that it was a double suicide.
I worked with and around Bill over a span of 25 years. What the world needs to know about this legendary Radio and TV personality is that he was a gracious, gracious man. Radio is a wild world of intensely smart, talented, and ambitious people where rage, devious scheming and substance problems are common, a jungle of sudden snakebites and rampaging rhinos.
Bill was never that man.
Bill was courteous to a fault and his hallmark was his smooth sound that perfectly showcased his temperament.
The classic "radio rage" moment, familiar to anyone who has worked in a station, features a "cart" (olden days technology for tape cartridges that contained songs and commercials) being hurled across a studio.
I never saw Bill do that. No one ever saw Bill do that.
Many of the photos that are on the net today show him in casual wear such as Hawaiian shirts or turtlenecks, but I always think of him in dress shirts with french cuffs and white collars. Bill was elegant and posh, in his dress, in his humor, and in his manners. (I have my own photos of Bill, but they are physical photos, mementoes from days at KOY. It would require more concentration than I can muster today to convert them to digital.)
After we had both left KOY, Bill and I crossed paths as those in the radio industry do. When I became a columnist for the Arizona Republic, I gave him writeups from time to time. He always called or dropped me a note to thank me as if I'd hosted him at my house for a weekend or presented him with a cashmere sweater. (I happened to post one of those mentions a short time ago. Read the bottom of this column-click here.)
When Bill and I first met, I was a very young broadcaster and he was a well established star. I was in news, a very different thing from being a disc jockey, which is what Bill was. I often was part of his morning show, providing an extra voice for a bit he was preparing or doing live drop-ins of some kind--news, traffic, the visit of Pope John Paul II, and so on. I don't remember the context of one particular morning I was in his studio, but I remember he made me roar with sudden laughter when he introduced me as "Camille Kimball, Punky Brewster's test-tube mother." I don't know if the joke survives in 2012, but at the time it caught me by such surprise and was so relevant to the current zeitgeist as well as being such a bizarre fit for me, that I have never forgotten how loud I laughed and the moment has often tickled my funny bone privately over these many years.
Bill was tickling on the funny bones of thousands of people for more years than I've been alive. To bring entertainment into the world, a moment's witticism, a well-planned bit, a smooth, calm voice during a harried rush hour, these are golden gifts, a grace to the grinding march of daily life. Bill, you were respected and admired by your colleagues, loved by your audience. I do wish that in your moment of darkness, we could have given some of that luminescence back to you, pulled you back into a hall of mirrors, maybe, where the light you gave us all could be reflected so bright you could not have fallen prey to shadows ever again.
Rest in peace, Bill Heywood.
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Camille Kimball's books:
**A Sudden Shot** as seen on TV!
Coming soon: Masters of True Crime-Chilling Stories of Murder and the Macabre
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