Photo Source: Stephen Shore
Radio was everything to Billy Coonan. Rock n’ Roll and news and weather and traffic reports and commercials! He loved commercials, especially Hess Gas. He would read along in his radio voice holding up a fist in a black sock for a microphone.
Billy’s friends came into his room all day and night. Dan Ingram and Chuck Leonard on WABC and Vin Scelsa on WNEW and Jim Kerr on WPIX were his favorites. He loved the classical programs along with the hits. And he loved the talk about the issues, even if he couldn’t follow along very well.
But it was hockey that was Billy’s first love. New York Rangers hockey on WNBC, live from the Garden on Wednesday and Sunday nights, Marv Albert and Sal “Red Light” Messina with the call. Nick Fotiu and Rod Gilbert on the forward lines and Ron Greschner on defense and John Davidson in net. And Billy’s favorite, Walt Tkaczuk. Tkaczuk wasn’t a huge scoring threat, but Billy loved pronouncing “kah-CHUCK!” like a sneeze. He would crack up hysterically, and then return to a verbatim replay of Marv’s call seconds after.
Billy’s dad split when he learned his kid was going to be a vegetable. Twenty eight years Billy’s mom spent raising him all by her damn self. Sometimes she hated him as much as her no-good husband. Some life, stuck in a crummy walk-up in Hell’s Kitchen with leaks and a lousy radiator and tending bar and scrubbing floors…and all with a kid who didn’t know nothing but his goddamn radio. Some life. Sure.
She loved Billy, but Jesus Christ it was hard doing it alone. There sure as hell weren’t any lunches at Tavern on the Green for her. Where was hers? And where was his?
At least he was happy, listening to his shows and stories and games. Some life. Maybe he was even better off…