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CNN Today

Chicago Remembers WGN-AM's Great Bob Collins

Aired February 9, 2000 - 1:11 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: A radio talk show host and two other people have died in a plane collision near Chicago. The two small planes struck each other, then crashed in Zion, Illinois, about 45 miles north of downtown, Chicago. WGN host Bob Collins and a neighbor were on board one of the planes, which crashed into a hospital roof. The second plane crashed on a street, killing the student pilot.

Nancy Pender (ph) from affiliate WFLD reports on the man who dominated the morning drive in Chicago for more than a decade.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NANCY PENDER, WFLD REPORTER (voice-over): For 15 years, Bob Collins was the voice that jump started our mornings.

BOB COLLINS, WGN HOST: Well, it is Monday morning. We all survived the weekend.

PENDER: He first came to Chicago in 1974 as WGN radio's afternoon drive host. And though he did well, it wasn't until moving to mornings that he became a ratings powerhouse. In his time slot, he has twice as many listeners as his closest competition.

A stunned Steve Carver WGN's vice president and general manager had this to stay about his colleague.

STEVE CARVER, WGN GENERAL MANAGER: We're talking about maybe the greatest morning man that this market's ever seen. He had a one-on- one relationship with his listeners. He was well thought of by everybody at this radio station, by the Tribune company.

PENDER: Bob Collins first got into radio in Lakeland, Florida, and at the tender age of 14 already had his own show. After graduating from college, Bob went onto jobs in Tampa, Milwaukee, San Diego and Los Angeles before moving on to Chicago. But as much as he loved radio, he was just as passionate about Motorcycles and Airplanes. It was an appropriate 10th-anniversary gift when Bob appeared "Fox Thing" back in March of last year. It turned out to be an ominous exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've all chipped in here on the staff, and we bought you your own brand new airplane. COLLINS: Oh, my gosh, it's even powered, except I broke the key.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All ready?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh no.

Are you flying a lot these day?

COLLINS: Yes, I have been. Quite a bit, as a matter -- oh, here, I see....

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PENDER: As news of Collins' death reverberates through Chicago, his friends and colleagues reflect on his life.

ROE CONN, WLS-AM: It's an incredibly sad day, because he was a very gracious competitor, and in a very competitive business he was a real gentleman, and a lot of other guys in our business are not.

BRUCE DUMONT, MUSEUM OF BROADCAST COMM.: When you look at Bob Collins and the impact he's had on Chicago in the wake of the loss of Walter Payton and Gene Siskel and Harry Carry and Jack Brickhouse and Mike Reuchel (ph), this town has been hit hard by the loss of another media icon.

JOHN RECORDS LANDECKER, WJMX: The basis of Bob Collins' appeal was the fact that he never, in my opinion any way, was that he never left his small-town radio station.

JUDY MARKEY, KATHY AND JUDY, WGN-AM: He was no saint. I mean, this isn't one of those things where you wind up saying, oh, my God, he would never step on anyone's toes.

KATHY O'MALLEY, KATHY AND JUDY, WGN-AM: He was perfect.

JUDY: I mean, he was a piece of work. He was -- he was a piece of work, but he was a fun piece of work and a smart piece of work.

TOM PETERSON, WGN-AM: This afternoon, when I heard the two planes collided, and I knew he had been flying, so my next thought was, I hope it isn't him, and for some reason I had that feeling. I can't tell you why. Then we got the bad news, came down here and now we're all just going to sit here around trying to cope with it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATERS: WGN radio held a commercial-free tribute to Bob Collins, this morning.

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