I wrote this story for Thursday’s paper about John Thompson Jr.’s final radio host. In the story, I mentioned that, after years of interviewing people like Spike Lee and Bill Cosby and Michael Jordan and Bill Russell and Charles Barkley and John McEnroe and Jesse Jackson and Tiger Woods, Thompson’s last on-air interview subject was his granddaughter Morgan.
Because being there in the studio with Smokin’ Al Koken and Doc Walker and Brian Mitchell and CJ and Thompson seemed kind of touching, I just went back and listened to the final segment again. And it still seemed touching. So here is how part of it went.
Thompson: I want to say this too to the fans out there: You guys have been great....I never thought I knew everything, and that was one of the things that I did when I came on the air, I depended on you as fans to give me input and information. One of the things that I said when I came here is that I didn’t want to be an authority on everything, and that’s why the lead-in song says sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong. And Al, Doc and I selected that song when we came on the air....
Voice: We’ve got Morgan.
Thompson: Morgan, talk to me baby, this is Papi, quick now.
Morgan: Hey Papi, I can’t believe you’re gonna leave the radio show. It’s been 13 years, that’s almost as old as I am.
Thompson: That’s right baby. Papi loves you. Papi loves you.
Morgan: I love you too.
Thompson: How do you know I love you?
Morgan: Because you tell me all the time.
Thompson: And don’t you ever forget that. That’s important. If you love somebody, you let ‘em know it. Don’t keep it a damn mystery, ok?
Thompson: Ok? Don’t forget Papi telling you that, now. I tell you I love you, because I do love you. Don’t keep it a mystery. I don’t like people that keep loving people a mystery. Is your brother on there, is Matty on there?
Thompson: Talk up boy, don’t act stupid.
Thompson: Hi, hi, this is Papi.
Thompson: Get off the air, boy, until you learn how to talk. Papi loves you. Papi loves you. Let Papi finish. I appreciate you guys calling. You know your grandfather loves you, and you’re so important to my life. But I want to say to you guys [in studio] that I sincerely mean this, I honestly sincerely mean this: that I appreciate what y’all did. Because I like exploring in life, you know what I mean?....Records don’t mean anything to me, but relationships do, and...I would not have had an opportunity if it hadn’t been for you guys coming in here, and holding me up, and giving me the support that I needed, and teaching me a business that I knew nothing about.
And I don’t know what’ll happen after this. But I’m not worried about what’ll happen after this. I’ll take advantage of opportunities, and if money’s involved and you guys see something, call me. Call me. Call me....
If I’m working somewhere, you’ll know that there are people who I enjoy being around. And all the guys who have come on the air — and I missed probably a lot of people who were significant to me here — but they’re good guys. I enjoyed the environment of being here. And I enjoyed the fans that called, and all that kind of stuff. And before I get too mushy about it — I don’t want to be — I want to say just a simple word: thank you. To all of you guys.”
And then they played Alan Jackson, and everyone sipped champagne, and I asked Thompson if he thought his 13 years in radio would change how people in Washington remember him.
“Really, I don’t care how people remember me,” he told me. “Before, it was just a snippet of me that [Washingtonians] were exposed to. I’ve exposed more of myself. I can’t control how people interpret that, but I was just trying to be me. I love the people in this town. They have more than a soundbite, now. How they interpret that is up to them.”