Chicago is mourning the loss of longtime radio personality Lin Brehmer, who died this morning of cancer. Since 1984, Brehmer worked at WXRT, with only a one-year absence when he temporarily went to Minnesota in 1990. Since 1991, he has been WXRT’s morning personality, calling himself “Your best friend in the whole world” and incorporating a lyric from a Frank Zappa lyric as his catch phrase: “It’s great to be alive.” Brehmer died of prostate cancer at the age of 68.
Our Rick Copper and Matt Drufke give their thoughts about the Chicago legend.
Way back in the fall of 1994 a friend of mine and I started a small ad agency along with one client – the Bob Rohrman Auto Group. Cars are great, I love cars, but what I really wanted to do ads for was sports. Sports teams, for a fledgling ad agency, were not in the picture. However, a radio station in its toddler years was WSCR.
Through my friend Dan Richman I was able to get an audience with their marketing guru Jeff “Spaceball” Schwartz. I pitched, he listened. As I left, I noted he had the three stooges stuck in his office ceiling, and a relationship was formed.
Little did I know part of the plan came with doing a little bit of work for WXRT and the privilege of being around Lin Brehmer. Lin was, to me, a radio God who just happened to live on earth. He was as helpful as any person I’ve ever met. Spaceball had a headshot shoot which he “recruited” me to oversee. What did I know about wrangling people who had no clue who I was to get their portrait done. Especially on the XRT side? No problem. There was Lin. Seeing my deer in the headlights stare, he told me “I’ll get them in here.” He did. Like the Pied Piper, he led them all in to get their mugs photographed.
Lin was, as most lovers of rock and sports in Chicago knew, everywhere. But once he met you it seemed as if you were now his best friend. I’d see him at a Stones concert (more than once TBH) and he’d act as if we were long lost pals. I’d see him at smaller venues for newer or
established artists (John Hiatt, Leslie Feist, Steve Earle to name a few) and it would be the same greeting. I ran into him every year for years at First Look, the Chicago Auto Show premier charity event and we’d chat about life, discuss our different pronunciations of the word “Volvo”
(Vole-vo to me which is incorrect; Vowl-vo to him – quiet on the W – which I had to admit was correct). It was here where he gave me a gracious and warm, truly unnecessary as I felt I was not worthy, intro to Buddy Guy.
We had the WSCR account for about 4 years. But every time I saw him after that relationship was over, he’d be as gregarious as before. I once saw him after a Blue Man Group show at the Briar Street Theatre at a burrito joint down the street. He welcomed me to his table, and we just sat and talked about the Cubs, White Sox, and whether the Bears would ever field a decent squad. Music didn’t even come up that time, but that was the kind of guy he was – versatile, erudite, and simply a gem.
Jesus this sucks. He will be missed.
This is how the FX show The Bear started their seventh episode…
Look, I get that sometimes that show felt like a bunch of dudes who only read about the Windy City trying to impersonate what they heard someone say what they thought Chicago might feel like. But, on this episode, they nailed it perfectly.
You get a relationship with the radio personality who is with you every weekday morning. They see you at your most vulnerable and try and prepare you for the day when all you want is to still be sleeping. They’re your confessor and carpool buddy and best friend in the whole world. And that’s just who Lin Brehmer was.
Of course, he was so much more than that. He was the cool guy at the record store, playing your new favorite song while reminding you of old hits you hadn’t thought about in years. Brehmer was also your favorite uncle- not your cool uncle, but the one with the cheesy jokes and winning smile who you always got excited to see because he truly cared about how you were doing. Even if you only heard him over the airwaves, you just felt like you knew Lin.
Of course, he was so much more that that. Working at a radio station is a job. I got to spend three amazing months as a promotions intern for WXRT in the summer of 2001. And, you know, we were interns. We made banners and went to places to pass out buttons. But there wasn’t a morning that Lin didn’t walk by our little work table to wish us good morning. Or come up to the XRT tent at an event and just talk about music, even when he was being swarmed by dozens of drunk fans. You were never just a title in Lin’s eyes; you were a person. And he wanted to know all about you.
Of course, he was so much more than that. Cubs fan. Colleague. Friend. Husband.
Lin Brehmer gave Chicago so much. He gave us laughs and music and his spirit and his soul. And all he asked was to be our best friend in the whole world. And we wanted him to be. Goddammit, we wanted it so badly. And now our best friend is gone, and a city is hurting. And we will do our best to move forward and carry on because it’s what Lin would have wanted. I’ll miss his jokes and laughs and spirit. I’ll miss his reminder to celebrate what we have.
Rest easy, Lin. Thanks for everything.