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John Donald "Don" Imus is a radio personality famous for his "insult humor" as well as a philanthropist working to help children with cancer and other groups.
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Radio personality, philanthropist. Born John Donald Imus on July 23, 1940, in Riverside, California. Imus and his younger brother Fred were raised in California and Prescott, Arizona, where his father owned a cattle ranch. After a self-described "horrible adolescence" in which he changed schools frequently and his parents divorced when he was 15, Imus left high school and joined the Marine Corps band.
After his discharge at the age of 19, Imus had several unsuccessful stints as a window dresser and a rock 'n' roll musician. For a time, he was homeless, and found shelter in laundromats. In 1961, Imus hitchhiked to Arizona, where he worked in uranium and copper mines, made another attempt at a recording career, and worked as a brakeman for Southern Pacific Railroad. An injury sustained on the job earned him a cash settlement and a chance to play music while working as a disc jockey.
Imus got his start as a radio host at a small station in Palmdale, California, in 1968. After establishing himself and his brand of witty, somewhat coarse, and controversial humor, he moved on to Cleveland, Ohio. During an on-air gag in California, where he ordered 1,200 hamburgers from a fast-food restaurant, Imus earned the distinction of inspiring a new Federal Communications Commission ruling that demanded radio personalities to identify themselves when telephoning listeners. In Cleveland, his style earned legions of fans—as well as a number of critics who urged the boycott of his show.
In 1971, Imus made the move to WNBC in New York City, where he continued his brand of "insult humor" on his new radio show "Imus in the Morning." Imus' cast of everyday characters included news reporter Charles McCord, producer Bernard McGuirk, sports reporter Mike Breen, and his brother Fred, a frequent call-in guest commentator. With Imus' penchance for ridicule came the birth of radio "shock jocks." No one was exempt from his mockery, including the station's management, and his own sponsors. When self-proclaimed "media king" Howard Stern was still in high school in the early 1970s, Don Imus was making a name for himself as a flippant, offensive, opinionated, rebellious, yet humorously insightful loud mouth. Though at the top of his game on-air, Imus battled addictions to alcohol and drugs, and became unreliable and difficult to work with. In 1971 alone, he missed 100 days of work due to unrestrained imbibing. He was fired in 1977 for absenteeism.
Imus returned to Cleveland and made his first stab at recovery. He was subsequently brought back to New York in 1979, only to return to his addictions.
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