Morton Downey, Jr. (born Sean Morton Downey; December 9, 1932 – March 12, 2001) was a controversial and influential American television talk show host of the 1980s who pioneered the "trash talk show" format.
Death of Morton Downey, Jr
Morton Downey, Jr was died of lung cancer
Morton Downey, Jr was 67 years old at the time of his death.
Lung cancer of Morton Downey, Jr
In 1996, Downey was diagnosed with lung cancer and had one of his lungs removed. He did a complete about-face on tobacco use, going from a one-time member of the National Smokers Alliance to a staunch anti-smoking activist. He continued to speak against smoking until his death from lung cancer in 2001 at age 67. After being diagnosed with lung cancer, he said, "I had spawned a generation of kids to think it was cool to smoke a cigarette. Kids walked up to me until a matter of weeks ago, they’d have a cigarette in their hand and they’d say, ‘Hey, Mort,’ or, ‘Hey, Mouth, autograph my cigarette.’ And I’d do it." He also blamed tobacco companies for lying to consumers about cigarettes.
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Morton Downey Jr – Rock / Metal
Author Adrian Havill later said that Downey’s cancer and subsequent anti-smoking commercials, like other celebrity causes for certain diseases, served as a publicity tool
In the 1980s, Downey was working as a talk show host at KFBK-AM in Sacramento, California, where he established his abrasive and much imitated right wing, populist style, relentlessly deriding anyone who disagreed with him or had a liberal point of view. Downey’s success, coupled with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, laid the groundwork for more aggressive, opinion-based talk radio. His work led to the "trash talk" genre of Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, Ricki Lake and many more. His fight with fellow radio talk show host Wally George (with each charging that the other was not conservative) on George’s talk show led to police tackling Downey to the ground.
Downey later headed to Secaucus, New Jersey where his highly controversial television program The Morton Downey Jr. Show was taped for two years before it was canceled for low ratings. (His replacement at KFBK was Rush Limbaugh). The program featured screaming matches among Downey, his guests, and his audience members. He would chainsmoke during the show and blow smoke in his guests’ faces. Downey’s signature phrases pabulum puker (referring to political liberals) and "zip it!" briefly enjoyed some popularity in the contemporary vernacular. He particularly enjoyed making his guests angry with each other. The Washington Post wrote about him, "Suppose a maniac got hold of a talk show. Or need we suppose?" David Letterman said, "I’m always amazed at what people will fall for. We see this every 10 or 12 years, an attempt at this, and I guess from that standpoint I don’t quite understand why everybody’s falling over backwards over the guy."
The success of the show made Downey a pop culture celebrity, leading to an appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1988 and later roles in movies such as Predator 2 and Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation. He was also cast in several TV roles, often playing tabloid TV hosts or other obnoxious media types.
In 1989, as fascination with Downey’s show began to wane, he was involved in an incident in a San Francisco International Airport restroom in which he claimed to have been attacked by neo-Nazis who painted a swastika on his face and attempted to shave his head. Some inconsistencies in Downey’s account (e.g., the swastika was painted in reverse, suggesting that Downey had drawn it himself in a mirror), and the failure of the police to find supportive evidence, led many to suspect that the incident was a hoax and a plea for attention. A few months later, the show was canceled.
Downey was sued for allegedly appropriating the words and music to his theme song from two songwriters. He was sued for $40 million after bringing a stripper onto the show and calling her a "slut," a "pig," a "hooker," and a "tramp," saying that she had diseases, and banging his pelvis against hers. At one point, he was arraigned on criminal charges for attacking a gay guest on his show, in a never-aired segment. In another lawsuit, he was accused of slandering a newscaster (a former colleague), and of indecently exposing himself to her and slapping her.
Downey infamously hit Stuttering John with a chair on The Howard Stern Show and punched him.
In interviews, he expressed regret for some of the extreme theatrics of his TV show, saying he had taken things too far. He added that he had been a "bastard." However, he also claimed that his show was of a higher quality and not as "sleazy" as Jerry Springer’s.
In 1993, Downey attempted a comeback in talk radio on Dallas radio station KGBS, where he would scream insults at his callers. He was also hired as the station’s VP of Operations. The following year he had a short-lived television show, Downey, that was similar in theme to his earlier, more popular show. In one episode, Downey claimed to have had a psychic communication with OJ Simpson’s murdered ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.
Like his father, Downey pursued music as a career, recording in both pop and country styles. One song, "Green Eyed Girl" scraped the bottom reaches of the Billboard Magazine Country chart, peaking at #95 in 1981. After the success of his talk show, Downey returned to the recording studio to cut an album of songs based on his show, Morton Downey Jr. Sings. The album’s only single, "Zip It!" (a catch-phrase from the TV show, used to quiet an irate guest), became a surprise hit on some college radio stations. Following his death, news reports and obituaries incorrectly (according to the Orange County Register) credited him as the composer of "Wipe Out." As of 2007, Downey’s official website (and others) continue to make this claim.
His parents were also in show business; his father Morton Downey was a popular singer, and his mother Barbara Bennett was a singer and dancer. His aunts included Hollywood film stars Constance and Joan Bennett, from whom he was estranged, and his maternal grandfather was the celebrated matinée idol Richard Bennett. Born into a life of luxury, he was raised next door to the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.
Downey was married four times and had four children from three of those marriages. With wife Helen he had Melissa, with Joan he had daughters Tracey and Kelli, and with fourth wife and widow Lori he had Seanna. He and Lori met when she appeared as a dancer in a show he attended in Atlantic City.
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