I lost a good friend this week. And Detroit, and beyond, lost one of the most gifted writers and conversationalists, I have ever known. Tom DeLisle, the man who wrote for my radio show for years, and graced the Purtan Dining Room Table to appear as my favorite guest (and the audiences) on so many of my Podcasts, died early Tuesday morning at the age of 71.
Tom was what they call a "Renaissance Man"... excelling at whatever he chose to do. At the age of 20 he won a Pulitzer Prize in Journalism as part of the Free Press team that covered the riots of 1968. In 1982, he took home an Emmy for co-writing and producing my hour long television show, "The Dick Purtan Comedy Special". Whether the subject was deadly serious, or seriously funny, Tom nailed it with the written word.
Even Hollywood took notice. Tom, who often referred to himself as "bystander to the stars" spent much of the 80's in Hollywood writing scores of monologues for the "Tonight Show" and many other popular TV programs, including the short-lived "Tony Orlando Show"... He quit because he "couldn't stand talking to Tony". (Thereafter, I referred to the incident as "Tony Orlando and YAWN".) While he was writing for the "Jim Nabors Show", he coerced my wife Gail into appearing on camera as the shows "announcer". We still have it on tape (Beta!) and it's priceless.
He also spent time occasionally with the Kennedy family at their Compound in Hyannis Port. His stories were fantastic... including the one about the time he stole a monogrammed towel, because "How could I NOT???"
Tom's almost encyclopedic knowledge of University of Michigan Football, the Tigers, Lions and Red Wings was astounding. He was even chosen by the legendary #9, Gordie himself, to author the 2004 book, "And... Howe!" (The stories that didn't make the book are even more interesting, trust me!) The two met when Tom and Gordie used to play on my "Dick Purtan No Stars" Charity hockey team. (That's right... Gordie played on MY team! How many people can say that??)
Some of you might remember a feature we did on my radio show called "The Whoa Boys". Pure Tom. As was the spin-off, "The Whoa Kids" which featured my daughters playing the younger version of the "cowboys" (Tom, Tom Ryan & myself). I'll never forget the grin on Tom's face while he watched my daughter Jackie bribe her four-year-old sister Julie to say her "lines" with promises of a piece of candy when we recorded on countless Saturday mornings.
Then there was the time Tom and I were a bit "over served" at a Michigan football game and, while attempting to find Jackie in her dorm room on the 5th floor, Tom wandered into a shower stall in the men's room one floor away. Somehow he got tangled up in the plastic shower curtain and had to be "rescued" by one of Jackie's friends. Needless to say, after a few hours and some strong coffee (mine was actually decaf!), we laughed all the way home.
In the years since I retired back in 2010, Tom and I spent time not only on the Podcasts, but on the phone. Hours and hours on the phone. (And I'm not a phone guy... just ask my girls who kid me about my habit of saying "Hi... here's your mother" when they call). But Tom was just so INTERESTING. There would be an article he'd read, a documentary he'd watched or just his thoughts on politics or showbiz... or life in general. His take on things was always measured, thoughtful, insightful and damn hilarious.
Tom left behind his wife Ruthie and scores of friends who miss him dearly already. Me among them.
Thanks for everything Tom...