Along with many of you, we were/are shocked and saddened at the news of Larry Schreiner’s death. Too soon, too young, leaving us with years of memories.
For any of you who are new to Larry’s name, most of those who heard him during his years on WGN would probably agree that he was a singularly passionate, outspoken, sometimes hard-headed, devoted, dependable, driven, renowned expert in language mangling (“Schreinerisms”), product of Chicagoland’s streets, police departments, fire departments and broadcast media.
Additionally, in his private life, Larry was many things to many people: Father, gardener, car lover and … FRIEND.
If we may, we’d like to share some stories about our friend.
During the many years we co-hosted overnights on WGN one of the things our producers knew was that, regardless of the guest or topic at hand, if Larry Schreiner called in he went on the air NOW. Larry was one of our not-so-secret weapons. If Larry called in, chances were good that the story he was calling about would be the one that was making the headlines for the rest of the day.
In spite of his reputation as a “no nonsense” newsman, Larry could have a wicked sense of humor. During the early days of our WGN ride when Johnnie was still doing traffic reports during the Bob Collins show, one morning she outfitted Larry in “hooker garb,” including pantyhose (Oh, to have the audio of teaching Larry how to put on pantyhose) and high heels, as part of a surprise planned for Bob during one of his morning broadcasts from WGN’s Showcase Studio. Bob was in mid-broadcast when, outside the window, he saw what looked like a streetwalking hooker followed by a large car pulling up to the curb on Michigan Ave. It appeared as if the hooker and her “agent” were engaged in an argument that was escalating right in front of the Showcase Studio window. It wasn’t until Bob tried to intervene over the studio intercom to the street that he realized he was the victim of a “gotcha” perpetrated by Larry Schreiner, newsman and future Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford (dressed as the pimp) and Johnnie.
Along with his work, which, in Larry’s world, really was a 24/7 gig, Larry’s other world revolved around his twin boys. While doing traffic for Bob Collins, since Larry was already out on the street most mornings, Johnnie had the responsibility of being sure that the boys were awake and on time for school. One morning, during a hostage situation that found Larry LITERALLY lying in a gutter protected only by the curb of the street, he still remembered to radio, breathlessly (And wasn’t he always!) “Call the boys! Call the boys! But, don’t tell them where I am.”
Steve was still in bad shape, on crutches and in a wheel chair, after a hip-breaking accident, in London. When our flight back from the UK arrived in Chicago we were expecting to have a rather difficult time getting off the plane, through the airport and through U. S. Customs. Instead, Larry arranged to have our plane met by U. S. Customs agents and an ambulance.
One of the things Larry should have learned early on was that “socializing” with friends from WGN could be hazardous to his health. Along with the morning crew, we were at Great America with Larry. His radios were quiet and he seemed to be enjoying himself … until he bent over writhing in pain. For a moment we thought he was kidding but, no, that wasn’t Larry’s m.o. and it became obvious that his pain was getting worse. It turned out that Larry was passing a kidney stone. As an ambulance took him to the hospital, we followed driving Larry’s new Mercedes convertible. If you knew Larry, you knew how much he loved his cars … so, to us, this was a HUGE responsibility.
There was also the day when, after venturing out on the “Yacht Lyle Dean” that Larry wound up with a broken knee, which briefly sidelined him for a while.
As a group we always found excuses to party on the radio and Larry, who had a direct line to some of the best bakeries in Chicagoland, supplied the cakes. Larry was always looking for any excuse to spread cake and doughnut love. He wouldn’t even come to the station to pick up his mail without bringing boxes of doughnuts. We don’t think he ever passed a nurses station without dropping off a box of doughnuts. That was Larry.
We could go on and on with stories, both public (And there were MANY that Larry broke on our show and others at WGN) and private, but we think you get the point. THIS was a man who made a difference. THIS was a man who, if you were lucky enough to have him as a friend, was a FRIEND.
THIS was a man who will be missed.