Retiring Twin Cities broadcaster John Hines won’t have to juggle reading three books at once much longer.
“I’m retiring because it’s time,” said Hines, who is leaving WCCO-AM after the Minnesota State Fair. In his 45 years in the market, he was at WWTC-AM, KSTP-TV and radio, WLOL-FM, K102 FM and his partners included Bob “Bergie” Berglund, Susie Jones and the late Charlie Bush. “Charlie was the one who began to teach me how to work with a radio partner; Berglund [did] that even more. Bergie was the perfect radio partner because we thought alike,” Hines said of his longest radio partner, whom he spent 10 years with. Bergie’s “a great guy, still a great friend to this day. For the most part I was alone on the air but my producers were legitimately partners. First, Kyle Shiely, now at MPR, who made me a better radio broadcaster than I am. We could have a show planned and if the news changed overnight, [Shiely] could reproduce the entire show coming in on the light rail. Dan Cook, the current producer — very, very talented and also one who is tasked with pulling me out of my comfort zone.”
If retirement sticks and Hines doesn’t end up doing lots of fill-in work at WCCO, where he’s worked nine years, he can read books at his own pace. The rainy day we met at his hangout, St. Paul Pool and Yacht Club on the Mississippi River, Hines was juggling three books. Astonishingly, he reads every book, cover to cover, of each author interviewed on his radio show.
“Sometimes I finish [books] too soon because the guest is not coming up for two more weeks. Then you conflate what you read with [another] book and I don’t know what I’m talking about — which most people would think I don’t,” he joked. Because Hines likes to pass along a book in “pristine” condition, he doesn’t write notes in them. “I take Post-its and [position them] at certain lines sticking out of the book. Then when I have the author on [a show], I’ve got this book that looks like it’s been fringed, with all these purple and yellow and blue Post-it notes and I’ll ask my questions that way.”
Q: Why is this the time to retire?
A: I’m really healthy. I’m going to become even more healthy. Now when I get up in the morning rather than get the shower, shave, go to work. I will look at the news online, I will never get away from that. But then I can go back and lay down for an hour and then go to the gym, if I want. I’m going to become annoyingly healthy. I love to ride my bicycle. I had my knee replaced recently. I [can] go out and ride my bicycle for 40 to 50 miles in a day.
Q: You are getting ready for your last State Fair at a radio booth?
A: My 46th State Fair, broadcasting out there from one station or another. Somebody said to me: ‘Do you like broadcasting from the State Fair?’ Oh yeah, for about the first 15 minutes. No, it’s fun.
Q: Oh, no. Tell the truth.
A: Here’s what’s fun. You can’t broadcast to the people sitting in front of you. Hopefully the majority of your audience is not those 50 people, hopefully there are many others, so don’t just broadcast to them. That becomes inane. I love to include them. I love that if I say something that is off the wall, untoward, humorous, whatever that I get an instant reaction. That’s the best part. When I worked with Bergie, we would do a live show out somewhere every month or couple of months. That was just fun.
Q: You’ve been catnip to the ladies, seducing them on the radio with your mellifluous, sexy voice
A: Then they see the balding, hard of hearing reality.
Q: We had dinner a few years ago and were talking about the end of our respective marriages when you said something profound: You can get over the pain but you can never get over the doubt.
A: I’ve always joked, and it’s not funny. I’ve had three marriages. My sons’ mother, the best of all time, which is maybe why we are still close. We’re still parenting together. Looking within, I was the one common denominator in all of those [marriages].
Q: Now you know you should have just stayed with the first one, don’t you?
A: Perhaps. But you know what? My sons are happy. Between the two of us, mostly her, we raised two brilliant young men. And I’ve said this many times. They are both better men, better husbands and better fathers than their father was. And that’s the best you can hope for, that those who come behind you do better than you. I have a total of five [grandchildren]; three in Ireland and two here in the Twin Cities. Actually my son here lives in the house where I was raised. He bought that house from my mother. Part of what I am going to do as I step back, step away, I’ll spend more time with the kids and grandkids.
Q: Do you have a wife now?
A: No ma’am. [But he is attached.]
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.