Hardwick: Mid-Life Crisis & No Way Out; KAYO Was A Mistake; Radio Really Is ‘That Bad’

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Seattle Times-June 4, 1992
Radio Personality Commits Suicide, Police Report
By Tomas Guillen, Kit Boss

Longtime Seattle radio personality Bob Hardwick was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound yesterday, Chelan County Sheriff’s Detective Bill Patterson said today. Robert E. Lee Hardwick, 61, of Kent, was once the king of Seattle morning radio, making his mark on KVI-AM. In 1978 he was Billboard magazine’s Radio Personality of the Year.
He was found dead about 3:20 p.m. yesterday in a pickup truck on an embankment of Highway 2 just east of Stevens Pass. He had been shot in the head with a handgun. It was undetermined when Hardwick apparently killed himself, but a suicide note was dated 10 p.m. on Tuesday, said Patterson. The note, Patterson said, simply asked police to notify his wife and “be gentle with her.”
Hardwick wrote several notes before he killed himself, said Patterson. One note indicated “he was getting older and unemployable and he didn’t want his wife to support him,” Patterson said.
Apparently Hardwick first tried to asphyxiate himself with the exhaust of his truck, Patterson said. When that didn’t work, he shot himself in the right temple with a .38-caliber automatic pistol.
`A TRUE SEATTLE LEGEND’
Most recently, Hardwick was morning co-host at news-talk KING-AM. He joined KING in February 1990 and was released last April because of ratings – the morning show was rated 14th in the Seattle-Tacoma market – and because the
station wanted a younger audience. Hardwick was replaced by Pat Cashman. Said Jack Swanson, general manager of KING-AM-FM: “Over the years, his talent brought happiness to hundreds of thousands of radio listeners. He was, and always will be, a true Seattle legend. . . . All of us in the Seattle radio industry were better for what he gave us, and all of us feel a real loss at his passing.”
For years, Jack Morton worked with Hardwick at KVI. Morton now does the weekend marine report for KIRO-AM.
“It was a big shock,” said Morton. “They don’t come any bigger or better than Robert. That’s a fact. I’ll always remember his laugh. He loved to set people up and laugh in the background.
“He’d always mention that we were getting older. The business is getting younger. You have to scratch to hang on.”
ADVENTUROUS LIFE
Hardwick worked at KVI from 1959 to 1980. Those 21 straight years were interrupted only by a four-month sojourn at Los Angeles station KMPC-AM in 1963.
On his KVI morning show, Hardwick would sometimes play only two or three records an hour. The rest of the time was filled with jokes, skits, ad-libbed advertisements and promotions for his latest escapade. In 1965, Hardwick piloted a tugboat to British Columbia to haul back Namu, the killer whale, for the Seattle Aquarium.
He jet-skied 740 miles from Ketchikan to Seattle, about the time it was reported he had was the highest-paid radio personality in Seattle, hosting the highest-rated program on local radio.
In 1980, he swam the Bremerton-Seattle ferry route. That same year, disgruntled with KVI’s decision to abandon its successful music format and switch to all-talk, he quit – walking out in the middle of the 8 a.m. newscast.
“I was so frustrated. Emotionally I was a wreck,” Hardwick said later. “I don’t know what happened. I took my briefcase and walked out the door. That wasn’t a businesslike way to do things.”
Later he popped up at the old KAYO-AM. Several months passed. One Friday he called in sick and didn’t return the following Monday. “Seattle radio is a bore and I have been boring right along with it,” he said at the time.
DEALING WITH TRAUMA
His two disappearing acts were not publicity stunts, Hardwick said, but “an emotional trauma in my life.”
He eventually landed at an AM station in Tacoma, did another hitch at KVI, had a failed venture to transmit computer programs via radio and spent a year at KIXI-AM.
Then in 1987 the Seattle native left the medium altogether. He worked for a time as communication director at Pacific Institute and helped several local drug- and alcohol-rehabilitation centers market their programs.
Said Hardwick, when asked once to sum himself up: “I’m a professional smartass. I love to tease people. I love to make people laugh. I’m a communicator.”

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Author: Jason Remington

QZVX Creator, Admin, & Editor, former broadcaster. ABOUT Jason & QZVX.com | Jason's Airchecks

9 thoughts on “Hardwick: Mid-Life Crisis & No Way Out; KAYO Was A Mistake; Radio Really Is ‘That Bad’

  1. 1984 (August) Bob Hardwick approached owners of radio stations KMO and KTAC Tacoma with an interest in purchasing one of the stations. Nothing became of those talks.

    1. Interesting… Unless he had other investors lined up, I would guess KTAC was still worth too much for his offer to be taken seriously.

      1. It would be fun to try to operate an AM station in a major market. But knowing there is little chance of making a dime from it, a hobby like golf might be a better idea.

  2. The audio portion of one of Hardwick’s TV shows from 1965 (an interview with Lorenzo Milam) is on the KRAB Archive. Whoever wrote the description didn’t listen to the aircheck very closely, as they say Milam traveled to Channel 11 in Tacoma, when in fact the show was taped at the Hyatt House in Seattle.

    It’s not surprising Jack Pyle was able to call Hardwick’s unlisted number. He had amassed a huge amount of 3×5 cards with the phone numbers of newsmakers. It was once said that a legislator who needed to call home once asked Pyle for his own number.

  3. I think we are talking about a very complicated, creative person, who spent his entire life wrestling demons inside of him.

  4. Why anyone would tie all of their self-worth into their job, is a mystery to me…and I do wonder, what kind of father figure was this guy, to his family?…I have read, that suicide is just the ultimate way to stick it to society-or maybe other people in your life…In any event, his bailing out on Life takes away from his frequently legitimate criticisms of radio.

  5. Hardwick walked away from KVI after 21 years and couldn’t find any work as fulfilling. The radio landscape was changing and he tried to adapt, or to reshape the station he was at to resemble KVI in its heyday.

  6. In 1981 it could have been worse, he’d been in radio for years so the decay was more obvious to him. For me we still had some goodies in the 80s but yes the decline was and is certain.

  7. This is one article I do not remember. I read most of Victor Stredicke’s columns from that period, but somehow missed this by Sheila Feeney. (Thanks, Sam Lawson for sending this.) Hardwick hated Seattle radio, but would work for the right station, if, but they are all crap. OK then.

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