The Real Don Steele was larger than life. For thirty years he ruled the Los Angeles airwaves, most notably on 93/KHJ “Boss Radio” in the 60’s and 70’s. Outrageous, electrifying, thrilling – that was Real on…and OFF the air.
Typically, after his afternoon show he would go to a Hollywood watering hole, Martoni’s and get plastered. Steele never did anything in moderation. One night Sinatra walked in with his fierce bodyguards and disappeared into a back room. Steele wanted to meet him. The others at his table told him it was a bad idea, Sinatra never liked intrusions, and he was in no condition to meet anybody. That didn’t stop Steele.
He marched into the back room where Sinatra was now eating, surrounded by his henchmen. Frank looked up and was startled. Steele stood before him and in his loudest booming voice began singing “Strangers in the Night”. Then, after one chorus, passed out face first in Sinatra’s pasta.
Talk to anyone who knew and loved him. They have a hundred of their own stories, each as good or better.
The Real Don Steele passed away ten years ago today. He was only 61 (although the way he lived it was closer to 108). There is a tribute website that features pictures, and a few samples of his work. If you want to hear the greatest cookin’ jock to ever crack a mic in the heyday of top 40, check him out.
Real also appeared in some highly prestigious films such as EATING RAOUL, DEATH RACE 2000 (starring Sylvester Stallone), ROCK N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, and Ron Howard’s first directing effort, GRAND THEFT AUTO. Television credits are equally as impressive: TALES FROM THE CRYPT and HERE COMES THE BRIDES.
I had the pleasure of working with him at two radio stations, K100 and TenQ in LA in the 70’s. He also fell off my couch stinking drunk one night and my wife still invited him to dinner again.
His catch phrase was “Tina Delgado is alive, ALIVE!” shouted by some unknown frenzied girl. No one ever knew the story behind it -- who Tina Degado was or how he came to use it. Even what the hell it meant. But it didn’t matter. It was all part of the excitement this larger-than-life personality created for “the magnificent megalopolis of Boss Angeles” three hours every day…and especially on “Fractious Fridays”.
His birthday was April 1st, I wish that maybe his passing is just an April’s Fool joke. That would be so like him. And at 3:00 I could turn on the radio, “Devil with a Blue Dress” by Mitch Ryder would come blazing out of my speaker and I would hear “The Real Don Steele is alive, ALIVE!”
He is in my heart. And always will be.
Thanks to Nancy Plum for the following montage from the first day of TenQ. In the bottom left photo that's me standing behind Steele.