President & Editorial Director
Bill and the O’Shaughnessy Family will be grateful for contributions to the Broadcasters Foundation of America, a national charity whose work and Noble Mission meant so much to WO and those hurting and almost forgotten colleagues in the broadcasting profession: The William O’Shaughnessy Memorial Tribute Fund c/o Broadcasters Foundation of America, 125 West 55th Street, New York, NY 10019 c/o Tim McCarthy and Jim Thompson, co-presidents. 212-373-8250.
1938 – 2022
June 1, 2022
William O’Shaughnessy died Saturday, May 28th at his home in Litchfield, Ct. He was 84.
He was born April 7, 1938 to William Mac O’Shaughnessy of Elmira and Catherine Pauline Tucker of Waverly.
One of America’s best known and most beloved community broadcasters, he was revered for his editorials, commentaries, appreciations, elegies, and character portraits, which inspired The New York Times to declare that “Bill O’Shaughnessy’s commentaries make his New York TV counterparts look like so much mish-mash.”
As President and Editorial Director, he presided for 67 years over WVOX and WVIP radio stations, venerated by the Wall Street Journal as “America’s Quintessential Community Stations.”
He began his career in 1957 at the original WVIP in Northern Westchester, a fabled suburban station owned by Martin Stone, producer of Howdy Doody and Author Meets Critic. He was the station’s top advertising salesman at the age of 21.
From there he moved to the iconic WNEW in New York as executive assistant to that station’s legendary general manager John Van Buren Sullivan. At WNEW, he developed a great friendship with the disc jockey William B. Williams, host of The Make Believe Ballroom, whom he eulogized in Variety.
He served “overseas” in the Army at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, where he was bartender in the Officer’s Club, the Post Commander’s driver, and editor of the Harbor Watch Post newspaper. (He said they were the “best” three jobs on the Army Base).
He was married twice, first to Ann Wharton Thayer with whom he had three children: Matthew Thayer O’Shaughnessy, David Tucker O’Shaughnessy and Kate O’Shaughnessy Nulty, and five grandchildren: Tucker Thomas Nulty, Flynn Thayer Nulty, Amelia Jane Nulty, Isabel Grace O’Shaughnessy, and Lily Anna O’Shaughnessy.
He later married Nancy Ellen Curry, which ended in divorce.
In recent years, he lived with his “compadre” and companion Gregorio Alvarez in Connecticut, where he was a father to three cockapoo dogs, Coco, Jack, Stella Bella, and the late Lacey.
A member of the American Yacht Club, Lyford Cay Club, Litchfield Country Club, The Winged Foot Golf Club and Torrington Country Club, among others, O’Shaughnessy enjoyed homes in Westchester, Sun Valley, New York City, and Litchfield, CT. He built a 180-acre farm, Lordstown Meadow Farm, which was featured in Country Living, in upstate Waverly, N.Y., where he raised quarter horses.
A “Vivid Man About Town” who frequented Le Cirque, “21,” and The Four Seasons when they were around, O’Shaughnessy always wore blazers on an airplane, and Belgian loafers, and he could signal ships and stop traffic with his Yankees World Series ring, a gift to him from George M. Steinbrenner, who admired a commentary he had written about Wellington Mara.
His Irish charm and eagerness to know, understand, and engage with everyone was anchored by philanthropy and humanitarianism that defined and ennobled his passions and pursuits as “a journalist, commentator, connoisseur, a strong political presence, and a forceful advocate of great causes,” in the words of Governor Mario Cuomo.
He had a 38-year friendship with Governor Cuomo and wrote a well-received memoir of their friendship. “As soon as I met him … all I wanted to be is a herald for Mario Cuomo,” O’Shaughnessy often said.
A self-styled “Rockefeller Republican,” O’Shaughnessy traveled with the former Governor and Vice President in his Gulfstream and golf carts. Rockefeller even commandeered a WVOX mobile unit on one of his last nights on the campaign trail. Nelson, who called WVOX “my hometown station,” gave WVOX his last question of his final Albany press conference: “Of all your predecessors looking down on us … who was your favorite?” NAR replied: “Teddy Roosevelt!”
Active in the presidential and gubernatorial campaigns of Rockefeller, he also chaired Republicans for Mario Cuomo during three successful statewide campaigns, and aided campaigns for Senator Jacob Javits and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Governor Malcolm Wilson, Ogden Rogers Reid, Nita Lowey, and hundreds of local Westchester and New York State politicians.
He also suggested Governor Mario Cuomo name the Tappan Zee Bridge for Governor Wilson and the New York Convention Center for Senator Javits.
He introduced Judge Richard Daronco of the 9th Judicial District to Senator Al Damato. President Reagan then named Judge Daronco a Federal judge “for life” before he was then assassinated by a disgruntled plaintiff. The Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains was renamed the Richard J. Daronco Courthouse in his memory.
With all his elegance and grace, he helped free a beloved Park Avenue fruit vendor from Immigration, (New York Times) indicted mobsters, and gave them radio shows when they emerged from confinement (Pat Cunningham, Al Pirro and Joe Pisani).
He fought for an obscure New York State Trooper to become Chief U.S. Marshall for the Northern District. The head of Amtrak wanted it, and the Chief of Syracuse coveted it, but O’Shaughnessy won the post for the Trooper with help from Senator Pat Moynihan.
One of his great passions was the First Amendment, “that nearly sacred guarantee of our unique American freedom of speech and expression” as described by Governor Cuomo, who pronounced O’Shaughnessy “one of the few respected authorities on the subject” … whose speech “Obsequious Acquiescence” has been admired by some of the best legal minds in America. His devotion to the sanctity of free speech earned O’Shaughnessy “The Conscience of the Broadcasting Industry” appellation from the prestigious Media Institute think tank in Washington, D.C. He was a life-long critic of the Death Penalty calling it “Murder by Government.”
He organized opposition to a powerful member of Congress Harley O. Staggers, a right of way agent from Mineral County, West Virginia, who wanted to jail Walter Cronkite and Frank Stanton. But even with the assistance of U.S. Rep. Ogden Rogers Reid, who was having none of it, it was one of the darkest days for the Congress. CBS Chairman William Paley told O’Shaughnessy, “Future generations will thank you for what you did.”
O’Shaughnessy’s interviews over the decades with distinguished figures were legendary for elevating the Q&A format to the rarefied level of masterful conversations with those who catalyzed the evolution of politics, government, world affairs, business, industry, fashion, religion, and our communities, where he amplified the voices of those he labeled “Townies” with great respect and affection.
A famous example was O’Shaughnessy’s conversation with former Associated Press correspondent Terry Anderson following his release after being held hostage for 2,454 days by Islamist militants in Lebanon. “Did you ever get mad at God?” O’Shaughnessy asked. “No,” Anderson said, after O’Shaughnessy allowed a long pause to let drama build in the airwaves: “I’m a Catholic. It goes with the territory …”
The great actor and humanitarian Ossie Davis praised WO’s restraint in not rushing in to fill expectant spaces in his encounters with luminous and historic figures such as Henry Kissinger, Rush Limbaugh, Mario Cuomo, Nelson Rockefeller, George H.W. and George W. Bush, Jacob K. Javits, Fred Astaire, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, John V. Lindsay, Howard Stern, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Nita Lowey, Don Rickles, Malcolm Wilson, Pele, Dan Rather, Mark Simone, Cardinal John O’Connor, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Toots Shor, Chris Ruddy, Sirio Maccioni, Andrea Bocelli, Robert Merrill, Jimmy Cannon, Joe DiMaggio, Bobby Short, John Sterling, Neal Travis, Leonard Riggio, Cindy Adams, Matilda Cuomo, Jock Whitney, Walter N. Thayer, Mel Allen, Shipwreck Kelly, Ogden Reid, Billy Bush, Jonathan Bush, President Richard Nixon, President John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, John Kennedy, Jr., President Gerald Ford, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Hugh Carey, President Donald J. Trump, Chris Cuomo, William B. Williams, Jimmy Breslin, Mary Lou Whitney, Gay Talese, Pete Hamill, Philip Roth, and Pope Francis. He was a Master Interviewer.
The stature of O’Shaughnessy’s “field of play” even made a splash “across the pond.” When Sir Donald Kaberry, the high-raking Conservative politician and MP from Leeds, came to the U.S. in the late 50s and 60s to study elections and the media, he visited the ABC studios to learn about TV and WVOX and WVOX-FM (now WVIP) to absorb the influence of local radio. O’Shaughnessy, joined by Ossie Davis, treated Sir Donald and a Liberal Party member, along with BBC leaders to lunch at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, where O’Shaughnessy urged the entourage to seek out VOX POPULI, advising, “Sir Donald, the only advice I can give is to take your BBC microphones down to Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner and find the most raucous voice.”
O’Shaughnessy liked to say some of his greatest life lessons were learned early as a caddie at the Bedford Golf Club, where he had the good fortune to spend time with many of the great bankers, financiers and business leaders of the day. On weekends he spent countless hours on the links with the likes of Henry Alexander, chairman of the Morgan bank, Lewis Preston, president of the World Bank (and his dazzling wife Patsy, a Pulitzer), Philip Milner, head of the Metro Division of the Hanover Bank, and James O. Parsons and Volney Righter of the mega TV rep Harrington, Righter and Parsons. He also encountered the Appletons, country squire publisher Carll Tucker, Helen Kennedy (who could hit the ball), Walter Wood Hitesman of Reader’s Digest, and William Fitzgibbons, who always proffered a drink for the caddies in beautiful crystal from his house right on the course. Then, too, there was Jack Shaw, who ran Emily Shaw’s in Pound Ridge, and Loudon Wainwright, father of multi-talented musician Rufus Wainwright. O’Shaughnessy recalled all of them as thoughtful, classy, gracious and generous individuals who always smiled at the caddies — and tipped them well.
A Past President of New York State Broadcasters Association for many years, O’Shaughnessy ran their Annual Conferences at the Otesaga in Cooperstown and the Gideon Putnam in Saratoga.
One of his proudest roles for many decades was serving as a Senior Director of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, as well as an Executive Committee member, and for the past 13 years as Chairman of the Foundation’s Guardian Fund, which has raised millions for broadcasters who have fallen on hard times or have been sidelined by unexpected health issues often without insurance of any kind.
He learned about philanthropy from the many generous inhabitants of the broadcasting tribe who each year give so generously to the less fortunate.
As affirmation and respect for all of his transformative good works, O’Shaughnessy holds honorary Doctorates and Awards from prestigious colleges including Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y., Iona College and the College of New Rochelle.
For 67 years the American flag has proudly flown over our stations … all except, that is, during the Six Day War – the Israeli flag flew over the station and recently the banner of Ukraine was hoisted over the station.
O’Shaughnessy’s endeavors, accomplishments, and exploits, are recounted in his books, whose character portraits Henry Kissinger likened to “potato chips in that you can’t stop with only one!” He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … and “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files,” released in January, 2011. And “Mario Cuomo: Remembrances of a Remarkable Man,” a tribute to his late friend Governor Mario M. Cuomo. His newest book RADIOactive for Fordham University Press, another anthology with interviews, commentaries, speeches and tributes, was published in 2019. At the time of his passing, he was working on Townies, a paean to those without wealth, influence or high estate in suburban Westchester County, the heart of the Eastern Establishment.
After reading O’Shaughnessy’s books, someone once told Governor Cuomo, “That’s quite a body of good work O’Shaughnessy has put together, all while we were dazzled by his high style and glittering persona.” This encomium encapsulates not just his on-air and written body of work but the entirety of a “sweet,” generous, and impactful life well and fully lived that brought the blessing of “invincible summer” to all whose lives O’Shaughnessy touched. As he liked to say about others he admired, he was sui generis.
Services at Lloyd Maxcy, 16 Shea Place, New Rochelle, NY. Tuesday, May 31st from 4:00- 7:00PM. Funeral Mass on Wednesday, June 1st, 11:30AM at St. Anthony of Padua, 49 South Street, Litchfield, CT, Monsignor Tucker, presiding.
Bill and the O’Shaughnessy Family will be grateful for contributions to the Broadcasters Foundation of America, a national charity whose work and Noble Mission meant so much to WO and those hurting and almost forgotten colleagues in the broadcasting profession: The William O’Shaughnessy Memorial Tribute Fund c/o Broadcasters Foundation of America, 125 West 55th Street, New York, NY 10019 c/o Tim McCarthy and Jim Thompson, co-presidents, 212-373-8250.