For more than 30 years, Roy Leonard dominated the airwaves on Saturday mornings with ratings on WGN that were higher than the next four stations combined. His weekday shows were also top rated as he interviewed celebrities, authors, politicians, musicians and sports figures, who made a stop at the WGN studios a must. Starting in 1985 he became host of WGN-TV’s “Family Classics” after the sudden passing of Frazier Thomas. He hosted many WGN-TV Specials and was film and theater critic on the nightly news.
Roy’s career started in New England. After attending Emerson College and a stint in The United States Air Force and Armed Forces Radio, he found a job and his life’s companion in the small town of Framingham, just outside of Boston. While working at the local radio station, he was approached by the casting director of the local theatre group to appear in their next show. Not only did Roy appear in that and future shows, but he married the casting director, Sheila Marie Finn in the Fall of 1953. The Leonards began to raise a family and Roy got his first job in a major market, Boston. It was here that he honed his skills in news reporting and developed interviewing techniques on both Channels 5 & 7 and daily radio shows on WHDH, WNAC, and the Yankee Network.
In 1967 WGN, Chicago, came calling and the Leonard family, which by then included Sheila and six sons, moved to the Midwest where Roy soon became a top radio and TV personality. His love of theater prompted an annual London Theatre Tour, where listeners were offered a week of sightseeing, theatre and shopping. This led to New York Theatre weekends, trips to the Shaw & Stratford Festivals in Ontario, excursions to France, Norway, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Thailand and The Soviet Union, where Roy broadcast his morning radio show from Moscow.
Leonard retired from daily broadcast duties at the end of 1998 but continued “Family Classics” and occasional radio and TV commercials. His sons all live in and around Chicago and eight grandchildren see their grandparents regularly. In the Fall of 2010, Sheila suffered a severe fall and slowly developed Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia. She went into Hospice Care at the Mather Life Center in Evanston early in 2012 and passed away on March 13th. Roy lives in The Mather, an upscale Continuing Care Retirement Community and keeps his website up to date by sharing with long time fans as well as new readers, his thoughts on current world and local happenings. And in a special series called ‘Till Death Do Us Part, he details his struggle with an ailing spouse and offers suggestions that might help those in a similar situation.
One of the great screenwriting teams of all time talk about the old Hollywood with stories about Bogart and Bacall, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, and Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. (October 22, 1981) Click … […]
An amazing, serious interview about the art of comedy with one of the funniest men alive. (1982) Click here to return to the Roy Leonard Audio Archive. For more about Roy Leonard, visit royleonard.com. … […]
In 1986 we talked about the difficulties of being Ernest Hemingway’s son and his service with our OSS in WWII and parachuting behind enemy lines. Click here to return to the Roy Leonard Audio Archive. For more about Roy … […]
We traveled to New Orleans back in 1980 to talk to Clint Eastwood, Ronnie Milsap, Merle Haggard, Scatman Crothers and other stars of Clint’s movie Bronco Billy. Here’s a one-hour version of what happened over two days. Click here … […]
Comic David Brenner examined his career in a book back in 1983 and also released his first album. He talks with Roy about both. Click here to return to the Roy Leonard Audio Archive. For more about Roy Leonard, … […]