There’s a line in the George S. Kaufman/Moss Hart play “You Can’t Take It With You” in which the character Grandpa says to a Wall Street big wig, “A cat can look at a king, can’t he?” To me that was the essence of Paul Sullivan. The WBZ radio talk show host, and Lowell Sun columnist didn’t care if you were the President of Harvard, or the President of your kid’s pee wee soccer league — he treated you with the same respect and candor. Paul’s passing from cancer is a major loss for people who appreciate a healthy dose of common sense in their media coverage.

Paul is often compared to the man he followed on WBZ Radio, David Brudnoy, but the two talk hosts really couldn’t have been more different. Brudnoy was the intellect, the academic, the well meaning know-it-all. Paul was the heart-on-his-sleeve gabber. He probed and poked to keep the conversation going, and to set up his next rim-shot. He wasn’t going to bowl you over with his deep understanding of a subject, but he’d cut to the chase and give you his point of view — like it or not.

Paul also never forgot where he came from. He was a big cheese at WBZ, but he always had a shout out for his peeps in his beloved Lowell. Lowell and Sully were synonymous … a tough mill town that had seen better days, but never gave in to despair or frustration. The same way that Paul fought his deadly form of cancer.

Boston radio is in a tough spot right now. It’s mean that seems to sell. You have the frat boys on sports radio who loath and mock their own audience. You have Howie Carr being offered incredible money to spread his particular brand of small-minded venom. You’ve got Tom Finneran trying desperately to be relevant in a market that considers him more a curiosity than a taste maker. Paul Sullivan cut through all that by being true to his audience and himself. He liked being a media star, but it didn’t change him into an entitled celebrity.

Sully, we will not see your like again soon. Godspeed.


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