Longtime D.C.-area DJ and sportscaster Johnny Holliday remembered Willard Scott as a man who would steal your lamp, get your name wrong on purpose and make you smile the entire time.
The top line of the obituary for Scott, who died Saturday, is of course his years as the weatherman on NBC’s “Today” show, and 10 years on NBC Washington before that.
But Scott, an Alexandria native, began in the D.C. area, dominating the D.C. radio airwaves from 1955 to 1974 with Ed Walker as The Joy Boys. That’s where Holliday met him, eventually advocating for Scott to be brought over to his station.
“So Willard and Eddie came to work on my station,” Holliday, the voice of University of Maryland football for more than 40 years, told WTOP Saturday night. “I was doing the mornings; they were doing the afternoons, and we became just good friends. But he was friends with everybody. Everybody he came in contact with just loved the guy. He just had that magic about him, that he made everybody feel special.”
Holliday added, “He kind of set the standard for a lot of people in broadcasting to do it a certain way — to do it the right way. To be nice; to be kind, to be personable. And people flock to somebody like that.”
Arlington native Katie Couric, who ended up working with Scott on “Today,” is one of many who grew up admiring him.
“I remember when I was about 12 years old I was at the Dart Drug Store … and he was looking at batteries,” Couric said. “I said, ‘excuse me, are you Willard Scott? Are you one of the Joy Boys?’ because my parents used to play The Joy Boys with Willard and Ed Walker out of a transistor radio on the kitchen table,” Couric told WTOP.
When Couric joined “Today” around 1990, she said she, like so many others, instantly felt a connection with Scott.
“He just was so sweet to me from the get-go,” Couric said. “And then we started doing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade together, and it was so much fun. The most fun part of doing the parades were the rehearsals because Willard was so hilarious … the things he would say during the rehearsals while we were reviewing the script had everyone in stitches the entire time.”
Holliday also recalled Scott’s sense of humor off the air: He once had Scott over to dinner one night, and Scott called later to express his appreciation for the hospitality by saying “I hope that your wife is not going to miss that lamp that I took; I thought it was pretty nice.”
Scott “used to call in my radio show and say ‘May I speak to Mr. Holloway?’ ‘Um, it’s Holliday.’ ‘Whatever,’” Holliday said. “He just made everybody smile, and I will miss him, like everyone else will miss him dearly.”
“You would tune in to watch Willard and see what he was going to do that day,” Holliday said – “What kind of outfit was he going to wear when he was, you know, wishing happy birthday to people over 100 years of age — brought to you by Smuckers, of course.”
The happy birthday wishes became a calling card of Scott’s career, and Couric said the segment embodied the type of person he was.
“He brought a smile to all those centenarians who he celebrated with unabashed love and little touch of corniness,” she said. “That in many ways encapsulates Willard’s spirit .. Willard didn’t make it to the front of the Smucker’s jar, but what an incredible life he led.”
Even though Scott semi-retired in 1996, and hung it up for good in 2015, Holliday said young people getting started in the business can still learn from him.
“His formula wasn’t magic. It was just kind of basic and down to earth,” Holiday said. “Be nice, be kind, be open to suggestions. Do it the right way. Nothing off-color, nothing ever offensive, came out of his mouth.
“And just enjoy the broadcasting business,” Holliday said. “It’s a marvelous, marvelous profession. And if you enjoy it, you’re going to reap the rewards later on. And that’s exactly what he did.”
WTOP’s Laura Spitalniak, Matt Small and Thomas Robertson contributed to this report.