RIP, "Chicago Ed" Schwartz
By Karl Klockars in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 4, 2009 8:40PM
The collective group of Chicago radio obsessives that make up part of the Chicagoist staff have posted in the past about Kevin Matthews, Steve & Garry, the Loop collectively, the Blaze, and Mancow. One man we hadn't written about was "Chicago Ed" Schwartz, longtime late-night king of Chicago radio. No one dominated overnight Chicago radio like Schwartz, and it's a shame his first mention on this site is for the occasion of his passing yesterday.
Schwartz got his start like so many radio people have, as an assistant at WLS and WIND, but is best known for his overnight radio show on WIND, WGN and WLUP. The first time we heard Chicago Ed as a young Loop Listener, we thought it was a gag - anyone who heard Ed knew that his voice wasn't exactly tailor made for radio. However, Ed's personality and humanity poured through the speakers on a nightly basis which more than compensated for the sound. (If you've ever heard Kevin Matthews' damn near spot-on imitation, you can see how much fun it could be to listen to Ed.)
Over his three decades as a Chicago radio late-night destination, probably the best-known impact of Ed's program was the Good Neighbor Food Drive. Once a year, for hours through the night, celebrities and politicians would go on the air with Ed in the depths of the overnights, which eventually raised millions of pounds of food and millions of dollars for food pantries.
Schwartz had been suffering with a number of health issues in the past few years, not the least of which was with his kidneys, leading to renal failure. He mentions his health problems in this interview with Rick Kaempfer, and Ed's legendary size more than certainly contributed to his ongoing health problems.
In recent years, Ed was mostly limited to freelance writing for small local newspapers, a few appearances in "letters to the editor," and writing on his Chicago Ed website. Schwartz's last radio appearance was just a few weeks ago for the rollout of a live overnight talk show called Chicago Overnight, hosted by Geoff Pinkus, which is on WIND. (Listen to the interview here.) No one knew it then, but it now stands a completion of the circle, coming back for one last evening to where he started out years ago. Incidentally, it's fantastic to see Rob Feder's byline on one more piece for the Sun-Times: Too bad it's for Ed's obituary.
Photo from wgngold.com.