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Neal Boortz closes out his radio career

Neal Boortz
Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

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Neal Boortz closed out a storied four-decade-plus career today with a final phone call from "The Queen": his beloved wife Donna.

"You make people bigger and better than they are," Donna told  him on air at 11:57 a.m.. "I don't mind being called 'The Queen' anymore because you claimed me queen. I try to behave like one instead of the witch I can be. Neal - he sees the best in people. That's his true legacy. We've known he's brilliant, he's quick... But we are all better because we know you."

His final hour on air featured a long talk with his comrade-in-arms Jamie Dupree, the Washington, D.C., correspondent who provided news and absorbed Boortz's rants for more than a decade.

Jim Galloway, our "Political Insider" columnist, interviewed Boortz about the future of talk radio without him. Check it out here.

He also took a quick call from Sean Hannity, the Fox News host,  friend and former nemesis on the Atlanta airwaves in the mid-1990s. And he gave final kudos to his long-time producer Belinda Skelton and assistant producer Cristina Gonzalez, who he said almost got hired instead by Hannity in New York. "I won because of the climate,' Boortz said. "It's warmer and closer to home. She's 100 percent Cuban and perhaps the smartest young lady I've ever met in my life."

Boortz, who has described himself as a Libertarian, announced his retirement from radio last July after more than 40 years on the air in Atlanta on three different radio stations. He has worked at AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB for more than 20 years, about half of that in syndication. On Monday, former presidential candidate Herman Cain takes over from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays.

In the final minutes, Boortz thanked his loyal listeners, who numbered more than 6 million on 230-plus radio stations nationwide. "You've been the soul and backbone of this show," he said. "You've sent me letters saying how I've made a difference in your life and how much you enjoyed listening to the show. I'm going to carry those thoughts whereever I go from this point on. I love every one of you and I mean that. The only reason why I'm leaving is because it's so time restrictive. Donna and I have many many places to go. We both share a passion for travel. That doesn't work when you're doing a radio show." (He will continue to do daily commentaries for Cain, which he said he'll download onto his iPad and send each day.)

On air, Boortz also noted that today was the two-year anniversary of his sidekick Royal Marshall's final day on air before he died of a heart attack.

Afterwards, Annette, Marshall's wife, bestowed Boortz a throw blanket featuring pictures of Dupree, Skelton, Gonzalez  and Marshall he could use on his RV, his planned home for the near future.

Boortz then took pictures with staff in the cafeteria and teased some of his long-time colleagues. In an interview, he said he and Donna plan to go to Disney World first. Later, he will  visit Venice, Barcelona and Rome. In his RV, he expects to hit all the national parks in the western United States. And then he is going to Antarctica later this year.

He said the call to his wife was planned as the final call, but he didn't know what she was going to say. He said it was a blessing that Donna never listened to his show.

"I never cared what anybody else thought about what I said," Boortz said - not even his bosses. "But if she said something negative, I'd be crushed. I'm glad she doesn't listen. I don't want to disappoint her."

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