Tom DeLisle has died, and this is one of those passings that is a deep cut to the heart of all of us who knew and loved him, of course, but also across an impressively wide variety of professional fields as well.
Tom was one of the early "media guys" in mass communications in the U.S., someone who understood the idea of "integrated platforms" before that became a term in graduate MBA programs. A lifelong and proud Michigander, Tom was a print journalist, a TV producer, an occasional on-air radio personality, a record producer, the writer of the authorized biography of NHL legend Gordie Howe, a production adviser for the pop-rock band Tony Orlando and Dawn in their heyday, a gadfly and gadabout, a man by turns prickly and impatient and warm and compassionate, and one of the best MCs I have ever seen, a guy who could set a room a-roar with laughter at his quips, his anecdotes, and his usually off-the-cuff interplay with celebrities and guests.
Most of my FB friends who knew Tom knew him as I did, through many or all of the Kingston Trio Fantasy Camps in Scottsdale AZ between 2000 (his first year as the MC at the initial camp) and 2014 (his last). Tom had been a close friend of former KT stalwart and long-term singer-songwriter John Stewart for decades, and when John somewhat reluctantly agreed to this FC project in 2000 at the urging of his friends Michelle Stevens, Paul Rybolt, Art Faller and more, Stewart gauged correctly and with a great performer's instinct that the whole idea - amateur baby boomer performers stepping on stage to sing with each other and some professionals as well - just wouldn't fly if he didn't have an incandescent stage personality to anchor the shows and keep the audience, which grew steadily year by year for the event, engaged and entertained.
Stewart turned to his friend, boon companion, and fellow off-beat humorist Tom DeLisle to fill that role, and for my money no other single decision was as critical as that one to the expanding success of the venture, which when the final curtain came down on the event last August was attracting between 200 and 300 people annualyl to the Valley of the Sun in August (think about that for a moment). Tom was the leaven in the bread, the guy who knew everything about the Trio and John Stewart and peppered his stage presentation with personal stories, obscure facts, and verbal jabs that hit their marks and that which while barbed were never intended to belittle or injure.
Tom and I had an ongoing quip battle (which he usually won) that focused on his affinity for the Michigan Wolverines football team and mine for my Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The schools played almost annually in those days, and our yearly bet was a bottle of Guinness bought by the fan of the losing team for the fan of the winner. Tom loved to win, but when he did it meant simply that we got to sit together for a bit and rehash the prior year's game. Tom loved sports - especially Detroit and Michigan sports - as much as he loved music.
The world is a bit of a colder place today because of Tom's departure and a bit less funny. Rest in peace, my friend, and keep 'em laughing wherever you are.
And with an appropriately DeLisle-ish closing, I will simply add that somewhere in the world today, Tony Orlando is breathing a deep sigh of relief.