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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 31, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 53
Neil Rogers, Gay radio pioneer, dies
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Neil Rogers, Gay radio pioneer, dies

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Gay talk radio pioneer Neil Rogers died December 24. He was 68.

Rogers became a national figure when he came out on the air in 1977 at the height of Anita Bryant's campaign against Gay rights in Florida's Dade County.

Although Bryant won, the revelation did not hurt Rogers' career; it only made him more popular.

Born in New York, Rogers landed his first radio job shortly after dropping out of Michigan State University. He worked in several locations before ending up at WKAT in Miami.

He switched stations in 1979, in 1982, in 1989, and again in 1997, but he always remained the highest-rated talk-show host in Miami, dominating both the most coveted demographics - the 18-24 and 25-54 age ranges.

He finally left broadcasting in 2009, when his long-time producer was fired by WQAM radio. In a characteristic move, Rogers called his agent on the air to complain that the firing violated his contract.

Often described as 'the Gay Howard Stern,' Rogers was controversial, outspoken, and sometimes downright mean.

He mocked organized religion, and offended senior citizens by calling South Florida 'an outdoor funeral home.'

Once, he denounced retirees from New York who wanted nothing more than to steal Sweet & Low from Denny's. At his next live appearance at a Dade County mall, dozens of old ladies showed up to throw Sweet & Low at him.

At another point, Rogers took a dislike to then-CNN talk show star Larry King, reminding his audience of King's past financial problems.

He repeatedly played a tape of King saying, 'Loan me $50,' according to the Miami Sun-Sentinel.

Nevertheless, Rogers also spoke out in support of refugees moving to the area to escape oppression in their homelands.

According to his friend and attorney, Norman Kent, Rogers had been in poor health for some time.

He suffered two heart attacks and a stroke since July, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Rogers had been living in Toronto, Canada, since his retirement, but moved back to South Florida to be near friends and seek medical treatment.

He had been scheduled for open heart surgery after Thanksgiving, but his doctors decided to cancel it because of his deteriorating medical condition. He was then transferred to hospice care, where he died.

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