Friday, September 21, 2018
Opinion

Joe Henderson: Flame-throwing radio host Tedd Webb is all about the fun

The life Henry Ruiz has lived for most of his 68 years might seem like a contradiction, starting with the fact everyone knows him better as Tedd Webb. That's the name he has used for more than a half-century on radio and television.

Thousands of listeners who tune in on weekdays to the AM Tampa Bay show he co-hosts with Jack Harris on 970-WFLA radio know him as a conservative flame-thrower who once tangled fiercely on the air with Ronald Reagan's son.

Trust me, that's just one part of a mosaic that has been wrapped around a little of this, a lot of that, and so much fun.

It's almost over now, though. He will retire in January after nearly 35 years at the station because his body is in full betrayal. He has congestive heart failure and has battled diabetes for many years. He had a heart attack in July and undergoes dialysis three times a week.

"I went in Monday for treatment and lost seven pounds after dialysis," he said. "It just takes a toll."

Listeners know he embraces the flag and country and don't ask what he thinks about liberals unless you want an earful. That public persona doesn't tell his whole story though — not even close.

He can talk to you about Donald Trump or the NFL, but I've always suspected his real passion is pro wrestling. He may sound brash, but he is kind of soft-spoken in person, although you can hear his laugh a city block away.

When the lights come on, he can be a showman with a devilishly clever sense of humor.

People still remember the old Channel 28 TV show called "Sports Rap." He was the host and it was must-see for many folks on Sunday nights.

What viewers didn't know was that occasionally he would hide one of those squeaky things on his chair to mimic, well … you know that sound. Imagine trying to make a point about the Bucs and suddenly there was that drawn-out squeak only Tedd and the guests could hear.

He also used to sing in a rock 'n roll band, and once rode on the tour bus with Alice Cooper to a couple of Florida stops.

He is loyal to his many friends. He can be introspective, but he has never been afraid to let his bosses know what he thinks. That could explain why he was fired before. He was also once told after a job audition that he should consider becoming a plumber instead.

Then there was the time he worked at a station in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. The format required he devote blocks of time to different musical genres — two hours for show tunes, then a couple of hours for modern rock songs.

"I went from Broadway to Steppenwolf in the same show," he said. "That was kind of strange."

His heart was always in his native Tampa, though.

He saw his city grow from a place where the biggest event in town was Tuesday night wrestling at the old Fort Homer Hesterly Armory to what we see now. And he saw his career grow into something listeners will never forget.

"I've thought about what my last show will be like for about a thousand times. I get choked up every time. I hate giving this up, but I'm just tired. I can't do this anymore, but I wouldn't have changed a thing," he said.

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"I think the one thing I have learned is that as different are we all are, we basically want the same things. And before we leave, we want to leave our marks in the sand."

Some marks endure. I suspect his will.

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