Can I give Wendy Williams her flowers?

OPINION: Wendy Williams was good on TV, but she was one of the greatest radio broadcasters I have ever heard.

Wendy Williams Honored With Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame
Wendy Williams attends her being honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 17, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I just want to give Wendy Williams her flowers because it’s a rough time in Wendyworld right now. The new Lifetime documentary “Where Is Wendy Williams?” makes her look sad, and dementia has made her unrecognizable. It’s tragic to watch her mind and body betray her. For me, what I choose to remember is that once upon a time, Williams was one of the greatest radio broadcasters of all time.  

I understand why Williams moved from radio to TV. She wanted to make more money, have a bigger platform and become a bigger star. I get it. She created “The Wendy Williams Show,” a very good talk show that ran for 13 seasons. But before TV, when she was in the world of radio, Williams was an absolute legend.

From 2001 to 2008, Williams hosted “The Wendy Williams Experience” from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on WBLS in New York City — a show that was syndicated throughout the country. At its height, there were over 12 million people listening to her every day. For most of the four-hour show, it was just Williams talking. They didn’t play records, they didn’t have lots of guests and for most of her run, she didn’t have a co-host. (Charlamagne da God did the show with her at one point, years before he had “The Breakfast Club,” but even when he was there, it was always her show as opposed to the way Charlemagne and DJ Envy share space on their show.)  

In 2009, shortly after she walked away from her radio show, she was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.

On “The Experience.” there were guests and callers from time to time, but for the most part, it was just Williams — just that gorgeous voice and her big personality. That was incredibly captivating.   

Williams was, then as always, the ultimate girl’s girl. On the radio, she could make any topic fascinating but she was most at home doing celebrity gossip. She was the gossip queen who loved to be up in famous people’s business. In 2008, the New York Times called her a “scandalmonger, the kind of beauty-salon savant who wishes famous people the worst.” They also said she “can be startingly mean-spirited.”

I’ll never forget Williams asking Whitney Houston about her drug habit. Or the time she talked to R. Kelly’s brother about the singer being illiterate. Or the time a caller asked her if the caller’s husband was bisexual. Williams famously said, “Denial is a river in Egypt! Your husband is gay!” (Back then Williams loved to assert that some man was secretly gay. After a while she just said “How you doin’?” in her signature sing-songy way and the audience knew what she meant.) 

There was nothing Williams would not say. She was fearless, funny, smart and wild. She’s the auntie who arrives with the wine, the tea and the storytelling ability to keep everyone enthralled for hours. Every afternoon that she was on, she made unbelievably great radio.

She was also very flirty. Many times, when she had guests in the studio, she would conclude the interview and then, as they walked out of the studio, she would say something about their backside. She actually did that to me once. 

I was a guest on her show — I don’t recall what year or what I was there to promote. I just remember sliding into a highly pitched chair in a small gray studio and feeling very intimidated by her. I was nervous because Williams was fun, but you never knew what she’d say. I enjoyed listening to that in the car, but in the studio, when the joke might be about you, it’s a different story. On that day, she did not say anything out of pocket; we had a nice, normal interview. When she let me know it was time to go, I thanked her — relieved that it had gone well — and I walked out of the studio. As I did, she said, on the air, “Ooooh, I love to watch him walk away!”

I was mortified. She’d just talked about my butt as hundreds of thousands of people listened. At the same time, I was deeply complimented. She’d talked about my butt as hundreds of thousands of people listened! I wanted to hide but I also wanted to say, “Aww, thank you, Wendy!!!”

Being a radio host and a TV host are very different jobs, and just because you succeed in one does not mean you will be great at the other. Williams was good at doing TV and made herself into an unforgettable presence on that medium. But on the radio, she was one of the best of her generation. It’s incredibly hard to talk to an unseen audience for four hours a day with no script and remain compelling, engaging and fun enough that they want to come back for more of you the next day. Williams on the radio was a once-in-a-generation talent and as much as I love blasting music in the car, I always turned it off if I had a chance to hear Williams. I miss her show, and I miss the big, bold person she used to be. Seeing her in trouble makes me want to stop and give her her flowers. She’s one of the greatest radio broadcasters I’ve ever heard.


Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.

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