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Motor City Cribs



It's legendary Detroit DJ Dick Purtan's second-to-last day on the radio and he's a half hour late. Purtan is known for many things in Detroit — his great comedic skits, his charity fundraising, having the best mustache in Motown, and his 45-year run as one of the most successful DJs in Detroit, ever. He's as much a part of Motor City mornings as a cup of coffee and a pothole. Perhaps less known is how he attracts more cops while driving than probably David Letterman.

When Purtan finally arrives at Ferndale's WOMC studios, armed with his trademark grin, he says, "I was pulled over by an unmarked SUV on the way in. The officer asked me if I was retiring tomorrow and I told him yes. He told me to have a nice day and let me go!" It being his last day on air, he got a police escort to the station. 

With just enough time to drink water, Purtan launches into his show: Purtan's People, a throwback to how radio was once done, back when it was actually indie. Though the show appears seamless on air, creating it — with his daughter Jackie, Rebekah Rhodes, Larry Lawson and Big Al Muskavito — is an exercise in controlled chaos. While a song's playing, they might be recording an impersonation, doing a phone interview, searching archives for a classic skit or dreaming up a new one, during which time Purtan never misses a beat or loses his cool. And it's a lot more fun than listening to a Clear Channel computer's music library on shuffle.

Purtan's plans for retirement include working on his website, writing a book about his radio years and spending more time with his wife Gail and his family. Arguably, though, the most exciting thing in Purtan's future is the one thing his job never let him do. "I'm going to sleep in," he says with that trademark grin.

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