Mike’s on . . . for only 5 ½ more hours.
After one last public appearance on Thursday, Mike Francesa is at last set for his final show on WFAN, scheduled for 1 to 6:30 p.m. Friday.
“It’s been so busy; it’s been crazy,” he said of his final week as he prepared for Thursday’s penultimate show at the Paley Center for Media in Manhattan. “It’s been a whirlwind. I haven’t had time to think about it.”
But Francesa has had time to think about his approach to the last hurrah.
On Thursday, he welcomed a parade of guests — most on the phone, some in person — before an audience. But on Friday he only will take calls from listeners. Then, for the final half hour, he plans to have only one voice be heard: his own.
“I would expect that after I come back at 6, to 6:30, I think it will be just me talking,” he said. “I will be done with everything else. That will be me saying my goodbyes and giving you my thoughts, and that will probably be it.”
Thursday’s show featured mostly phone-in guests with select in-person visits, including former Mets managers Bobby Valentine and Willie Randolph. Valentine bowed in tribute as he approached Francesa.
There were a total of 85 guests overall, featuring colleagues, contributors, friends and athletes.
They included Francesa’s former partner, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, his former WFAN colleague Don Imus and Carl Banks, Tiki Barber, John Calipari, Brian Cashman, Chris Christie, Bob Costas, Tom Coughlin, Victor Cruz, Dick Ebersol, Jim Fassel, Joe Girardi, Keith Hernandez, Eli Manning, Tim McCarver, Jim Nantz, Regis Philbin, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Tannenbaum, Lawrence Taylor, Suzyn Waldman, Bernie Williams and Kurt Warner.
Francesa’s producer, Brian Monzo, assembled the sprawling roster. He and associate producer Chris McMonigle will be the only people allowed in the studio with Francesa on Friday.
Imus, who joined WFAN in 1988 and helped turn around its fortunes, was on at 5 p.m.
Francesa said, “Without Don Imus, I’ve said this many times, there’s no ‘Mike and the Mad Dog,’ there’s no ‘FAN and there’s no any of this stuff . . . That thing would have lasted a year-and-a-half. It would have folded like a cheap suit.”
The last celebrity guest was Taylor, who Francesa called the best player in New York sports during his 30 years on the station. LT closed the show with an off-color joke about strip clubs.
Then Francesa had the audience sing “Happy Birthday” to his longtime driver and confidante, Julio Rosa, who turns 50 on Friday.
Francesa took the calls from a desk on a stage at the Paley Center. Nearby was Mark Chernoff, WFAN’s longtime vice president of programming.
Chernoff said he is excited about the coming new era at WFAN, “but the emotion of Mike actually leaving, it’s really hit me now, these last two days . . . It’s very emotional.”
Chernoff announced that Francesa’s studio will be named in his honor.
Tickets were distributed to fans, friends and clients sufficient to fill the 200-seat theater at the Paley Center, but people came and went over the course of the day, so the number in attendance varied, and only about 25 remained by the end.
After spending Thursday with his friends and colleagues, Francesa said he was looking forward to spending Friday with his listeners, many of whom grew up with him.
“It is 30 years,” he said. “It is a long time. Somebody who was 8 would now be 38. A lot can change between 8 and 38, so they’ve been with me through a lot of things in their lives.”
They have one thing left to share.