Steve Somers said his situation reminds him of a line from the World War I film, "1917," in which a character says, "There is only one way this war ends: last man standing."
"I guess I’m the last one standing," he said.
But do not take that to mean he is cynical or melancholy about his status as an elder statesman at WFAN, which is in the process of becoming younger and has bid several veteran on-air personalities adieu.
Last month Entercom, WFAN’s parent company, announced Mark Chernoff, a top executive since 1993, will give up day-to-day oversight sometime this year.
Somers? He is several years older than all five of them, born two days after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in April of 1947.
And yet he still is at it, even agreeing last year to return to the overnight shift, where he first rose to fame as the station’s original host in that time slot.
"I think it’s a little bit of luck," he said of his staying power. "Maybe I’m the next one not standing, who knows? . . I think over the years it was cultivating a little bit of an audience, and maybe that audience is still there."
That audience long has appreciated Somers’ quirky, sometimes inspired, sometimes discursive monologues and wordplay. But he knows this cannot go on forever, perhaps not even for much longer.
"I understand where the direction of the station has gone and I don’t have any ego problems at all, certainly not at this stage," he said. "I think ‘JJ After Dark’ [John Jastremski], I think Evan Roberts, I think so many of the young people at WFAN, both on the air and on the other side of the microphone, are very bright and very, very talented.
"You want to keep up with the times and again, I totally understand where I’m at at this stage of my life and this stage of my career."
Somers said that when Chernoff and Entercom senior vice president Chris Oliviero discussed moving to overnights with him, he told them he agreed with their overall approach.
"I’m glad that I’m still there," he said. "Who knows down the road? I don’t take anything for granted, not a single thing. So it’s always been day-to-day, for 33 years."
Somers is WFAN’s senior-most daily host, but there are others on the air who first appeared in the 1980s, including Suzyn Waldman, Ed Coleman, Richard Neer and Ann Liguori.
Still, there clearly is a youth movement afoot, at least in relative terms. (Morning co-host Boomer Esiason, who shares a birthday with Somers, will turn 60 on April 17.)
So Somers is happy to take what he can get.
"I very much care and so enjoy doing it," he said. "It’s always been a dream, so I’m still living it, and I appreciate every single day that I’m able to do it."
Somers has been working since last March from his one-bedroom duplex on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, trying his best from his makeshift studio in the kitchen not to awaken his wife, Robin.
"Well, I do wake her up, that’s the downside," he said. "I don’t talk as loud as I normally do."
He said the apartment is about 1,000 square feet, where "monologues from 30 years are still strewn about. That is the décor of this apartment – monologues and a lot of things that are stuffed into corners."
Like much of humanity, he has missed over the past year the social aspect of seeing his colleagues and friends, but he still has his loyal listeners to speak to.
"The only difference between me and my listeners is that I’m on one side of the microphone and they’re on the other," he said.
Being the son of a grocer – his father and "hero" Sam – gave him his work ethic as well as his "grounded" personality.
"I’ll be honest with you, there is a lot more I have learned from my audience than they have learned from me," Somers said.
"To be a part of a lineup is an honor, to be still working after all these years, and to be able to do OK," Somers said. "I had more of a fastball years ago. Now I’m like Jamie Moyer."
Moyer pitched in the majors until he was 49. Somers is shooting for 74 next month, and beyond.
"I can understand, I guess, with others who want to retire or re-assign or leave the station altogether that eventually there’s always another chapter in your life that you’re going to have to make the adjustment for," he said.
"But at this point in time, as I say, we have no other choice but to take things day-to-day. I still care a great deal about what I’m doing and still find it very satisfying and an honor to be doing it in New York City at WFAN."
AN ARGUMENT ABOUT NOTHING?
The airing of grievances is over, and it appears an on-air reunion between Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Somers is near, awaiting only the start of the baseball season.
On his WFAN program early Saturday, Somers took note of Seinfeld’s promise in Newsday of an upcoming “schmooze near you” and said the actor/comedian is welcome on his show anytime.
“He is about to come back to WFAN, and once baseball season gets underway, he’ll have plenty to say about the Metropolitans from 41 Seaver Way,” Somers said.
The two had had what Somers described as a “terrific email and radio relationship” for years before a falling out of sorts years ago over a matter that upset Somers but that Seinfeld seemed to consider a misunderstanding. “He may not even remember the incident,” Somers conceded on the air.
But Somers spoke in disappointed terms both on the air in December and again in an interview with Newsday this past week about Seinfeld declining to help him with contact information for Larry David.
When Seinfeld, who grew up in Massapequa, was asked about Somers’ comments, he told Newsday through a spokesman, “Ridiculous. I love Mr. Somers. Never had a cross word.
“I prefer to call in during Mets baseball season. My main sports interest. Our friendship is for life. What a knucklehead. Watch for ‘Jerry from Queens’ coming very soon to a schmooze near you . . . !”
Seinfeld had been a longtime listener when he ran into Somers at a bodega in Manhattan late one night years ago, which led to Seinfeld making periodic calls to Somers as “Jerry from Queens.” (He attended Queens College.)
Somers one day requested contact information to set up an interview with David, star of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and Seinfeld’s old partner on his eponymous sitcom.
Seinfeld provided it, which led to a successful interview with David. A year or more later, David changed his address, and Somers asked Seinfeld for the new one so he could set up another chat with David, an avid Yankees, Jets and Knicks fan.
According to Somers, Seinfeld suggested he had overstepped his bounds. “I’m not going to give it to you,” Somers quoted Seinfeld saying. “That’s not what friends do.”
“That took me aback,” Somers said. “I didn’t know what to say. I was breathless. I said something along the lines of ‘That’s not what friends do?’ He wouldn’t give it to me, and yet he had given it to me the first time . . . That upset me. I couldn’t believe that. That is what friends do.”
Somers never brought up the matter on the air for fear of embarrassing Seinfeld, but in December, after morning show producer Al Dukes told the story on the air, a caller asked Somers about it, at which point he told all.
Somers said he would have had Seinfeld on anytime if he wanted to call in because his listeners enjoy it, but he had not reached out to him in recent years. Then Somers read Seinfeld’s comments in Newsday – “He was throwing nothing but roses over my way.”
Said Somers on Saturday morning, “It’s not earth-shaking. It’s not breaking news. It’s not the end of the world, but it was something that I remembered, even if he doesn’t. But I’m glad that he made the comments that he made in the paper on Thursday, and let’s face it, I don’t hold grudges to begin with.
“The bottom line is we’ll have him on once the baseball season gets underway. He’s more comfortable talking about the Mets; that’s his team. So once baseball season gets started, I’m sure he’ll come on every now and then and it should be and could be and will be, I’m hoping, a very fun couple of minutes with ‘Jerry from Queens.’ ”