Tony Paige has a plan for the first weekday afternoon of the rest of his life.
“My first gift to me is Monday at 2 o’clock, I’m getting into bed and I’m taking a nap,” he said with a laugh.
He has earned it, after 16 years on the overnight shift for WFAN, a run that will end on Saturday night with a 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. show. He will reserve the final 20 minutes to say farewell to listeners.
“I’m not taking any calls, not taking any guests,” he said. “That’s my way of wrapping it up, thanking the callers. That segment will probably open with Teddy Pendergrass [music] and close with Teddy Pendergrass.”
Paige decided that it was time to move on while still in what he calls his “offensive guard years,” meaning his 60s, and not his “wide receiver years,” meaning his 80s.
The plan was to leave WFAN when he turned 66, which was Wednesday, but not before finishing out the week – a tribute to his late mother extending her retirement by three days for one last full paycheck at Harlem Hospital.
Paige announced his decision in June, prompting weeks of tributes from callers and colleagues. He is scheduled to appear on Mike Francesa’s afternoon show on Friday.
“I’ve been truly touched,” he said. “I’ve gotten letters. I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of calls from people who say their wife is going through chemo or their husband has cancer or they’re up in the middle of the night and ‘you’re soothing.’
“You think you’re doing a good job. You hope you’re doing a good job. But it’s kind of overwhelming all the people who are calling saying what a good job you’re doing . . . It’s kind of numbing just to know you’ve touched so many people.”
Paige will give over his 2 to 6 a.m. show Saturday to callers to talk about whatever they wish, including reminiscences of parents and other people who have impacted their lives.
He will be back at 10 p.m. with a show that will include a recorded interview with former NBA commissioner David Stern. Then he will say goodbye from 1:40 to 2 a.m.
The plan moving forward is to continue writing stories for the Daily News, perhaps do international TV work and eventually write a book. He said there likely are few people who can say they have interacted with Muhammad Ali, Donald Trump, Idi Amin and Don King.
The first step, though, will be learning to sleep on a schedule resembling that of most of humanity.
“It does wear you down a little bit,” he said. “I know I get a little tired now in the evening. Not that I wasn’t tired before, but over 16 years it gets to you after a while.” (Early in 2018, he missed a month of work after having a cancerous tumor on a kidney removed.)
Paige said that final monologue early Sunday will focus on the bond between him and his callers, and their shared histories through life’s milestones, good and bad.
“I know I’m a different kind of a host,” he said. “I don’t yell and scream. That’s not how I was raised. I blame my parents. That’s the way I am. People seem to like it . . . I just thank the callers and say I’ve had a blast and had a ball.”