'I felt robbed of our last chance to say goodbye' - DJ Larry Gogan on the loss of his beloved wife Florrie
DJ Larry Gogan is still mourning the loss of his beloved wife Florrie after 39 years of marriage, but feels that some day they will meet again, writes Niamh Horan
Age bestows many gifts. But perhaps the greatest is the ability to remain immune to flattery.
Larry Gogan is a prime example of this. Six months ago, one of the world's biggest rock stars Jon Bon Jovi dominated headlines when he sent a special message to Ireland's best- known DJ on the news that he was leaving 2fm after 40 years.
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"You're the best," enthused the singer - who even invited him as a special guest to his show in the RDS this summer.
Sitting in the RTE canteen, sipping tea and munching a biscuit, Larry looks completely flummoxed.
"I don't know him at all," he says shaking his head. "The kids said to me 'Jon Bon Jovi says to come to his show'. I said 'I never met him'. So I don't know whether that he thought he met me or if it was a PR stunt."
His unassuming nature is comical. While others would love to dine out on A-list names claiming personal ties, he remains unaffected: "I always remember during another interview Neil Diamond asked 'how is Florrie?' and I said 'oh she is fine.' I was a bit surprised, and he said 'how she puts up with you, I do not know!'
"Afterwards my producer told me that he had wanted to know the name of my wife before the interview to give people the impression we had met, which is funny because I had never met him in my life."
It's easy to see why Larry attracts warmth and conversation as he walks through the Montrose station, which he joined in 1961. Even stars have a way of letting their guard down around him.
When Kris Kristofferson popped in to hear Larry play his hits and his most famous song Help Me Make It Through the Night filled the airwaves, the singer leaned over to him and said: "I don't remember recording any of those tracks at all" - admitting that his most seductive song had been written in a haze of drugs and alcohol.
One of eight children, Larry used to escape to his bedroom with an old transistor radio to listen to the sounds of Elvis over the American Forces Network (AFN). It is Elvis that still has the ability to speed-dial his emotions when he hears his heart-breakers all this time later.
At 15, while working in his family's newsagents, he was knocked sideways when he went on an errand to another newsagents and saw "a fine little blonde" sitting behind the counter. "I thought she was very sexy," laughs Larry. 'Florrie' eventually went to work in his family's store and the pair were married at 21.
After 39 years of marriage and five children, he says he learned love is "giving yourself to someone completely, trusting them completely and not measuring."
In all their years, the couple never fought - except for when it came to one contentious issue.
"Our music tastes clashed," laughs Larry. "I liked rock but she preferred Dickie Rock, Joe Dolan and Sonny Knowles."
But despite their differences, Florrie remained Larry's number one fan until her death in 2002, tuning in every day to his show. Not that she didn't have competition - over the years Larry recalls his fair share of super-fans. To this day, a woman still sends him Valentine's Day cards, although she is in her 90s and living in a nursing home. When another knocked at his door, Larry recalls hiding behind Florrie vigorously waving his arms and mouthing the words ''She's C-R-A-Z-Y'' as his wife invited her in for tea.
But despite many willing admirers and decades in the notoriously opportunistic entertainment business, Larry never strayed.
"I used to go away and do OBs [outside broadcasts] and there would always be glamorous women and I remember people thinking 'oh what's he up to?" he laughs. "I was in a hotel in Adare and I had a drink with one of the female producers at the bar and then told her I would see her for breakfast. The next morning we were down at breakfast and the receptionist, an oul one, marched over and [huffs] Mr Logan your wife is on the phone," he laughs "I got on to Florrie and said 'this one is giving out to me' and she said 'ah, aul culchies, don't mind them,'" he laughs.
He turns sombre when describing the "serious shock" that came with her breast cancer diagnosis. While Florrie was battling the disease the pair had their cases packed and were ready to leave for a romantic holiday in Portugal when a phone call came. Florrie was told she would immediately have to undergo treatment or she wouldn't survive six months. Although she followed the doctor's orders, Larry says "she was dead in six months".
The pair spent their final Christmas together in hospital. With Florrie in St Vincent's hospital and Larry in Blackrock Clinic, for his own health problems, Florrie visited her husband on Christmas Day and the couple talked and laughed over turkey and plum pudding. They planned a world cruise when they recovered. Three weeks later, Larry visited Florrie.
"Even then," he says, "she was still thinking of me. She said 'would you ever go home and rest yourself'. I had only got home when my son-in-law told me she had taken a turn and she died the next day".
"It was terrible," he says. "I still feel I never got to say goodbye to her properly. I was robbed of saying goodbye."
He adds: "People say time heals all wounds but I don't think it does. I still grieve for Florrie... I do believe we will meet again. I do believe there is something else. Otherwise what's the point of it all?"
He is now on dialysis three times a week and has arthritis in his hands and knees. But his famous golden voice is keeping listeners tuned in to his show on RTE's digital station RTE Gold and Larry says he will never retire: "They [RTE} said 'we don't care if you crawl in - once you can talk'." He has a rule never to play requests for people whose loved ones have died because he finds it ''strange'' and of his own funeral play list he laughs: "I don't care what they play when I am dead." But then he thinks again and decides on one hit.
"I'd like U2," he says after some consideration, "All I Want is You."
'The Golden Hour' is on digital station RTE Gold each weekday at 1pm.