Bob Todd was a drinker, a toker, a gambler, a slob, a Deadhead, an avid sports fan. He was loud, outspoken, caustic and funny. He didn’t broker dummies and fools. He was a lifelong bachelor. He lived life on his terms. As his friend Chuck Scatolini said, “”He taught me what living unapologetically is about. In all situations, he was always the real Bob. Utterly authentic.”
And the best friend one could have – whether you were a person or a dog.
Bob Todd died on Sunday, January 12 clad in his Forty Niner pajamas. He was 57.
Bob was the longtime morning host of the Bob Todd Show on Sierra Wave radio. So even if you didn’t know him, you knew him. You knew his booming voice. You knew his musical tastes. You knew his sense of humor – particularly when he’d get rolling during 10:20 Trivia with sidekick Catherine Hurdle.
You knew him because he cared. About you. About your kids. He was the guy who’d drive down to cover a high school football game in Kern Valley on a Friday night and have the game up on television by Saturday morning.
He would joke to his brother Spike, “We’ve gotta get home and get this on-air so the 12 people that care can watch it.” It was about getting those kids’ names on the radio, on television. Giving them their moment of glory. Giving their parents and grandparents something to brag about.
And he was the guy, according to Sierra Wave colleague Bill LeFever, who couldn’t help but get emotional when reading obituaries on-air, even if he had never known the person he was eulogizing.
Bob was born and raised in Anaheim, the son of an Annapolis graduate and engineer (who worked at Rockwell) and a librarian.
He was the youngest of four children, and a mama’s boy. “Parents try to tell you they don’t have a favorite. Bob was mom’s favorite,” observed his brother Spike.
He was a bit different from his elder siblings Randy, Linda and Spike. “Todds are type A,” observed Linda. “But it [the type A] lost a little luster by the time it got down to the fourth child.”
Spike and Bob, just 18 months apart, shared a room growing up. “He was Oscar and I was Felix,” laughed Spike. One time it [the divide between messy and clean] got so pronounced that they laid a piece of tape down the middle of the room to divide it.
And if you ever shared a hotel room with Bob, forget it. “You could be in a hotel room 15 minutes and it would look like Bob had been staying there a month,” added Spike.
And when it came to personal finances, forget it. “He kept his bank statements in Vons bags.”
But no matter how unkempt Bob may have been in his personal life, he was meticulous in his professional one. The son of an English major and a librarian does not tolerate misspellings and dangling participles and run-on sentences.
Friend and golfing partner Phil Poirier said that Bob would go so far as to correct the punctuation in the texts Phil sent him.
And Bill LeFever said he’d always have Bob read whatever correspondence he was about to send out.
Bob graduated from Loara High School in 1981. He tried a semester of junior college but college wasn’t for him. He then moved to Mammoth where he spent the next three years living with his brothers and working for Rodger Guffey at Perry’s Restaurant.
Both Bob and Spike had evening shifts – Spike at the liquor store and Bob making the pizza dough for the next day. And then they’d walk home to the three-bedroom house they rented with brother Randy on Forest Trail. Back when two guys earning minimum wage could afford to rent a house. And back when two guys without a car didn’t have a bus to catch. They’d walk home together every night after their shifts concluded.
In 1984, Bob moved to Watsonville where he caught on with the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian as a sportswriter. He was sports editor from 1989-1995.
An obituary penned by Lane Wallace which will run in the Pajaronian quoted this anecdote from Dave Burge, who worked alongside Bob for nine years.
“One summer, Bob was between houses. He decided to pitch a tent at the beach and continued to lead our sports department every day,” Burge recalled. “ He joked, ‘Next year, I’m going to rent a house for my vacation.’ That was Bob in a nutshell, always seeing the whimsy and humor in everything.”
It was in his mid-20s that Bob took up golf – and he was such a great athlete that he became a single-digit handicap player and even won a club championship at Bishop Country Club. He also indulged his love of the Grateful Dead, attending countless shows. Brother Spike said Bob had perfect recall of these shows, even three decades after the fact. The set lists, the highlights. The Grateful Dead eased his mind. Chased his demons. As nephew Eric Hambey said, when Bob was nearing the end and in a bit of discomfort, he just grabbed a pair of ear buds and put them on Bob’s ears and played the song “Ripple” and it soothed him immediately.
Bob returned to the Sierra for good in the late ‘90s. This was his second act, where he transitioned from newspaper to radio. He didn’t know anything about radio when he started, but Benett Kessler, who was editor of the Inyo Register when Bob first returned to the area, liked his style, how he gathered information. His garrulousness. She thought it would translate.
When Benett left the Register for good (having gotten fired for another story about LADWP), she recruited Bob to come work for her. Theirs was a beautiful work marriage of iconoclastic, very intelligent ducks. Bob couldn’t have tolerated working for or with anyone lesser. And as Bill LeFever said, “She respected his smarts, his street smarts, his instincts. His second set of eyes was very different from hers. They’d battle but they didn’t hold grudges. They could hold a difference of opinion.”
As Spike added, “He loved and respected Benett almost as much as Mom and Linda.”
His sister Linda was a huge influence on Bob. They spoke on the phone 3-4 times a week. She was a confidante, a financial advisor … when Bob’s friend Richie Egan died, it was Linda who helped him figure out how to book a plane ticket.
And Bob loved his nephews Todd and Eric, Linda’s sons. When Eric was reeling from a bad breakup two years ago, it was Bob that successfully pitched him on moving to Bishop.
“What are you doing? You’ve been wanting to move here for years. Yamatani needs a bartender. I’ve spoken to Terry [Whitman, Yamatani’s Manager] … “
Eric wondered about the change of heart. He said when he was 18, he wanted to move to the Sierra but Uncles Spike and Bob talked him out of it.
“We didn’t let you move here then because we thought you had potential,” deadpanned Bob.
Jokes aside, it changed Eric’s life.
The obstacles to moving to the Eastern Sierra are always work and housing. The work was lined up and as for housing, Bob put Eric up for the first six months he was here.
Approximately twenty years previous, Bob did the same thing for his childhood friend Greg Bretz.
Bretz was camping with his son Gregory at Red’s Meadow. When Bob came down to give them their food drop, he also handed Bretz a copy of the Mammoth Times. Mammoth Mountain was running a classified seeking a welder.
Bretz drove up to the offices at Main Lodge while Bob watched his son.
Sure enough, Bretz was offered the job … provided he started work the next day. End of camping trip. And the Gregs moved in with Bob for the next year.
As Bretz observed, Bob was the de facto Mayor of Watsonville and then became the de facto Mayor of Bishop. Multiple family members and friends attested that you couldn’t walk into Vons without it turning into a 45-minute trip. Everybody knew him and wanted to talk to him. And as Bob would often tell nephew Eric, “It doesn’t take a lot to be nice to everybody.”
But what was really unique about Bob was that he lived his truth. As friend Mike McKenna said, “Everybody has that YOLO (You Only Live Once) attitude, but Bob actually put it into practice. Everybody else is full of s#&t.”
Nephew Eric recalls (before moving her for good) how he used to leave the southland at 2 a.m. after work and pull into Bob’s house at about 6. He’d open the door, and Bob would stumble out of his room to greet him, rub his eyes, and say, “Bloody Mary?”
And they’d drink their Bloody Marys and wait for the first tee time.
Bob was such a fixture at Bishop Country Club that he had his own drink named after him. A Bob-a-rita.
When the Sheet asked Phil Poirier what was in a Bob-a-rita, he said, “You got me. But it’s damn good.”
Leave it to the bartender to have the answer. “They just have a little more tequila and a little less mix,” explained Eric. “Sometimes a lot more tequila and no mix.”
And if a roadtrip is a metaphor for life, the road stories are legion.
From Scatolini: I sat in the front seat on a lot of road trips … and I enjoyed the secondhand smoke. Bob drove fast. Played the music loud. It was always very late. I lived in general fear for my life.
From nephew Eric: A roadtrip with Bob was a religious experience. You were either going to find God or meet God.
From Bretz: After a Phil and Friends show in Sacramento we were driving to Tahoe along Highway 50. And the car kept jerking in fits and stops. I asked Bob if he were having trouble with the transmission. And Bob says, “I have to stop braking for things in the road that aren’t there.”
“You couldn’t help but like the guy. He had a lot of friends. I wish I’d had a tenth of his friends.” -Phil Poirier
A celebration of Bob’s life will take place on March 7 at the Tri-County Fairgrounds in Bishop at the Heritage Arts Building.
If you’d like to make a donation in Bob’s memory, his two chosen charities are ICARE of the Eastern Sierra (icareforpets.org/P.O. Box 76, Bishop, CA 93515) and the junior golf program at
Bishop Country Club (call Steve Shibley for details at 760.873.5828).
Bob is survived by siblings Randy, Linda (Mark) Hambey and Spike (Debbie), and nephews Todd and Eric Hambey and David Brann.
We’ll leave you with a selection of Bob-isms – a few that folks remembered off the top of their heads.
To Mike McKenna: “You’re the Roberto Duran of golfing. You’ve got hands of stone.”
To Phil Poirier, after one more shot Phil said he couldn’t track because of his poor eyesight: “Hey Phil, why don’t you save us all a little time and tell us when you do f&$kin’ see one.”
“It’s not officially Christmas until we listen to Dean Martin slur his way through Silver Bell.”
“Seems like the least I can do, and God knows I like doing the least I can do.”
Or the corollary … “As Gilligan said to the Skipper, I’m pro lazy.”
Spike: What do you wanna bet?
Bob: Whatever’s gonna win us money.
From the movie Heat: “The action is the juice.”
And words of wisdom to nephew Eric:
“Go forth. Spread beauty and light.”
Golf advice: Walk fast. Play slow.