ESPN debuted a new TV show, "Get Up!," last Monday. That is noteworthy in a general, broad-sweeping sense only because it harkens us back to the forever rift between the show’s biggest star, host Mike Greenberg, and Willowick native Mike Golic.
Greenberg and Golic were together as cohosts for nearly 18 years on the highly popular "Mike & Mike" show on ESPN radio. The show ended last November, but not without some real controversy that caused it to crash and burn in many respects.
Unbeknownst to Golic, Greenberg had been having discussions since early in 2017 with ESPN executives about moving to the "Get up!" show the network was planning. When he finally became aware of it, Golic was at first shocked and disappointed, and then eventually irate that Greenberg had not shared with him what was happening. He thought their long association and friendship – not only they, but also their families, had gotten close, so much so that when ESPN brought the radio show to Cleveland for remote broadcasts, Golic would Greenberg along when he visited his mother – warranted being told of the situation. As Golic put it, he wasn’t going to try to talk Greenberg out of leaving – if that’s what he wanted to do, then fine, more power to him – but since his own professional future was tied to that of Greenberg in that it was a two-man show that had their first names as the title, he felt disrespected that he was left out of the loop.
It ruined the whole feel and flow of the show, which attracted numbers of listeners because of its easy-to-love theme like that of "The Odd Couple," the successful 1968 movie by Neil Simon that told the story of two divorced men – ultra neat-freak Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) and carefree slob Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) – who decided to live together. They fought like cats and dogs, but their relationship endured because they were good friends first and foremost.
Greenberg, who had covered sports but never really played them while growing up in New York, and is a self-proclaimed "germaphobic," was Felix in this relationship, while Golic, a more earthy guy with a big appetite who starred in football and wrestling at Cleveland St. Joseph High and then Notre Dame, and as a pro football player for nine years with the Houston Oilers, Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins, was Oscar. Their arguments were hilarious. Listeners loved their back-and-forth as the sissy and the jock in large part because the audience knew, with what the hosts always said on the air and in interviews, that they were buddies.
When the rift occurred and never got corrected – they never seriously and honesty mended fences in their remaining time on the air together, nor since – the show became hard to listen to. It transformed into two stubborn men who agreed to disagree, making their attempts at playful banter stilted. You could hear, like a continuous roar, the dislike and loathing over the airwaves.
When the radio show was resurrected a week and a half after "Mike and Mike" stopped under the new name, "Golic and Wingo," with his being paired with likeable, easy-going Trey Wingo, Golic’s old, fun-loving personality immediately returned. And as such, listening to the show turned enjoyable again.
As viewers and listeners, we like out celebrity teams to genuinely like each other. They can have spats, certainly, but at the end of the day, we want them to kiss and make up and be bonded together for life through the good, the bad and the ugly. And when they’re not, what emanates on the air is bad, or at least not nearly as good, programming.
But Golic and Greenberg aren’t the only celebrity duos who have gone their separate ways under negative circumstances, nor will they be the last. This type of thing has been going on for decades to some degree, causing split-ups that lasted for the rest of the celebrities’ lives, or for at least long periods of time.
Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis famously didn’t get along.
Neither did Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon.
Or Don and Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers.
Or Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
Or Cybill Shepherd and Bill Willis, who were paired on the 1980s TV show, "Moonlighting."
Or John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles.
Or Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey from the 1987 movie, "Dirty Dancing."
Or Sam Moore and Dave Prater, members of a 1960s R&B duo.
Or Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2 in the "Star War" movie series, and Anthony Daniels, the voice of C-3PO.
Or Vivian Vance and William Frawley, who played Ethel and Fred Mertz on "I Love Lucy."
Or the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.
Word to the wise for celebrity duos: Find a way – some way, any way, always -- to get along. Your bank account will thank you.