Pegeen Fitzgerald (1911-1989) was an American radio broadcaster, often referred to as the "First Lady of Radio Chatter." She co-hosted with her husband Edward a daily New York City-based program, broadcast directly from their home for over 40 years.
Born Margaret Worrall in Norcatur, Kansas, her family would later move to Portland, Oregon where Margaret would graduate high school at age 15 in 1926. In 1930, she married Edward Fitzgerald, a former child actor, then working as a newspaper reporter and movie publicist. The couple eventually settled in New York where Mr. Fitzgerald pursued a career in radio, before finally securing a job with NY station WOR around 1936. During this time, Mrs. Fitzgerald worked for a department store.
Legend has it that at a dinner with a WOR executive, the executive said to Mrs. Fitzgerald, "I wish we knew someone who talks the way you talk to do a woman's program for us." Pegeen's first radio program, "Pegeen Prefers," was broadcast daily during her department store lunch hour.
A few years later, around 1940, when Pegeen came down with pneumonia and needed to convalesce, the station panicked about the potential loss of sponsors. To prevent this, the station arranged for Peg to broadcast from her sick bed at home. Because she did not want the program's announcer to see her in her bathrobe, she asked if her husband could fill in.
Thus was born Ed and Pegeen's daily show of chit-chat and self-described "ramblings." A wholly original format for radio, in that it was not derived from theatre or vaudeville, the husband-and-wife radio program genre would soon catch on and spawn imitators like "Tex and Jinx," starring Tex McCrary and his wife Jinx Falkenberg (1945-1961), and other programs with the likes of Dorothy Kilgallen and Dick Kollmar.
The Fitzgeralds broadcast daily from their 16th floor apartment over looking Central Park. Everything in the lives of the Fitzgerald's was fodder for radio, from paying that month's bills to the various doings of friends and family to current events. Nothing (except the show's commercials) was ever scripted and the couple worked with no pre-show preparation. "Do you prepare for a conversation with a friend?," Pegeen once asked rhetorically, about her and her husband's on-air style.
Ample airtime was also devoted to Mr. Fitzgerald's love of books and Mrs. Fitzgerald's love of cats and her advocacy for the humane treatment of animals. Sometimes the couple even bickered on the air. Once, quite famously, Peg angered Edward, who got up from the table, left the microphone and went back to bed, forcing his wife to carry on without him.
The daily Fitzgerald show became a New York institution and the duo would carry on with it, over various Big Apple stations (and for a brief time on television) until 1982 when Edward died after a long bout with cancer.
After her husband's death, Pegeen continued on alone for about one year before she was terminated suddenly by WOR who wanted to pursue a more "youthful" demographic. The firing of Pegeen Fitzgerald became something of a cause celebre in New York as trade magazines, loyal listeners, and fellow broadcasters rallied to her defense and denounced the station's dismissal of her. Only a few weeks after the firing, however, Pegeen joined WNYC, New York's public radio station, filling two hours of that station's "Senior Edition" program.
Besides her lengthy radio career, Mrs. Fitzgerald was also known as a talented painter, a collector of toy antique fire engines, and a devoted, outspoken animal rights advocate.
Pegeen Fitzgerald died of breast cancer on January 30, 1989. She was 78 years old.