One moment cracking jokes, and the next minute being warm and gracious, Urban One founder and chairperson Cathy Hughes brought laughs while commanding the undivided attention of all as she accepted the 2018 Lowry Mays Excellence in Broadcasting Award from the Broadcasters Foundation of America at a Wednesday morning ceremony at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.
Hughes went into comedian mode right from the start, noting how on Tuesday night, at a dinner hosted by music rights organization BMI, Emmis Communications founder and CEO Jeff Smulyan — recipient of the 2017 Lowry Mays award — joked that he left some 45 minutes out of his speech last year, and that Hughes was free to use them. He added that Hughes should also leave her son and business manager, Alfred Liggins III, out of her will.
This generated laughs, as Hughes continued, “The interesting thing was that [Alpha Media owner] Larry Wilson was sitting there … and he was agreeing! Since this wasn’t my first trip to the rodeo, and [RAB head] Erica Farber was there with me, I said, ‘You know, I probably needed to shorten my remarks. I know … I’m going to leave Jeff out of my remarks!'”
Hughes then turned serious, noting how honored she was to be with the Broadcasters Foundation once again; this is the second time Hughes was honored by the organization, and presenting the honor the first time around was a then little-known Radio One/Los Angeles air talent named Steve Harvey.
In Harvey’s remarks, he quipped, “If there’s any broadcaster out there who wants to offer me any more money I’ll be happy to say even better things about you next year.” The crowd at the Encore erupted in laughter just as they did at that long-ago night at the Plaza in New York. But, Hughes explained, “After the presentation I saw him over talking to Lowry Mays [then associated with Clear Channel Communications], so I went over and said, ‘Mr. Mays is he pitching you for a job at Clear Channel?'” His response? “No, Cathy. I was telling him that what I thought he said was disrespectful to you.”
That left the Broadcasters Foundation crowd on Wednesday in Las Vegas quiet. “That touched me so deeply, and Lowry Mays never wavered from that support of me. He felt that it was necessary to put Steve in his place even though all of us, including myself, had laughed. He thought it was so interesting that a woman had what he called ‘Texas Balls’ in private.”
That’s why Hughes was a bit glum that Mays was unable to appear in person to give her another boost of encouragement; he provided video remarks shown just prior to Hughes taking the podium.
Yet, her sense of humor was still very much intact.
Mays was “always looking out for us … except when it came to pricing those stations that we bought from Clear Channel!” Hughes remarked, generating more laughter from the crowd. “Other than that, Mr. Mays was always there.”