Chicago Tribune colleagues share their memories of Terry Armour
When I met Terry Armour in December 1981, we were copy clerks in the Tribune newsroom, and I never would have dreamed this wacky guy from the South Side would turn out to be a multimedia celebrity whose death would affect thousands of people he never even met.
But from copy clerk to radio star, Terry's personality never changed. Everyone felt like they were his friend, and that's why his loss is being felt all over Chicago.
We quickly became drinking buddies and frequently met in the center-field bleachers at the old Comiskey Park, where he enjoyed heckling opposing outfielders like Bo Jackson ("For the love of God, Bo, please back up!") and rooting for his White Sox. We stormed the field together when the Sox clinched the West in '83, saw the Sox beat the Yankees in '90 despite being no-hit by Andy Hawkins, and even sat in the bleachers once with actor Brian Dennehy, who nearly got us kicked out of the Checkerboard Lounge that night.
I was there when Terry got arrested at the Cell a couple of years ago for punching a foul-mouthed Cubs fan. We smoked cigars in my hotel room in Houston after the Sox won the World Series in 2005, and we commiserated over the '07 debacle on adjoining bar stools just last month.
Terry was always planning something big, and sometimes I was involved. He got us a regular gig on CLTV when we covered high school basketball at the Trib in the early '90s, and he used that to catapult his career beyond mere newspaper reporting. Whether he was on his couch, in a bar or co-hosting his radio show, Terry loved to talk, laugh and make politically incorrect statements about the topic of the day.
After his two close friends, Allan Johnson and Jim Zulevic, died on consecutive days in January 2006, Terry and I met at Justin's, a pub on the North Side, one night to grieve together and celebrate their lives. He vowed to live every day like it was his last, and I truly believe he kept that promise to the end.
Terry Armour was a Chicago original, a Tribune legend and as good a guy as you'd ever want to meet. He left an imprint on all of us that will never fade.
-- Paul Sullivan
"Dude, you've got to check this song out."
A Bulls playoff game was to start in just over two hours. Terry and I were in his second-floor apartment on Belle Plaine Avenue, and the 15-minute ride to the United Center could wait. As much as Terry cared about his job, this song had to be heard.
I can't remember the band or the song. What I do remember is the intensity of emotion, of camaraderie, of living life to the fullest. That's Terry Armour to me. He was always quick with a laugh, sure. But he also cared about others and wanted to share how much he loved life with them.
To say Terry and I were close during the Bulls' second three-peat is like saying Dennis Rodman liked shock value. A wannabe writer, I got my first big break covering the rock-and-roll circus that was the Bulls for the Tribune's new Internet site in 1996. Terry covered the team for the newspaper. We lived two blocks apart on the North Side, which meant we would ride to and from practices and games together, talking music, talking hoops, talking life.
Terry looked out for me. He bought me drinks. He showed me how to handle the pressures of the job. Sometimes we stayed out way too late. Always we would show up for more work the next morning.
There's this image of Terry as someone who used his quick laugh and good nature to rise to his successful career. That image fails to capture Terry's conscientious nature and his desire to always get the story right. Trust me: Terry was a competitor.
But above all, Terry was a friend. By the end of the Bulls' third straight championship run in 1998, I had started writing Bulls beat stories for the newspaper and was on my way to earning my own pro beat as the Blackhawks writer. Shortly after the 1998 championship, Terry showed up at my house with a mix CD and thanked me for all the good times we had together.
I do remember this title: "You rock, dude." The feeling is mutual.
-- K.C. Johnson
When Terry rose above the rank of lowly sportswriter, moving up a floor and into a real office with a real secretary—or so he said—he gave me a tour. I, of course, was eaten alive by jealousy and made fun of the pictures on his wall: Terry with Dennis Rodman, Terry with Frank Thomas.
Terry was always meant for a world bigger than sports. He loved celebrities, loved his own growing celebrity and loved sharing both with everyone he could.
Terry got the Bulls beat after I had it and would tease me about it, wondering how it was that I didn't get along with Jerry Krause — because Jerry loved Terry. I teased him back that he must not be doing his job. But I never doubted him. And that pretty much says it all about Terry. Krause loved him.
Terry was one of those special people who made everyone feel like they were great writers, great people and great friends. He could laugh and be laughed at, and what a wonderful laugh it was. It was distinctive, infectious and made everything OK. If only it did now.
-- Melissa Isaacson
I wasn't one of the guys, but Terry Armour made me feel like one.
It was the summer of 1993, and I was a 20-year-old intern at the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hoping to get a byline in the Tribune, I pitched a story on Cincinnati big man Corie Blount, a Bulls draft pick.
I called the newsroom and was transferred to Armour, who was supposed to merely supply me with a number for general manager Jerry Krause. He did way more than that, encouraging me and putting me at ease.
"This off-season Bulls stuff," he said, "I call it Bull-(bleep)."
That was Armour — always funny, always inclusive. He was incapable of big-timing a kid with a dream.
-- Teddy Greenstein
When was the first encounter with Terry Armour? Years have dimmed the precise event — maybe a prep game, a charity event, a Bulls game — but not the memory: You had made a friend for life. An inherent, infectious cheerfulness radiated from his moonbeam smile, and you learned later that it was never insincere.
Through the years, whatever the venue — and there were many, including chance meetings in restaurant bars where he would invite you to join a celebrity interview — he was always the same. Smiling, happy, gregarious. He honestly enjoyed being with people, being at events, and just being himself.
The first get-together may be fuzzy, but not the last one. It came at Comcast studios recently when Terry was guest host of "Chicago Tribune Live." Admittedly nervous, he channeled his energy into an impromptu funfest that helped everyone realize sports didn't always have to be so serious. You left, as you did after every meeting with Terry Armour, feeling better about yourself and the world.
Our world has become a gloomier place. Heaven inherits the happiness.
-- Dave van Dyck
He had a distinctive voice to begin with, and a way of transforming my name into two syllables: "Dai-yun," or something like that, if you were to try to spell it. I'd hear him before I'd see him, and whether it was in the newsroom, at the ballpark or in the watering hole downstairs, I'd smile. An encounter with Terry Armour was always good for the soul.
I was his editor for about three years, before he moved from jocks to celebs, and we never had a cross word. Disagreements, sure, but even when he was kvetching he had a way of doing it that made you laugh. He was the life of the party, but he took his work seriously — a lot more seriously than he took himself — and he was good at it: a hard worker, a smart reporter and a clever, breezy writer. And he got along with everybody.
That infamous "Organizations win championships" quote from Jerry Krause? That was Terry Armour's. After he got it, he went back to Krause to make sure he'd heard it right. It was the professional thing to do, and Terry was a pro.
It's hard to say how I'm going to remember him because I still can't believe he's gone. Terry was truly one of a kind, and I miss him already.
-- Dan McGrath
Before Terry documented all those Bulls championships and the comings and goings of the rich and famous, he followed the local high school scene. I was one of his editors, and I will always remember the wit and grace he brought to his assignments.
Whether he was being dispatched to walk the sidelines of a high school football field in November or drive through a snowstorm to a basketball game in February, the sense of duty and professionalism was always there. As was the big, wide smile, which we have lost too soon. Be at peace, Terry.
-- Terry Bannon
When you went to an event with Terry Armour, you didn't just watch it, you often felt you were part of it. Terry and I saw the Rolling Stones together and many Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and Cubs games, but he was most in his element watching his beloved White Sox. There were times at U.S. Cellular Field when I thought he knew everyone in the place. People knew him by sight, and if they didn't, they instantly recognized him as soon as they heard his distinctive voice.
And Terry enjoyed that. He relished being recognized and loved talking with people, whether he knew them or was meeting them for the first time. Sitting with Terry in the Stadium Club during a Sox rain delay would bring a steady stream of admirers by the table, ranging from celebrities to fans to concession-stand workers. It prompted me to once ask him, "Is there anyone you don't know?" He said, "I don't think so."
During the latter part of this season when the Sox were far from the pennant race, Terry would try to convince me that he no longer cared what happened in the game, that he'd given up on the season. In the next breath he'd yell, "Come on, Paulie, we need you!"
Another of Terry's friends, my wife Andrea, put it best when she said of him: "He didn't waste any days." If you spent any time with him at all, you knew that was true.
-- Chris Kuc
From the time he joined the Tribune sports department to cover high school sports, Terry Armour and I had an ongoing, light-hearted dialogue. He jokingly would call me "Dad" and say he one day wanted to become "Fred Mitchell."
Of course, Terry would quickly ascend and carve his own niche as an accomplished beat writer covering the Bulls and then writing the "Odds & Ins" column. His outgoing personality was reflected in every assignment he tackled, whether it was sports or later the celebrity entertainment sector.
-- Fred MitchellCopyright © 2015, CT Now