He’s the DJ who introduced Nirvana to New York.
Van Halen brought him and his wife together.
He’s in the “School of Rock” movie, was on the “Big Brother” TV show, and has been a mainstay of the tri-state radio scene for nearly 30 years.
Now Ian O’Malley is moving to Westport.
These days, the Q104.3 jock holds down the Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. spot. That gives him time to indulge his other interests.
And in his “other” career O’Malley is a real estate agent, with Westport’s Higgins Group.
Talking — to listeners and clients — is in his blood. His father recorded talking books for the blind. Insatiably curious, he moved his family around often. O’Malley lived — among other places — in Santa Fe, New England and the Maritime Provinces.
He started his radio career on Prince Edward Island, while still in high school. He worked nights, then headed to classes in the morning.
He asked his boss how to get better shifts. “Get better,” the man replied.
Then it was on to Alaska, for TV and radio work. At 21 he was hired in Boston. He was a DJ and — in the fledgling days of music videos — a VJ too.
In October of 1989, WNEW FM — New York’s reigning rock station — had a rare opening. O’Malley sent in a tape (actually, a cassette), and was called down to do a Saturday night audition show. He got hired Monday, to start the following weekend.
His first day at the station, Tony Bennett walked in. A few minutes later, Jerry Garcia strolled by. “I’m in a whole different radio stratosphere,” O’Malley thought to himself.
WNEW was a great opportunity. Scott Muni, Dennis Elsas, Carol Miller and Pat St. John were already legends. Friends with many musicians, they were happy to let the “snot-nosed 25-year-old kid” represent the station at concerts.
“I had the keys to the city,” O’Malley says.
When he added work as a VH1 VJ, O’Malley got to know — professionally and socially — even more musicians. Now he’s got stories galore.
In 2000, WAXQ — classic rock Q104.3 — came calling. He’s been there ever since.
“I love the story-telling aspect,” O’Malley says. “I can communicate with people.” Though satellite radio and apps like Spotify have cut into stations like his, O’Malley says listeners still love the local touch.
He’s happy to oblige. The other day, he gave a shout-out to Westporter Bert Porzio for some great tree work, and his daughter Jennifer, a Staples High School . Both were thrilled.
In his long career, O’Malley has seen plenty of changes. 45s gave way to albums. CDs followed. These days the music is on computers.
When he started, fans wrote letters. Now they email or text. It’s instant feedback — and it keeps his show lively.
It also brought him love.
In 2008, a listener named Debbie emailed that she had not heard any Van Halen lately. O’Malley obliged. They wrote back and forth — longer and longer — for 3 months.
He asked her to lunch. Then he broke his own rule about dating listeners. Two years later, he married her.
They both remembered the 1st song he played on the radio for her: “Dance the Night Away.” Eddie Van Halen signed one of his guitars that way — and gave it to the couple as a wedding gift.
O’Malley clearly loves what he does. He’s never gotten jaded. He’s proud that children of his former young listeners now listen to him. “I’m very fortunate to do this for so long in New York — and in a business not known for longevity,” O’Malley says.
Like many DJs, O’Malley does plenty of side work. He’s in great demand for voice-overs. For several years he was the voice of Saab. Commercials, instructional videos — you name it, he did it.
It’s a wonderful life. And he is particularly excited to be moving with Debbie and their 2 young sons from Wilton into his new home: a beautiful house (with a basement recording studio) in Greens Farms.
In fact, real estate is another one of O’Malley’s passions. He got involved in New York City in the mid-2000s, and did well.
Now he’s joined the Higgins Group. He fits in well with Rich Higgins and crew, and has already begun selling the area.
So if Ian O’Malley drives you around to see properties in town, you’ll be treated to many intriguing stories.
While — I’m sure — Q104.3 plays on the car radio.