For most of the last three decades, Jay Lamont's bass voice boomed out into radio land every Sunday morning, broadcasting from a cluttered studio in Bala Cynwyd barely able to hold the portly, bearded host and the occasional guest trying to squeeze a word in edgewise.
Pat Staub, longtime producer of All About Real Estate, would sit on the other side of a soundproof window, screening calls and rolling her eyes when Lamont cut a caller down to size or said what he thought about a location - often angering agents.
This Sunday will be his last as host of the 10 a.m.-to-noon show on 950 ESPN (WPEN-AM) that debuted in November 1978. He and the station disagree on the reasons.
Lamont, 65, said station management e-mailed him at 4:58 p.m. June 8, "two minutes before the start of the second year of my two-year contract," informing him that he was being fired.
The one-paragraph e-mail came, Lamont said, from John Fullam, vice president and general manager of Greater Media Philadelphia, which owns the station. Lamont said he was told that the decision to let him go was to "save money for Greater Media in these most challenging times for local radio."
While confirming that Lamont's last show would be Sunday, program director Matt Nahigian said Lamont's "characterization of the situation, other than the time and date, is completely inaccurate."
"We decided not to renew our current broadcasting agreement for a second year for a variety of reasons," he said. "Financial considerations were not a significant factor."
But Nahigian said the station "enjoyed a long and successful relationship with Jay, and [is] reviewing options to continue the program at some point in 2010."
Neither the station nor Lamont would discuss what he earned annually.
In July, All About Real Estate had an estimated audience of just 9,000 listeners, said Jessica Benbow of Arbitron, the radio ratings service.
Lamont, who is vacationing with his wife, Linda, and daughter, Molly, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, said Fullam had asked him not to announce the show's end until last Sunday.
The announcement surprised longtime listeners.
John Donahue, a Huntingdon Valley pharmaceuticals salesman, was listening on his car radio while picking up supplies for a party.
"I heard him say it was his next-to-last show," said Donahue, who has been listening to Lamont for at least 15 years. "I couldn't believe it."
Donahue credited Lamont, a veteran real estate broker, with helping him with the sale of his last house and enabling him to make large profits on hotel condos he bought and sold as investments a few years back.
"I'd take away something new from the show every week," he said.
Mayfair real estate broker Christopher J. Artur, a close friend of Lamont's, had dinner with him two weeks ago.
"He said there were some changes coming, but he wouldn't say what they were," recalled Artur, a former president of the Greater Philadelphia Board of Realtors.
Lamont, son of a broker who sold real estate in West Philadelphia in the 1940s, built a studio in his Ocean City house during recuperation from hip surgery last summer and had been broadcasting his show from there on Sundays instead of traveling to the station in Bala Cynwyd.
The call-in program originally ran for three hours and was solidly booked by real estate companies, builders, and related businesses, which paid $300 a minute to advertise during the boom years.
Its hours were cut to two, and then to one during the Eagles season, reducing ad income substantially. In recent years, contract negotiations between Lamont and station management were described as contentious, with the host being asked to tone down some of his remarks.
Though he may be best known for radio, Lamont was a real estate columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News until 1997 and was the founder and first director of the Temple University Real Estate Institute from 1974 to 1998.
Center City broker/developer Allan Domb credits Lamont with getting him into the business in 1978.
"The show has not only been a great resource for real estate knowledge, it is straightforward and provides comic relief at times," said Domb, who counts himself as Lamont's friend.
"It's a real loss."