‘He often became a better story than the one he was writing’

Former News Tribune columnist and legendary Seattle P-I reporter J Michael Kenyon died recently, according to friends.
Former News Tribune columnist and legendary Seattle P-I reporter J Michael Kenyon died recently, according to friends. Courtesy

J Michael Kenyon, one of Seattle’s legendary sportswriters and a longtime local wrestling historian, M.C. and promoter, died April 26, friends said. He was 73.

Kenyon, who was born Michael Glover and grew up in the Lake City neighborhood of Seattle, suffered from congestive heart failure.

In 1967, Kenyon became the first SuperSonics beat writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A decade later, he covered the arrival of the Mariners. In 1980, Kenyon was the city’s second sports talk show host — after KIRO’s Wayne Cody — on 570 KVI.

Kenyon also worked for KING radio, the Yakima Morning Herald, The News Tribune, the Hollywood Citizen-News and the Baltimore Sun, among other outlets.

When at The News Tribune, which he left in 1990, Kenyon was a sports columnist and a news columnist.

His name change came at the suggestion of his second wife, a former dancer that he met on a Sonics road trip, who thought Glover sounded too boring. He spotted the Kenyon Printing Co. while driving on state Route 99 near Seattle and took on that name. The J was added to his P-I byline, but not with a period after the initial — that wouldn’t fit on one line with the newspaper column width.

Kenyon quit the P-I four times, including once because one of his stories wasn’t published. His track record on radio was similar, with one of his departures from KING being midshow after a station manager gave unwanted input to Kenyon’s reporting.

“He often became a better story than the one he was writing,” wrote Dan Raley, a friend and another legendary Seattle sportswriter.

“He changed jobs, wives and watering holes so frequently it was hard to keep track of him. He was loveable and despicable, all in one. He was talented and self-destructive. He was the city’s own Hunter S. Thompson, the sports edition.”

Kenyon graduated in 1962 from Seattle’s Roosevelt High School and attended the University of Washington, where he worked at The Daily. Kenyon also worked promoting hydroplanes, auto racing, rodeos, football, basketball and croquet.

His father was a mailman who shared the love of sports with his son. In his days as a radio talk show host, Kenyon fondly recalled his dad taking him to University of Washington basketball games.

When he was 16 in 1960, Kenyon met Dean Silverstone at a Civic Auditorium wrestling match staged by promoter Harry Elliott. They became lifelong friends, united by their shared interest in wrestling. Their first promoted match in a long career together was Sept. 22, 1966, at the Masonic Temple in Port Angeles — a town that had hundreds of fans in part from KIRO’s Saturday night broadcasts of Northwest Championship Wrestling.

Kenyon put together “Wrestling As We Liked It,” which Silverstone described as the Bible for wrestling that will probably remain so for a century.

The world of wrestling created Kenyon’s personality, Silverstone wrote.

“To the average Joe who had not been involved with professional wrestling, Kenyon’s life would appear extremely odd,” Silverstone wrote in his autobiography, “I Ain’t No Pig Farmer.” “But to an old carny like myself, he’s just a normal, decent, fun-loving friend. I cherish what he has taught me, including the memories.”

Before Kenyon’s death, he was working on a book about the first Sonics coach, Al Bianchi. Friends said his home on the Oregon Coast had piles of historical notes and clippings about the teams and characters that are quickly being forgotten. They worry that some of the notes and his writings might be lost.

It was at his home, sitting in a recliner with a bowl of chips on his lap, where Kenyon died, Raley said. Survivors include his wife, Joanie.

“He was married six or more times,” Raley wrote. “He emailed me many pearls of wisdom through the years, even recently. Not all of his ex-wives might feel this way, but I’m really going to miss this guy.”

Kenyon told Raley, writing for the P-I, in 2007 that many of the stories were fabricated, but he did admit to drunkenly driving a rental car into Mission Bay in San Diego while traveling with the Sonics.

He once lost his job at the Daily Breeze in Torrance, California, for running a full-page photo essay of Richard Nixon under the headline “Would you buy a used car from him now?”

“I don’t have any regrets about anything,” Kenyon told Raley. “I don’t think I had too much fun. I think I had the capacity for even more fun. Some people would disagree. Pretty much all of my ex-wives.”