ESCAPED James (Radio) Kennedy, the subject of a 1996 SI story and
of the current motion picture Radio, from his house at 5:30 a.m.
last Saturday as fire engulfed his bedroom. Radio, the mentally
challenged 57-year-old who has attended T.L. Hanna High in
Anderson, S.C., for nearly 40 years while serving as the football
team's assistant coach, trainer, manager, cheerleader and one-man
halftime show, awoke before dawn with flames racing up the wall.
His shouts awoke his brother and roommate, Cool Rock, who's
afflicted with the same mental defect as Radio, along with his
older brother and caretaker, Walter, and Walter's wife, Pat.
Everyone got out uninjured, but the blaze, believed to have been
caused by a faulty breaker box on the wall outside Radio's room,
gutted most of the house.
Ten days earlier Radio had stepped out of a limousine in a tuxedo
and wept in joy on the red carpet in front of a theater complex
in Anderson as hundreds of townspeople chanted his name at the
local premiere of his movie--a more rousing reception than even
those given to Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ed Harris, the stars who
portray Radio and former T.L. Hanna football coach Harold Jones,
respectively. On Saturday, Radio sobbed again as the home he has
lived in for almost 40 years was destroyed. Lost were souvenirs
from the movie, decades' worth of school letters he has earned
from the Hanna football, basketball and track teams, and untold
numbers of radios, which locals have bequeathed the man who once
roamed the town with an old transistor pressed to his ear.
A Radio Fire Relief Fund was set up immediately at the Bank of
Anderson, 201 East Greenville Street, Anderson, S.C., 29621, to
help the family relocate or build a new home. --Gary Smith