IPTV producer, long-time voice of many things Iowa, passes

Mike Newell - IPTV Photo.

This time the death hit too close  to home.

Fellow IPTV producer Mike Newell died Thursday night in a Des Moines hospital following a heart attack the day after Thanksgiving. He was 66.

Newell was someone I grew up listening to either on the radio and watching on TV. When I came to Iowa Public Television, I was working next to him. We shared a wall for a few years. I heard many great lines come from his office as he set up guests for Iowa Press. His rhythmic tempo on the typewriter set a tone for Newell’s work. He said a typewriter was the only place he could construct a script. Then he’s transfer his work to the computer.

The Des Moines Register published this story Friday afternoon. The best quote came from a 1994 story.

Newell had a number of health problems over the years, including a mild heart attack at the age of 49, which prompted Hansen’s 1994 column in which Newell described his pre-attack schedule as being up at 3:40 a.m. and to the office by 5.

“I’d have three cups of coffee and three cigarettes before I put my underwear on,” Newell told Hansen.

Mike was full of great lines like that. You can them one-liners or clichés, we called them Newell-isms.

I loved prompting Mike into a story about the Iowa Cornettes, the former women’s professional basketball team, his time with the Iowa Oaks or Iowa Cubs when he called them for IPBN or a former co-worker we had in common.

He’d talk about the first days of the original “Sound Off” when it was a radio show only.

Mike did work for the Louisville Redbirds, Iowa High School Shrine Bowl, state tournaments, any racing at the Iowa State Fair or feature.

IPTV used to broadcast Iowa Hawkeye football games. Here’s a YouTube video of former running back Nick Bell‘s greatest hits. I saw this video awhile back and was listening to the commentators and said I knew that voice. I sent the link to Mike for him to hear. Now you can hear.

Mike’s current job was gathering broadcast professionals into a conference room to set a game plan for that week’s Iowa Press guest. It was only fitting that the show included a video tribute. You can see it here or watch it this weekend on the show.

Radio Iowa’s Kay Henderson is a friend to everyone on this side of her microphone. She’s a regular on Iowa Press and posted this wonderful story today featuring this quote.

To a “Sound Off” caller who was complaining about Hawkeye coach Hayden Fry’s play-calling — after a victory, mind you — Newell put it this way: “That guy would complain about the chip dip at an orgy.”

Mike had flair on the air.  He did play-by-play of the University of Iowa women’s basketball team and, when a referee’s call seemed to be out-of-bounds, so to speak, Newell would sometimes quip: “Give me a drag of what he’s been smoking.”

I loved having conversations with Mike. Work would call and put us back to reality, but it was a history lesson and exchanges of how we each heard the story was some of my best work moments.

Several friends and colleagues posted tributes to Mike:

  • “I’m saddened today to hear about Mike Newell’s passing. He was my mentor and helped me get started in sports broadcasting. Thanks Mike.” Geoff Conn
  • “I know I can speak for Ryan Schlader and Andy Roethler in saying that working Iowa women’s basketball games during our time at KRUI while being near Mike Newell was an honor and privilege and hearing about Mike’s passing will be a great void to us. Thanks Mike for being a part of our lives, you will be missed by many!” Bob Fisher
  • “Terribly saddened about the death of Iowa broadcaster Mike Newell. I would frequently direct shows he hosted on WHO Radio. And when I began my career as a newscaster, it would be a huge thrill to hear Mike say “Brian Allen has the news next on WHO Des Moines”. Mike always encouraged me. RIP to a good man and a good broadcaster.” Brian Allen
  •  “RIP Mike Newell. A dear friend and one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met.” Joey Donia 
Mike Newell during his interview for IPTV's documentary "More Than a Game," on six-on-six girls basketball.

I talked to Iowa Athletic Department officials today to tell them of Mike’s passing and heard from one that said the news hit them “right between the eyes.” Another said “one of my all-time favorite people.”

I agree and so do others.

Mike went to high school with the Murray brothers.

Yes. Those Murray brothers. I talked to Mike one day about an article I read discussing an anniversary recounting the filming of Caddyshack. He the filled me in on background stories about Bill and Brian Doyle Murray.

He had connections to many corners of the world. And had played many of those corners as well.

Again, here’s the link to the video tribute as narrated by Dean Borg. The two worked on Iowa Press together for more than 20 years.

Mike, I’ll never look at a bicycle seat the same way again.


4 thoughts on “IPTV producer, long-time voice of many things Iowa, passes

  1. I forgotten about those old Iowa replays on IPTV on Saturday nights. The Mike and Mike (Reilly) show.

    Watching the Hawks once was never good enough. You had to watch them twice before heading to bed late.

    Then, during a stint on WHO, Mike would do TV trivia on radio. I learned more about Mr. Ed then Wikipedia could ever put together.

    I’m going to miss him dearly.

  2. Paul, I think you captured Mike really well here. He was a great guy and always fun to talk to. Broadcasting was a career I almost chose. I vividly remember Mike encouraging me to do everything I could to write as effectively as possible.

    I spent one memorable Saturday with Mike at the WHO studios in the early 90’s assisting with Sound Off preparation. Quite a thrill for a 17 year old high schooler.

    He was also very encouraging to my wife when she started her catering business here in Des Moines a few years ago.

    Class act.

  3. Mike and my husband and I have been friends since ’64 where we met at Drake. He’s always been a loyal and good friend-always a story to tell. Our circle of Drake buddies will miss him.

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