COLUMBIA — After 27 years on KOMU-TV, local variety-talk show “Pepper and Friends” signed off Friday morning.
It truly was the end of an era.
More than 100 longtime friends and guests filed into the small studio for the taping of the final show, which featured a career-spanning video montage, a singalong and abundant tears.
“We’re counting on all of you to give us strength,” said Paul Pepper, host of the weekday morning show. “You have been so faithful to us.”
Several women dressed in black and clutched white flowers in black-gloved hands. A mock funeral of the show took place at Speakers Circle on the MU campus on Monday.
Members of the crowd mingled, reminisced and cried before the taping began. Several guests remembered the comfortable atmosphere on the set and praised the congenial host.
“It’s just like sitting down and talking with an old friend, he’s so professional,” said Andrea Shelton, who often appeared to promote the Columbia Public Works Volunteer Program.“He makes you feel just like you are talking with an old friend and having a conversation about these pertinent issues in the city.”
Melynda Lotven brought her daughter Olivia, 16, who first appeared on the show at age 1 and who, Lotven said, “grew up on ‘Pepper and Friends.’ ”
“It is the ultimate in community organization," Lotven said. “Everybody in the city is a star.”
The show began in 1982 to give local residents a voice in the community. In May, KOMU General Manager Marty Siddall announced the intent to cancel “Pepper and Friends.” He cited a $74,000 deficit that could not be curbed, despite offers from the hosts to cut $58,000 of their salaries.
The community can now hear Pepper on KBIA/91.3 FM with a weekday 10-minute segment similar to the television program. The radio segment begins Oct. 5.
As they said goodbye Friday, Pepper and co-host James Mouser fought tears as they sang, “When You’re Smiling.”
Friends and longtime viewers of the show said they won't forget “Pepper and Friends.”
“We love them and we’re here for them.” Lotven said.