Fez Whatley, a shock jock and comedian best known as half of the radio show “The Ron and Fez Show,” died Friday night of heart failure. He was 57.
His former hosting partner, Ron Bennington, announced the sad news on Instagram.
“We lost our sweet Fez Whatley last night. His heart finally gave out,” Bennington wrote. “We are devastated, but we will always remember the laughter through our tears. Our thoughts are with his family who loved him the most and with the people who knew him as a voice on the radio. #fezwhatley.”
Bennington has kept fans up to date on Whatley’s health problems, posting photos showing him laying in a hospital bed in March after just suffering “another massive heart attack.”
“Fez had another massive heart attack this week,” Bennington wrote. “He flatlined on Tuesday, but was able to be revived by doctors. He spent a few days on a ventilator and is now breathing on his own. His sister snapped these pics of him while he was on the vent, and Fez is oddly proud of them. (Swipe for all pics)
Born Todd Hillier, the Florida native first dove into the radio business as a producer and contributor of the syndicated program “The Ron and Ron Show,” hosted by Ron Diaz and his future partner, Ron Bennington. Although low ratings led to the show’s cancelation, he teamed up with Bennington on “The Ron and Fez Show” on the Daytona Beach radio station WKRO. It was ultimately moved to WNEW in New York.
Whatley came out as gay on-air in 2012. He had been playing a flamboyant, gay character on his shows for 20 years while insisting to his family, friends (and himself) that he was straight, he said.
“Coming to this realization was devastating,” Whatley wrote. “After all those years of denying it, it was true. Fez Whatley was no longer a character that I played on the air. He was me. And now it wasn’t funny anymore. I was now everything that I had joked about. I got depressed…I couldn’t make myself be Fez Whatley anymore. I was terrified about being really gay.”
He went on: “There are too many important issues out there facing gay Americans for me to just be yelling out the occasional protest from the closet. I see comedians like Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Mo Rocca, and most recently Todd Glass, and they haven’t lost their sense of humor. They’re entertaining and still make a difference in the community…
“I can’t be part of ‘It Gets Better’ until I make sure things are going to get better for me. And that’s what I intend on doing. So that the next time I’m asked by someone ‘Are you really gay?’ I can finally answer, ’24 hours a day.'”
Whatley’s first heart attack came in 2005 – and he did recognize the symptoms. A second heart attack came in 2007, and a third 2010. He suffered yet another attack in 2015, at which time he had 15 stents in his heart.