Longtime Connecticut radio host John LaBarca, of ‘Italian House Party,’ dies
Popular Connecticut radio personality John LaBarca, who hosted “Italian House Party” for decades on various stations including WICC, died this week at the age of 76. LaBarca’s signature show—which was dedicated to Italian music, food, history and anecdotes—was a Sunday tradition for countless families. In recent years, LaBarca brought “Italian House Party” to WHLI on Long Island, sharing his heritage with new listeners and old.
“It was his enthusiasm and his larger-than-life personality. John had this way of telling a story, any story, and he could just bring the characters to life,” said Jon Daniels, program director at WHLI.
“It was just a very unique show. He was the first to do it,” explained former WICC host Tim Quinn. “Everything that Italian Americans did growing up is discussed on ‘Italian House Party’ and usually with some good humor as well, and I think that's what made it such a very popular show.”
Quinn co-hosted the morning drive with LaBarca Monday through Friday on WICC for 20 years.
“We had huge ratings, and we had a lot of fun. And we were back into the days before television even started broadcasting school closings. It was only on radio. Well, on days when we had school closings, we were the most popular guys in the world if in fact your school was closed that day,” Quinn recalled.
News 12 spoke with LaBarca many times over his career. During one interview, LaBarca explained his approach to broadcasting. “When I do talk on the radio, I envision one person always, and I try to get into this person's heart and head,” LaBarca said.
“You always could tell that he loved what he did. He loved what he was talking about. He loved the music. He loved the history. He loved the stories and how it bonded everyone together. And to this day, people come up to us and say, ‘I listened to the “Italian House Party” with my grandparents while my grandmother was making sauce on Sunday,’” Daniels told News 12.
Similar sentiments filled LaBarca's Facebook page as friends and fans learned of his death.
“I’m positive that will be his legacy—the ‘Italian House Party,’” Quinn said. “What you heard on the radio was what he was in person. He was loud. He was boisterous. He was a hugger. He was a lover. He just made you feel like you were the king of the world.”
LaBarca’s show had been on hiatus at WHLI due to his health. Quinn said he died from prostate cancer.