Thursday, March 22, 2007

Talk radio. I first started listening to it when I was a freshman in college. That was back when Marconi was still ironing out the wrinkles in what was a very new medium. OK. It wasn't that long ago. But it seems like it.

I was living on Farmington Avenue in Hartford, Connecticut. I can't recall the name of the guy who was the talk radio host. And I'm not sure if it was a local or a national feed. What I do remember is how different it was from what I was used to listening to on the radio.

I'd just graduated from high school. When I was a freshman there I got a present from my parents: A robin's egg blue transister radio in a light brown leather case. It had an ear phone and I listened to the radio after I'd gone to bed. Listened to WHYN, the Springfield, Massachusetts station on which Bud Stone and Phil Dee were the D.J.s The song they played very often was a song that has stuck to me over the years, over the decades.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? By the Shirelles.

Bud Stone and Phil Dee were as fake as their names. Squeaky clean, boy next door types from whose lips might escape a few four letter words. But the words would be " Gosh, " " Heck, " and Jeez. "

Well, maybe not that last one. The Catholics might not like hearing that one.

Then came talk radio. It was rude and in your face and I found it utterly fascinating. I loved the idea of someone sitting in a studio, taking the calls, or rejecting them. Talk about control.

It's been a long time since I was introduced to the concept. Talk radio's still with us. You say those words: Talk. Radio. And put them together, the image that gets conjured is that of Rush Limbaugh.

Make no mistake, Limbaugh is very good at what he does. But I dislike him intensely. I do not find him funny and I think his arguments are mostly specious. I think he's a coward who sits in his studio and plays his soundbites, then attacks those whose words we have just heard.

Limbaugh has a long history of attacking and mimicking Bill Clinton. I would bet you some money that Rush has never met or talked to Bill Clinton. Same goes for Ted Kennedy, another frequent target. Has Rush ever sat down across the table from Teddy? Has he ever had a debate with the man? Has he ever talked with him on the phone? Again, the answer is undoubtedly no.

The other day, Rush lashed out at California Governor Arnold Scwartzenegger. The next day Arnold called his show. I'm of two minds about that. Clinton and Kennedy would probably never call Rush and call him on what he's been saying about them. In a way, that's a smart thing to do. Ignoring him is taking away some of his power.

On the other hand, it might be framed as a brave act. And would force Rush's hand. He would have to take the call. Imagine if he didn't and word got out ( It would ) that he didn't.

So Arnold called. Rush took the call. I saw a video of the exchange. Heard what Rush had to say to Arnold on the day after his attack. It was pretty pathetic. Rush was saying things like, " I've always liked you... "

Sucking up is a kind way of putting what Rush was now saying to and about the man he had just taken so many verbal shots at from his ivory tower.

There's a new play on Broadway starring Liev Streiber as radio talk show host Barry Champlain. The play was written more than twenty years ago by performance artist Eric Bogosian. There's a clip from the movie made from the play on a recent post on this blog.

Like a good talk radio host, it speaks for itself...

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