Arthur W. Bell III was born June 17th, 1945 to Art Bell, Jr., a Marine Colonel, and Jane Bell, a Marine Drill Sergeant. Art was always interested in radio and at the age of 13 he became a licensed HAM radio operator. He served in U.S. Air Force and in his free time operated a pirate radio station on his base. He would go out of his way to play antiwar music that was not being played on the AFN such as Eve of Destruction and Fortunate Son.
After leaving military service he stayed in the Far East, residing on the Japanese island of Okinawa where he worked as a disc jockey for KSBK, the only non-military English speaking station in Asia. While in Japan he set a Guinness record for staying on the air 116 hours and 15 minutes. He also set the world record for seesawing while broadcasting at 57 hours.
He returned to the United States and studied engineering at the University of Maryland. He dropped out and went back to radio, this time as a board operator and chief engineer. Being around the stations he got a few opportunities to be on the air. For several years he worked back and forth behind and in front of the microphone. After a period of working in cable television, in 1989 the 50,000-watt KDWN in Las Vegas, Nevada offered Art a five-hour time slot in the middle of the night. Six years later it became nationally syndicated under the name Coast to Coast AM and is currently heard on 525 stations all over North America.
The show had an interesting concept, open lines. Unlike most talk radio shows, which screen every call before putting it on the air, Art simply picked up the phone and the caller was live on the radio. This is one of the most difficult things to do in talk radio. He would read some interesting news at the beginning of the show as suggestions, but the topics were left up to the callers. He had a knack for handling the unexpected and keeping people on topic.
His skills as an interviewer became noticeable as he started bringing guests on the show. During these hours open lines were usually postponed and callers were asked to talk about the topic at hand. However, he usually had at least an hour a night of open lines where callers could talk about anything they wanted. Some of his more notable guests have been Leonard Nimoy, George Carlin, and Larry King to name a few.
Coast to Coast AM's sister show Dreamland, which aired on Sundays, also became quite popular. The show got its name from a nickname for Area 51 that is only a few miles from Art's home in Pahrump, Nevada. Dreamland, more so than Coast to Coast AM, discussed the unexplained from UFOs to who build the pyramids.
After the show became syndicated, Art started broadcasting from his home. Because of his past as an engineer he had the knowledge and the fact that he didn't use a call screener he was able to run Coast to Coast AM as a one man show, his only help being his wife Ramona.
In October of 1998, from out of the blue, Art announced on the air that this show would be his last. He said he could not explain why, but it had to do with his family, he couldn't continue with the show. He also explained the rashness of his decision as he had just informed his network of this earlier in the evening. The mysteriousness behind this led many to conclude that it was merely a publicity stunt.
However, he later explained it had to do with accusations that he was a child molester. This hit him particularly hard as his son, Art Bell IV, had recently been kidnapped and raped by one of his teachers who was HIV positive. There were several personalities that took over for Art in his absence and continued in the spirit of the show. He formally resigned in April of 2000. In February of 2001 he returned to Coast to Coast AM (but not Dreamland) as his legal issues regarding the matter had been concluded.
In October of 2002 Art announced that he would be retiring for good at the end of 2002 because of health problems. However, he said he may come back from time to time to guest host. He had been mentoring George Noory, one of his fill-ins, who ended up taking over Coast to Coast AM parentally. Art's last show was on New Years Eve, 2002.