My hunch is Brown is the one survivor. I just have that hunch. Maybe it's because at heart I'm a pessimist.
- Radio personality Bob Grant upon hearing reports that there may have been a survivor when Commerce Secretary Ron Brown's plane crashed in Bosnia in 1996. Brown was the first black man to hold the Cabinet position.
Mr. Grant said this, on the air, on the radio. Mr. Grant defended his morbid stab at humor as a "lapse in taste." He was fired by his employer at the time, WABC in New York, the next day. It was later discovered that Brown did not survive the crash. Grant, very much alive, found work at his old haunting grounds WOR and was eventually re-hired by WABC.
Radio, these days, ain't what it was when I was growing up. Automobiles didn't regularly offer radios with an FM Band radio until I think about 1972-73. Prior to FM, car sound was one speaker and an was AM or two speakers and 8-tracks, which to my tender ears nowadays sound like the scratch coming from a Victrola playing a thoroughly-worn record than anything else.
These days, even the venerated FM band won't get one CD-quality sound outta one's radio. I don't own, and am not familiar with the quality available from the new Satellite Radio equipment so I'll not go there.
There is, however, a peculiar relationship that AM radio has with Satellite Radio. There's a lotta talking going on on both types. In fact, one brand of Satellite Radio is using "shock jock" Howard Stern's exclusivity on their service as a selling point. You wanna listen to the guy who gets ratings by saying stuff like "There's nothing better than dripping honey on a set of jugs like that in the morning, darlin'" and resorting to toilet humor, I invite you to listen to Mr. Stern's program or even worse, view his television program (which I believe is still on the air). Stern, as a person, happens to be a pretty smart guy, and it shows because he's taken a hackneyed formula and continued it for years.
Today I'd like to talk about other radio personalities who could conceivably be called "shock jocks." Rush Limbaugh is just a blathering blowhard who yells and screams and gets reactionaries to jump atop their kitchen tables and dance around with an American Flag in one hand and a loaded pistol in the other. Mark Levin is yet another blow-hard. This one gives his daily sermon and just when you think all's well that ends well he puts the whole show in high gear and starts (literally) screaming. One who's tuning in just for a laugh will be taken in hook, line and sinker by the calmness in Levin's voice until he starts his tirades. On a spectrum from political left to right Levin's in (almost) unconquered territory, so far right of Mr. Limbaugh that it's really, really hard to take him seriously (until, that is, one becomes aware that there are currently members of the White House staff who stand for exactly what he does.)
It Ain't TV But It's A Tough Business
So let's, for a moment, step backwards for a moment and talk about radio. When I was sent to "radio school" by the company I worked for, every member of my class was there because they thought that they were going to actually be spinning records on a radio station somewhere and being the cool dude who talks smooth and brings everything together. Well, little ole me was there for 2 reasons: to learn all about a radio studio, and also to get rid of my Brooklyn accent. This all because someone told me that I had a good voice for radio but it had to sound more "broadcast quality;" devoid of any regional accent. One of the "professors" at the school told me that I was there for the right reason, and that the only way to get a show of your own is to become an intern, carry a lot of cups of coffee, make a whole bunch of pizza runs, make photocopies, do filing, and other stuff like that. Then, if your lucky, in ten years they'll let you broadcast the weather.
Over the years I've met some radio personalities I like very much; guys who've been on the radio for 20 or 30 years and longer and are highly respected by their peers. One of my favorites was the late Frankie Crocker ("If Frankie Crocker's not on your radio your radio really isn't on.") I've also had the opportunity to speak on radio and, twice or three times run my own show as a fill-in for the local college station. I must tell you, talking, timing one's self, and "engineering" (all the knobs, tape cartridges, CDs, stuff on paper one must read) - it's very, very difficult. Working with an engineer is much easier because they take care of everything except what you must read and all you do is talk. I've worked, not as dee-jay but as a guest on a few shows that also have a budget large enough for people called "producers." They screen calls and write little sticky-notes (or, in a sophisticated station, type onto a computer) what the deal is with the caller so that the on-air personality can pick and choose his or her battles (or engage in a mutual admiration kinda thing). The producers take the requests and meld them seamlessly into the play-lists which are carefully chosen by a program director, who is partially responsible for the show's ratings. Therefore you gotta play what's groovy. Otherwise listeners switch stations. There's a lot of wisdom in the old phrase "don't touch that dial." Jobs, indeed, are at stake when you do.
Now, earlier, I mentioned the likes of Limbaugh (caught out 'cause he was having a little fun with prescription narcotics), and while I'm at it, I'll mention now-television personality Bill O'Reilly who really skated through his troubles with accusations of sexual harassment. Both are still on the air.
There's a guy named Bob Grant who's now syndicated and almost beating radio-TV rightist Sean Hannity in the ratings game today; but that wasn't always the case. Mr. Grant started his career in 1940, working in sports, talk, voice-overs (commercials), and made a few stops along the way until being hired by WMCA radio in New York in 1970. Grant's, er, "aggressive" style on the radio was like none other. He's been credited for inventing the concept of "talk radio;" wherein callers actually go on the air and go head-to-head with the air personality. Grant occasionally would tell people to "get off my phone." The brilliance in this concept of actually going out of his way to verbally abuse those with opinions contrary to his is simple: it delights the many listeners who indeed agree with Mr. Grant's point of view on everything from politics to what flavor of chewing gum tastes best (I'm serious about the gum part).
Grant's politics over the years have ranged from far right to libertarian and in-between. No person in public office would be safe from his verbal tirades; that's the thing. Grant likes to believe that he "speaks for the people." Well, some of them. We can say that his on-air antics vary between out-and-out hate speech and giving the First Amendment a really hard test.
Some of you may know from where I speak when I mention the kinda morning you show up for work and get a phone call and your boss wants to see you. The boss closes the door and has a "heart to heart" talk regarding some transgression you recently perpetrated on the company and that your boss, while sparing you the axe, would not like to see happen again. Suffice it to say that I'd hazard a guess that Mr. Grant's employers have had arguably hundreds of these conversations with him in his sixty-eight years on the radio.
Suffice it to say that it's also quite possible that I can predict who Bob Grant is not going to vote for in '08 unless he gets hit by some sort of "super-reverse-antidisestablishmentariansim*" ray from an alien spaceship; Barack Obama.
*There are few things that excite me more than an opportunity to use humongous words like that.
A website called www.fair.org conveniently lists some of Mr. Grant's more, er, controversial on-air errors in judgment, which they claim are barbs aimed at his "disproportionately non-white" enemies. On October 1, 1992 he prayed that basketball star Magic Johnson "would go into full-blown AIDS. He started the Holiday season off with a bang in the same year, this time on December 9th, by commenting that a black victim who was killed by a white mob in Howard Beach, Brooklyn "got what was coming to him." Now, I in no way condone such speech, but one must travel through Howard Beach, Brooklyn, daytime and night (well, at night if you dare) to get an idea where Grant was coming from.
If that's not enough to make you wonder if this is fiction or not (it's not), Mr. Grant routinely inserts racist innuendo in his show; but his earlier shows were far more outspoken. He's on the record for calling blacks "savages:" On July 15, 1993: black fraternity members who left a mess after a party on a New Jersey Beach, and members of three churches on April 30, 1993 (responding to the riots in the wake of the controversial Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles, California). The New York Daily News featured black mayor of New York in a white dinner jacket on their "Page Six" society/gossip section. The day after the photo appeared Grant mentioned that the former mayor had gotten a job as the men's room attendant at New York's exclusive feeding-trough for movers and shakers — '21' — famous for its vast collection of multi-colored lawn jockeys adorning an upstairs porch and the staircase.
A Kinder, Gentler Grant
These days Grant's been cleaning up his act, and atoning for his sins. He tried to rationalize his constant use of the word "savage" in 1996 on the television with Larry King by claiming it wasn't his broad-brush substitute for the "N" word. He claims that he was talking about people and their conduct, not people and their race. Funny that he never used the word "savages" for participants in New York's 1994 Gay Pride March. No. "Initially, it would have been nice to have a few phalanxes of policemen with machine guns and mow them down."
Now, it may surprise you that Grant's peers gave him him into the National Radio Association First Amendment Award 2007. Radio Industry magazine Talkers gave Grant the number 16 ranking in the category "greatest radio talk show host of all time."
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
Well, as of yesterday, another radio industry magazine, R&R or originally Radio and Records, this one "required reading" if you're on the air or in the business, blasted across the front page of their print edition and included photo and glowing caption on their website (www.radioandrecords.com/RRwebSite/) an announcement that Bob Grant had been selected to be presented with the 2008 News/Talk/Sports Lifetime Industry Achievement Award.
Today, Grant's picture had disappeared from R&R's website. All that remained (and it took them until 4:00 p.m. today to get it on their site) was a small piece entitled "Award Withdrawn." Read on:
Upon further review and consideration of Bob Grant's complete body of work, Radio & Records has withdrawn its decision to present the 2008 News/Talk/Sports Lifetime Industry Achievement Award to Mr. Grant. R&R is sensitive to the diversity of our community and does not want the presentation of an award to Mr. Grant to imply our endorsement of past comments by him that contradict our values and the respect we have for all members of our community.
Mr. Grant's presentation of the award was to have taken place at the 2008 R&R Talk Radio Seminar, to be conducted in Washington, D.C. March 13th to 15th. R&R states that they're "excited to announce" that the Rev. Al Sharpton has been invited to join a debate among radio personalities which will be moderated by George Stephanopoulous. The intention is to put radio personalities who criticize some politicians' every moves under the same pressure - debate style.
Rev. Sharpton hosts a daily radio show for Syndication One. It's carried nationwide on Syndication One's affiliates.
Now, let me preface this with that sage advice "two wrongs don't make a right." But I must admit I can't resist offering the great American tradition of equal time to one's opponents. Here're some pearls of wisdom from the right Reverend Sharpton:
Kean College, 1994: "White folks was in caves while we was building empires "empires" sometimes quoted as "pyramids" dependent on the source ... We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it."
NY Senate Race 1992: Described the rest of the field, including incumbent Daniel Patrick Moynihan, as "recycled white trash."
NY City Mayoral Race 1997: (Referring to Mayor David Dinkins:) "that nigger whore turning tricks in City hall."
1991 "Crown Heights" Incident: a car driven by an Hasidic Jew who lost control of the vehicle killed a black child. Blacks rioted, and another Hassidic Jew, Yankel Rosenbaum, (a rabbinical student) was lynched. A coda to a public statement made by Sharpton that included stereotyping Jews as diamond dealers who 'deal with South Africa' (alluding to apartheid):
“If the Jews want to get it on,” he said, “tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”
Now, in Mr. Grant's favor, he never used the word "nigger," "kike," "faggot" or the like. But given the context of his verbal vomitus, he might as well have used those words. His hate speech was just as potentially distressful to some listeners as it was a call to incite others to violence. Rev. Jackson, however, holds the dubious distinction of inciting more violence than anyone (in current context) beside, perhaps, Louis Farrakhan.
The bottom line here is that with little explanation and not so much as an apology, Mr. Grant was getting ready to accept a well-deserved award from his peers in the radio industry, and then all of a sudden, "Ah, we didn't review his entire record." Emails from friends of Rev. Sharpton made their way to the oh-so-politically correct folks at R&R and now they're reconsidering their choice After only one day's deliberation. I am certain that many who read this find both Mr. Grant and Rev. Sharpton as vulgarly peculiar, perhaps even harmful in the long run. But I think R&R's decision is wrong and it's a real disgrace. It so obviously confirms the concept of "the liberal media" tossed up by so many beleaguered conservatives, don't they realize this?. The First Amendment has gone out the window.
Oh for Heaven's sake invite 'em both and at the very least that would make a video Jerry Springer would be proud of!
Mr. Grant is not a convicted criminal who has spent time in jail; nor has he, unlike Rev. Sharpton, suffered a substantial civil money award with regard to his involvement in the notorious case of Tawana Brawley. Sharpton's been investigated by the Attorney General's Office of the State of New York, the F.B.I. and is now in hot water over a recent slur against Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney's religion.
Ain't it a funny coincidence that within a month of Tawana Brawley's mother coming out and demanding a re-opening of that case, that hoax; Rev. Sharpton re-emerges in the spotlight not unlike a particularly annoying pimple on one's nose which comes back over and over despite the best efforts of one's dermatologist.