[Off today. This originally ran last Aug. 28.]
It will shock some of you to know that radios also have an AM dial, home to old-fashioned static, people speaking foreign languages, sports events and – mostly – talk shows.
Today’s conservative shows can trace their lineage to a man who deserves a biography, but probably will never get one.
That would be Joe Pyne.
He was a decorated Marine who fought in WWII. A Japanese bomb injured his left knee, and eventually the lower half of his leg was amputated.
After disc jockeying and hosting “meet your neighbor” programs and such, Joe tried interacting with listeners calling in. He had only modest success, bouncing from Philly to L.A. and back to Philly.
Things clicked in 1960 when Joe returned to L.A. and landed at KABC, telling off Communists, feminists and anti-war types with comments like “go gargle with razor blades” and “go out and play on the freeway.”
Success led to national syndication and a TV show, where Joe showed off his intellect interviewing the usual authors, celebrities, politicians and experts. He sprinkled in the offbeat, like UFO chasers, as well as the controversial – KKK members, Nazis and black militants no other show would touch. Audience members got to ask questions. Sometimes tempers flared and chairs were flung.
Joe’s mantra: “I have no respect for anyone who would come on my show.”
Liberals wrote it off as ceaseless bigotry, but that’s not true. He never sided with racists or anti-Semites. Always speaking out for organized labor didn’t suit some of his fans.
After years of smoking and joking about cigarettes being “coffin nails,” Joe died in 1970 of lung cancer. It seems inconceivable, but he was only 45. If anybody wants to write that needed biography, my friend has the title — Joe Pyne: The man who started all the talk.