Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Must See Radio: TALK RADIO on Broadway; Don Imus; the politically incorrect Stan Musial on Larry King

TALK RADIO by Eric Bogosian at the Longacre Theatre [where even the next-to-last TDF ticket in the last row is a great seat] is a great play about radio. Liev Schreiber, who I have always enjoyed in a wide range of movies [THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, HAMLET, RKO 281] and voiceover work, plays Barry Champlain, a talk radio host in Cleveland, 1987. We get to watch him do his show on the most important day of his career. He's been offered a national syndication deal and it's his job to lose. Will his abrasive, abusive style lead to saying something that will ruin the deal? Will he be killed by a crazed fan before he gets a chance to go national?

Schreiber is a master thespian and wrings every drop out of the role. Highly recommended, a terrific supporting cast, some doing triple duty as the nutty callers, make this $30 well spent. A clever set makes you feel you're in a working radio studio. I can't remember ever seeing fluorescent lights on stage before and this cleverly set the off-the-air scenes in a very different mood.

When the play was first performed by the author in 1987, the writing and performing was said to be partially inspired by Don Imus. If I can go back further, I saw a lot of Joe Pyne in the character. Joe used to appear on Channel 5 in New York in the '60s. His most famous line to guests he hated was, "Go gargle with razor blades." The F-bombs in TALK RADIO may have still been shocking to an audience in the waning years of the Reagan era but no longer in our enlightened Sopranos culture.


This week Barack Obama compares the psychic violence of Imus remarks and the issue of outsourcing to the Virginia Tech shooting of people of all races by a mentally ill loner. I thought it might be a hoax because only right wing sites picked it up, like they did the phony Muslim school report. But the mp3 removes any doubt about the quote or its context [see below from the site].

This is so intellectually dishonest that I think mainstream media has chosen not to cover it because they like Obama too much to knock him down this early. They're waiting. Can you imagine if Hillary Clinton had said it? She'd be attacked for lack of taste, gravitas, and perspective.

The Imus remark is 4-5 mins in.


XM Radio is running LARRY! on XM 130 on the 50th anniversary of the King's start in broadcasting. The channel is all Larry, all the time. Stan Musial was on today from one of Larry's local shows in D.C., 1976. The discussion turned to the way baseball wasn't promoting to the youth, the way they did in Musial's era with the Knothole Gang, which gave tickets to youth groups and promoted off-season activities for kids. He said that maybe 1/4 of the Cards were from Puerto Rico and went home during the off-season. Of the rest of the squad, there weren't enough Americans on the team who stayed in town for off-season promotion.

I'm hoping no one else heard this because I can imagine someone will demand that Stan apologize for implying that Puerto Ricans were not Americans. It's also possible that at least one Latino Cardinal was not from Puerto Rico, and this would also be an unforgivable error. They do field separate teams in many international competitions so it would be easy for Stan to get confused about this.

Perspective: If Imus had committed his gaffe this week of the Virginia Tech shootings, it is likely he'd still have his job. He might have made a tasteless Korean joke, outraged someone who never listens, and even helped heal some pain with the gift of laughter. A racist is someone who sees someone and hates them because of their race. That is not the guy I've listened to for 36 years. I stopped listening for awhile in the past, once for an albinism joke and another time for the lesbian bashing [family concerns in both areas], but I believe Imus when he said in the past, "I'm not prejudiced, I hate everybody." Just as I wouldn't listen to the David Duke show or send my children to Bob Jones University, I would listen to Imus because he is not a hater. He's a guy who said a hateful thing, not a man who hates.

Don Rickles career is over too. He'll have to come out and start the act with his end song, "I'm a Nice Guy," then leave the stage. In Tony Bennett's autobio there's a great story about the first time Bennett saw Rickles' act. He had never seen the insult king before and as Tony's party entered the room, Mr. Warmth laid into him bigtime. After the show, Tony and his friend paid a visit backstage and beat the hell out of Rickles. Since that time, Bennett said, Rickles was always nice to him.


BayonneMike said...

Wow. I never would have thought Tony Bennett had Sinatra-like tough guy tendencies.

Brian said...

Tony Bennett never talked about his military service until this book came out. He revealed that he was on the front lines in Europe killing people, up close. It's what turned him into a committed liberal, his distaste at having to kill.