Politics & Policy

Vox Populi and Me

My tour on the local talk-radio circuit.

A friend was an in-studio guest on the Mr. KABC show here in Los Angeles recently discussing the election, and he was annoyed I missed his oh-so-flattering mention of me, live on the radio. This was his message: “I’d like to put a shout-out to the columnist Cathy Seipp. She actually gave me $20 and begged me to get her work on the air. It’s kind of like her Make-a-Wish.” Naturally, I hated myself for missing that one.

But actually, I have been on the local AM talk-circuit lately. It doesn’t pay (although I haven’t yet had to shell out $20), but I figure it’s good exposure. Plus, I like the inside view of talk radio, which right now is probably the purest–and most effective–form of vox populi.

Witness the antics of KFI’s John and Ken, who are currently polling listeners about which local Republican congressman should be voted out of office in November for being soft on illegal immigration. They can probably do it, too: The top-rated local drive-time team were a major force in the recall campaign. As soon as “Gumby”–as they always called Gray Davis–was unseated, they turned their attention to repealing a law granting illegal immigrants drivers’ licenses.

Naturally, traditional media are less than enchanted with this sort of thing, especially anyone connected with John and Ken’s nemesis, the Los Angeles Times. Retired Timesman Kevin Roderick, who runs the L.A. Observed media website, recently dismissed the show’s audience as “large for radio.”

But as John Kobylt (the excitable one) fumed after the recall election regarding the conventional media wisdom that talk radio hosts merely represent the rightwing fringe, “Why can’t they get it through their heads that KFI has more listeners than the L.A. Times has readers? Can it possibly be that you guys are out of touch? That we’re moderate, mainstream, and rational?”

“Right now you don’t sound very rational,” Ken Chiampou (the calmer one) pointed out mildly.

I’ve never been on John and Ken–that would be nirvana!–they don’t usually have in-studio guests anyway. But a few weeks ago I experienced righteous talk-radio anger up-close and personal when I visited His Side with Glenn Sacks, a Sunday evening men’s/fathers’ rights program on KMPC that also has live Internet listeners across the country. The topic was the NRO column I’d written making fun of self-congratulatory modern dads. Sacks spent the first several minutes of the show “ripping it to shreds,” as he put it. That is, he read the entire column aloud in a sarcastic, sing-songy voice interrupted by his own outraged commentary.

Sacks (I’m quoting his comments from memory), reading my description of an oblivious dad whose son was bouncing around in a Trader Joe’s shopping cart: “‘Like many guys he found it difficult to do two things at once–like watch a child while chatting with another adult. Men in charge of small children are like women and parallel parking: Attention must be paid or something’s going to get dented.’” Then he interjected his own commentary: “Oh, really? Like when I was in construction, balancing on a ladder and at the same time laying asphalt on a roof? Oh, no, that wasn’t doing two things at once. Only moms can do two things at once!”

“Oh, you guys are so cute when you get mad,” I said when he’d finished. Because I was really quite delighted to hear my entire piece read over the radio like that, and the three guys in the control booth were cracking up as they watched me crack up while Sacks did his thing. He was surprised I wasn’t angry, saying later that he’d asked the control booth guys to keep a careful eye on me, in case I started throwing objects or hitting. That was ridiculous; such an idea had never even entered my head. Strange how easy it is to scare men these days.

Sacks took special exception to this part of a Q&A with me from the website Men’s News Daily:

Q: When thinking about the topic of stay-at-home dads, a bigger question must be asked and it is reflective of the black underbelly found in most radical social engineering projects. Is it possible for a woman to respect, and find attractive, a man who does not work or contribute materially to their family’s well-being?

A: No.

Sacks seemed quite bothered that I wouldn’t have found him attractive when he was a stay-at-home dad, and kept harping on that point until I suggested that wasn’t this just as well? Because if women found stay-at-home dads so devastatingly irresistible, they might try to lure them away from their go-getter wives and then who would take care of the kids?

“So you assume I would have just dumped my wife for you?” Sacks yelled.

Gosh, this scenario was beginning to turn me on. I mean, just the thought of luring a man away from his better half and a sink-full of dirty dishes…

Anyway, things were friendlier when I was on the KABC show Al Rantel. Al is conservative but also gay and therefore didn’t care whether I found him attractive. I realized what a seat-of-the-pants medium talk radio is compared to TV as I drove from Silver Lake to the South-Central-adjacent KABC studios. For TV, they pick you up in a limo, to make sure you’re there in plenty of time to get your hair and makeup done–and also so you won’t be late and delay the taping.

Radio is different. As I made my way across town, I wondered why Larry Elder was still on the air 15 minutes into what was supposed to be the beginning of the Rantel show. It turned out Al was stuck in traffic and Larry was pinch-hitting.

But Al gave me an on-air hint when he finally got there: “La Cienega is a parking lot,” he warned through my car radio. “I’m supposed to have a guest here at 7, but I wonder if she’ll make it on time? She should avoid La Cienega, some traffic lights aren’t working and everything’s backed up….” And luckily I’ve lived in L.A. long enough to know exactly what to do: South on Hauser, west on Jefferson, and I actually got there 10 minutes early.

It was obvious I haven’t been in-studio much because I couldn’t hear the first caller until Al explained that I had to turn up the little knob under the desk. He of course is so smooth that he timed the eating of his roast beef sandwich perfectly with the commercial breaks. And he didn’t drip any of it on the console either, which I know I would have.

There was an awkward moment when I asked him a question during the taped commercials, not realizing that it was time for him to start reading the live commercials. But again, he was remarkably smooth, segueing right into it: “Yes, Cathy, we’ll talk about who else I’ve had in-studio later, but right now,”–he leaned at this point into the mike–”Do you have acid reflux disease? Many people do, and…

But he must have thought I was okay on the air, because I was only scheduled to be there for the 7 o’clock hour and he kept me until the show ended at 9. We talked about…let’s see… Iraq, the FCC, the 9/11 hearings, feminists, abortion, women’s magazines, men’s magazines, blogs, Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, Howard Stern, polygamy, newsroom elitists, L.A. media, p.c. language, gender trends in voting, and probably some other stuff that I can’t remember.

“I’ve never met a woman with so many opinions!” he said after the show was over. “About everything!” Well for $20 he can hear them again. Although…oh, right!…. I’m the one who’s supposed to pay.

Catherine Seipp is a writer in California who publishes the weblog Cathy’s World. She is an NRO contributor.

Catherine SeippCatherine Seipp had been a frequent contributor to National Review Online prior to her death in 2007.


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