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Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix
Ethan Trex
Getting to Know Talk Radio’s Biggest Stars
by Ethan Trex

Radio’s talking heads are paid to spend hours talking each day, but how much do they really reveal about themselves? Here are a few facts you may not have known about your favorite (or least favorite) microphone-wielding chatterboxes.

hannity1. Sean Hannity hasn’t always been a right-wing radio host. He didn’t get into the radio business until 1989, when he was working in Santa Barbara as a general contractor and started hosting a talk show on the local college station as a side gig. The show only lasted for 40 hours of air time.

2. Don Imus found himself in hot water for his comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team in 2007, but it wasn’t the first time a slip of the tongue cost Imus. In 1969 he lost his job as a disc jockey at a small station in Stockton, CA, for saying “hell” on the air.

3. Dave Ramsey, host of The Dave Ramsey Show, knows what he’s talking about when it comes to financial success. When he was just 26 years old he’d already built up a $4 million rental real estate portfolio. Of course, things don’t always go smoothly with such fast rises to the top; tax reforms in 1996 led to Ramsey’s investors calling for quick repayment of loans, which forced him into bankruptcy.

4. Rush Limbaugh’s rhetoric may make it sound like the host knows everything, but his academic track record tells a different story. In a one-year stint at Southwest Missouri State University, Limbaugh allegedly failed every class he took, including one on ballroom dancing.

5. Alan Colmes, Sean Hannity’s longtime liberal foil/punching bag, didn’t set out to go into radio, either. He was originally a stand-up comedian in New York during the early 1980s before making the jump.

stern6. Howard Stern may not be as overtly political as many of the names on this list, but he made a foray into politics in 1994 when he ran for Governor of New York. Stern actually managed to secure the Libertarian Party’s support for his campaign, but he quickly dropped out because he didn’t want to go through the financial disclosure process required of all candidates.

7. Dr. Laura Schlessinger isn’t actually a medical doctor or a psychologist, but she does have a doctorate. She received her Ph.D. in physiology from Columbia University in 1974.

8. Bubba the Love Sponge, born Todd Clem, has a couple of interesting things about him. First, he legally changed his name to Bubba the Love Sponge Clem in 1999. Second, after losing his terrestrial radio gig in 2004 over a slew of indecency fines, Mr. Love Sponge ran for sheriff in Pinellas County, Florida. Although he didn’t win, Bubba did manage to rake in 30% of the vote.

9. Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of Loveline, has a main-belt asteroid named after him, 4536 Drewpinsky.

10. Michael Savage, host of The Savage Nation, once had a rather odd job: he was the gatekeeper at LSD advocate Timothy Leary’s farm for a period during the 1960s. What qualified Savage for this position? Apparently Leary liked that Savage didn’t personally use LSD.

11. Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham once served as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She also made possibly the most catastrophic jump from radio to TV in history. Her Fox News show Just In with Laura Ingraham lasted only three weeks during the summer of 2008. Hard to believe a show didn’t work when the host had such a pleasant rapport with the production staff.

12. Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, beloved New York sports talk commentator, got his famous nickname from New York Daily News critic Bob Raissman, who dubbed Russo “Mad Dog” for the host’s excitable, rapid-fire delivery. Russo’s trademark voice wasn’t always a good thing for him, though. When he was a young broadcaster working in Florida, his thick New York accent made Russo’s rants entirely unintelligible to a good portion of the audience. The station eventually paid for him to take six months of twice-weekly speech therapy sessions to slow down his ramblings and cut through his accent.

francesa-russo

13. Mike Francesa, Russo’s longtime partner in crime, got his start as a researcher for CBS Sports and eventually became an on-screen talent. When New York sports station WFAN launched in 1987, Francesa applied for an on-air position and was turned down due to lack of experience. After some nagging, he finally got a job with the station that led to the Mike and the Mad Dog show. It worked out pretty well; according to a 2005 New Yorker profile on the pair, Francesa and Russo had spent so much time on the air gabbing about sports that they could have read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica aloud twice.

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