And you thought talk radio was already conservative

January 30, 1995|By MIKE LITTWIN

You probably heard that Ellen Sauerbrey has joined the WBAL talk-radio lineup.

What you didn't hear is that WBAL is asking for a new position on the AM radio dial because, well, 1090 is way too close to the center.

It's no secret that throughout this great nation -- founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of lower capital-gains taxes -- talk radio has adopted a strong right-wing slant.

But maybe you thought that Baltimore, considered to be a Democratic stronghold, would be different.

If so, you don't understand the evolution of talk radio.

Once upon a time, there was, on the lunatic-right fringe, a talk-radio station called WCBM (Where Crazoid Baltimore Meets). You tuned in if you wanted to hear, say, Tom Marr. He's amazing. If you've never listened to him, you might not think it's possible to actually hear someone foaming at the mouth. I've got tapes I share with my out-of-town friends.

In those days, WBAL made no secret that it looked down on WCBM. If you wanted civilized talk, and maybe even a little news, and of course Jeff Rimer, WBAL was your news-talk place to be. And, in fact, compared to WCBM, it might as well have been the Algonquin Round Table.

But then, WBAL stole Rush Limbaugh out from under WCBM and so began the steady march to the right, which must be where the money is.

And now Ellen Sauerbrey has joined the lineup. I keep asking myself, exactly how many right-fielders does one team need?

OK, all the voices aren't exactly the same. There is Alan Prell, a self-described moderate, to lead off in the morning, although they've cut his show by an hour. These days, Prell's moderate voice sounds a lot like Angela Davis.

Limbaugh follows Prell. What is there to say about Rush Limbaugh that hasn't already been said about the Sun King? One thing's for sure, in the world of talk, he's the king of 'em all, y'all.

Rush has led an amazing life. Maybe you read the book. After years of failing as a DJ, after washing out as the assistant PR guy for the Kansas City Royals baseball team, Rush went on to become the voice of the New Right and the man most credited with forging the new Republican majority. I can't wait for the movie.

Following Limbaugh -- which is roughly equivalent to following the Rolling Stones -- is Ron "More Guns, Fewer Taxes" Smith, who leads into sports talk, which leads into Ellen "No Taxes, Tons More Guns" Sauerbrey.

Tell me if this is right. According to my sources, occasional-sports-guy Rex Barney has been told that he needs to get with the program.

Caller: Rex, I think the Orioles ought to trade Mark Williamson for Ken Griffey Jr.

Rex: That's an excellent point. And, by the way, have you given any consideration to the balanced-budget amendment?

I've got a little secret, and I hope you won't tell anyone. I have some friends who are actual liberals (I can't use their names because it wouldn't be fair to their families). Many of these liberal friends actually listen to talk radio. Or did. Now, they're stuck with National Public Radio, at least until Newtie takes all the money away. Then what -- old tapes of FDR's fireside chats?

For whatever reason, talk radio has become the refuge of the angry white male. If talk radio were a place, it would be in the part of Idaho where the survivalists hang out. It's the place where Mark Fuhrman, everyone's favorite angry white-male cop, was house-hunting when he bashed the photographer last week. It's where everyone gets to be all angry, all the time.

Sauerbrey, you might recall, is a little angry herself. Certainly, angry white males love her. I'm trying to imagine what her first show might be like.

"Hi, I'm Ellen Sauerbrey. I would be the governor of this state if all the blacks and women and tree-huggers in the city of Baltimore hadn't voted twice. Instead, I'm stuck with this crummy radio job I took so people won't forget who I am.

"Feel free to call in and whine about something. If you don't, I will.

"I have just three rules. No. 1: No dead callers. No. 2: No live Democrats. No. 3: Always address me as Madame Governor."

It should be fun. The only thing I'm wondering is that if she gets lousy ratings, will she demand a recount?

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